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Cantata BWV 95
Christus, der ist mein Leben
Discussions - Part 1

Suzuki Volume 11

Ryan Michero wrote (December 17, 1999):
Here is my review for Vol.11 of Suzuki's complete cantata series, and it's a big one! Enjoy!

(7) Volume 11
Suzuki is still working his way through Bach's first cycle of Leipzig cantatas. Many of these pieces are not well-known and were written under extreme time constraints. Hence, Bach's inspiration is not uniformly high--it is merely astoundingly high! In spite of some awkwardness in these pieces here and there, Bach still managed to craft some fine, unified works with many exceptional movements. There are some great moments in the cantatas on Suzuki's Vol.11, and all four are lovely, fascinating works if not "favorites." Additionally, I think some cantata recording devotees will be surprised by some of Suzuki's revelations in this volume. It goes without saying that Suzuki's exceptionally high standards are maintained here, and for fans like me this volume is self-recommending. On to the individual cantatas:
[snip]

BWV 95 - "Christus der ist mein Leben"

This cantata is a complicated, conflicted piece dealing with the troubles of the world and longing for death. The writer of the liner notes seems to think it represents a questioning or criticism of Lutheran dogma by Bach. I'm not sure if I agree, but it does seem to me that Bach is playing up the contrast between the almost flippant Lutheran dogma of acceptance of death with the anguish of loss. Whether you agree with the writer's thesis or not, though, Suzuki takes the music at face value, emphasizing points of contrast without pedantic "point-making," allowing us to figure the work out for ourselves. The first movement of this piece incorporates two chorale settings with a recitative in between. Suzuki handles the whole movement well, opening with a nice, "galant" swing, gently building to a small climax on the dissonant setting of the word "Sterben", segueing into an ambivalent recitative, and closing with "stile antico" sobriety. Sakurada sings wonderfully, and Shimada's corno da tirarsi sounds great. After uncertain-feeling recitative, the solo soprano sings a chorale, deliciously accompanied by Ponseele's oboe d'amore. After a tenor recitative, there is a very unusual tenor aria. The strings play "pizzicato," imitating the funeral bells mentioned in the text, in music punctuated with uncertain silences. The atmosphere is strange, innocent and childlike yet also a bit macabre, with the tenor exclaiming his wish to feel death "in his limbs" ("in meinen Gliedern"). The aria is beguiling in the hands of the BCJ, making this strange vision of death quite seductive! Kooy follows with a fine recitative--listen to him nail that low note at the end! The final chorale brings another WOW! Moment, with a gorgeous violin line representing the resurrection soaring above the choir. And try to hold back your sobs at the chorale's final line, "For now I depart with joy" ("Drum fahr ich hin mit Freuden").
[snip]

Comparisons
[snip]

BWV 95--Harnoncourt, Koopman
(5) The recording by Harnoncourt, for me, epitomizes bad Harnoncourt: fast, inflexible tempi, over-stressed accents, and a seeming ignorance of the meaning of the text. I had high hopes for the "bell" aria with Kurt Equiluz, but any insight he brings is lost in the shuffle due to Harnoncourt's breathless tempo. I was very surprised and disappointed.

(6) Koopman's reading is very comparable to Suzuki's. Koopman handles the shifts in mood just right, and his choir and orchestra are wonderful. I also slightly prefer Gerd Türk to Makoto Sakurada in the haunting "bell" aria. Koopman doesn't use the corno da tirarsi specified in Bach's score, but who can complain when Bruce Dickey plays the part on cornett? I call a draw between Koopman and Suzuki here.
[snip]

Whew!

 

Discussions in the Week of September 30, 2001

Aryeh Oron wrote (October 2, 2001)
Introduction

The subject of this week's discussion (September 30, 2001) is Cantata BWV 95, according to Peter Bloemendaal's proposed list. In order to allow the members of the BCML preparing themselves for the discussion, I arranged a list of the recordings of this cantata. There are at least 8 of them. This interesting (based on 4 different chorales!) early cantata is included in the 5 complete cantata cycles - H&L, Rilling [4], Leusink [8], Koopman and Suzuki [7]. Besides there are three more recordings, all of them were recorded before the HIP-mania, two of them are interesting, and one is not. I hope to see many of you participating in the discussion.

