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Cantata BWV 60
O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort

Robertson | Voigt | Schweitzer | Chafe


Aryeh Oron wrote (November 26, 2001):
BWV 60 - Background

As a background for the review of the recordings of BWV 60, I shall return to Alec Robertson’s excellent book ‘The Church Cantatas of J.S. Bach’ with some personal comments.

Mvt. 1 Duet for Alto (Fear) and Tenor (Hope)
The libretto for this cantata is a dialogue between Fear (alto) and Hope (tenor). Bach uses only the first verse of Johann Rist’s hymn with the title above (of the cantata), which he has set much more fully in the previous year for the first Sunday after Trinity (BWV 20). The connection with Epistle (Col. 1: 1-14; Prayer for increase of grace) and Gospel (Matthew 9: 18-26; Raising of Jairu’s daughter) in tenuous.

The thudding notes in the strings and continuo, heard throughout a large part of the duet, express Fear’s terror of death, the background to her singing of the first verse of the chorale to its appointed melody. Hope, represented instrumentally by the oboes d’amore, suddenly comes in, about half-way through, with the words ‘I await Thy salvation’, constantly reiterating them in florid phrases to the end of the duet.

Mvt. 2 Recitative for Alto (Fear) and Tenor (Hope)
Bach gives a realistic extended phrase to ‘tortures’ (these limbs) and in another arioso at the close Hope declares that God is not of that mind.

Mvt. 3 Duet for Alto (Fear) and Tenor (Hope)
Bach was unable to set the opposed sentiments that are exchanged throughout this duet to music that would convincingly express both and so compromises by giving the tenor and solo violin more ornate parts than the alto and the oboe d’amore.

Mvt. 4 Recitative for Alto (Fear) and Bass (Christ)
Hope has done all he can, and departs. Fear, who speaks always in recitatives, is in the state of acute terror. Then comes the voice of Christ with the comforting words from Revelation 14: 13, in most beautiful phrase. Fear breaks out again, this time with gruesome allusions to worms devouring the body. Christ’s voice completes the sentence from revelation, ‘Blessed are the dead’ with ‘who die in the Lord’, but Fear is still not comforted. The follows a closing arioso of far greater length which ends with an exquisite phrase at ‘who in the Lord die from henceforth’, and now, learning those last words, Fear is able to reply, ‘I shall henceforth be blessed, I can hope again, my body can sleep in peace and my spirit rejoice’.

Mvt. 5 Chorale
Verse 5 of Franz Joachim Burmeister’s hymn ‘Es ist genug, so nimm, Herr meinen Geist’ (1662) set to Johann Rudolph Ahle’s melody. The first phrase of the melody rises in three whole tones and the remarkable harmonization in the first two bars has power to startle, the chromatic harmonies six bars before the end to amaze.

These latter are echoed in Chopin’s C minor Prelude (No. 20). It should also been mentioned that this is the chorale which Alban Berg chose for the last movement of his Violin Concerto to commemorate the death of a beloved friend.”

Personal Comments

a. We all know that Bach have never tried his powers in the field of opera. But dramatic composer he was, and when he was given the opportunity to show his gifts for drama, he got down to the challenge with overt delight.

b. All the movements of this cantata are in dialogue form, except the concluding chorale. There is not even a single aria for solo voice, which we often find in other cantatas in dialogue form. Nevertheless, this is a most fascinating cantata and the tension is kept along the whole work.

c. Vibrato is a musical tool, which many people find inappropriate for Bach’s music. However, vibrato seems to be the most appropriate tool to express fear. It is interesting to investigate how the various alto singers, who recorded this cantata, chose to interpret their part of Fear.

d. In the second movement (first recitative) Fear and Hope alternate their comments on death, presenting opposite points of view. They do not agree and Bach found a wonderful way of presenting this disagreement. They never sing together, that is to say they never meet. In the ensuing duet (in aria form, Mvt. 3), Fear is not yet convinced, but he starts to get used to the idea, maybe by the good tidings that ‘Jesus bears the burden with me’. Jesus himself will join the events in the next movement, but Fear is almost ready at the end of the duet (Mvt. 3). We hear it when his lines intersect those of Hope.

e. Robertson states that ’The connection with Epistle and Gospel (Matthew 9: 18-26; Raising of Jairu’s daughter) in tenuous. I can hardly agree with him. Although I am not Christian, I usually read the Gospel as a background to the listening, trying to understand the source for inspiration of both the librettist and the composer. In this case I have read carefully the Gospel Matthew 9: 18-26, and also the other two version of the same story: Markus 5: 21-43 and Lukas 8: 40-56. I see a strong connection between the two stories (Raising of Jairu’s daughter and the healing of the bleeding women) and the debate between Fear and Hope, which comes to its solution with the appearance of Christ.

f. I have wondered why did bach choose the voices of alto and tenor to represent Hope and Fear. The answer I can propose is that he chose them because these two voices are close. The represent two voices in the mind of the same tortured man, and as such cannot differ too much from each other. He chose tenor to be Hope because usually we identify confidence with lower voice. No wonder that the complete confidence comes with the authority of Vox Christi, embodied by the bass singer.

g. Some conductors give the part of Fear in the opening movement to the alto section of the choir rather than to the alto singer. I cannot see justification for such a decision, because IMO it diminishes the dramatic intensity of this movement in particular and the cantata as a whole. There is continuity between the movements and it sounds strange when the role of Fear is transferred from the choir to the solo singer. Furthermore, Fear is in the heights of his fear in the opening movement and a good solo singer can convey these feeling much more convincingly that a choir.

Thomas Braatz wrote (November 29, 2001):
BWV 60 - Opinions of Some Commentators:

Voigt: Let the cantus firmus in the alto voice be sung by more than one voice in mvt. 1. There is a very strange accompaniment in the duet (aria), which has no da capo. The final recitative is replete with strange mysticism that comes from the mysterious, but comforting voice of the Holy Ghost [some commentators (Chafe) refer also to Jesus, or beginning with Dürr, ‘vox Christi’] sounding as if from a great distance. The bass should not be placed in front of the choir, but rather behind it, next to the organ. Finally there is the wonderful final chorale, the beginning of which is, at the same time, overly exuberant, painful and filled with longing. How concentrated is the expressive quality that resides in the two identical melodic lines “ich fahre sicher hin mit Frieden” and “mein großer Jammer bleibt danieden.” It is almost too concentrated for the first-time listener. Only someone who knows every note can fully appreciate it.

Schweitzer: The rhythm that the oboe d’amore has in the aria is a rhythm that expresses violent passions, sometimes of a joyful, but generally of a grievous kind. Bach especially employs it to represent terror, horror, and despair. [cf. Peter’s aria “Ach mein Sinn” in the SJP. Another example of this in the opening duet of the cantata BWV 58 “Ach Gott, wie manches Herzeleid” (“O God, what grief of heart”) Here in BWV 60, we have “Mein letztes Lager will mich schrecken” (“My lasstate will dismay me.”) The short notes following the dotted note should be played heavily. Observe the inward unrest that makes itself felt in this music. It comes from the sequence of violent intervals that Bach uses. To the terrified cry “Mein letztes Lager will mich schrecken” (“My last state will dismay me,”) the other voice rejoins “Mich wird des Heilands Hand bedecken (“The hand of the Lord will cover me.”

