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Discussions: Texts | Translations: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

Texts of Bach Cantatas
Discussions - Part 2

Continue from Part 1

Music and Text in Bach's Church Cantatas

Paul T. McCain wrote (March 20, 2007):
We have discussed whether or not Bach's music was written intentionally to advance the texts of the Cantatas, or to what extent Bach did strive to advance the meaning of the texts with his music, or if at all. Somebody referenced the book "Evening in the Palace of Reason" by Gaines, which, in my opinion, is a delightful and entertaining romp through a whole host of issues pertaining to Bach's life and times. I was particularly intrigued by this observation and how it pertains to our conversation on this point:

"Luther's idea of music as the faithful servant of theology inspired every Baroque composer's defining challenge: to devise melodies and harmonies that could cary and dramatize meaning, or, to put it a bit oversimply, to make music speak with words. Luther's mandate for music to deliver 'sermons in sound' had several important results over time It gave new life to an ancient connection between musical compositions and classical rhetoric, which after all shared music's new purpose of moving an audience in a particular direction. . . . this concept of music as an oratorical craft inspired a vast compositional vocabulary of passages, rhythms, key changes, and other devisces that could telegraph in music the meaning of a text, the language of what came to be known as 'musical-rhetorical' figures."

(Source: James R. Gaines, Evening in the Palace of Reason [New York: Harper Collins, 2005, p. 81].

Sehr interessant, nicht wahr?

 

The Poetic Value of the Librettists

Douglas Cowling wrote (April 15, 2007):
Alain Bruguières wrote:
< It seems to me that this peculiar and systematic form results from a musical choice of the composer. The librettist (or librettists) had to follow a pre-established pattern which left them comparatively little freedom as far as the form is concerned, and even the content is essentially based on the text of the hymn. This does not call for great poetic inspiration, and indeed it seems that the text evinces no great litterary quality. Bach needed someone who would follow obediently the pattern he had set. >
I am always curious about this general assumption that the cantata texts are substandard poetry. Certainly the theology is not sympathetic to modern sensibilities (the recent diatribe about Popes and Turks) and the metaphoric imagery can border on the grotesque ("The whole world is a hospital").

That however is not sufficient to justify the frequently-encountered myth that poor Bach the great genius was forced to set doggerel texts by his philistine employers.

I would interested in hearing the assessment of someone with a real literary background in mid-18th century, pre-Romantic German religious poetry. Someone who could place the texts in their historical context, the way scholars have worked on the relation of Handel's librettos to English Augustan poetry.

Alain Bruguières wrote (April 15, 2007):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< I am always curious about this general assumption that the cantata texts are substandard poetry. >
So am I. Not being able to read the German, I have asked the selfsame question some time back on the list. All who answered said that the texts were of no great literary quality, which perhaps doesn't mean 'substandard'; there was a general agreement that you don't need intrinsically good poetry for a good libretto.

Apparently when Bach did have a good poet for a librettist in the person of Mariane von Ziegler, he changed the texts, and the collaboration petered out ...

< Certainly the theology is not sympathetic to modern sensibilities (the recent diatribe about Popes and Turks) and the metaphoric imagery can border on the grotesque ("The whole world is a hospital").
That however is not sufficient to justify the frequently-encountered myth that poor Bach the great genius was forced to set doggerel texts by his philistine employers. >

Agreed, but are you suggesting that I adhere to this myth? I don't. I suggest that Bach would rather have a cooperative, than a brilliant librettist...

< I would interested in hearing the assessment of someone with a real literary background in mid-18th century, pre-Romantic German religious poetry. Someone who could place the texts in their historical context, the way scholars have worked on the relation of Handel's librettos to English Augustan poetry. >
I can only hope that you will obtain even more illuminating answers than I did some time back...

 

Poetry in the Cantatas

Jean Laaninen wrote (May 21, 2007):
I am wondering if anyone in this group has made any kind of organized study of the poetry in the Cantatas, or has some information on the forms of poetry used in the Cantatas.

 

Who chose in last instance the cantata texts

Jean-Pierre Grivois wrote (February 26, 2008):
I've read a lot about JS Bach and in basically the 3 volumes of "Bach Dokumente". I could hardly find the process of choosing the texts for the Bach cantatas. It is rather doubtful that the initiative of the texts came from Bach alone, if we consider for example the text writen by Biennengräber on March 17. year 1739.

We can have several solutions:
1 - The lutherian authorities choose the texts (following for example the theme of the lecture of the day) and Bach had the possibility to propose something else.
2 - Bach chose all the texts alone and submitted them to the authorities
3 - Bach chose the Chorals, texts from the Bible and from a librettist authorised by the authorities (Lehme, Neumeister, Franck etc.)
4 - Bach and a librettist he knew directly (for example Picander or Ziegler) submitted the texts to the authorities
5 - A general theme was given by the authorities to Bach and/or a librettist and from this canevas were proposed chorals, Bible and librettist texts.

Did Bach find different processes when he was in Mühlhausen, in Weimar or in Leipzig ?
Was this process different by Bach and by other Cantors ?.
Thanks to anyone who could give informations or know books or research on the subject ?

Personnaly, I did not find anything very precise and definitive about this question. I think it is a very interesting and decisive subject.

