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Chorales in Bach's Vocal Works
Discussions - Part 6

Continue from Part 5

Score Samples by Dürr and Smend

Thomas Braatz wrote (November 10, 2006):
Aryeh Oron has kindly created a page of score samples by Dürr and Smend, two important Bach scholars who have written commentaries on the cantatas. The page is located at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Scores/CM-Allusions.htm
[for a more detailed view of the samples, click again on the item you wish to view more closely]

These samples, similar to many of my recent samples from the score, are not to be confused with outright presentations of the chorale melody as in a cantus firmus whether texted or untexted. Frequently Bach will include in the middle of an aria or recitative a fragment of some portion of the chorale melody to emphasize an idea which he is trying to get across. The untexted instrumental presentations of the chorale melody in his vocal sacred music are usually given in full with the expectation that the listeners would remember and fill in the appropriate text for themselves. Some chorale preludes for organ similarly present the entire chorale melody, while others only hint at the melody or present only a portion of it (usually the incipit).

The examples given here are of an entirely different nature with chorale melody references that are not easily detected by a listener or even musician. Unlike untexted chorale preludes for organ, the appearance of presence of such an allusion to the melody is quite unexpected and may even appear in some unlikely places until a relationship to the context is determined and made clear. Once these hidden/esoteric melodies have been pointed out, they do, however, give the listener or performer an insight into one aspect of Bach's compositional methods as far as his method of composing chorale-related church cantatas is concerned. This may even spill over into other areas of composition as well [Helga Thoene - "Morimur" Chaconne interpretation probably owes a debt of gratitude Dürr, Smend and other earlier Bach scholars who uncovered these hitherto unknown chorale melody references]. Bach evolves his new musical material from the basic structures or sequences of notes that are given by the chorale melody. This also allows him to create a better unity/linkage between the disparate mvts. of a cantata while at the same time giving the listener a feeling that somehow everything feels familiar even if the actual notes of chorale melody are not entirely obvious. How often do we see commentary which states in effect that the orchestral ritornello is entirely independent from the choral section which presents the cantus firmus? How many people have either played, sung or heard "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring" [See Dürr's example 2 toward the bottom of the page] and have not recognized how precisely the chorale melody is embedded in this famous ritornello? Perhaps there is yet much more that needs to be understood about Bach's working methods, whether he employed these chorale melodies unconsciously or consciously as he invented new (on the surface unrelated) material for his musical compositions.

Douglas Cowling wrote (November 10, 2006):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< How often do we see commentary which states in effect that the orchestral ritornello is entirely independent from the choral section which presents the cantus firmus? How many people have either played, sung or heard "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring" [See Dürr's example 2 toward the bottom of the page] and have not recognized how precisely the chorale melody is embedded in this famous ritornello? Perhaps there is yet much more that needs to be understood about Bach's working methods, whether he employed these chorale melodies unconsciously or consciously as he invented new (on the surface unrelated) material for his musical compositions. >
I remain unconvinced that all of these examples are chorale-based. There are certainly examples which are variations, embellished versions or melodic fragments, but many of them seem to be note-hunting. "Jesu Joy of Man¹s Desiring" combines the chorale melody with ritornello at several points so the countermelody is going to hit the chorale notes at some point. I would say that the counter-melody is ³consonant² or ³concurrent² with the chorale but I just don¹t see it having an ³imbedded² melody.

 

The "Horrible" Text of "Lord Keep Us Steadfast"

Paul T. McCain wrote (May 6, 2007):
Luther's hymn "Lord, Keep Us Steadfast" has been referred recently to as "that horrible text about murderous papists and Turks"

There is nothing horrible at all about the text. It is praying for God's protection from the murderous forces of Rome and the Turks and was written at a time when in fact the Turks were about to overrun all of Europe and armies of the Pope and his allies were murdering and killing Lutherans and other protestants.

There is nothing "horrible" about the text in its context, at all. Again, it is important not always to impose our modern "sensibilities" on historic texts before we thoroughly understand how and why they were written and what they actually mean and to what they actually refer.

 

Chorale tempos

Douglas Cowling wrote (June 3, 2007):
Paul T. McCain wrote:
< They were absolutely astonished to think that any Lutheran congregation would actually sing these hymns, since they were so complex in comparison to the kind of "fluff" that passes for much of church music today, and other vocal styles, etc. >
Unless the singers have had experience with Renaissance music, the isorhythmic forms of the early chorales are extremely tricky -- the orginal 16th century rhythms for "Ein feste Burg" and even the "Passion Chorale" are full of what we would call syncopations and hemiola. By Bach's time, most of these rhythms had been smoothed out. and his settings in the cantatas are very regular and "hymn-like" in the modern sense. Bach's congregations still sang the original rhythms but there was a progressive slowing of tempo throughout the 18th century.

By the early 19th century, the tempos of congregational singing had become so slow that there was a radical movement among church musicians to increase tempos. This continued to be a controversory among Lutheran musicians until the beginning of the modern recording era. The earliest recordings often take the chorales at extraordinarily slow tempi. Richter was one of the first conductors to "pick up" the speed, and I remember the critical howls that his chorales in the Christmas Oratorio were too fast. In Bach's time, I suspect that there were different tempos for a unison chorale being sung by a congregation and the same regularized melody sung by the choir in a cantata. The myth that cantata and passion chorales were sing-along affairs is still a commonplace in the popular imagination.

Paul T. McCain wrote (June 3, 2007):
[To Douglas Cowling] Doug, yes, in fact you put your finger on the hymn that was the most astounding to them: Ein Feste Burg. They truly could not believe that this hymn, in its original form, is routinely sung by Lutheran congregations. Most life-long Lutherans grew up singing this hymn and it is just second-nature to them.

The isometric forms of the great Lutheran chorales are horrible and make the Lutheran chorales sound more like funeral dirges than hymns of praise and adoration of Christ Jesus, our Lord.

Here in America, Lutheran denominations that have their roots in Lutheran Pietism were the ones noted for their isometric s l o w singing, whereas Lutheran denominations more rooted in traditional Saxon Lutheranism were known for singing "too fast."