The terror motif: To express terror, Bach employs a series of reiterated quavers or semiquavers on the same note,) he represents it, that is, as trembling or shuddering. The method in itself is rather primitive, but Bach achieves great effect with it. Through the 1st mvt, there runs an unbroken series of shudders: cf. the recitative with the chorus “O Schmerz! Hier zittert das gequälte Herz (“Oh grief! His tortured heart at last doth quail”) in the SMP (BWV 244), the phrase “Erschrecket! Ihr verstockten Sünder” (Terror seize you, unrepentant sinners) in BWV 70Wachet, betet,” in BWV 70 the recitative „Ach, soll nicht diese große Tag“ („Ah! Shall not this great day“) Here Bach deploys a trembling bass in order to depict the terror of the Last Judgment. Cf. a recitative in BWV 46 “Schauet doch und sehet,” where a reference is made to the end of the world. The horror of the trembling bass is intensified by the addition of the chromatic motive. Cf. BWV 42 “Am Abend aber desselbigen Sabbats.” In the recitative the trembling bass is the sole accompaniment.

2 or 3 voices instead of the solo voices.

Schweitzer: "Who can boast that he has ever heard the opening duet of BWV 60 even fairly well done? A glance at the score shows that it can never be sung properly by any two voices, even those of the best singers."

Since Dürr designated the bass part as the ‘vox Christi,’ Finscher, Wolff, and others have done likewise.

Dürr points out regarding the final chorale that Bach’s version of the melodic line is nearly identical to the original J. M. Ahle 1662 melody. But many others actually changed it: Vopelius (1682) begins with A, B, C#, and D (instead of D# - the tritone.)

Thomas Braatz wrote (November 30, 2005):
The following is an extended treatment by Eric Chafe of primarily only this particular chorale although he does refer to the earlier mvts. of BWV 60 and some other cantatas as well.

Eric Chafe “Analyzing Bach Cantatas” Oxford University Press, 2000, pp. 222-240 [2 1/2 pages from the beginning of this chapter - it begins on p. 220, have been eliminated]

>>The wavering qualities that emerge in Cantata BWV 109 (for the twenty-first Sunday after Trinity, 1723) characterize the Trinity season in general, and especially so to­ward the end, as the opposition of fear and hope, or doubt and faith, intensifies to the level of a double perspective on the coming judgment. The work from late Trin­ity 1723 that most embodies those oppositions, leading them toward an eschatological vision that in its way is every bit as impressive as that of Cantata BWV 21, is Cantata BWV 60, "O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort," for the twenty-fourth Sunday after Trinity (November 7). In this work, as in Cantata BWV 77, the relationship of the beginning and end­ing chorale settings articulates a very meaningful change of key at the end, now, as in Cantata BWV 109, to the dominant of the original key, for the purpose of representing an inner change associated with the believer's increasing confidence and faith (mvt. 1 key: D; mvt. 2: b – G; mvt. 3: b; mvt. 4: e – D; mvt. 5: A). And once again an "irregularity" in one of the chorale melodies stimu­lated Bach to devise a very daring chorale harmonization for the final movement and to direct the course of the cantata toward that point.

Cantata BWV 109 had suggested a dialogue between fear and hope in the antithetical relationship of the alternating phrases of its first recitative and in the juxtaposed keys, styles, and affects of its two arias. Cantata BWV 60 makes that dialogue character explicit, designating the alto soloist "Fear" and the tenor soloist "Hope" in its first three movements, then replacing the figure of "Hope" by that of Jesus (bass) in the fourth movement. I have already referred (chapter 1) to the fact that the words from Revelation (14:13) that are assigned to Jesus in the fourth movement ("Selig sind die Toten, die in dem Herren sterben, von nun an") constitute a response to the words of Jacob. "Herr, ich warte auf dein Heil" (Genesis 49:18) given to "Hope" in the first movement. Jacob's words embody one of the most widespread ways in which the "time of Israel" was interpreted in traditional hermeneutics: as a time of waiting for what would be fully revealed only at a later stage of salvation history. Translated via Luther's "analogy of faith" into the time frame of the contemporary believer, such time of waiting becomes an expression of the individual's doubt and tribulation concerning the experience of faith. As in Cantatas BWV 106, BWV 21, and BWV 61, the coming of Jesus represents the pivotal event in the believer's shift from a worldly to a spiritual outlook on life, from doubt to faith, from fear to hope; the final chorale of Cantata BWV 60 makes this clear in its fourth, fifth, and sixth lines: "Mein Jesus kömmt; / nun gute Nacht, o Welt! / Ich fahr ins Himmelshaus" (My Jesus comes; / now good night, world! / I journey to the heavenly home). In Cantata BWV 60, therefore, we have another progression in which the stages of traditional hermeneutics and of chronological eras parallel the inner experience of faith, the work as a whole ending with the anticipation of eternity. Cantata BWV 21 had represented that experience in terms of the extended nature of the shift from C minor to major, whereas Cantata BWV 109 had associated the confirmation of the believer's faith after a period of waiting with the shift from d to a in the final chorale (analogously, perhaps, to the theological association of the phrase "In fine videbitur cujus toni"). In Cantata BWV 60 Bach represents the progressive nature of that revelation in the fourth and fifth movements, presenting it first in three distinct stages in the final dialogue of the cantata (movement 4). In the first of those stages Jesus responds to the believer's (Fear's) cries of torment with the phrase "Selig sind die Toten," in the second with "Selig sind die Toten, die in dem Herren sterben," and in the third with the complete line "Selig sind die Toten die in dem Herren sterben, von nun an." The response of "Fear" to this message -- ­"Wohlan! soll ich von nun an selig sein: so stelle dich, o Hoffnung, wieder ein! Mein Leib mag ohne Furcht im Schlafe ruhn, der Geist kann einen Blick in jene Freude tun" (Well then! if I shall be blessed from now on: then restore yourself, O hope! My body may rest in sleep without fear, the Spirit can take a glance into that joyful state)—makes clear that the final words of Jesus' promise, "von nun an," enable the believer to live in the hope of eternal life and even to experience a vision of that life in the present through the Spirit. The famous setting of "Es ist genung" with which Bach ends Cantata BWV 60 represents that vision, drawing upon some very daring as well as some very subtle tonal qualities in order to depict the return of "Hope" in the believer's consciousness.