Bradley Lehman wrote (February 26, 2008):
Jean-Pierre Grivois wrote:
< (...)
I've read a lot about JS Bach and in basically the 3 volumes of "Bach Dokumente".
(...)
Thanks to anyone who could give informations or know books or research on the subject ? >

Not answering your main question (sorry!), but just to mention another resource: like the Bach-Dokumente in German, and the New Bach Reader in English, the book Bach en son temps compiled by Cantagrel is a
translation of most of that same material into French. And since it and the NBR are both more recent than BD, they have some items not in BD.

Some earlier notes about that book: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Books/Bach-Reader%5BMendel%5D.htm

http://livre.fnac.com/a855891/Gilles-Cantagrel-Bach-en-son-temps

Jean Laaninen wrote (February 26, 2008):
[To Jean-Pierre Grivois] You do raise an interesting question. Though I have not been learning about the cantatas as long as probably many on the list, I did happen to use Analyzing the Bach Cantatas by Eric Chafe when I was a Baroque Music Theory Student. Chafe traces the tonal character of Cantata BWV 77 back to musical elements that can be traced to the chorale form at the time of the Reformation--a clue to process. From what Brad has said, and from a debate more or less around your question that we had going online probably more than a year ago, it seems precise answers are very difficult--much is unknown. As works come about today in church music settings much of what is achieved happens in a variety ways, and probably the same was true in Bach's career..

When I first began to research the cantatas I was surprised at the variety of discussion approaches to the cantatas by even a same author. In some sense that tells me that there are correspondences in the way many works were developed, but also an simply huge number of elements that differed from one another. Aryeh has posted some material on various librettists, and discussion speculation even included the idea that some of Bach's works may have been developed out of something as simple as an influential member of one of Bach's congregations influencing the choice of singers or instrumentalists with Bach being persuaded to write for someone special. Church music is never conducted in a vaacuum, but to produce an answer of some kind would involve extensive study and putting various cantatas in lists by some factors that would be similar, and even then you might not have what you are looking to find.

However, Malcomb Boyd's efforts in the Oxford Composer's Companion on J.S. Bach does a lot to make associations. He also has a lot of opinions on how things happened, and when they happened, so you might find this book a good basic resource. It is available as an eBook, at a fairly reasonable price.

Jean-Pierre Grivois wrote (February 26, 2008):
[To Jean Laaninen] RE Les spécialistes n'ont pas de réponse.

Quand on pense à toute la salive et à tous les bouquins admiratifs du déroulement d'une cantate, de la progression dramatique dans chaque Cantate, de la profondeur de l'analyse théologique de JSB, on reste sur le cul de constater que ça ne repose sur aucun fondement historique !

Jean-Pierre Grivois wrote (February 26, 2008):
[To Jean Laaninen & Bradley Lehman] Thank you for your detailed answers.

I am going to look at the different sources you mention (Gilles Cantagrel is a friend).

I myself wrote a book where i try to anwer this important question but without great success and I try also to describe different aspects of JSB's life. The title of this book is "Moi, JSB" You can find it on different
selling books websites, for example at the following adress: http://www.amazon.fr/dp/2350870103

Peter Smaill wrote (February 26, 2008):
Who chose in last instance the cantata texts/BWV 34

[To Bradley Lehman] This is a massive question on which my tiny contribution is to point to Elke Axmacher's works identifying that there were sermons in Bach's library corresponding to the Picander text of the SMP (BWV 244). I've recently contended that August Pfeiffer provides some of the inspiration for BWV 56 and taken together, while the bulk of the authors remain unidentifiable (refer on the Andreas Stuebel question to Tom Braatz' analysis posted on the BCW), there is perhaps a less specific theory to be developed, that many of the librettists had access to Bach's library and worked from it.

Peter Wollny thinks that the general assertion that Bach altered the von Ziegler texts is not conclusive but on this I incline to the view that it is Bach at work because of his alteration of "der Geist" to "Dein Geist" to demonstrate the procession of the Holy Spirit from Jesus, which is a theological point which Bach chooses to emphasise in several canatats and especially the B minor Mass (BWV 232).

As we know Bach was tested rigourously for orthodoxy before his appointment at Leipzig and supervised the production of the Cantata text booklets. from this some have adduced that he had a free hand by virtue of his office. However, when the Leipzig Council stopped a late performance of the St John Passion (BWV 245) he refers to his surprise " if it is because of the words, why, it had been performed many times before". Here is a hint that something of censorship did exist and that there had been some incident in the past which had offended the authorities.

This week's Cantata BWV 34, "O ewiges Feuer"?, for example, again only elliptically mentions Jesus? ("Word") and is therefore arguably Deist in emphasis throughout, surprisingly not talking about the Holy Spirit in the context of Whitsun. It also emphasises the Chosen ("auserwaehlten") which is a Calvinist expression ( arguably Luther's take , "double predestination" is at work, but it is not directly set out). Here as in several other Cantatas the theology would be open to criticism by the ultra orthodox. So it is possible that at some stage the screening of texts was introduced, a further twist in the question of by whom and in what way did the libretti evolve.

Jean Laaninen wrote (February 26, 2008):
[To Peter Smaill] Thanks, Peter.