Background

See: Cantata BWV 95 - Commentary

Note: In all the recordings below the first three numbers above (Chorus, Recitative for Tenor, & Chorale) are defined as Mvt. 1

Review of the Recordings

(1) Günther Ramin
Ramin starts with a large-scale orchestra, which plays with romantic approach, but the solemn mood is there. The singing of the choir is far from being polished, but they convey the sad atmosphere with sincerity. So is the tenor Lutze with beautiful and impressive voice, although is singing is very operatic and might sound strange to contemporary ears. The singing of the boy soprano (only one this time), who sings the recitative, is captivating with its simplicity (although his singing has some imperfections), and in the ensuing chorale he is joined by the full soprano section of the boys’ choir. The deep-voiced Hans Hauptmann is talking in his recitative for bass rather than singing, but his concluding short arioso is pure magic. He shows how much (feeling and emotions) can be conveyed in so short part.

[3] Kurt Bauer
Avoid this one.

[2] Heins Heintze
While I was doing the translation into Hebrew of the libretto of BWV 95, I thought to myself that the opening chorus should be done with tenderness, yet it has to convey the endless sorrow of a man who knows that his time to leave this world has come. Indeed he is saying that he is doing it gladly, but the music is telling us otherwise. This is exactly what we get with Heintze’s rendition. Such touching singing is rare even among modern choirs. After the first chorus (in this case, a term borrowed from Jazz) there is a short break, as though they cannot speak. After the second one the tenor Jelden enters and the same gloomy atmosphere is retained. Jelden has everything – beautiful voice, taste, sensitivity to the text and most important, the ability to convey deep human feelings in a natural and convincing way. Gundula Bernàt-Klein has delicate voice with slight vibrato and she sings both the recitative and the chorale for soprano beautifully. In the aria for tenor I hear not only the tolling bells but also the drums in the funeral march. Roland Kunz’s voice is lighter than his predecessor, but regarding expression they are on the same high-level par.

[4] Helmuth Rilling
In the tranquil playing of the oboes and the singing of the full-voiced choir I hear more desire to leave this world happily than the morbidity I heard in the previous approach. Both are acceptable, because they are doing it seriously and convincingly. When the issue is conveying deep and complex human emotions, and not pure virtuosity, Arleen Augér has few peers. She sings both the recitative and the chorale in such moving way, that no explanation is needed, what is the text about. Nevertheless, I have to admit that her clearly heard vibrato in the long notes might disturb some. Kraus is convincing in both his too recitatives and the aria for tenor. The timbre of his voice suits very well the demand of this cantata. His entry immediately after the opening chorus is piercing the heart. The warmth and the sensitivity of Heldwein in the reciand arioso are arresting.

[5] Nikolaus Harnoncourt
I have nothing against Harnoncourt, but I do not think that either he or his fans will like to hear my opinion regarding his rendition of this cantata. IMO, he misses it altogether. Firstly, the cantata is played too fast. Nobody can convey such complex human emotions, as the text and the music of this cantata suggest, under such swiftness. And the poor soloists are not given enough room for meaningful expression. Secondly, there are severe balancing between the choir and the orchestra and between the vocal soloists and the accompaniment along the whole cantata. Thirdly, regarding the message of the cantata, there is more one way to interpret it, as we have learnt from other renditions. On the one hand, it can be seen as pessimistic by anticipating death, with nor REAL hope. On the other hand the interpreter can focus on the happiness of finding the salvation from this world’s miseries. Both approaches can also be combined. But Harnoncourt does not take any reasonable approach, and it is very difficult to realise what did he indeed mean to convey.