Jean Laaninen wrote (June 3, 2007):
[To Paul T. McCain] Not to mention, that singing with a little more speed is clearly more fun...but in the heartland there are still some churches where they haven't gotten the lead out.

Douglas Cowling wrote (June 4, 2007):
Paul T. McCain wrote:
< The isometric forms of the great Lutheran chorales are horrible and make the Lutheran chorales sound more like funeral dirges than of praise and adoration of Christ Jesus, our Lord. >
Sing them twice as fast and they are fantastically lively and engaging. That's what Luther intended.

Richard Mix wrote (June 4, 2007):
Paul T. McCain writes:
< Here in America, Lutheran denominations that have their roots in Lutheran Pietism were the ones noted for their isometric s l o w singing, whereas Lutheran denominations more rooted in traditional Saxon Lutheranism were known for singing "too fast." >
That's an interesting perspective; do you find this fault line runs mostly down the ELCA/Missouri Synode divide? The former offered both versions of Ein feste Burg in the 70's vintage Lutheran Book of Worship. I played for one church (with few cradle Lutherans-all my choir were brought up Episcopal or Presbyterian) that would only do the isorythmic and another with ties to the seminary that was absolutly comfortable with both. This may have had as much to do with the preceding hymnals, though: the Service Book and Hymnal (1958) has only isorhythmic, Lutheran Hymnal (1941) only rhythmic. I've also played for an isorhythmic Missouri Synod church, but it wouldnt do to generalize from my experiences in California. Their hymnal, Lutheran Worship, provides both versions and is of the same vintage as the LBW. Both were mostly a product of the same commitee that had hoped to produce a joint hymnal. I (perhaps mistakenly) think the last minute deadlock was over texts rather than music. Btw, was there more than one preceding MS hymnal in use?

< The isometric forms of the great Lutheran chorales are horrible and make the Lutheran chorales sound more like funeral dirges than hymns of praise and adoration of Christ Jesus, our Lord. >
Well, that rarely crosses my mind while listening to Bach!

Jean Laaninen wrote (June 4, 2007):
[To Richard Mix] I can really only speak to the singing of a few congregations, but this is my take on the slower tempos. The Pieitist fevor was relationed to devotion, so singing slowly was a matter of reverence. Even the performance of great works in some of the colleges was kept to a slower speed at times in regard to this attitude. Very pious people take life quite seriously, and I am sure there was no specific intent to be different from other church bodies but to be true to the faith as it was understood. The case may also have been a slower way of life in that the midwest is populated with many small towns, and in the early years life on the plains and on the farms could be very challenging.

But then, I'm just looking back, and today we not only sing things faster in numerous cases in the west, but the praise band members I played with a few years ago could jazz hymns up to a tempo that might have knocked the socks off some composers. I even got into the act with flute jazz improv, much to my surprise. People might not have been willing to sing to some of the things we did, but we even played with alternative styles and tempos in some works during congregational singing with great energy and these modern Lutherans who come from all backgrounds followed along. Such playing was an adventure to say the least and a few times I thought we bordered on a questionable edge with the modern dance rhythms. But...

Slower or faster also seems to me to have been a matter of taste in some ways, wherein some deemed the vocal quality to be better slower. I can remember some tempo contrasts from visits to other churches. But some ELCA churches took things at a pretty good clip after the merger. Lots of times the issue may simply have been a combination of the capability of the organist and the dictates of a given pastor, too. A small example serves pretty well for me in that even at church camp in my childhood nothing was particularly rushed. Perhaps sometimes tempos and loudness were moderated during the Lenten season. But I can remember complaints from the congregation at times when something was 'too fast.' Could be there were people who could not keep up since they didn't learn the songs in such a manner, or were not highly musical.

When you don't know any other possibility you just follow the organist, and/or a congregational song leader. My charismatic friend used to call us the frozen chosen, if that explains a little. I know these hymnals and own them, and I have the family hymnals going back to before 1900. In the Pieitistic movement the hymns going back to that movement from Europe would likely completely bore Lutherans who have lively church music today. I had checked out all the copyright issues up through the black hymnal with our publishing house and I was going to create arrangements from some of these old pieces at one point. When I started working with them I became bored almost immediately. That's because I prefer working on Bach material. And I don't need to arrange Bach...he already did a good enough job. And, in the process I also finally realized why some people get tired of the same hymns and even wondered if God gets tired of hearing the same thing over and over. Smile. I'm glad there are some people around like Brad who can take the old and blend it with the new and create something beautiful.

Douglas Cowling wrote (June 4, 2007):
Jean Laaninen wrote:
< I can really only speak to the singing of a few congregations, but this is my take on the slower tempos. The Pieitist fevor was relationed to devotion, so singing slowly was a matter of reverence. Even the performance of great works in some of the colleges was kept to a slower speed at times in regard to this attitude. >
The notion that a slower tempo indicates "gravitas" is an opinion which we see as early as Bach's time and is still very much alive today. It is still common to read reviews of performances of cantatas and passions in which the reviewer laments that tempos of chorales are too fast and lack seriousness and "spirituality" (whatever that is).

The question flames up on this forum quite often when an attempt is made to distinguish between a "sacred" and a "secular" style of performance (Mattheson usually provides the "proof" text). However, there is nothing to suggest that Bach performed the music to "Tönet Ihr Pauken" differently when it was reused for the opening of the Christmas Oratorio. We can probably make a reasonable hypothesis that isorhythmic chorales sung unaccompanied and in unison by the congregation had a slower tempo than when sung in Bach's regularized, contrapuntal arrangements at the conclusions of the concerted cantatas.

Jean Laaninen wrote (June 4, 2007):
[To Douglas Cowling] This 'gravitas' is interesting historically for me. I think spirituality in my earlier times meant that you considered your own sinfulness as compared to God's purity. I think Luther was the one who referred to himself as a 'worm.' We were supposed to remember who we were and the slower tempos were I think inclined to give us time to remember the contrast between us and what Christ had done for us. A few days ago I listened to the Nancy Argenta recording of the Alleluia at the end of Cantata 51. I was simply astounded by the strength of her voice and the accuracy at a phenomenal speed. The gorgeous chase to the end was metaphorically like running to catch the tail end of a comet. I cannot take the number quite that fast, but there was nothing lacking in the spiritual soul of her performance at a simply amazing speed. By that, I mean to say her spirit was fully engaged in the process of delivering glorious praise...ever so energized. I also recall that some chants in other contexts begin slowly and move to an exuberant pace before ending.