There is a general/common sense factor when one speaks of the Biblical texts for the day. It has long been the goal of mainline (including Lutheran) churches to follow those texts, with the music illustrating them. This goes back a very long way, to the time when the church became institutionalized... It makes sense to believe Bach was following some guidelines and had some supervision. There is also the possibility that there were times when he had more latitude than at others. I vaguely remember something about some sort of superintendent of the church keeping records of the services--I can't recall where I read this, at the moment. This also implies a disciplined order, but not absolute restriction. It is a tough question and too bad Bach did not leave us his day planner so we'd know for sure.

But by all means, everyone, if you have information that would help Jean-Pierre and others interested in the topic, bring these thoughts to light. Also, if Jean-Pierre would like to share a thought or two about what he thinks about some aspect of the topic I would enjoy hearing more detail.

Jean Laaninen wrote (February 26, 2008):
[To Jean-Pierre Grivois] Cher > Jean-Pierre
Je suis désolé que votre livre n'ait pas encore accompli ce que vous avez espéré.

Quelquefois les spécialistes IMO peut prendre une idée avec laquelle je ne suis pas d'accord. Mais en même temps il paraît à peine à moi que quelqu'un passerait tant de temps à travailler sur les détails du travail de Bach si ils ne s'étaient pas souciés.

Personnellement, je suis reconnaissant pour toutes les sources et les gens qui ont pris le temps faire le travail afin que maintenant je puisse apprendre plus.

Douglas Cowling wrote (February 26, 2008):
[To Jean Laaninen] We had a long and fiery exchange last year about Bach and the choice of texts. Although there is little evidence of how Bach worked with either his literary collaborators or the ecclesiastical authorities, the rigorous theological examonation which was part of Bach's audition suggests that, once convnced that Bach was theologically sound, the authorities delgated the tasks of both poetry and music to him. There is no direct evidence, but I have always felt that BAch must have submitted his literary texts for some sort of pro forma imprimatur before publishing them and composing.

Jean Laaninen wrote (February 26, 2008):
[To Cowling Douglas] Thanks, Doug.

I think your summation makes a lot of sense.

Jean Laaninen wrote (February 27, 2008):
[To Jean-Pierre Grivois] You are welcome. Thanks for sharing about your book.

Willian Hoffman wrote (February 27, 2008):
[To Jean Laaninen] Like Pietism, the texts are a fascinating subject. To start with, I would like to see a biography of Picander. It could help us all better understand the whole compositional process from the perspective of text, and maybe more about Pietism! I feel Picander had a significant influence on Bach's creativity, opening several paths. I compare his influence to that of Da Ponte on Amadeus, although I'm sure The Librettist of Venice had a much more exciting life than The Librettist of Leipzig.

Ed Myskowski wrote (February 27, 2008):
Choosing cantata texts

>I'm sure The Librettist of Venice had a much more exciting life than The Librettist of Leipzig.<
Oh? How can you be so certain? I sense a screenplay in the offing.

Jean Laaninen wrote (February 27, 2008):
[To William Hoffman] Maybe someone on list has had experience with biographical material on Picander. If so, please share.

Jean Laaninen wrote (February 27, 2008):
[To Ed Myskowski] Ed, you've got me laughing again.

Jean-Pierre Grivois wrote (February 27, 2008):
[To Jean Laaninen] Thanks for your interest in the topic of Cantatas texts. Some reflexions, (which are included in my book "Moi, JSB") Jean asks me for more details: on all this topic, I am very doubful and nearly nothing can be taken for definitly granted. Jean is rignt: there was a control as least in Leipzig, the Biennengräber text dated March 17. year 1739 proves it. But we are in 1739, and JSB has composed most of his cantatas ! Peter says this Bienegräber text was about Saint John Passion's: even that is not sure ! As concerns the change of text in Ziegler or others cantatas, it is only an interpretation, not a fact: Bach never wrote: "I changed the text because ..." And there is an other mystery: for a lot of cantatas the librettist is unkowned. Here appears a very strange man: Andreas Stübel who is supposed to have written many of the Leipzig Cantatas. He had been vice-rector of Saint Thomas school but had been dismissed because he thought he was a new Saviour of humanity ! There is also the transformation of texts with the same music: for example nearly all the texts from the Christmas Oratorio are adapted on music previously composed by JSB for profane occasions !

Some other reflexions:
- a Bach cantata is most often composed of three types of texts: Chorals, extracts from the Bible, texts from religious librettists. And here is a first question: was it the same person who chose the three types of texts and in which chronoligical order ? If we make suppositions, the Biblical texts might have been chosen for the year coming by a superior authority, in the Chorals the strophs to be sung chosen by the pastor shortly before the day of the cantata.- the way of choosing texts might have been different from one parish to another (see Bach letter dated 25.6.1708 to the Muhlhausen authorities), from the type of man in charge to another etc. I always thought one way of going further on this topic would be also to look at the structure of the texts of other great cantatas makers of the time (Kuhnau, Teleman, Graupner, JL Bach etc..). But I have no possibility to make such a work.
But I can willinglly give further contributions because I consider this topic is very important to understand better how Bach composed his sacred Music.

Jean-Pierre Grivois wrote (February 27, 2008):
[To Willian Hoffman] As far as can be known, Henrici-Picander's life was not very exciting: always looking for an official job in Leipzig, he was the preceptor of the son of a rich man and his pseudo is due to a malhourous hunting accident. He publishsed several writings (religious and profane), some of them being rather saucy.He was not taken in great esteem by his contemporaries, especially Gottsched. His religious opinions are not known (at least of me). His links with Bach are rather mysterious.You will find more details in my book "Moi, JSB" If you find something else about him, please tell me.