[6] Ton Koopman
Koopman performs this cantata relatively fast, even though not as fast as Harnoncourt. In the singing of the choir and the playing of the orchestra I found similar tenderness to that of Heintze, although it is not as touching. Türk sings his parts lightly with no special sense of involvement. The pleasant and the charming voice of Lisa Larsson does not compensate for some superficiality of expression in the recitative and chorale for soprano. Mertens is Mertens, which means that he has the taste and the sensitivity to do the best out of his small part.

[7] Masaaki Suzuki
Suzuki performs the cantata a little bit faster than Koopman, but his approach is different. Instead of tenderness we hear vigour and determination. As though the man wants to say, I decided what I want to do, and nothing will stand in my way. This approach is reflected actually along the whole cantata, and not only in the opening movement. Both Midori and Sakurada go deeper into the heart of the matter than Koopman’s soloists do. Kooy lacks the warmth that Mertens has. This is a well-balanced performance, unified in its message, and everything is done right. But Suzuki has shown us in other cantatas (BWV 12, for example) that he can grab the listener by his throat, something that I do not feel he succeeds in doing here.

[8] Pieter Jan Leusink
Harnoncourt showed us how damaging a too fast performance of this cantata can be. It seems to be that Leusink has not learnt the lesson. He had better examples to listen to than Harnoncourt’s recording. In the opening movement he follows Harnoncourt’s route. In contrary to Suzuki, this is an unbalanced rendition. The singing of the choir in the choral movements is unclean. Schoch is doing strange and seemingly irrelevant things in his parts, and he fails to attract attention to his singing. The boyish and innocent voice of Holton is a cause for enjoyment, although there are deeper emotions that are not revealed by her interpretation.

Conclusion

My picks:

Choir (& Orchestra) - Cathedral Choir & Bach Orchestra of Bremen (Heintze) [2]
Tenor - Georg Jelden (Heintze) [2]
Soprano – Arleen Augér (Rilling) (4)
Bass – Klaus Mertens (Koopman) (6)
Overall rendition – Heintze [2]

And as always, I would like to hear other opinions, regarding the above mentioned performances, or other recordings.

Thomas Braatz wrote (October 3, 2001):
BWV 95 - Commentary [Eric Chafe in his "Tonal Allegory in J.S.Bach" / Suzuki on the subject of trumpets and horns / Some comments from some of the earlier Bach scholars (Spitta, Schweitzer, Voigt, Dürr) / Commentary on each mvt. drawn mainly from Schweitzer and Dürr with a few observations of my own]

See: Cantata BWV 95 - Commentary

The Recordings:

I listened to the following: Ramin (1952) (1); Rilling (1977-78) (4); Harnoncourt (1979) (5); Koopman (1997) (6); Suzuki (1998) (7); Leusink (2000) (8).

The timings reveal the following:

Conductor

TT

Mvt. 1

Mvt. 5

Mvt. 7

Ramin

23:14

6:38

9:06

1:43

Rilling

21:48

7:02

7:48

1:06

Harnoncourt

14:36

3:42

5:59

0:58

Koopman

18:50

4:59

7:54

1:11

Suzuki

17:57

4:48

7:27

0:57

Leusink

17:27

4:24

7:16

1:06

(1) Ramin:
I have only heard a few recordings in this set. This is the first one that did not have something truly significant that would impress me. On the contrary, I was bothered not only by the usual poor standard of orchestral playing (remember that the instrumentalists were essentially playing this the first time together with the chorus - a fact that I can overlook, if other factors in the interpretation are overpowering. This was not the case this time. In addition to hearing the violins not play in unison properly, there were also tape (or was it wire) glitches in the recording. The general impression of the playing and singing in the 1st mvt. was that of fighting to overcome a heavy weight or burden, partially caused by the very slow tempo. There is some sloppy choral work as well - sliding into notes rather than attacking them properly. Throughout the bass voice is very weak and difficult to hear. (Again, remember the limited frequency range available in a recording such as this.) The tenor Lutze has difficulty with the high range where his voice sounds strained. Of course, as an operatic singer he has too much vibrato. He sings with a dialect incorrectly pronouncing 'singen' as one would in English. The cornett's intonation is off. The solo soprano sounds like a very young boy soprano, clear without vibrato and expressionless. When the chorale (Mvt. 3) begins, Ramin uses all the sopranos. ALL of them! Unfortunately many of them had too much vibrato and spoiled the effect. In another cantata discussed recently, Ramin used only two boys in a similar situation. You could hardly tell that there were two of them. That's the way it should be. In Mvt. 4 & Mvt. 5 Lutze often glides or swoops to the high note that he is attacking. The evidence of straining is so obvious that is sounds as if he is being choked to death. This version of the this beautiful aria does not do anything for me, as much as I love this aria. I would not willingly return to this recording for this aria. The bass, Hauptmann sound rather like Theo Adam might have sounded in his younger days. The performance of the final chorale literally dies under its own weight. There is also a sliding, glissando-like movement from note to note at times.

(4) Rilling:
Rilling has established a suitable, convincing tempo that allows everything to be heard clearly. The special effects that Bach created on "Sterben" and "sanft und stille" are very moving in this rendition. The horn adds just the proper funereal quality that this mvt. needs. The tenor, Kraus, has some wonderful coloraturas (note how deliberate and clear these are compared to all the faster versions listed below) and even his recitatives are quite acceptable (normally I can not stand Kraus singing any recitative). Augér wants to add expression to her part, but she does, she begins forcing her voice too much and then it begins to sound ugly, or at least as if this were some kind of opera. In the chorale she has too much vibrato as she sings against a single oboe d'amore (Bacindicated 2 oboes here). At the end of the chorale her voice becomes weaker and weaker in the low range. This is not one of her best efforts. In the tenor recitative Kraus reverts to his true color in singing recitatives: he attacks a high "Ach" with a vengeance and uses lots of vibrato. Rilling has just the right tempo for the tenor aria and Kraus succeeds in not overdoing the expression. This is followed by Heldwein's wonderful rendition of a very short recitative. This is a full voice of the operatic type, but the end result is very pleasing nonetheless. An excellent version of the final chorale follows.

(5) Harnoncourt:
It continues to amaze me that Harnoncourt could continue making one cantata after another, each one sounding much like this one with all the worst attributes that one can imagine hearing in a Bach cantata. That is why I consider a performance such as this one a caricature. This is unfortunate because it probably means that poor Harnoncourt was not aware of the ugly, amateurish-sounding results that he was creating. I try hard to imagine myself as Harnoncourt in a recording studio listening to a cantata that he had just recorded and wonder what was going through his mind at the time. Normally (but we know that Harnoncourt is a musical genius, so for that reason he should not be considered among the average, normal listener) we would think that a conductor would say to himself, "Ah! Here is something that I can improve on in the next cantata recording, so that it will not sound this way next time." But since we can not fathom the mind of a genius, we can only rely on our own good judgment, commonsense and musical ears to come to terms with the type of monstrosity that Harnoncourt has created. In a way, I feel sorry for him because nothing could replace his inability to understand the musical aspects of singing. Lacking this knowledge and experience, he is unable to create aesthetically pleasing sounds. His motto seems to be distortion at all costs. All the typical features of the Harnoncourt Doctrine are represented here in gross exaggeration: Strong accents with the unaccented syllables de-emphasized to the point of non-existence. At times the boys are screaming or shouting, but not really singing the correct notes at the proper pitch. The most egregious example occurs in ms. 26 at the end of the word "Sterben." I defy anyone to tell me that they can actually hear the final syllable of the word, and yet Bach marked this with a fermata! Even Equiluz can not avoid failure with extremely fast tempo that Harnoncourt decrees. When Equiluz is asked to exert his voice too much, you will notice a very fast vibrato even in the coloraturas (Schwarzkopf does the same thing.) If Equiluz had been allowed some input regarding the tempo (a slower tempo would have been preferable), I am certain that the result would have been better that what is heard here. Perhaps the oboes should also have been consulted because, in the second chorale - ms. 107-108, they sound like members of a beginner's orchestra. Very amateurish and not worthy to be included in a collection of Bach cantata recordings. Wiedel, the boy soprano, creates ugly sounds with his voice because he is asked to over-emphasize certain notes. His insecure vibrato and intonation in the chorale are amplified by the shaky oboe d'amore used in the chorale. Harnoncourt uses only one oboe, but Bach had indicated both oboes. The short recitative (Mvt. 5) is the high point of this cantata. Here Equiluz could choose his own tempo, and then everything, including his wonderful ability to add expression to the words, works in his favor. The aria, unfortunately, is too fast, which again means that Equiluz has to force his voice. Equiluz does not sing well any agitated arias. If the tempo had been slower, he would not have to be quite so agitated. There are times that his voice drops off in the lower range. In ms. 85 and 98 it becomes evident that there are too many notes to sing in too short a space of time. Mvt. 6 Huttenlocher - I do not like the way this singer allows me to feel that he is putting on an act. Although there must be expression, I do not want it to be overdone, which I perceive here. The final chorale has the usual problems: heavy emphasis on each quarter note and singing certain words ("treiben") as if they were taunts thrown out by school children standing on a corner. The noble violin descant sounds feeble with intonation problems that detract from the meaning that this line should have.