The fear with which Cantata BWV 60 deals is that of death, the ultimate cause of the believer's loss of hope in tpenultimate movement, which begins "Der Tod bleibt doch der menschlichen Natur verhaßt und reißet fast die Hoffnung ganz zu Boden" (Death remains hateful, however, to human nature and casts hope almost completely to the ground). As a result, human life itself becomes what the first recitative of Cantata BWV 60 describes as a "schwerer Gang zum letzten Kampf und Streite," a hard passage to the final struggle that threatens to destroy all hopes. Death is terrifying, however, not only of itself but also because of the believer's fear of God's judgment and the possibility of eternal damnation. The chorale "O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort," sung by the figure of "Fear" in the opening movement, encapsulates that fear in all its verses, demanding that the sinner envisage an afterlife of torment as a perpetual beginning without end: "O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort, O Schwert das durch die Seele bohrt, O Anfang sonder Ende" (O eternity, word of thunder, O sword that bores through the soul, O beginning without end). Against that possibility the believer must, like Jacob, hold to God's promise of salvation ("Herr, ich warte auf dein Heil"), recognizing its fulfillment in Jesus; only that recognition enables him to overcome fear with hope so that life in the present becomes a time of peace instead of a "schwerer Gang."

The theological meaning of Cantata BWV 60 hinges on the change in the believer's out­look on eternity that takes place from the first to the last movement, whose chorales, as I have described elsewhere, relate to one another in revealing ways. [2] In the opening movement the first line of the melody "O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort" outlines an ascending D major scale, in which the initial progression through the tones of the D major triad is aligned with "O Ewigkeit" and the rising a'-b'-c#"-d" tetrachord that ends the phrase with "du Donnerwort." Bach separates the line into two parts in the opening ritornello by beginning the movement with the rising tetrachord in the unison strings (i.e., the second half of the phrase) and following it by the rising pentachord from d' to a' (the first half of the phrase). As the ritornello leads into the first entrance of the alto with phrase 1 of the chorale (mm. 13 -16), Bach clarifies the relationship between the two halves of the chorale phrase by ending the ritornello with the tetrachord. This gesture and Bach's accompanying the tetrachord by a stile concitato tremolo pattern in the strings indicate the dominance of fear at the beginning of the cantata. Throughout the movement the first half of the phrase does not appear as a separate idea; instead, Bach reiterates the rising tetrachord, as­sociated with the words "du Donnerwort," as the principal motif.

But for the beginning of the following recitative, proclaiming the aforemen­tioned "schwerer Gang," Bach makes reference to the first phrase, sharpening its third and fourth tones so as to outline melodic progressions of a tritone and an aug­mented rather than a perfect fifth. The "schwerer Gang" is the transformation of two successive tones from "fa" to "mi": first the fourth degree of the scale, g', becomes g#'; then, as we expect it to move to a' (a new "fa" degree), it takes another "difficult step," to a#', the third successive "mi" degree. This gesture distorts the melodic unit associated with "O Ewigkeit" with the aid of a musico-rhetorical device known as the passus duriusculus, of which the German "schwerer Gang" is, in fact, a near-literal translation. [3] In this light, the fact that the pitches are sharpened is probably an indication that the harshness of the progression puns not only on the word durus but also on the German word for the sharp sign, Kreuz. That is, the difficult path is the way of the cross, embodied in a life of tribulation, which the believer undergoes as the route to the "letzter Kampf and Streite."

There is much more than mere rhetorical punning going on here, however, as the final chorale, "Es ist genung," reveals. As Alfred Dürr has pointed out, the very provocative melodic tritone that begins that chorale (a'–b'–c#"–d#") can be considered as a distortion of the last four tones of the first phrase of "O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort" in just the same way that I have described the transformation of the first four tones of that phrase into the "schwerer Gang" of the first recitative—that is, an exceeding of the normal tone sequence by the transformation of "fa" (d") into “mi” (d#") [4]. And that beginning functions, in Bach's network of tonal and theological relationships, as the means by which not only the principal motivic element in the opening movement but also the key of that movement give way to new interpretations at the end. The crucial point is the change of the key of the cantata from its original D, on which it settles at the end of the penultimate movement, to an A that is associated with the final "Es ist genung." That point now represents a completely satisfying close in which "Hope" returns to transform the believer's understanding of death.

The manner by which Bach brings about this final outcome is particular revealing in relation to the various "weak" endings I have considered throughout this book. Those endings were all owing to the absence of the aforementioned "dominant dynamic" in the chorale melodies in question (especially the Mixolydian and "Hypophrygian" melodies) as well as to the unusual degree of subdominant emphasis given them by Bach's harmonizations. That subdominant emphasis extended, as I have endeavored to show, to a preponderance of flat-side modulations in the tonality of those works in general. And the principal association of those flat modulatory regions was with human weakness, the quality that Werckmeister associated with tempered music as a representation of "our incompleteness and mortality in this life." Motion in the flat modulatory direction, conceived in terms of seventeenth century hexachord theory as a progressive transformation of "mi" into "fa" (or the changing of the leading tone into the flat seventh degree of the scale and, by extension, other major intervals, such as the third, into their minor counterparts), under­lay the character of the chorale melody that was most widely associated in Bach's time with "Dies sind die heil'gen zehn Gebot," as we have seen. And Bach did not fail to perceive its potential to articulate the theological message of human weakness that underlay the chorale text. In addition, he linked that subdominant character with the "Hypophrygian" melody of "Ach Gott, vom Himmel sieh' darein," placing those chorales at the beginning and ending of Cantata BWV 77 and transposing the latter into the cantus mollis. In this he brought out the impact of the flattened pitches and "subdominant" harmonizations on the tonal-affective character of the modal melodies as well as on the musico-theological character of the work as a whole.

In the case of "Es ist genung" Bach dealt with the opposite effect, that of sharp­ened pitches, and their suggesting a very strong "dominant dynamic," one that would, in the end, shift the tonal center of Cantata BWV 60 in the sharp rather than the flat di­rection, and that would create an unusually satisfying rather than an unusually weak ending. Much of that quality is directly attributable to J. M. Ahle's melody for "Es ist genung," to which Bach adheres closely and which is ingeniously constructed so as to highlight the relationship between its tonic, A, and dominant, E, in terms of the directional tendencies of the pitches d#" and d". The ten phrases of "Es ist genung" (three in each of the Stollen, four in the Abgesang) are all contained within the range of the perfect fifth from a' to e", which appears in full within a single phrase only in the melodic e"–c#"–b'–a' descent of the last two phrases. Those final phrases, both setting the words "Es ist genung," seem to be an obvious response to the first (and the fourth) phrase, the ascea'–b'–c#"–d#" tritone, which also sets the words "Es ist genung." The pitch a' appears only as the first and last tones of the chorale (i.e., the first note of phrases 1 and 4 and the final tone of phrases 9 and 10), initiating the ascending motion that leads to the dominant at the beginning and serving as the goal of the descent from dominant to tonic at the end. If the first four notes of the chorale can be considered a distortion of the ending of the first phrase of "O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort," then its last four can be viewed as the inversion of the beginning of "O Ewigkeit," as if to make the point that the two halves of that phrase come to rest in the final descent to the new tonic.