Shabtai Atlow wrote (February 27, 2008):
[To Ed Myskowski] Yeah - but the Merchant of Leipzig had a much duller existence...

Jean Laaninen wrote (February 27, 2008):
[To Jean-Pierre Grivois] Thanks for this additional information.

Jean Laaninen wrote (February 27, 2008):
[To Jean-Pierre Grivois] Thank you Jean-Pierre,

After receiving your email this morning I asked my husband about his recollection of the texts for the church year. In our church body these are fairly standardized, and run in a three year cycle (a change made probably thirty years ago).

As you know Aryeh has a section on this site about the Lutheran Church year, and I think Paul McCain would likely know if the texts were set uniformly from church to church and probably by which authority. That seems fundamental to your discussion. I know for a fact that sometimes preaching texts have been changed in modern times to match an unexpected event, or because a preacher ran out of time and needed to rework an old sermon to make the deadlines, but I cannot say if there was much or any flexibility in the selection of texts in Bach's churches in regard to the scriptures for the day. Paul would be the one to comment.

Something my husband mentioned might be relevant--possibly some comparison's with Luther's sermons for given Sundays. But I am not sure about this connection as I have not pursued it.

However, in so far as possible a match between the music and the texts was desirable. Whether this ever became a highly detailed discussion is difficult to say, with perhaps a preacher asking for a particular chorale to be used on a given Sunday, or whether Bach was presented with the texts and asked to produce something that would correspond. This is hard evidence to find.

I guess to say much about this topic that would engage a reader one would have to compile quite a bit of evidence, and how much evidence exists?

Comparison with the other cantata writers of the day to see if there are any matches might also produce, as you mention some evidence.

Paul T. McCain wrote (February 27, 2008):
Scripture texts used for Cantatas

This is a response to Jean's question:
"I cannot say if there was much or any flexibility in the selection of texts in Bach's churches in regard to the scriptures for the day. Paul would be the one to comment."
Bach's Cantata parallel the readings from the Bible that were appointed for each Sunday in what is called the "Church Year." That year, divided into two major parts: festival and non-festival halfs, was more, or less, set in stone in Bach's time, using what is known as the "one year lectionary" .... today, because most churches using a
set "lectionary" or systems of Bible readings are using a three year series of lessons.

The historic one-year series of readings was, in Bach's day, the same as used in Luther's time and throughout most of the Middle Ages.

To this day, a number of Lutheran congregations still use the one year lectionary and appreciate the fact that they can draw on a vast collection of resources from historic sources: including Martin Luther's many sermons and sermon notes for every Sunday in the Church year and all other festival days, both for the Gospel and Epistle readings.

Bach's Cantatas parallel the historic one year lectionary and in fact I have at home our one year lectionary marked with references to the various Cantatas written for the particular day or Sunday readings.

The Cantatas were all written to reflect the Sunday or festival day readings that were used universally throughout Western Christendom, and within historic Lutheranism, up to the time of Vatican II, which introduced a three year cycle of readings, and which has been picked in other liturgical churches.

Hope that helps.

Bruce Simonson wrote (February 27, 2008):
One year lectionary [Scripture texts used for Cantatas]

Paul T. McCain wrote:
"Bach's Cantata parallel the readings from the Bible that were appointed for each Sunday in what is called the "Church Year." That year, divided into two major parts: festival and non-festival halfs, was more, or less, set in stone in Bach's time, using what is known as the "one year lectionary" .... today, because most churches using a set "lectionary" or systems of Bible readings are using a three year series of lessons. ..."
Thanks for your post on this ... for some reason, I had always assumed that there were three versions of the Church year lectionary, each of which, perhaps mistakenly I called a "pericope". From your explanation, it seems I have been befuddled on this, and I thankyou for the clarification. Especially interesting to hear that two more year lectionaries come from (after?) Vatican II.

If there are currently three sets of liturgical texts (three different yearly lectionaries), then, if Bach only had one, then there must be at least two sets of scriptural texts that Bach didn't take on, given his self-described cantata project. I'm really curious to find out which of the current standard lectionary passages were not treated by Bach (and, also, of course, those that he did cover). Do you have suggestions on how to procede with researching
this?

Also, Aryeh's Bach-Cantata website has scads of very useful information on the Lutheran church year ... as far as you know, does it correctly associate liturgical texts with the one-year lectionary that Bach used?

Thanks again for your input!

Continue of this part of the discussion, see: Readings from the Bible - Discussions [Readings]

Jean Laaninen wrote (February 27, 2008):
[To Bruce Simonson] Pericope isn't totally incorrect. I believe literally it means paragraph. So the pericopies were paragraphs that were read as the lectionary selection. When my husband attended LSTC that was the term that was used.

I do not know the connection between Bach's one year lectionary and the three year lectionary that is in use today.

Thanks so much to Paul for his insights.

Jean Laaninen wrote (February 29, 2008):
[To Paul T. McCain] Thanks so much for these detailed insights, Paul. I really like it when the context of the cantatas is brought out with clear evidence.