(6) Koopman:
This is a 'lite' treatment of a very serious subject. The fast tempo leads easily into sotto voce singing style that lacks depth and conviction. Particularly evident is the weakness (lack of volume) in the lower voices. The special effects, however, on "Sterben" and "sanft und stille" are among the best that I have heard. Türk sounds rather rushed in his coloraturas. This voice is rather operatic with the expected vibrato, except in the lower range where he has little volume to offer. Larsson in mvts 2 & 3 has an uncertain shaky vibrato, which means that her intonation is insecure at times. Her pronunciation of German leaves something to be desired. Listen to how she sings, "die arme falsche Welt." In the chorale she sometimes howls on high notes and is deficient in the low range at the end of the chorale. Türk deserves a special medal for being the only tenor in this recordings to sing the high note in ms. 26 of the aria. This pertains to the later conductors including Suzuki and Leusink, who did not bother to consult the NBA and preferred to use an older edition which must indicate a lower note. The oboi d'amore sound great in this recording, particularly after having just heard the Harnoncourt shaky oboes. Mertens gives another one of his excellent interpretations in the recitative. The final chorale is given a soft and sweet interpretation, but lack conviction and significance.

(7) Suzuki:
The opening chorale and the interrupting recitative are taken too fast, but Suzuki manages to find just the right tempo for the second chorale which is one of the best versions that I have heard. There is clarity in all the musical lines and Bach's intentions are otherwise carefully followed. The coloraturas in the middle section (recitative) are too fast for Sakurada, who has a penchant for swallowing the ending syllables (does this originate in the Japanese language or die he simply listen to too many Harnoncourt Bach cantata recordings?) The choral sound is very good, but I notice that the sopranos have a forced, hard quality in their voices. The soprano, Suzuki, has a somewhat insecure, shaky, at times too slow vibrato. There is a sharp, penetrating quality to this voice in the high range, where on certain notes it sounds like she is howling. At the end of the chorale she almost does not make it through the last phrase in her low range because her voice simply lacks volume there. The conductor uses both oboi d'amore in the chorale, where most others disregard Bach's intentions. In his aria Sakurada has difficulty with the 'doch' in the phrase "Schlage doch." There are times, not always, when the doch almost disappears completely. The sound of the oboi d'amore is very fine indeed. Kooy does an admirable job, although
not quite as good as Mertens in this recitative. The final chorale is a fitting conclusion to this rather good cantata recording.