From both the St. Matthew's Passion performances and other acapella works during my college years, I remember those slower paced acapella chorales. Those were serious and deepening moments. So, while my favorite thing is to sing fast, and my voice teachers usually like my quality best at a slower pace, perhaps there are places in performances and even in congregational singing where alternatives are important. In a busy age in which there is slittle time to reflect, why not have the contrasts?

Paul T. McCain wrote (June 4, 2007):
[To Douglas Cowling] I could not agree with you more. The notion that "slow" makes something "more spiritual" is, simply put, foolish. We have Pietism to thank for this silliness in the Lutheran Church. Thankfully Bach's lively cantata music is a healthy antidote to the dreary plague of isometric hymn style that had taken hold by his time.

How can anyone possibly think that Luther's great "Ein Feste Burg" or "Dear Christians One and All Rejoice" is better when sung at a funeral-esque pace! I pity the person who has never experienced these powerful hymns sung at a crisp pace without the bane of isometric style!

Douglas Cowling wrote (June 4, 2007):
Paul T. McCain wrote:
< I pity the person who has never experienced these powerful hymns sung at a crisp pace without the bane of isometric style! >
Don't blame the isometric versions. They are dynamic music when sung at the right tempo. In fact, I would say they are more interesting rhythmically than Bach's smoothed-out, regular versions. His incomparable harmonies and voice-writing hide the fact that the melodies have lost all of their Renaissance spring.

Jean Laaninen wrote (June 4, 2007):
[To Paul T. McCain] Most of the time I like things to move right along. But I was thinking to myself just now how silly a hymn like 'Softly and Tenderly Jesus is Calling,' would sound at breakneck speed...most assuredly not good. Not all slower music is drudgery. We do, have funerals in all of our churches, so there is no doubt a place for some slower speeds. Even at a funeral, however, I think I like a closing hymn to move at a fair pace. I personally like A Mighty Fortress done with a good orchestra, plenty of brass and a quick tempo. The energy needs to be there to convey the message in my view, but have you ever personally tried to get the more staid Lutheran's to move it along? No...slower tempos do not make someone more spiritual, but if you are dealing with people who understand their spirituality at a slower pace, sometimes slow is not all that bad. I don't attend where they do it slowly, anyway, so it's not really a personal problem. Anyway, we have no control over what various congregations choose to do...that's a local affair.

At Our Lady of the Desert Catholic Church in Apple Valley, CA, the pace of the service is slow, some music is slower and some music is fast. Many of the chants that preceded Luther and Bach undergird much of the music in modern form. One comes away from services there (I have gone five or six times over ten or twelve years) completely refreshed...and that's without communion since I am technically an outsider. But if a person is spiritual in some way it will be revealed in his or her life by love of God and that flowing out to others...not by the pace of the hymns. So now we can all be a little wiser now, I say smiling.

Bradley Lehman wrote (June 4, 2007):
< How can anyone possibly think that Luther's great "Ein Feste Burg" or "Dear Christians One and All Rejoice" is better when sung at a funeral-esque pace! I pity the person who has never experienced these powerful hymns sung at a crisp pace without the bane of isometric style! >
I invite any interested readers to check out the modern setting of "Ein feste Burg", an organ solo, as track #7 here: http://tinyurl.com/32fb3w

The point in that arrangement is to rock the tune about as hard and fast as a pipe organ will do in a big resonant space. It's supposed to express energetic joy and confront the problem of evil: the theme of the text.

Play it loudly! In some of the concert performances before the recording, we also added bongo drums to some sections of it.... At some of the performances I used even weirder registrations, with some of the stops pulled only halfway out so they're way out of tune on purpose, a terrifically raunchy sound for the text-painting; but unfortunately this organ didn't have that option.

Jean Laaninen wrote (June 4, 2007):
[To Bradley Lehman] You couldn't have much more fun than this number...I enjoyed.

Paul T. McCain wrote (June 5, 2007):
[To Jean Laaninen] Right, Jean. Good point. If in fact the meaning of hymn is "softly and tenderly" then we would want to sing it...softly and tenderly, so to speak. Of course, I would not want it sung in a Lutheran Church at all since I consider it emotionalistic drivel compared to the sturdy Lutheran chorales, but..your point is well made and I was going to say something similar. The problem with isometric style is that it shoehorns every hymn into a dreary pattern.

Paul T. McCain wrote (June 5, 2007):
[To Bradley Lehman] Brad, interesting interpretation. Of course entirely useless for singing the hymn, but...interesting.

Paul T. McCain wrote (June 5, 2007):
[To Jean Laaninen] The message of our personal sinful condition is core to the New Testament. Luther's hymns however were never intended to be sung as the Pietists butchered them many, many years after Luther. It's a very sad legacy, one among many, of Pietism which gutted Lutheran liturgical worship and hymnody and sacramental theology.

Ed Myskowski wrote (June 5, 2007):
Paul T. McCain wrote:
< The message of our personal sinful condition is core to the New Testament. Luther's hymns however were never intended to be sung as the Pietists butchered them many, many years after Luther. It's a very sad legacy, one among many, of Pietism which gutted Lutheran liturgical worship and hymnody and sacramental theology. >
I do not find 'personal sinful condition' core to the new Testament. You are free to argue that Orthodox Lutherans do, and that Bach was an Orthodox Lutheran. I am not sure that either point is provable, but that is irrelevant to me.

I do find treating this music site as a forum for obsolete religious sects offensive.