Aryeh Oron wrote (February 27, 2008):
Picander [was: Who chose in last instance the cantata texts/BWV 34]

Jean Laaninen asked:
"Maybe someone on list has had experience with biographical material on Picander. If so, please share."
See: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Lib/Picander.htm

Jean Laaninen wrote (February 29, 2008):
[To Aryeh Oron] Thank you Aryeh. All the available resources help those who have particular interests to follow them well. Your generosity in continuing to build the site is exemplary.

 

Bach and Scripture (again)

John Pike wrote (August 7, 2008):
A very big thank you to whomever recommended this book by Robin Leaver and told us that it could be purchased direct from Concordia Publishing in St Louis. It arrived yesterday and my initial impressions from reading a bit last night are that it is an absolute gem. It is beautifully presented in hardback with multiple facsimiles from Bach's Calov Bible commentary, and extremely interesting to read. The postage cost more than the (extremely reasonably priced) book itself, partly due to to over generous packaging, but it is worth every penny.

Jane Newble wrote (August 8, 2008):
[To John Pike] It is definitely worth every penny.

I was afraid that it might be dry and scholarly (not that those two things are necessarily the same), but I was pleasantly surprised, and I agree that it is an absolute gem.

The author makes it quite clear in his commnts when he is speculating, and although the illustrations often speak for themselves, both the German and the translation is given in the text.

Apart from Enoch Gutenberg's SMP, SJP and CO, this for me the investment of 2008.

 

Bach & Scripture [was: BWV 29]

Continue of discussion from: Cantata BWV 29 - Discussions Part 2

Ed Myskowski wrote (August 14, 2008):
William Hoffman concluded:
>Also, The Calov Bible Commentary glosses show Bach's intense interest in Psalms, including a note that the prophet Asaph was King David's Capellmeister (p. 100f). Bach had a perpetual feud with the Cantor Faction of the Town Council and many of these marginal notes were his response to his adversaries.<
Ed Myskowski responds:
I note with appreciation the open-minded approach to interpreting Bach's personal (well substantiated) notes and highlights in his copy of Calovs Lutheran commentary to Luthers German translation of the Bible, sometimes referred to as Bachs Calov Bible.

I have reviewed my previous comments on the subject, and see no need for changes or retractions.

I also point out that Bachs markings may well have decreased the resale value of the Calov books when sold from his estate, which may in turn have contributed to their provenance. The provenance (how Bach/Calov ended up in Missouri, USA) is nicely documented in the Cox edition; I do not see that detail in the Leaver/Concordia edition.

I am fortunate to have access to both, at a local library. They differ significantly in basic content. Both include reproductions of the original pages. Cox is comprehensive for pages with Bachs markings, and he also includes the scientific basis for authenticating Bach' s markings. Leaver is selective, from the source data, but he also includes other pages with no markings at all by Bach, when that is convenient for his objective, to support his own glosses. In fairness, the full title is J. S. Bach and Scripture: Glosses From the Calov Bible Commentary

That is the title recently rediscovered by the publisher, as noted on BCML, available at $20 while copies last. Avoid that $190 secondary market copy, unless it happens to have markings by the Pope (just for example).

It is a chore, but serious scholars will probably need to be familiar with both.

William Hoffman wrote (August 14, 2008):
[To Ed Myskowski] Thank you, Ed, for your exploration into the two primary sources of the writing on the Calov Bible Commentary. Motive, method, and opportunity show that, especially with Leaver, it was part of a broad effort, led by key Bach scholars in the 1980s, including Alfred Dürr, to use Calov as proof of Bach's understanding of the Bible. Leaver's Editor's Introduction to Stiller's "J.S. Bach and Liturgical Life in Leipzig" (1984 English ed., Concordia) is still very enlightening, as is Stiller's rigorous, documented, exhausting study.

I had the pleasure of hearing an impromptu panel led by Howard Cox and Robin Leaver, "21st Century Approaches to Bach's Music," focus on Calov revisited last May at the Biennial Meeting of the American Bach Society: "Bach and the Oratorio Tradition." It was a fascinating look at Bach and Scripture, a quarter century later. Of course, there was no revelation, but a healthy respect and abiding interest, especially in subsequent studies of H.J. Schulze and Elke Axmacher as well as predecessors Smend (flawed like Spitta, as he was) and Schering. Active in the followup discussion were Christoph Wolff, Gregory Butler and Daniel Melamed. Much of the discussion steered toward the St. Matthew Passion (BWV 244) and its spiritual sources in Bach's library as well as contemporary Leipzig sources. And, there were references to past ABA contributors Gerhardt Herz, William Scheide, and Alfred Mann. We all should have concluded with a four-part Cum-bay-ya or Amazing Grace! Now, if only I could find the biblical references.

Douglas Cowling wrote (August 14, 2008):
William Hoffman wrote:
< We all should have concluded with a four-part Cum-bay-ya or Amazing Grace! Now, if only I could find the biblical references. >
Kum ba yah: Revelation 22:20

Amazing Grace: Ephesians 2:4-9 (with a reference to 1 Chronicles 17:16-17)

Bruce Simonson wrote (August 15, 2008):
[To Douglas Cowling] (this discussion group is soooo cool!)

 

BACH'S CANTATA TEXTS

Michael Cox wrote (November 11, 2010):
Do you know of the existence of the book Joh. Seb. Bachs Kantatentexte edited by Rudolf Wustmann, (Leipzig 1913)? The foreword is actually dated Advent 1914, just after the outbreak of the First World War.
This book has survived two world wars in Germany. It may be difficult to find outside Germany(?). (Incidentally, during the Blitz a German bomb landed on the library of University College, London, near the British Museum. The bomb landed, ironically, in the department of literature! Some of the books still show signs of scorching.)