The tonal "dynamic" of "Es ist genung" is one in which the two Stollen articulate a very secure shift to the dominant, E, after which the Abgesang prepares and com­pletes the chorale's only point of tonic closure, in the A major cadence of the final phrase. In the Stollen the basic melodic direction is that of ascent to e", initiated in the rising tritone of the first phrase and completed in the E cadence of the third. The Stollen are, in fact, perfectly constructed so as to juxtapose the tendency of the pitch d#" ("mi") to progress upward to e" and that of d" ("fa") to move down to c#". The beginning of the second phrase leads the provocative d#" of phrase 1 upward to e", while the ending of that phrase places the d"–c#" of its A major cadence entirely within the context of E; the third phrase then emphatically confirms the E. That is, in phrase 2 the ascending "mi–fa" semitone, d#"–e", gives way to the "fa – mi" semi­tone, d"–c#", in a manner that makes clear not the sense of a return to A but exactly the opposite—the subordination of A to E— after which the third phrase restores the d#"–e" semitone, now in the context of the rising b'– e" tetrachord and the very strong E cadence. The next two phrases (7 and 8) then prepare for the resolution of this E to the final A by articulating the range of the minor third, b'–c#"–b"- d” - c#"–b', ascending and descending, to pause on the tone above the final. After all this the range of the melody expands outward in both directions to describe a descent through the perfect fifth from dominant to tonic for the reiterated final phrase. The melody thus controls and delays the return to a', phrases 2 and 5 outlining a descending third motion from e" to c#" that gives way in phrases 3 and 6 to the ascent to e", phrases 7 and 8 ending with a third descent from d" to b' and phrases 9 and 10 finally supplying the third descent from c#" to a'. In phrases 2 and 5 A is the subdominant of E, in phrases 7 and 8 it becomes the tonic of the half close on E, and in phrase 10, after a deflection of phrase 9 to the relative minor, it finally sounds as the tonic of a full close. Although withheld until the end, the A cadence, when it finally comes, is unusually satisfying.

Although "Es ist genung" is, in fact, a tonal, not a modal, melody, its beginning with a quasi-Lydian gesture highlights tonal qualities that underlie the way that the modes were perceived for many centuries and that remained beyond the time of Bach even though modal composition itself declined drastically. [5] "Es ist genung," that is, begins with the tetrachord that was traditionally corrected in the Lydian mode because of its introduction of the tritone or, in hexachordal terms, its confusing the placement of the "mi" and "fa" degrees. And it is not coincidental that when we arrange the spectrum of six modal finals (and four tetrachord types) as defined by a single hexachord in a circle-of-fifths pattern—F, C, G, d, a, and e in the case of the cantus naturalis and cantus durus—the Lydian mode is the flattest, followed by the Ionian/Mixolydian (major) and the Dorian/Aolian (minor), with the Phrygian as the sharpest. [6] The "fa" and "mi" degrees of the hexachord, that is, express a flat–sharp opposition that translates readily into tonal terms. Owing to the fact that its lower tetrachord describes a tritone, the Lydian mode tends toward the mode a fifth above; it was traditionally corrected, therefore, by the substitution of b flat for its fourth tone, b, a modification that rendered the mode into the more stable Ionian mode but at the same time shifted it into the flat hexachord or system. The Phrygian mode, however, tended tonally toward the mode a fifth below; owing to the wide­spread avoidance of the sharp system, however, its "correction" to the key of E minor, with the substitution of f# for f (Kircher's "other" Hypophrygian mode), came much later in time. [7] The one mode, therefore, involved tonal expansion from the cantus naturalis to the cantus mollis and the other expansion from the cantus naturalis to the cantus durus.

The chorales that begin and end Cantatas BWV 77 and BWV 60 embody fundamental melodic qualities of the kind just described that Bach expands on in the settings as a whole, relating those qualities to the "directional" qualities in the cantata texts (heaven/earth; God/humankind, etc.). "Dies sind die heil'gen zehn Gebot" begins with the Ionian/Mixolydian (major) tetrachord, which changes to the Dorian/ Aolian (minor) and the Phrygian as the tonality of the opening movement of Cantata BWV 77 expands in the flat direction. "Ach Gott, vom Himmel sieh' darein" ends the cantata with the Phrygian tetrachord in the cantus mollis. The first phrase of "O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort" ends with the Ionian/Mixolydian tetrachord, which changes to the Lydian tetrachord via the raising of its fourth tone, d", to d#" at the beginning of "Es ist genung." The upward or sharpward tendency of the Lydian tetrachord and its final resolution into the Ionian/Mixolydian tetrachord of the mode a fifth higher at the end of Cantata BWV 60 can be considered to mirror the fact that "Es ist genung" represents the believer's glimpse of eternity in the present life, while the downward or flatward tendency of the Phrygian tetrachord and its lack of resolution at the end of Cantata BWV 77 can be considered to represent the believer's cry to God from a state of weakness (although we cannot be sure if the chorale text that ended Cantata BWV 77, "Ach Gott, vom Himmel sieh' darein," itself is an appeal for God to look down upon a world in which the believer is beset by evil and torment). The anomalous flattened and incomplete ending of the final chorale of Cantata BWV 77 may be compared with the anomalous sharpened beginning of "Es ist genung" and its resolution into one of Bach's most satisfying endings.

In Cantata BWV 60 the first phrase of "Es ist genung," harmonizing the rising melodic tritone, introduces one of the most striking gestures in all Bach's music. For others at the time, however, the melodic tritone was problematic: the Vopelius collection alters it to the perfect fourth, featuring d" instead of d#", while Telemann's version of the melody, for example, simply begins on the tonic and ascends by step to the third, repeating the third tone instead of continuing the line upward; Telemann harmonizes the phrase by a simple tonic–dominant–tonic progression. And Telemann, who provides variant versions for the great majority of his melodies, has none in the case of "Es ist genung." The Freylinghausen collection, however, ends the first phrase on the raised fourth degree and retains the motion from tonic to dominant it implies but replaces the initial a' by c#", after which the line outlines a stepwise ascent from b' to d#".

In contrast, Bach's opening phrase not only retains but also harmonically amplifies the qualities of the tritone. After the initial A major chord, Bach duplicates the rising whole tones of the melody line at the minor tenth (third) below in the bass ( [a], g#, a#, b#), changing "fa" into "mi" twice in succession, by raising what wexpect to be a second a to a# and following it by b#. The two successive whole tones recall the effect of the "schwerer Gang" of the first recitative. And after the E6 chord that appears beneath the second melody tone, b', Bach's harmonizing the third tone c#", not with the tonic or any other diatonic harmony but with an F#6 chord, and his following that in turn not by the normal V of V harmony (B) but by -V6/5 of iii (i.e., a G# 6/5 chord), duplicates the rising whole-tone progression in a sequence of ascending dominant harmonies, thus rendering the entire passage much sharper than we expect. Against this, however, Bach has the alto voice move downward by step from its initial e' through the tone d#’,which sounds on the beat simultaneously with the penultimate F#6 chord, before reaching the harmony tone c#' on the second half of the beat. The alto then leaps up a fifth to the root of the G#6/5 chord, rather than making the much more straightforward motion to b# (which has, of course, been preempted by the whole-tone motion to b# in the bass). How much easier it would have been had the bass moved back from a (or even a#) to g# rather than pushing upward from a# to b#! But this progression was obviously intended to represent the quintessential "schwerer Gang." The clash of c#" and d' on the beat, followed by the c#” – d#’ motion of the soprano, suggests that the pitches that constitute the "mi" and “fa” of the scale, their relationship suddenly altered by the sharpening of the "fa" (d") to "mi" (d#"), represent an essential relationship whose displacement demands resolution.