Jean Laaninen wrote (June 5, 2007):
[To Paul T. McCain] The children of those of whom you speak know the burden not only of the hymns, but of being raised in an environment that was entirely too rigid. I don't think this will happen in my lifetime, but one of my big dreams would be to go to live in Germany for two years, and to be part of worship in churches where the great tradition of the cantatas is still something to live. Old guys like my 98 year old dad--and he says he is an old guy, still like their version of the hymns...Dad and I care about each other as one would wish, but we are on opposite sides of the fence enough so that we have (smile) agreed to disagree. When he hears my music, since it isn't his music, he says things like...that was very interesting the way those numbers fit together. You haven't lived this until you've had to have evening devotions with your Dad, who also wants to sometimes sing the hymns sorrowfully. He likes to make you cry. He has been through plenty, as most of us have who have lived to this age...but I really don't enjoy those family sessions. So, I quite agree with you that the depth of the issue of spirituality is not in the idea that those who sing faster are somehow less spiritual than those who sing slow. It's kind of like genetics...you get what you get religiously, and then in the long run you have to determine how to make the most of what you have been given. So for those of us who have moved away from the old pious kind of outlook in the main, we keep the basic truths and we practice our faith with new tools and new and very old music. I have no argument with your perspective...in fact I subscribe to most of what you say without being able to be completely opposed to the past.

Douglas Cowling wrote (June 5, 2007):
Jean Laaninen wrote:
< The children of those of whom you speak know the burden not only of the hymns, but of being raised in an environment that was entirely too rigid. I don't think this will happen in my lifetime, but one of my big dwould be to go to live in Germany for two years, and to be part of worship in churches where the great tradition of the cantatas is still something to live. >
Actually, there are very few Lutheran churches where you will find the weekly liturgy as Bach knew it, with concerted cantatas before a sermon -- certainly never an hour-long sermon! Even St. Thomas, Leipzig, has most of its Bach performances as concerts in the afternoon or evening.

You are more likely to find Bach cantatas in the morning service in large Midwest churches where they were a product of the Bach revival in the last 20 years. I doubt if there is any Lutheran church in the world where the Bach Missae Breve are sung. Last year, the St, Thomas Choir sang one of the big Sanctus settings on Ascension Day, but that was clearly an unusual offering.

The mix of Latin and German which was normative for Bach is not a feature of any modern service. Nor are the versions of the chorales sung by most Lutheran traditions those sung by Bach's congregations. The 18th century
liturgy is a museum artifact. The only place you will hear it is in McCreesh's reconstruction of the "Epiphany Mass".

Jean Laaninen wrote (June 5, 2007):
[To Douglas Cowling] I'm surprised, as I'd heard via an ASU professor that the cantatas were still being done on Sunday's in Germany--but that was eight years ago that the discussion took place. And, at that point I didn't have enough knowledge to ask detailed questions. I wonder what churches in the Midwest would do these works--probably very large ones. Not that I know so much, but I never did hear of an ELCA church doing the Cantatas even once. Short sermons are OK with me, incidentally--I'm a product of my time.

Anyway, I just fell in love with the cantatas when I first heard them, and my appreciation of them just keeps growing. What a magnificent mind JSB possessed, and thanks for these details.

Paul T. McCain wrote (June 5, 2007):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< Actually, there are very few Lutheran churches where you will find the weekly liturgy as Bach knew it, >
Keep in mind that there were never many Lutheran churches, at any time, where you would find the weekly liturgy as Bach knew it, where elaborate chorale pieces were performed as a matter of routine. What was happening in Bach's church, though certainly not rare or unusual in his day, was by no means the norm when taking all Lutheran congregations into consideration at his time. It was special even in Bach's day.

Paul T. McCain wrote (June 5, 2007):
Nor are the versions of the chorales sung by most Lutheran traditions those sung by Bach's congregations.

Doug, this is true for many Lutheran congregations who are either laboring under the dreary influence of Pietism, or the bane of so-called "contemporary worship" but I can assure there are a very good many traditional Lutheran congregations where the great Lutheran chorales are sung with amazing gusto and enthusiasm. I wish many more would.

I recall when serving as a parish pastor that I could literally only barely hear myself speak the distribution formula while distributing the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar to the communicants due to the volume of the congregation singing "Jesus, Priceless Treasure," in four part harmony. Wonderful.

Paul T. McCain wrote (June 5, 2007):
[To Jean Laaninen] Jean, our congregation here in Saint Louis will use a Bach Cantata woven through the Divine Service about six times a year, usually on major feast days like: Christmas, Easter, Ascension, Pentecost, etc.

We are also treated regularly to the truly sublime Heinrich Schütz, whose vocal works, frankly, almost make Bach seem like am amateur. Horrors, to say that, but anyone who has listened and compared the two will know of what I'm speaking. Schütz' harmonies are incredibly beautiful.

Paul T. McCain wrote (June 5, 2007):
[To Ed Myskowski] Ed, your outdated anti-religious prejudices are offensive, but they are also amusing.

Douglas Cowling wrote (June 5, 2007):
Paul T. McCain wrote:
< What was happening in Bach's church, though certainly not rare or unusual in his day, was by no means the norm when taking all Lutheran congregations into consideration at his time. It was special even in Bach's day. >
I think this is an important point to make. The music in Leipzig was spectacularly rich and well-appointed. We should rather think of it as equal to a royal court chapel or cathedral. This was no rural parish with an illiterate congregation of 50 siniging chorales in unison with no organ.

Jean Laaninen wrote (June 5, 2007):
[To Paul T. McCain] How wonderfully fortunate for you. I will look for Heinrich Schütz's vocal works. I recognize the name, but I think my exposure to this composer is limited. Thank you for sharing this information with me.

Bradley Lehman wrote (June 5, 2007):
Re: track #7 "Ein feste Burg" at: http://tinyurl.com/32fb3w

Paul T. McCain wrote:
< Brad, interesting interpretation. Of course entirely useless for singing the hymn, but...interesting. >
OK, thanks.... I'm not sure I understand the assessment "entirely useless for singing the hymn", though, since part of the arrangement there is EXACTLY the same as is printed at #228 in the Lutheran Book of Worship 1978, the four-part setting directly from Luther's composition. Check it out for yourself, following along with the recording: a whole stanza is played straight out of the book, right before getting into the more ragtime-inspired part of the piece.

So, I would hope that some congregational members somewhere might use my recording to learn to sing any of the four vocal parts of this hymn. We also have exactly that same four-part arrangement in our own current hymnal (Mennonite/Brethren: Hymnal: A Worship Book 1991), which is what I played it from. And we do sing it in church, occasionally, just like that in four parts, and almost that fast.