The editor says: Wer tagelang Kantatenpartituren von Bach auch nur gelesen hat, weiss, welche Kraft davon ausgeht.... Und wer dieses Buch zur Hand nähme, um die Texte Bachs zu sich sprechen zu lassen, würde spüren dass christliche Liebe aus ihnen quillt. (p. XXVII)

It is evident that Bach was inspired to write great music by the biblical and other texts that he read, whether chosen by himself or given to him. Should we, too, recommend a daily reading of Bach's texts before we listen to the music?

In Bach's day, of course, the sermon would set out to expound the Bible readings in words, as the cantata would expound the same readings with music.

I believe that in Japan, Suzuki arranges for Bible lectures to be given in connection with his concerts in order to help a non-Christian audience understand the words of the Passions and cantatas.

Michael Cox wrote (November 22, 2010):
[To Aryeh Oron] Dear Aryeh the Lion,

I was surprised to receive no response to the following. Perhaps you could add the book to the website http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Books/index.htm

"Do you know of the existence of the book Joh. Seb. Bachs Kantatentexte edited by Rudolf Wustmann, (Leipzig 1913)? The foreword is actually dated Advent 1914, just after the outbreak of the First World War.
This book has survived two world wars in Germany. It may be difficult to find outside Germany(?). (Incidentally, during the Blitz a German bomb landed on the library of University College, London, near the British Museum. The bomb landed, ironically, in the department of German literature! Some of the books still show signs of scorching.)"

See the pdf file. The foreword contains a section on Bach's dialect (Mundart).

Also, do you know of the CD Bach Highlights with the Adolf Fredrik Bach Choir and the Drottingholm Baroque Ensemble with excerpts from cantatas 182, 156, 21 and 147 plus two motets Der Geist hilft... and Singet dem Herrn? The booklet has translations in Swedish.

My wife and I often visit Estonia - and Sweden less often - we were in Stockholm last week - and I always look out for Baroque concerts.

See e.g. http://www.concert.ee/TallinnBaroque_eng
I hope one day to get to the Rapla church music festival in Estonia. See: http://www.festivals.ee/?s=77

One of my teachers of choir conducting (only a basic intensive weekend course, but I do have a certificate in choir conducting) was the Estonian maestro Tõnu Kaljuste, see: http://www.tonukaljuste.com/biography/tonu-kaljuste-short-cv

He is seen here standing on the far right of the picture. I stole this photo from: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Bio/EPCC.htm

Michael Cox wrote (November 22, 2010):
Perhaps the pdf.file didn't get through, so here are a couple of pages scanned:

BACH CANTATA TEXTS_0001.jpg
BACH CANTATA TEXTS_0002.jpg

See: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Books/B0104.htm

William Hoffman wrote (November 22, 2010):
Joh. Seb. Bachs Kantatentexte, im Auftrage der Neuen Bachgesellshaft
hrsg. von Rudolf Wustmann.
Bach, Johann Sebastian, 1685-1750.
1913
ML410.B11 W97
available, Sibley Music Stacks (Restricted Circ) - 2nd 3rd or 4th Fl

 

Bach's Cantata Libretti, annotated references - recommendations?

Bruce Simonson wrote (May 5, 2011):
Recent discussion has renewed my interest in a good (the best?) reference to Bach's cantata texts, by movement, with annotations and references to scripture and other text sources.

I haven't yet purchased Unger's "Handbook to Bach's Sacred Cantata Texts", but have been thinking about this one for a while.

Can anyone recommend a better reference for this type of information? I am imagining the German text, line by line, from the cantatas, with annotations in the margins citing biblical references, chorales, author attribution for the non-scriptural elements, and so forth.

(Kind of like my copy of "The Annotated Alice: The Definitive Edition [Hardcover]". Or, perhaps more familiar to this list, Leaver's (editor) "J.S. Bach and Scripture: Glosses from the Calov Bible Commentary".)

Ed Myskowski wrote (May 5, 2011):
Bruce Simonson wrote:
< Recent discussion has renewed my interest in a good (the best?) reference to Bach's cantata texts, by movement, with annotations and references to scripture and other text sources.
I haven't yet purchased Unger's "Handbook to Bach's Sacred Cantata Texts", but have been thinking about this one for a while.
Can anyone recommend a better reference for this type of information? I am imagining the German text, line by line, from the cantatas, with annotations in the margins citing biblical references, chorales, author attribution for the non-scriptural elements, and so forth. >
Not exactly a better reference, but perhaps a parallel observation?

The Cecil B. DeMille silent (!) film, King of Kings, carefully attributes the scriptural source of all framed quotations. Like Bach librettos, there are some non-scriptural interjections, as well.

My personal favorite:

At the crucifixion, just before the earthquake, the mother of one of the crucified robbers goes to Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and says:

<Thats my boy up there.>

Motherhood is special, that is all I can say.

Bruce Simonson wrote (May 5, 2011):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< Not exactly a better reference, but perhaps a parallel observation?
The Cecil B. DeMille silent (!) film, King of Kings, carefully attributes the scriptural source of all framed quotations. Like Bach librettos, there are some non-scriptural interjections, as well.
My personal favorite:
At the crucifixion, just before the earthquake, the mother of one of the crucified robbers goes to Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and says:
<Thats my boy up there.>
Motherhood is special, that is all I can say. >
Hmm. Hilarious. Ridiculous. Profound.