(8) Leusink:
The dance-like character of this 1st mvt. is simply not appropriate for this text. At this fast tempo everything seems to suffer: the special effects on "Sterben" and "sanft und stille" are not very special. The inner voices are weak and, unfortunately, the yodelers make another appearance in ms. 26, distracting the listener from serious contemplation, if that is possible at this fast tempo. Schoch, the tenor, strains a bit in the upper register. The coloraturas are almost too fast for him to handle properly. In the low his voice is weak. The replacement for the horn in the second chorale is an organ stop that sounds as if it were created on an electronic organ. This second chorale section is much too fast - listen to the bc. It is completely crazy, as it does not know how to find Christ because it is scurrying in every which way. There is not much expression in Holton's voice in the recitative, but she sounds just right for the chorale except for her weakness in the low range at the end of the chorale. In the recitative Schoch attacks the high notes with a dead quality in his voice. In the aria the 2nd oboe d'amore has intonation problems. Schoch's voice tends to be covered by the orchestra when the voice is in the low range. He sometimes has trouble with his high notes. Leusink did not consult the NBA, as a result Schoch sings a note lower than the high 'd' that is indicated. Ramselaar gives us a half-whispering rendition of the recitative. Most likely he is unable to produce a full-voiced sound. The final chorale uses the wrong words in one spot - the text should have been checked out beforehand. As usual, certain voices stick out at times when they should not.

Summary

Ratings of certain mvts.

Mvt. 1
Rilling
Koopman
Suzuki
Ramin
Leusink
Harnoncourt (rock bottom)

Mvt. 2 & Mvt. 3
Nothing at the very top
Augér
Suzuki
Larsson
Holton
Wiedl

Mvt. 5
Kraus
Türk
Equiluz
Sakurada
Schoch
Lutze

Mvt. 6
Heldwein
Mertens
Kooy
Hauptmann
Huttenlocher
Ramselaar

Marie Jensen wrote (October 6, 2001):
Cantata BWV 138 "Warum betrübst du dich, mein Herz" reviewed a year ago and cantata BWV 95 "Christus der ist mein Leben" had their first performances two following Sundays in September 1723. And in their form they are both very experimental, one aria only and lots of recitativos, chorusses and chorales mixed in various ways as logic consequences of the texts.

A cantata formed this way will never become one of the greatest hits, but I have three different versions: Koopman (6), Suzuki (7) and Leusink (8).

From the very beginning the cantata has a confident and happy mood. I imagine Bach himself crossing Thomaskirchhof with energetic steps looking forward to praise God in music. (especially in the Suzuki version)

Then for a second the meter in "ChriSTUS der ist mein Leben" irritates me, but it is not Bachs fault but the anonymous hymn writers.

Koopman’s and Suzuki’s choirs are both very disciplined and expressive in the openings changing tempi and moods. (Leben - Sterben)

I like the "surprise instrumentation" when "Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin" breaks through the opening movement. Leusink uses an organ-the others different wind instruments. It is a very good idea because when death comes, something new begins. The instruments form a vehicle travelling to another world.

I also enjoyed very much Holtons voice in recitativo 2 and chorale 3. She does not get much instrumental support. Her voice is bright and warm at the same time and my number one of the three. (Lisa Larsson, Koopman) and (Midori Suzuki, Suzuki)

The tenor aria is a typical death aria, with its clocks/ cradle/ bells. When I listen to this one, I cannot help thinking of Vivaldi : "The Winter, second movement" with its cosy indoor life near the fireside. I imagine a nice baroque interiour even with a rocking chair. Death would not even come on my mind if the tenor did not sing about it.
Here I prefer Suzuki/ Sakurada because I like the sound of the orchestra and also because Suzuki really makes "Die allerletzten Glockenschlag" with a very distinct short note at last. (Don't know if it is in the score, but it is very effectful.)