Jean Laaninen wrote (June 5, 2007):
[To Paul T. McCain] Just a quick look at the files on the web of this (Heinrich Schütz) music and I remember this composer from both selections in the hymnal and from my organ books now that I think about it. I believe some of the books I have from Germany for organ include him...how could it be otherwise? But I have not played these pieces for some years with any regularity, though since both my husband and I are quite technically inclined if we have the ambition and can afford it someday we are considering building a chamber organ. We always need a good mental challenge. We are reading up on the subject at the present time and expect to study the possibility for a number of years. At the least we will know something we did not before, and maybe it will happen down the road. I would like to play these works again most of all just for family and friends. Most organists in our area far exceed my ability in my opinion. But good music from the Bach period, and before and after by some years has a fullness that I think satisfies.

Ed Myskowski wrote (June 5, 2007):
Paul T. McCain wrote:
< Ed, your outdated anti-religious prejudices are offensive, but they are also amusing. >
I am neither anti-religious nor prejudiced. What happened to your advice to others to simply ignore me? What preacher is it who ignores his own pronouncements?

Your comment belonged off-list, as does mine. If you care to respond, you can have the last word, this time.

Joel Figen wrote (June 5, 2007):
Paul T. McCain wrote:
< Ed, your outdated anti-religious prejudices are offensive, but they are also amusing. >
Oh no you didn't say that! That's hilarious. The thing that makes you hilarious, paul, is that you don't know why you're hilarious. I normally keep you on ignore, but, due to the way Eudora works, occasionally I see a bit of your writing in the trashbin before the trash has been taken out. thanks for giving me a good laugh from to time.

ps., Don't let those pietists get ya.

Thérèse Hanquet wrote (June 5, 2007):
[To Jean Laaninen] I agree with Paul about Heinrich Schütz's music being sublime!

Jean, I suggest that you listen to the "Weihnachtshistorie", which was published when he was almost 80... the recording by Andrew Parrott is beautiful, with Emma Kirkby as the angel, but I also find that by Sigiswald Kuijken and the Petite Bande very moving.

Other recordings I love:
- Musikalische Exequien by Herreweghe.
- Kleine geistliche Konzerte with René Jacobs.
- Symphoniae sacrae III with Konrad Junghanel and the Cantus Kölln / Concerto Palatino.

I listen almost daily to one of Schütz's works...

Jean Laaninen wrote (June 5, 2007):
[To Thérèse Hanquet] Thanks, Therese.

I have added your email and the list to my growing resource file. I will have to get these recordings as the library is able to obtain them for me as at this point my music collection is threatening to move us out of the house--so it will take a little while.

After pulling several scores from the web (free PDFs) I realized that I had played this composer years ago. I imagine the reason I had forgotten was a span of decades and the fact that a lot of material in more recent hymnals doesn't include him as there are more contemporary selections these days. But I will get back to this.

I am almost ready to believe that a person could develop a whole life on this forum as there is so much information and many music recommendations and good conversation besides. I especially like the fact that we can communicate with people everywhere, and not just those in our own region.

When I have the recordings and have done some listening I will get back to you.

Paul T. McCain wrote (June 5, 2007):
[To Jean Laaninen] Jean, on my blog site I had written something about J.S. Bach and a fellow Lutheran pastor wrote to me and told me about Schütz and said simply, "If you love Bach, you will be amazed by Schütz." He was right! Welcome to Schütz. I'll be interested to hear what you think. The reason I thought of him when you made your comments about your dad is because of the way Schütz has a deeply reverential to his works that is hard to describe.

Paul T. McCain wrote (June 5, 2007):
[To Bradley Lehman] Brad, if a congregation attempted to sing "Ein Feste Burg" as quickly as you are playing it on this recording it would have to have medical persons on hand to revive those who would keel over from heart attacks.

: )

Jean Laaninen wrote (June 5, 2007):
[To Paul T. McCain] This morning I checked through my old organ music that I played between the ages of twenty and thirty something. I do not have Heinrich Schütz in any of the books, but several other Heinrichs. I used the Concordia red organ text, The Lutheran Organist in those years, incidentally...and a Peters Edition of Chorales from the 17th and 18th century extensively. It took some folks in our area then a while to adjust to my selections,but to accomodate the changes I used some hymns joined and slightly improvised, at varying tempos. So this morning I printed out Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland (SWV301) arranged by Michel Rondeau, and played the piece on my keyboard using the drawbar organ setting...lacking having an organ for about eight years now. The arrangement looks something like a figured bass realization and was very easy to play. However this was just the organ part of a set. A few tonalities reminded me of the quality of some pastoral madrigal pieces. The tempo is moderato and in full score uses brass and timpani. The music is thoughtful and a bit festive, I think. I will find some other pieces on the free websites and play them also to see if they contain the complexity of the moving parts in Bach that I favor so highly.

It will take a little while to get around to getting the recordings as I will likely request them from inter-library loan due to storage factors here.

Thanks so much...a new composer is always a treat for a music lover.

Bradley Lehman wrote (June 5, 2007):
< This morning I checked through my old organ music that I played between the ages of twenty and thirty something. I do not have Heinrich Schütz in any of the books, but several other Heinrichs. >
Heinrich Schütz wrote mostly vocal music (and wonderfully), not organ music.

One of the top composers of the 17th century, in my opinion....

Jean Laaninen wrote (June 5, 2007):
[To Bradley Lehman] Thanks for giving me this insight Brad. No wonder I didn't find much material. Therese sent me a midi file from Belgium this morning of Wie ein Rubin...so that I could hear the texture of this composer's work. I think I am in for a treat now with a new composer to explore.

Bradley Lehman wrote (June 5, 2007):
< Brad, if a congregation attempted to sing "Ein Feste Burg" as quickly as you are playing it on this recording it would have to have medical persons on hand to revive those who would keel over from heart attacks. >

[#288 in the Lutheran Book of Worship, the rhythmic version of "Ein feste Burg" notated in four parts]

So: the people you know in your experience can't/wouldn't/don't/couldn't sing it that fast. Have they tried? Meanwhile, some people in my experience (and including me) do sing it that fast, and with due attention to the meaning of the words, too. The key is in knowing how to read Renaissance notation and note-values, and singing with a strong sense of rhythm (a good bounce), and giving a good crisp accent to the "half notes": from performing a bunch of other music contemporary with that hymn by Luther. Breathe at each notated rest, and at each little vertical bar (indicating phrase breaks) there on the second page; that's what they're there for.