Thanks, Ed; I just exploded a little chuckle, and spilled coffee on my lap, reading your post. Thanks a lot. :)

William Hoffman wrote (May 5, 2011):
[To Bruce Simonson] The definitive source is Ulrich Meyer, <Biblical Quotations and Allusions in the Cantata Libretti of JSB> (Scarecrow Press, 1993). It includes an English Introduction, with the cantata texts summarized by movements, in the church year, with the specific words underlined and parenthetical comparisons with other related biblical texts for context. The main index, "Biblical Texts and Cantata Movements," runs chronologically from Genesis to Revelation, with Apocrypha, and lists each verse that has a cantata connection and is divided into three categories: ** verbatim citations, * incomplete citations (usually one or two key words), and ( ) allusions. For example:

Evan Cortens wrote (May 5, 2011):
William Hoffman wrote:
< The definitive source is Ulrich Meyer, <Biblical Quotations and Allusions in the Cantata Libretti of JSB> (Scarecrow Press, 1993). >
Just a quick note to vehemently agree with Will: for biblical allusions/quotations, the Meyer is the way to go.

Douglas Cowling wrote (May 5, 2011):
Bruce Simonson wrote:
< Recent discussion has renewed my interest in a good (the best?) reference to Bach's cantata texts, by movement, with annotations and references to scripture and other text sources. >
The ENGLISH-I translation on each cantata page here briefly outlines all the scriptural and poetic sources for each libretto. I always check it as it invariably points to something interesting.

Ed Myskowski wrote (May 5, 2011):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< The ENGLISH-I translation on each cantata page here briefly outlines all the scriptural and poetic sources for each libretto. I always check it as it invariably points to something interesting. >
Thanks for the reminder. It is truly astounding how much material is now available at our fingertips via BCW archives.

Do not overlook the chorlinks, awaiting ongoing discussion.

Ed Myskowski wrote (May 5, 2011):
Bruce Simonson wrote:
< Hmm. Hilarious. Ridiculous. Profound.
Thanks, Ed; I just exploded a little chuckle, and spilled coffee on my lap, reading your post. >
Apologies for the spilled coffee, but the chuckle was definitely my intent.

George Bromley wrote (May 5, 2011):
[To Ed Myskowski] trust it was not your lap-top, it happened to me and cost me a new one, Totsiens.

Henner Schwerk wrote (May 5, 2011):
[To Bruce Simonson] There is a book from Hans Joachim Schulze "Die Bachkantaten". Introductions to every Bach cantata. It is pretty new - edited 2006 It is made by the "Carus-Verlag" (ISBN 3-89948-073-2 and the "Evangelische Verlagsanstalt" (Leipzig) (ISBN 3-374-02390-8)
An Edition of the "Stiftung Bach-Archiv Leipzig"
It is written in german, I do not know, whether it has been already translated.

 

Bach's cantata libretti, published in contemporaneous booklets

Bruce Simonson wrote (May 7, 2011):
In my quest to compile references to the sources of Bach's cantata libretti, and the timings of when Bach approached these libretti, I'd like to list what I know of Bach's published text booklets.

If others know of more of these, I'd appreciate additional references (and the cantatas contained in them). Also, any thoughts the list have on these booklets, I'd sure like to hear them.

In the 2nd paragraph of Shabalina's article referenced below, there is some tantalizing language about more of these booklets that might be in the works for imminent release. Or so I surmised. Is this so?

Two online sources that I've used:

Z. P. Ambrose website: http://www.uvm.edu/~classics/faculty/bach/authors.html#COLLECTIONS

Tatiana Shabilina (cited by Evan Cortens earlier in April): http://www.bachnetwork.co.uk/ub4/shabalina.pdf

From the first:

1) Texte zur Leipziger Kirchen-Music: Zweiter Sonntag nach Epiphanias bis Estomihi sowie Mariae Reinigung und Mariae Verkündigung (Leipzig, 1724)

2) Texte zur Leipziger Kirchen-Music: Erster Ostertag bis Misericordias Domini (Leipzig, 1724)

3) Texte zur Leipziger Kirchen-Music: Dritter Sonntag nach Trinitatis, Johannistag, Fünfter Sonntag nach Trinitatis, Mariae Heimsuchung und Sechster Sonntag nach Trinitatis (Leipzig, 1725)

4) Texte zur Leipziger Kirchen-Music: Erster Ostertag bis Misericordias Domini (Leipzig, 1731)

5) Texte zur Leipziger Kirchen-Music: Erster Pfingsttag bis Trinitatis (Leipzig, 1731)

6) Weihnachts-Oratorium (Leipzig, 1734)

Possibly, after reading the Shabalina article, I wonder if it is now safe to add:

7) Texte zur Leipziger Kirchen-Music: Auf die Heiligen Pfingst-Feyertage, und das Fest der H. Dreyfaltigkeit (Leipzig, 1727).