The phrase that follows provides a provisional resolution in that the G# dominant harmony shifts into root position and moves to the root-position c# chord after which the bass makes a long scalar descent to A and the soprano's d" resolves to c#" for the cadence to A. The cadential c# –B –A descent in the bass line places the dominant in 4/2 position, introducing another passing c#—d" clash on the beat just before the cadence. Owing in part to the absence of a strong dominant– tonic bass progression, but even more to the sharpness of the first phrase, the A major cadence sounds like the subdominant of E. The third phrase then reintroduces the still provocative melodic d#" and the bass the still provocative a#, those two pitches leading the phrase to a very strong E cadence. The dynamic of this third phrase represents a "crescendo" to the A# diminished-seventh chord with which Bach harmonizes the initial arrival on e". Its resolution involves one of the most interesting events of the setting, as the tenor, in the highest part of its register, sings the falling semitone, g'–f #', and is echoed immediately at the cadence by the alto's a’ – g#’ semitone. The effect of this brief "dialogue" between the vocal ranges that represent Fear and Hope in the first three movements (which, incidentally, spells the tones B-A-C-­H transposed) is that of tension release, as the B7 chord settles on the cadential E harmony. The alto's initial leap up to g#' now comes to rest, as it were, in the upward melodic curve of the alto line from g#' to c#" (the latter pitch coming within the "dis­sonant" central harmony of the phrase) and back to g#'; the melodic figure that highlights its final a'–g#' motion lends the cadence a particularly satisfying character that is prophetic, as we will see, for the ending of the chorale.

In Cantata BWV 60 one of Bach's most important goals is to render the dominant of the final A into such a strong point of arrival that the establishing of the new tonic itself, when it comes, will not only be very secure but will also draw earlier tonal events into its perspective. To bring this about Bach provides an "extra" degree of sharpening in the first phrase of "Es ist genung." His exact choice of harmonies is not casual, however, but a greatly compressed version of tonal procedures that had become established in the early seventeenth century in conjunction with the emer­gence of the "sharp dynamic" and the opening up of the formerly "difficult" sharp system. As Carl Dahlhaus recognized, the dynamic of modulation in the sharp di­rection, which appeared much later historically than did that in the flat direction, was bound up with articulation of the sharpest of the harmonies that comprised the harmonically conceived hexachord—that is, the "mi" or Phrygian degree, e/E in the case of the C or natural hexachord. [8] Preceding that degree by its dominant involved the encroachment of pitches from the sharp hexachord: F# in the case of the natural hexachord. We have already encountered this "problem" in Athanasius Kircher's Hy­pophrygian E minor. Once that dominant or sharp dynamic had become estab­lished, however, the way was open for the closed circle of keys and a fully transposi­tional system that would render simultaneously the integrity of the modes and of the single system to which they belonged virtually irrelevant, even to modal com­position, which now became a "historical" exercise. Instead of the "Phrygian" degree of the system or hexachord (now the ambitus), the dominant of the dominant (or even its dominant) became the normal means of securing a shift in the sharp direc­tion. In the opening phrase of "Es ist genung," however, Bach perceived that a swift tonal motion to the dominant of iii, the G# 6/5 chord with which the phrase ends, and especially a motion that emphasized the whole-tone ascent from the dominant (the E6 chord) to the dominants of ii and iii in turn, would "legitimate" the dominant (sharp) region in a very intensified manner. As the fifth of the harmony, the d#" would be more secure than as the leading tone to E (the role of the subsemitonium in older music, which was not taken to be indicative of modulation in the sharp direction), although it would, of course, be heard in the latter role at the E major cadence, two phrases later. We have already seen that one of Bach's means of stabilizing a major tonic, new or otherwise, especially when it is approached from a subdomi­nant context and when it is associated with the anticipation of eternity, is to move to its mediant degree beforehand. The roles of G# minor in Cantatas BWV 8 and BWV 9 and of B minor in Cantata BWV 77 provide cases in point. The har­monies of the first phrase of "Es ist genung," daring as they are in themselves, have the larger function of immediately and decisively eradicating the tonal framework of D major, renewed at the close of the preceding recitative. They, in fact, "signal" the shift to a sharper frame of reference in a manner that is, once again, "opposite” to the passing augmented triad that sounds in the first phrase of the final chorale of Cantata BWV 77 or the dominant thirteenths in the first four phrases of "Das alte Jahr" in the Orgelbüchlein. The tension of the leading tone and the minor third, heard simultaneously in such harmonies, reinforces the downward motion to the tonic, whereas the series of raised pitches at the beginning of "Es ist genung' contains an excess of energy that pushes upward to the major mediant. The psychological effect of the one beginning is to suggest a quality of inevitability— ultimately of mortality—and that of the other just the opposite. The one can be considered to project a mollis quality, while the other, especially within the musico-theological context of the cantata as a whole, is certainly durus. [9]

Obviously, after such a beginning, the second Stollen of "Es ist genung" could have no need of a comparable tonal-harmonic event. On the repeat of phrase 1 as phrase 4, therefore, Bach introduces a chromatic descent in the bass that enables him to bring in the dominant of D directly before the melody moves to its d#', then to harmonize the d#" with vii6 of E (a dominant substitute). After the chromatic rise from a to a# to b in the bass of the preceding phrase, one of the means by which Bach confirms the key of E, the a– g#-g n-f# descent has, certainly a passing tendency toward the subdominant of A. But the D# diminished chord lays it immediately to rest, after which the B– e bass motion at the beginning of the next phrase reconfirms E major in no uncertain terms. Phrase 6 then reabsorbs the pitch G natural into the E major frame of reference, introducing E minor to darken but in no way undermine the tonality before the E major cadence of phrase 6. Thus, the aforementioned “dialogue" between the tenor g'–f# and alto a'–g#' in phrase 3 returns, now with a slight displacement in the alto line that renders the cadence even more secure. At the end of phrase 6, E major bids fair to be considered the "tonic" key.