Besides, that tempo is still slower than a normal pace speaking the text out loud. So, there really should be no problem getting the mouth around the syllables at that speed; and it's even easier to sing it that fast in unison. It's a good way to learn the piece: speak it out loud, in Luther's rhythms with a good strong feel to the syncopation, and then add the music after they've got that down.

I was also undoubtedly influenced at age 17 by singing in Alice Parker's opera "Martyr's Mirror" (1973), where this hymn and several others are all sung crisply and at this approximate tempo.

If some modern Lutherans are simply not accustomed to having their own banner composition by Luther sung at a snappy pace, well, it could still be learned. :)

Paul T. McCain wrote (June 5, 2007):
Brad, "snappy" pace? No problem with that. Have been doing that for 40+ years in hundreds of Lutheran congregations here and around the world. I suspect that I have quite a bit more experience than a Mennonite has both singing Ein Feste Burg and hearing it performed.

Like I said, you have an interesting organ performance piece, but practically useless for congregational singing. Listening? Sure, perhaps, maybe, but singing? Nope.

Bradley Lehman wrote (June 6, 2007):
< Brad, "snappy" pace? No problem with that. Have been doing that for 40+ years in hundreds of Lutheran congregations here and around the world. I suspect that I have quite a bit more experience than a Mennonite has both singing Ein Feste Burg and hearing it performed. >
Ah, is that the trump card? In deciding how to do the piece "correctly", apparently it's more important simply to be Lutheran than to bring in musical considerations of Renaissance dance style (from which the piece sprang). Somehow there's automatic authenticity, from being Lutheran or listening to Lutheran congregational consensus?

OK: from all that extensive experience: does the rhythmic #228 version get done much at all, or do theLutherans simply flip the page over to #229 and sing the squared-off one most of the time?

Paul T. McCain wrote (June 6, 2007):
The rhythmic style if the one most often sung in congregations of The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod, but not as fast as your performance piece provides it. Makes for an interesting interpretation, a bit too weird for my tastes, but absurdly fast for congregational singing.

 

BWV 139

David Fallis wrote (January 7, 2008):
Can any one tell me, when, in BWV 139, Bach set Johann Rube's words "Wohl dem, der sich auf seinen Gott" to Schein's tune "Machs mit mir" was that Bach's (or his anonymous librettist's) idea, or does that combination of words and music occur in any known earlier hymn books. Or perhaps does Rube's published collection of hymn texts have suggestions for appropriate tunes (like a English broadside saying "to the tune of..."). Thanks for any light you can shed on this matter.

Thomas Braatz wrote (January 8, 2008):
It appears that David Fallis has consulted the following URLs on the BCW:
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Lib/Rube.htm
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/CM/Machs-mit-mir.htm

All that I can add is that Rube’s original chorale text from 1692 appeared with a subtitle: “Von der Freudigkeit des Glaubens” (“About the Joy(s) of Believing”). Nothing indicates which chorale melody should be used.

Here is a summary about the text:

BWV 139, “Wohl dem, der sich auf seinen Gott”, for the 23rd Sunday after Trinity, first performance on November 12, 1724, librettist unknown, verses 1 & 5 (mvts. 1 & 6 of the cantata) are from the chorale text of “Wohl dem, der sich auf seinen Gott” which first appeared in print in 1692 and was written by Johann Christoph Rube (1665-1746), the original chorale text (verses 1 & 5) from 1692 appears in a modified form (most likely modified later by Rube) in the cantata. This modified text has been found in the Dresden Hymnal (1725) and in the Leipzig Hymnals of 1729 and 1734.

The Leipzig hymnals do not contain any musical notation or names of melodies associated with specific hymn texts. It is possible that the same is true for the Dresden Hymnal about which I do not have any further information.

Seven months before BWV 139 was composed using Schein’s melody, Bach had used the same melody with a different text in his setting of “Durch dein Gefängnis, Gottes Sohn”. Later, in 1729, Bach also used the same melody for BWV 156. See the Chorale Melody page for more information.

I have not seen any Bach expert attempt to ascribe to Bach the first association of Schein’s chorale melody with the chorale texts that Bach used, particularly the chorale text by Rube. Such uses of chorale melodies were often not fixed and these associations could vary from city to city and region to region. All that can be stated for certain is that Bach was very knowledgeable in this area. He had in his possession a number of books containing a large number of chorales and chorale melodies. It is quite possible that Bach introduced some of these new combinations of chorale text and melody in Leipzig, having his choir present chorales in this fashion as part of his sacred figural music. Possibly the congregation would later sing these chorale texts with the "new"? or relatively unknown melody associations. All of this is in the form of reasonable conjecture for which, however, no concrete evidence can be offered.

David Fallis wrote (January 7, 2008):
[To Aryeh Oron]
Thank you so much for this information from Prof. Braatz. Can you tell me more about his background - he is obviously very well informed. And since I have stumbled on such a good source of information, I wonder if I could ask you or him two more questions.

1. Can anyone fill in the missing lineage between Gastoldi's "A lieta vita" and the chorale "In Dir ist Freude" which Bach sets as a chorale prelude? When does it first get fitted out with sacred words, and by whom?

2. I recently attended a performance of Lully's opera "Armide". Towards the end of the opera there is the magnificent passacaille. This music is extremely like the opening of BWV 78, "Jesu der du meine Seele", so much so that I am sure Bach must have known the piece, and I'm sure someone must have remarked on this, but I have never seen it mentioned in my modest reading of Bach literature. Can you point me to more about this influence? Christoph Wolff mentions that there was an "Armide Suite" arranged for keyboard published
after 1700 (not surprising, since "Armide" was Lully's greatest success), so I assume this is where Bach would have encountered the music. Do we know what French pieces Bach learned in his youth from collections in Lüneburg, or from his brother Christoph's extensive library?