There are no big differences between the three versions I know. So who do I prefer? There is no clear number one.Suzuki perhaps

Thomas Braatz wrote (October 7, 2001):
To Marie who stated:
< The tenor aria is a typical death aria, with its clocks/ cradle/ bells. When I listen to this one, I cannot help thinking of Vivaldi : "The Winter, second movement" with its cozy indoor life near the fireside. I imagine a nice baroque interior even with a rocking chair. Death would not even come on my mind if the tenor did not sing about it. Here I prefer Suzuki/ Sakurada [7] because I like the sound of the orchestra and also because Suzuki really makes "Den allerletzten Glockenschlag" with a very distinct short note at last. (Don't know if it is in the score, but it is very effective.) >
Regarding your last comment first: You are absolutely correct in hearing this abrupt final note ("the very last bell/death knell") which is not indicated in the score. Call it a matter of interpretation, but following Bach's intentions/markings in the score this is not. Suzuki [7] plays the final quarter note with a fermata over it, as if it were a staccato quarter note with a wedge over it. If you listen to Sakurada where he has a final quarter note at the end of a phrase, it is definitely longer and has the full length of the quarter note. What really bothers me, however, about this rendition of the aria (I might have rated it higher if it were not for this obvious flaw that should not have slipped through) is that Sakurada makes the word "doch" and the note under it become almost nonexistent whenever "doch" is not immediately followed by "bald." I have no idea why no one caught this obvious mistake, since this is not a matter of interpretation, but rather incorrect reading of the text and the sound of the note under this text. In any case, a fermata at the end of a movement means that the note is sounded a little longer than its stated value.

If it were not for the text in this aria, I would concur with you that the instrumental accompaniment sounds more like a symphony of clocks than bells. And, who knows, perhaps the bells that are ringing, are all clock bells, ringing at regular intervals, beginning with the bc representing the grandfather clock rather than church or funeral bells. I too was reminded of the same movement in Vivaldi's "The Four Seasons." I even had in mind a picture of Bach enjoying one of his rare moments of leisure with a glass of wine (we know he enjoyed wine and coffee) in front of a fireplace with some
clocks ticking in the background. If Bach had smoked a pipe, I would also think immediately of Wilhelm Busch's "Max und Moritz" in which Busch depicts another organist/teacher, Herr Lämpel, who also appears playing the organ in one picture, but the picture that I am thinking of has him sitting in his easy chair smoking a long meerschaum pipe after a hard week of teaching/playing the organ and exclaiming, "Ach, die Zufriedenheit!" (Ah, blissful contentment.) Little did he know how soon 'his hour would be striking.'

Another possibility is that Bach's insights might have reflected his study of Antiquity or were truly ahead of his time: The contentment that we hear in the aria (if we disregard the agitated, leaping intervals of the voice part) is a precursor of death. Lullaby (the oboe d'amore parts sound like a lullaby) = Sleep = Death (Sleep is the little brother of Death.) This idea of equating contentment with death is expressed in dramatic form by Goethe when he has Faust offer Mephistopheles a wager: "Werd' ich beruhigt je mich auf ein Faulbett legen,/so sei es gleich um mich getan!/Kannst du mich schmeichelnd je belügen,/Daß ich mir selbst gefallen mag,/Kannst du mich mit Genuß betrügen -/Das sei für mich der letzte Tag!/ Die Wette biet' ich!" In essence: 'If I should ever relax, allow myself to be flattered, and fall in love with the pursuit of pleasure, let me rather die than live - this is my wager!' The point is that when these things happen, you are already spiritually dead, so your physical death is then imminent. Somehow it is very difficult for me visualize Bacsimply becoming a self-satisfied 'couch potato' with the almost overwhelming family and professional requirements that were demanded of him.

 

Continue on Part 2

Cantata BWV 95: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Recordings & Discussions of Cantatas: Cantatas BWV 1-50 | Cantatas BWV 51-100 | Cantatas BWV 101-150 | Cantatas BWV 151-200 | Cantatas BWV 201-224 | Cantatas BWV Anh | Order of Discussion

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Last update: ýMarch 13, 2012 ý08:52:37