There are so many astonishing effects in the harmony and voice leading of this piece that to detail them all would occupy several more pages. The principal point to which they all contribute is the immensely satisfying character of the final cadence. That quality is owing to the fact that after the very strong dominant emphasis in the two Stollen and Bach's retaining the pitch d#' in the harmony of the E cadeneces of the first phrases of the Abgesang, the final A cadence has the effect of resolving the dualism of upward d#"–e" and downward d natural"– c#" motion, which runs throughout the setting. The first phrase of the Abgesang (phrase 7) turns the tonality toward A by introducing the subdominant, D, below the melodic d" that initiates the descent to the half close on E; the return of d#' and the dominant of E in the harmony of the cadence give way before this pivotal gesture. In fact, every phrase except the last emphasizes the presence of D#. But after this sounding of the subdominant for the first time in the piece all subsequent emphasis on E merely prepares for the final A In this respect, nothing could surpass phrases 8 and 9. Although phrase 8 begins and ends with dominant–tonic progressions to E, between them Bach introduces one of the most mysterious harmonic passages in his output. The chromatic descent of the bass is routine enough; it is the expiring effect of the third, fourth, and fifth chords of the phrase that opens up unsuspected levels of meaning for "mein großer Jammer." Spelled differently, the third chord might have functioned as an augmented-sixth chord, confirming the key of E. But Bach draws it into the chromatic descent pattern so that even the F# dominant seventh chord to which it moves (potentially V of V in E) drifts downward to what we must hear by hindsight as ii6/5 in a/A. With the arrival on the dominant seventh (E7) beneath the melodic d" that had formerly hosted the subdominant, however, all ambiguity is over, and the D#s of the half close on E ("bleibt danieden") aid in restoring the believer's confidence in preparation for the final reiterated "Es ist genung." Bach's harmony on the first of the final pair of phrases brings back the whole-tone ascent in the bass, raising the fourth and fifth degrees of the scale to lead the cadence into the relative minor. [10] In itself it is not un­usual; its significance lies in its relationship to the following phrase. After this ges­ture, the bass simply continues its rising line upward through g# to a for the begin­ning of the final phrase; from there it moves solidly downward to the dominant, e, and the lower tonic, A, the harmonies of the final phrase settling on the tonic and dominant only for the first time in the setting.

Most of all, however, the final phrase makes its deeply satisfying effect by virtue of the simple stepwise passage of the tenor from the dominant, e', through d', to c#, in parallel sixths with the 3 - 2 - 1 descent from c#" to a' in the soprano. We hear this gesture in relation to the rising, sharpened c#-d#-e#-f# motion in the bass of the preceding phrase. Bach decorates the tenor d' exactly as he had the a' of the alto as it settled on the g#' of the very strong E cadence of phrase 3, making the point that this A cadence finally resolves the dominant emphasis at the beginning of the setting. The tenor's e'-d'-c#' descent also recalls the alto's e'- d'- c#' descent in the first phrase, suggesting, perhaps, that Fear's dissonant motion is replaced by Hope's sat­isfying close. The expression "it is enough" can have two virtually opposite mean­ings, the one indicating longing for release from the fear and tribulation of life and the other representing the transforming quality of the believer's glimpse of eternity on his life in the world—in the terms of Cantata BWV 60, the return of Hope. In fact, that double meaning is prominent in the original text of "Es ist genung," written by Franz Joachim Burmeister. There the third verse clearly articulates the idea of the cross as a "schwerer Gang," just as it appears in Bach's text (the appearance of the word "hart" twice is revealing):

Es ist genug des Kreuzes, das mir fast
Den Rücken wund gemacht
Wie schwer, o Gott, wie hart ist diese Last!
Ich schwemme manche Nacht
Mein hartes Lager durch mit Thränen.
Wie lang, wie lange muss ich sehnen!
Wenn ist's genug?

It is enough of the cross, that
Almost cripples my back.
How heavy, O God, how hard is this burden!
Many a night I soak
My hard bed through with tears.
How long, how long must I yearn!
When is it enough?

Boumeister's "Wenn ist's genug" was frequently altered to "Es ist genug" (as was the "Des ist genug" of verse 2) so as to render all the verse endings uniform. The original formulation, however, makes clear that the message of this particular verse is dissat­isfaction with life, while the two subsequent verses, both of which end with "Es ist genug," make equally clear the transformation effected by Jesus' presence (which comes in verse 4) and the altered meaning of "Es ist genug." Bach's setting of the last strophe of the hymn retains the antithesis between the beginning and ending phrases, the latter of which accomplishes the aforementioned transformation. There is, however, nothing inherently remarkable about the final cadence of "Es ist genung" itself; and the tenor motion described previously is a conventional cadential gesture. What makes it special is that it resolves the d# - d disparity once and for all. It is possible, in fact, to feel at the close of this chorale that the entire harmonization exists for the satisfying quality of the tenor's d' resolving to c#', an allegory of the replacing of the troubled "schwerer Gang" of earthly life by the peace and certai Jesus' promise.

The final cadence of Cantata BWV 60 not only puts the initial "Es ist genung" in perspective but also fulfills certain tonal-harmonic tendencies of a provocative nature in the preceding two movements. "Es ist genung" is a direct response to the preceding dialogue (movement 4), at the end of which the believer ("Fear"), finally consoled by Jesus' promise of the blessedness of eternal life in the present, had called for "Hope" to return: "Wohlan! soll ich von nun an selig sein: so stelle dich, O Hoffnung, wieder ein! Mein Leib mag ohne Furcht im Schlafe ruhn, der Geist kann einen Blick in jene Freude tun." The ending of this dialogue returns, as mentioned earlier, to the key of D, cadencing in that key with the rising tetrachord from a' to d" as if recalling the principal motif of "O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort". The words " [der kann einen Blick] in jene Freude tun," however, prepare for the startling transformation of that gesture at the beginning of "Es ist genung."

The return to D at the end of the final dialogue is a gesture that must be interpreted in light not only of the unusual tonal-modulatory scheme of the movement as a whole but also of the recurrences of D throughout the cantata. After the opening dialogue D is heard solely in association with the response of Hope to Fear’s expressions of angst. In the first recitative, for example, Hope answers Fear's initial phrase—"O schwerer Gang zum letzten Kampf and Streite!" (O hard route to the final struggle and combat!)—in D, with "Mein Beistand ist schon da, Heiland steht mir ja mit Trost zur Seite" (My assistance is already here, my Savior stands by my side to comfort me). In the first aria dialogue, in b, Hope answers Fear's “Des Glaubens Schwachheit sinket fast" with a strong D major—"Mein Jesus trägt mit mir die Last" (My Jesus bears the burden with me)—after which the ritornello sounds in D. In this particular instance Fear picks up immediately after the ritornello by turning the D into E minor, replacing the hopeful-sounding high d” of its line, and the positive-sounding D major arpeggio with which it begins, by shifting to a low d#' and deflecting the tonality toward e: "Das offne Grab sieht greulich (The open grave has a gruesome appearance). Gestures of this kind appear, in fact, throughout the cantata, but in this case Hope's response is to turn Fear's motion to E minor into major by reintroducing the arpeggio figure a tone higher than before and leading it toward A: "Es wird mir doch ein Friedenshaus" (It becomes, however, a house of peace for me). Fear reiterates its former gesture, converting the A to f#, after which Hope turns to F# major and attempts to lead Fear on to B major. Fear, however, converts the d#' into the leading tone of e again, breaking the pattern. Hope has the last word, resolving Fear's doubts into a secure B minor cadence, but tendency toward a rising whole-tone sequence of major keys is unfulfilled. Something more than Hope is required.