Thank you again for your help with any of these details,

Thomas Braatz wrote (January 8, 2008):
[To David Falliasa, via Aryeh Oron]
BWV 615 “In dir ist Freude” is listed as a melody under Zahn 8537 who has the text incipit as “O Gott, mein Herre

Peter Williams in his second edition of “The Organ Music of J. S. Bach”, Cambridge University Press, 2003, p. 266, and based upon Terry (1921) as his source gives the text for this Christmas chorale as first published by Johannes Lindemann in 1598. According to Williams, the melody is derived from Gastoldi’s “balletto L’innamerato” published in 1591 and already appeared as a chorale melody in D. Spaiser’s hymnal published in 1609 “and associated with “In dir ist Freude” by 1646. [This last point by Williams is confusing unless one understands that the Gastoldi melody was already associated with the original two verses of “In dir ist Freude” by Lindemann in his 5-part reproduction/contrafactum of Gastoldi’s secular composition. In this form it was most likely performed as figural music in the churches before it appeared in a hymnal which implies that the melody would have been sung to these words by the congregation.]

There are many musical concordances for the dances in the manuals based on well-known migrant tunes or basses, whether originally sacred or secular, vocal or instrumental; for example, Gastoldi’s balletto L’innamorato was choreographed by Stefano, an associate of Negri’s, as Alta mendozza, but the tune appeared in England as Sing we and chaunt it and in Germany as the chorale In dir ist Freude. Furthermore, the same dance music might appear in duple or triple metre in different sources (e.g. Arbeau’s and Negri’s canaries). Phrasings were usually regular but could occasionally be irregular, and changing metres or hemiola provided charm and interest. National differences in style emerged in dance music as elsewhere: the English, for instance, were in general more tuneful than the Italians, who tended to emphasize the basses and chordal schemes (romanesca, folia, passo e mezzo). Nonetheless, most of the music is rather commonplace; obviously the physical delights suggested by dance music and the social status dance enjoyed were more responsible for its great vogue than the quality of the music itself. Gems are to be found, however, in (for example) Monteverdi’s Scherzi musicali, while the famous sets of variations on dance themes by such composers as Sweelinck, Byrd and Cabezón exemplify the opportunities and challenges that dance music could suggest. Among the stage works it is Monteverdi, once again, whose ballos and Orfeo are masterpieces pervaded by dance; appreciation of these is increased by recognition of the dancing they evoke.
Julia Sutton from an article, “Dance”, in the Grove Music Online, Oxford University Press, 2008

Germany
The earlier German chaconnes (usually spelled ‘ciaccona’ or ciacona’, even as late as J.S. Bach) were closely modelled on foreign works, notably the closing section of Schütz’s Es steh Gott auf (1647), which by the composer’s own admission was based on Monteverdi’s Zefiro torna, but with a modulating ostinato pattern. Schütz’s work may in turn have inspired the impressive chaconne that concludes his pupil Matthias Weckmann’s Weine nicht (1663), in which the pattern is transformed several times. Distinct German forms of the chaconne developed only in the later years of the century, most strikingly in solo organ music. The German organists, drawing on traditions of cantus-firmus improvisation and ground-bass divisions, created a series of majestic ostinato compositions, shaped by increasingly brilliant figurations. A passacaglia and chaconne pair from well before 1675 by J.C. Kerll (who had studied in Rome) still used traditional ground-bass formulae, if treated rather loosely (ex.1e andEx.2b; in the sources the chaconne is notated with three semibreves per bar, but the passacaglia with three breves, presumably to emphasize the slower tempo); and forms of both formulae also appear together in Poglietti’s Compendium (A-KR L.146, 1676), the only known example of the specific basses being cited in a early treatise (fig.2). However, later composers such as Dietrich Buxtehude and Johann Pachelbel introduced bass formulae of their own devising, which were treated during at least the first part of the composition as rigorous ostinatos; they assume a thematic significance not present in the traditional formulae, as various techniques borrowed from chorale improvisation were brought to bear on them. The busy passage-work and contrapuntal density largely obliterated any dance feeling (except, some might hold, on a cosmic plane), and links with the genres’ origins became increasingly tenuous.

Chaconnes written during the same period for instrumental ensemble (for example by Biber, Georg Muffat and J.C.F. Fischer) followed French models more closely or combined the French and Germanic approaches, as did those conceived primarily for harpsichord (e.g. by Fischer, Georg Böhm and Fux). The hybrid type was pushed to its limits by J.S. Bach in his Chaconne in D minor from the fourth Partita for unaccompanied violin (ex.1h), a work in which several international chaconne and passacaglia traditions (including the virtuoso solo divisions of composers such as Biber and Marais) may be traced, and which in turn spawned its own tradition of adaptation (e.g. by Felix Mendelssohn, Schumann, Johannes Brahms and Ferruccio Busoni) and emulation (e.g. by Max Reger, Béla Bartók and William Walton).

Germany
The earlier German chaconnes (usually spelled ‘ciaccona’ or ciacona’, even as late as J.S. Bach) were closely modelled on foreign works, notably the closing section of Schütz’s Es steh Gott auf (1647), which by the composer’s own admission was based on Monteverdi’s Zefiro torna, but with a modulating ostinato pattern. Schütz’s work may in turn have inspired the impressive chaconne that concludes his pupil Matthias Weckmann’s Weine nicht (1663), in which the pattern is transformed several times. Distinct German forms of the chaconne developed only in the later years of the century, most strikingly in solo organ music. The German organists, drawing on traditions of cantus-firmus improvisation and ground-bass divisions, created a series of majestic ostinato compositions, shaped by increasingly brilliant figurations. A passacaglia and chaconne pair from well before 1675 by J.C. Kerll (who had studied in Rome) still used traditional ground-bass formulae, if treated rather loosely (ex.1e andEx.2b; in the sources the chaconne is notated with three semibreves per bar, but the passacaglia with three breves, presumably to emphasize the slower tempo); and forms of both formulae also appear together in Poglietti’s Compendium (A-KR L.146, 1676), the only known example of the specific basses being cited in a early treatise (fig.2). However, later composers such as Dietrich Buxtehude and Johann Pachelbel introduced bass formulae of their own devising, which were treated during at least the first part of the composition as rigorous ostinatos; they assume a thematic significance not present in the traditional formulae, as various techniques borrowed from chorale improvisation were brought to bear on them. The busy passage-work and contrapuntal density largely obliterated any dance feeling (except, some might hold, on a cosmic plane), and links with the genres’ origins became increasingly tenuous.