Regarding the Shabalina reference:

Evan Cortens' posting from April 19, where he calls attention to:
< I think you may be referring to Tatiana Shabalina, who's been doing great work in St. Petersburg over the last few years. I gather that the collection there used to belong to Catherine the Great, and that she collected (not surprisingly) a considerable amount of German printed material, including a significant number of printed cantata text books from Leipzig.
Most of Shabalina's research has been coming out in the Bach-Jahrbuch, but some has come out in English, notably this:
http://www.bachnetwork.co.uk/ub4/shabalina.pdf >

 

BCW: NBA Cantata Texts

Aryeh Oron wrote (August 18, 2013):
I have added the cantata texts as appear in the New Bach Edition (NBA) to the BCW.
You might ask "Why? There is Bischof's fine site of Bach texts, or we can refer easily to Dürr's big volume or recording booklets, most of which are not from the NBA?".
The main cause for this is that I have been asked many times by translators of the cantata texts into various languages and by users of the BCW, which of the many different versions 'floating around' is the most reliable .
Since the NBA version is considered as the definitive one, I thought it might be useful presenting these texts on the BCW.
Nagamiya Tutomu, who had reproduced the NBA texts on his website, was very kind to allow me using them.

Some explanations by Tutomu:
Other versions differ from the NBA in many points - spelling, punctuation, capitalisation or even word itself. Some examples (Dürr -> NBA):
BWV 40/1 darzu -> dazu
BWV 64/7 genung -> genug
BWV 133/6 mein Jesu -> o Jesu

These styles are originally included in the NBA:
Recitativo (italics: presumed)
"Der Tod in Töpfen!" sagen. (quotations from the Bible)

These styles were added by Nagamiya Tutomu:
Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland, (bold: choral texts)
»Siehe, ich stehe vor der Tür und klopfe an.« (quotations from the Bible)
Indented texts are middle sections of da capo movements.

Main page of Texts & Translations:
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/index.htm
[The links to the NBA Texts appear in the 2nd column: Ger]
The links to the NBA Texts also appear in all the relevant cantata pages [row: Text]

Any comment regarding this new addition would be most appreciated.

Douglas Cowling wrote (August 18, 2013):
Aryeh Oron wrote:
< Other versions differ from the NBA in many points - spelling, punctuation, capitalisation or even word itself. Some examples (Dürr ->
NBA):
BWV 40/1 darzu -> dazu
BWV 64/7 genung -> genug
BWV 133/6 mein Jesu -> o Jesu >
These variations bring us back to the flammable discussion about the pronunciation of Bach's German texts. Historically reconstructed pronunciation is widespread in early music, especially of Latin: singers and choirs regularly use Italian, German, French, Flemish and English pronunciations. A recent HIP of a Lully opera on French TV included French subtitles because the singers were using 17th century pronunciation.

So what did Bach's singers sound like? Did they use a Saxon accent? (most Germans today are horrified by the thought) . Modern "high German" had not been completely regulated by the mid-19th century through the universities, and the natural conservatism of church leaders may have kept alive the 16th century sound of Luther's German, modulated by regional accents.

What do the linguists and historical literati say?

P.S. The much-mocked "out and about" of the modern Canadian Raising retains the medieval pronunciation as preserved in isolated rural and outport communities.

Claudio Di Veroli wrote (August 18, 2013):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< These variations bring us back to the flammable discussion about the pronunciation of Bach's German texts. >
Even more puzzling is to try and find out online what is old and what is new. Just google
genung or genug
Google Search
and you will find a website whereby genung is the old form and genug the modern, and another that asserts plainly the opposite!

This is an easy case, however: "genug" is the modern German form, and Bach's own title is "genung", so it looks like the latter is the older form and to be employed when singing.

Continue of the discussion, see: Pronunciation - Discussions Part 3 [General Topics]

 

Bach's cantata texts : a listing of poetic meter?

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (August 21, 2013):
A friend has asked me off list: is there a listing of Bach's aria texts / cantata texts by poetic meter?

E.g. the number of lines of poetry, number of syllables per line. There are dictionaries of hymns like that 9979, or 668866, or wha. This is done so you can use a different than normal tune if you're playing two hymns the same day that would normally have the same tune, or just for the sake of variety.

Thanks!

 

Off topic: New. Cantata texts

Nagamiya Tutomu wrote (April 18, 2015):
Cantata texts based on the NBA.

In addition to the current PDF form, HTML form would be available stepbby step.

A single glance than any explanation. Now go to the page! http://www.kantate.info/cantata_text1-1.htm

Razvan Georgescu wrote (April 18, 2015):
Off topic!

I have to do my thesis about Bach.I want to do something more spiritual then just talking about his music.

Bach is not just music, Bach is something deep and nourishing. There are people (like you and like me) that Bach is like a better world, where we feel the God's presence. I am trying (with my poor and rusty English) to explain my tears, everytime I am listening to Bach and to put this feeling on a paper. Hard thing to do...

I need a bit of help from you.

So, my idea is to ask you some questions and if you can and if you wish, to answer in a sincere and brief way.
Here we go:

1) How would you define the emotions you get from listening to Bach? (3 words)
2) Of course, all of us are listening Bach on a daily basis maybe. We do have lots of knowledge of his music. Nevetheless, is there just ONE single piece of his music that you go back and listen it more often? Which one?
3) Do you know any better way to meditate and to emerge in your self consciousness?
4) If you are to relate Bach's music to a philosopher, of which one do you think ? And why?
That's all by now. Thank you so much for your time! I am really grateful to you for reading this letter.

 

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