In the next movement the figure of Jesus replaces Hope, as we know. This dialogue begins in e with a prominent cl# in the bass, which shifts a tritone to a after two measures, the alto shifting from its initial a' to d#' with a diminished-seventh-chord arpeggio line that has been heard several times in both the preceding movements. Then, as if recalling the rising whole-tone pattern of the preceding dialogue, the alto shifts up to F# minor, closing in that key: "Der Tod bleibt doch der menschlichen Natur verhaßt und reißet fast die Hoffnung ganz zu Boden." Now Jesus answers in arioso style and in D major, with the first phrase of the words of Revelation: "Selig sind die Toten." The major-third shift downward from f # to D has a comforting quality to offset the tension of Fear's rising whole-tone modulation. And not only is the D very secure, but Jesus' line seems to recall the D major arpeggio line of the pre­ceding movement. Fear, however, cannot accept the words of promise as yet, enter­ing with a g#' above the d of the basso continuo and returning the tonality to f#: "Ach! aber ach, wieviel Gefahr stellt sich der Seele dar, den Sterbeweg zu gehen" (Ah! but ah, how much danger presents itself to the soul, to take the path of death). And with the next line, Fear once again shifts up a whole tone, now to g# (a tritone modulation in relation to Jesus' D), closing in that key as its torment increases: "Vielleicht wird ihr der Höllenrachen den Tod erschrecklich machen, wenn er sie zu verschlingen sucht; vielleicht ist sie bereits verflucht zum ewigen Verderben" (Perhaps the rage of hell will make death frightening to it [the soul], when it attempts to devour it; perhaps it is already cursed to eternal destruction). On "verflucht" Fear leaps a tritone from c#' to f double sharp (a saltus duriusculus to confirm the meaning of the earlier "schwerer Gang"), the double-sharp sign reminding us of St. Paul's (and Luther’s) description of the cross as a "Fluch" (curse). Fear has reached the apex of torment, introducing the sharpest key of the cantata. [11] The ascending e– f#–g# progression in the alto can be considered to prefigure the harmonies of the first phrase of "Es ist genung." And Jesus responds to Fear's g#, as He had to its f#, by shifting to the major key a major third below, E, and with the same comforting phrase (now extended by the addition of "die in dem Herren sterben") and the same secure tonal character: "Selig sind die Toten, die in dem Herren sterben." Fear now appears to accept something of the meaning of Jesus' words: its initial question —"Wenn ich im Herren sterbe, ist denn die Seligkeit mein Teil und Erbe?" (If I die in the Lord, is then blessedness my share and inheritance?)—takes on a rhetorical character, and the verb "scheinen" in its final line: "da ich ein Kind des Todes heiße, so schein ich ja im Grabe zu verderben" (since I am a child of death, I certainly appear to disintegrate in the grave) indicates a weakening of its former pessimism. This solo, therefore, reverses its earlier modulatory pattern, beginning in f# and moving down a whole tone to end on the dominant of e (the half close leaving the tonality open for Jesus' answer); the bass of the cadence even returns to the a –d# tritone with which the movement had begun.

Jesus' answer, again, shifts down the major third, to C, as the bass completes the line from Revelation. Already in the first recitative Bach had introduced a tendency for Hope to respond to Fear's anguished outcries by shifting in the subdominant direction. There Hope's final solo had responded to Fear's tormented shift to f# by turning to a and ending in a hopeful-sounding G. Now in Jesus' third solo Bach moves further in the flat direction, introducing the first (and only) flat accidentals in the work in conjunction with the subdominant of C. Although the passage is comforting and basically in major, as before, Bach does not avoid the reality of death that lies behind Jesus' words. For the final "sterben, von nun an" he therefore settles on the dominant of e and cadences in that key after a final threnodic prolonging of the word "sterben." This confirmation of the key in which Fear's solos had begun and ended can be considered to complete an upward–downward tonal curve in which Fear moves upward by whole tones (e–f# and f#--g#) to the apex of its torment, g#, and back (f#–e), while Jesus responds in D, E, and C, ending in e in confirmation of the reality of death but placing that e in a hopeful context. Whole-tone and major-third relationships predominate in keeping with Bach's intent to depict both the "schwerer Gang" of earthly life and the message of comfort that enables the believer to overcome it. Fear now concludes the dialogue with the words cited previously, modulating down one final whole tone, to D, and cadencing in that key with the aforementioned association of the rising tetrachord of the key and the glimpse into eternity. The beginning of "Es ist genung" then immediately intensifies and transforms that gesture by means of the most revealing rising-whole-tone progres­sion in the work.

The chorale, as we saw, deals with the relationship between D and D# the latter pitch impelling the strong articulation of E that enables the cantata not only to end a fifth higher than it began but also to invest the new tonic key with associations of peace. The dialogue aspect of this and other Bach cantatas is, of course, a symbol of a divided human nature, an inability to find rest from doubts regarding death in par­ticular. Lutheran eschatology emphasized the peace that faith provided by interpret­ing death in terms of sleep; Luther's paraphrase of the canticle of Simeon, the Nunc dimittis, as the chorale "Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr' dahin" poeticized the "sleep of death" in terms of the believer's ability to view death in peace and joy. The end­ing of the last dialogue of Cantata BWV 60 refers to the believer's glimpse into the joyful hereafter (the rising D tetrachord), after which the task of "Es ist genung" is to render that vision of the world above into the source of peace for the believer. Earlier in the cantata Hope (movement 4) and Jesus (movement 5) had attempted to lead Fear's vision upward, by whole tones, into the sphere of the sharp major keys, espe­cially the E of Jesus' second solo, and back. Hope's answer to Fear in the final exchange of movement 4 had interpreted the grave (Fear's "Das offne Grab sieht greulich aus") as a "house of peace" (Hope's "Es wird mir doch ein Friedenshaus"). Now, in "Es ist genung" we hear an echo of the believer's longing for peace, as the second Stollen closes with two cadencing in A and E, respectively: "Nun gute Nacht, o Welt!" (phrase 5) and "Ich fahr ins Himmelshaus" (phrase 6). The completed E major of phrase 6 thus represents the vision of the world above, to which the world below is subordinated (the A of phrase 5), while the gradual move back toward A over the subsequent phrases represents the return of the believer's view­point to the world below as one that has been transformed by that vision into a new sense of peace and security: "Ich fahre sicher hin mit Frieden, mein großer Jammer bleibt danieden. Es ist genung" (I journey securely forth in peace, my great misery remains here below. It is enough).