Chaconnes written during the same period for instrumental ensemble (for example by Biber, Georg Muffat and J.C.F. Fischer) followed French models more closely or combined the French and Germanic approaches, as did those conceived primarily for harpsichord (e.g. by Fischer, Georg Böhm and Fux). The hybrid type was pushed to its limits by J.S. Bach in his Chaconne in D minor from the fourth Partita for unaccompanied violin (ex.1h), a work in which several international chaconne and passacaglia traditions (including the virtuoso solo divisions of composers such as Biber and Marais) may be traced, and which in turn spawned its own tradition of adaptation (e.g. by Felix Mendelssohn, Schumann, Johannes Brahms and Ferruccio Busoni) and emulation (e.g. by Max Reger, Béla Bartók and William Walton).
Alexander Silbiger (same source as above)

Germany
Distinct German forms of the passacaglia developeonly in the later years of the 17th century, most strikingly in solo organ music. The German organists, drawing on traditions of cantus-firmus improvisation and ground-bass divisions, created a series of majestic ostinato compositions, shaped by increasingly brilliant figurations. A passacaglia from well before 1675 by J.C. Kerll (who had studied in Rome) still used the traditional descending tetrachord as ground-bass formula (ex.1d); however, later composers such as Dietrich Buxtehude and Johann Pachelbel introduced bass formulae of their own devising, which were treated during at least the first part of the composition as rigorous ostinatos. These bass progressions assume a thematic significance not present in the traditional formulae, as various techniques borrowed from chorale improvisation were brought to bear on them. The busy passage-work and contrapuntal density largely obliterated any dance feeling, and relationships to the genre’s origin became increasingly tenuous. Such is the case in the most famous passacaglia of this tradition, J.S. Bach’s Passacaglia in C minor (BWV 582), which concludes with a lengthy fugue on its ostinato subject (possibly derived from a short passacaglia in an organ mass of 1687 by André Raison).

Passacaglias written during the same period for instrumental ensemble more closely followed French models or combined the French and Germanic approaches, as did those conceived primarily for harpsichord. Bach also used the genre in some vocal works, although not indicated as such (BWV 12, later reworked into the ‘Crucifixus’ of the Mass in B minor; bwv78). Some might argue that the opening chorus of BWV 12 (like the ‘Lamento der Freunde’ in the keyboard Capriccio BWV 992) should be classified as a lament rather than as a passacaglia, but there can be no such doubt about the magnificent opening of BWV 78, which has all the musical hallmarks of a French operatic chaconne/passacaglia number; indeed, the passacaglia from Lully’s Armide may have been its direct source of inspiration.
Alexander Silbiger
©
Oxford University Press 2008

 

OT: Resource(s) for Renaissance Chorale Collections ?

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (February 27, 2009):
I do a lot of research for a media company, entering CDs into a large data base. Many times, the tray notes that are included with the CDs provide almost no information about the music or the composer, or any way to identify them.

Case in point, I'm working on a Hanssler Classics release "Hearken to the Angels' song." There are several chorale tunes used by Lucas Osiander ("Er ging aus der Kammer sein" & "Dein Krippen glänzt hell und klar"). From a lot of digging around, I was able to find out that original collection those chorales came from was "Fünfzig geistliche Lieder und Psalmen wit 4 Stimmen" and it was published in Nuremburg.

The nightmare was Michael Praetorius, with a piece called "Lob sei Gott dem Vater g'tan." I assumed this came from one of the dozen printed collections, but I was not able to find out which one specifically. Then I discovered, more than likely the choir on the CD extracted a section of the chorale or motet-- I discovered the words come from "Nun komm der Heiden Heiland." My assumption is it's an extract from the larger motet (BUT I could be wrong too!)

My life would be so much easier if there is a reference book that contains a listing of these Renaissance chorale/hymn/motets (1) Printed collection and (2) by title. I would definitely would love to find a resource that lists all the Praetorious pieces in such a way too!

Any help on this would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you kindly,

Evan Cortens wrote (February 28, 2009):
Kim Patrick Clow wrote:
< My life would be so much easier if there is a reference book that contains a listing of these Renaissance chorale/hymn/motets (1) Printed collection and (2) by title. I would definitely would love to find a resource that lists all the Praetorious pieces in such a way too! >
The only thing that comes to mind is Johannes Zahn's magisterial study Die Melodien der deutschen evangelischen Kirchenlieder. Its in six volumes, with the hymn tunes sorted by syllable count (7.7.7.7, and so
on). Originally printed in the late nineteenth century, it's available in a modern reprint as well.

Hope this helps,

 

Continue on Part 7

Chorales BWV 250-438: Details & Recordings
Individual Recordings:
Hilliard - Morimur | Chorales - Matt | Chorales - Rilling | Preludi ai Corali - Quartetto Italiani di Viola Da Gamba
Discussions: General:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Chorales in Bach's Vocal Works: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Hidden Chorale Melody Allusions | Passion Chorale
References:
Chorales BWV 250-300 | Chorales BWV 301-350 | Chorales BWV 351-400 | Chorales BWV 401-438
Texts & English Translations of Chorales:
Sorted by Title
Chorale Melodies:
Sorted by Title | 371 4-Part Chorales sorted by Breitkopf Number | Explanation
MIDI files of the Chorales:
Cantatas BWV 1-197 | Other Vocal Works BWV 225-248 | Chorales BWV 250-438
Articles:
The Origin of the Texts of the Chorales [Schweitzer] | The Origin of the Melodies of the Chorales [Schweitzer] | The Chorale in the Church Service [Schweitzer] | Choral / Chorale [Terry] | The History of the Breitkopf Collection of J. S. Bach’s Four-Part Chorales [Braatz] | Chorale Melody Allusions in Bach's Vocal Works [Braatz]
Hymnals used by Bach | Abbreviations used for the Chorales | Links to other Sites about the Chorales

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