Alban Berg's choosing this chorale setting as the principal musical symbol behind the eschatological program for his 1935 violin concerto was an action permeated by a profound understanding of what the movement represented for Bach. [12] From that standpoint the concerto is a milestone in the area of Bach reception. Berg, as is well known, incorporated the first phrase of the chorale into the tone row of the concerto, its four pitches, transposed up a whole tone, serving as the last four of the set. The transposition was owing, of course, to the fact that the other nine pitches of the row outline a rising-third progression that passes through a series of triads formed on the open strings of the violin (the first, third, fifth, and seventh pitches): g, b flat, d', f#', a', c", e" , g#", b", c#"' ,d#”’, e#'''. Thus, the row outlines an alternating set of minor and major triads over its first nine pitches —g, D, a, E— after which the whole-tone sequence borrowed from "Es ist genung" suggests, if we refer to its orig­inal context (transposed, of course), the keys of B and its dominant, In other words, the row is an ascending circle of fifths that favors minor triads at the begin­ning and major toward the end; and if we transpose it down the whole tone, so that the final four pitches correspond with the first four of Bach's chorale (an octave higher, of course)—a", b", c#'", and d#"'—then the last six tones (d", f#'', a", b", c#”’ and d#”’) would correspond to the beginning of the first phrase of "O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort" (the D major triad) followed by the beginning of "Es ist genung." And the sequence of triads in the row as a whole, including the keys implied by the ending of the series, would be f, C, g, D, A, and E. Taken as a series of pitches, this pattern corresponds to the natural hexachord, which would be very unlikely for Berg to have had in mind at all. Taken as a series of triads or even keys, it traverses a much wider tonal range, the one, in fact, that corresponds, in abbreviated form, to the flat / sharp limits of the movement keys of Bach's cantatas and passions — F minor E major. Berg has arranged his row so that it embodies an essential feature of the Western tonal system, and one that many composers after 1600 drew upon for musico- allegorical purposes, despite the great style differences among their works. The fifth or fifth-plus-third-based principle behind pitches, triads, modes, and keys ten' very much to view flatward progressions as descending motion and sharpward ones as the reverse. In the nineteenth century, when forms of "religious aesthetics" came into existence, especially in Germany, we find no dearth of works, among which Wagner's Tristan und Isolde is, of course, the prime example, that polarize the "deep” -flat and sharp keys, even merge them via wide-ranging enharmonicism, for the purpose of creating an aura of transcendence. The beginning and ending keys of third act of Tristan—F minor and B major—offer the most outstanding example, but other endings, such as the B major of the Lizst B minor sonata and Strauss's Also sprach Zarathustra and the E major ending of Mahler's Fourth Symphony, seem also to make an association between their very sharp keys and the elevated or transcendental spheres those ending keys represent. We might say that Berg is reflecting fundamental properties of the tonal system within a new atonal context just as Bach and many Baroque composers before him reflected back on what they viewed as the stile antico of the sixteenth century within the context of the new tonal system.

In the foregoing description I have, despite the considerable detail, merely sketched the qualities, tonal or otherwise, that might be brought to bear on the question of musical allegory in Cantata BWV 60. I have intended basically to indicate that Bach's musical language, in the cantatas at least, is conditioned in major ways by the Lutheran thought world in which he lived and produced his many masterworks. If Bach's works are nevertheless "universal" in their expressive content, that quality is owing to the fact that neither Lutheranism nor any other conceptual system has a monopoly on the kinds of expression of which music is capable. Music such as Bach's, that is, deals with analogues of religious ideas and affective qualities that underlie human experience in general. Nevertheless, understanding the particular, or historical, aspects of Bach's work—its various contexts—is, I believe, essential to fully appreciating the nature of Bach's genius. Bach's progressiveness has, in my view, little or nothing to do with his putting on the mantle of contemporary styles such as galant manner but is owing to a much more interesting quality: a complexity of thought (whether manifested purely in tone relationships or in musico-allegorical procedures) that sets him apart from his surroundings. While his contemporary Johann Mattheson made an issue out of publicly rejecting the church modes, solmization, all that he deemed unnatural in the area of text setting, the role of ratio and received theoretical opinion on questions of consonance versus dissonance, and the like, Bach perceived the potential of all those ways of understanding music for com­position. His dissonances, for example, are amazingly rational and even capable of being conceptualized in terms of solmization; they are nonetheless affective on that account. Whereas Mattheson's outlook is unquestionably progressive, it is just as surely locked in its own time. In developing and intensifying traditional, even ar­chaic, ways of understanding music, however, Bach carried them far into the future, opening up questions for the analysis, interpretation, and composition of music that are very much with us and are probably timeless.

Notes to Chafe

2. Eric Chafe, Tonal Allegory in the Vocal Music of J. S. Bach (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991), pp. 193 - 9 6.

3. See, for example,
Christoph Bernhard's discussion of the passus duriusculus in terms of chromatically ascending and descending lines and melodic patterns in which augmented seconds and diminished thirds replace their normal counterparts; Bernhard adds that other intervals, such as the ascending augmented fourth, were "nowadays too easily used" ("heutiges Tages zu gelassen"). Bernhard's "Tractatus compositionis augmentatus" has been reprinted in Joseph Müller-Blattau, Die Kompositionslehre Heinrich Schützens in der Fassung seines Schülers Christoph Bernhard (Kassel: Bärenreiter, 1963), pp. 40-131; see pp. 77 - 78.

4. Alfred Dürr, Die Kantaten von Johann Sebastian Bach (Kassel: Bärenreiter, 1971), 2:510-20. Bach himself perceived—but did not create, of course—that relationship, since his version of "Es ist genug" is nearly identical to J. M. Ahle's 1662 melody.
Ahle's melody was altered, however, in many subsequent collections, and, in fact, the Vopelius collection of 1682 began with the tones a', b', d", and d".

5. Thus, the slow movement of Beethoven's A minor String Quartet, Opus 132, as is well known, was considered by Beethoven to be in F Lydian, which meant, basically, F major with B natural rather than Bb.

6. That is, the lower tetrachords of the modes comprise a sequence of ascending fourths according to the circle of fifths: F-G-A-B (Lydian),C-D-E-F (Ionian), G-A-B-C (Mixolydian), D-E-F-G (Dorian), A-B-C-D (Aolian), and E-F-G-A (Phrygian). The next tetrachord, B-C-D-E, would complete the Phrygian mode.

7. See chapter 4, "The Seventeenth-Century Background."

8. See Carl Dahlhaus, Studies on the Origin of Harmonic Tonality, translated by Robert O. Gjerdingen (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991).

9. In this light, it may be mentioned that one of the ancient associations of the terms durus and mollis was that of the opposite qualities of the whole tone and the half tone (see Carl Dahlhaus, "Die termini 'dur’ und 'moll,'" Archiv fur Musikwissenschaft 12 [1955]: ), relate to a spectrum of other associations that are best summarized in terms of the qualities of the raised versus the flattened fourth degree of the Lydian scale—that is, the motion from "mi" to "mi" versus that from "mi" to "fa."

10. The second through the fifth tones in the bass pitch sequence g#-a-c#-d#--e#-f# recall those of the "schwerer Gang" of the first recitative, transposed at the fifth.

11. Behind this modulation may lie something akin to Heinichen's describing the sharpest and flattest keys of the musicalischer Circul as "difficult" and "hardly usable" Hans T. David and Arthur Mendel, eds., The New Bach Reader, revised and enlarged by Christoph Wolff (New York: W.W. Norton, 1998) pp. 16 -17.

12. Unfortunately, however, Berg must have used a faulty source for Bach's harmonization since the version used in the Violin Concerto displaces the accented passing tone in its first measure, thereby eliminating the most biting dissonance in the setting.<<


Cantata BWV 60: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

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Last update: Friday, September 01, 2017 13:24