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Bach’s Librettists
Discussions

Erdmann Neumeister

Jack Botelho wrote (April 12, 2004):
Bach's Cantatas

"Erdmann Neumeister (1671-1756), whose devotional poetry established a new trend in sacred music, described a cantata as resembling 'a portion of an opera, made up of recitative style and arias.' He called 'oratorio' a composition that mixed excerpts from the Bible and occasional chorales with madrigal-like poetic texts for arias and duets. Neumeister's earliest texts for the Sunday service were of the oratorio type, but the first published annual cycle of 1700 consisted of what he called cantatas. Later cycles compromised between the two types, and these suited composers better, for they were more in line with the Lutheran musical tradition of chorale concerto and concerted motet. It is this combination of biblical texts, chorales, recitatives, and arias that constitutes the cantata as practiced by Bach from his Weimar period on and by many of his contemporaries. Only five cantatas by Bach on Neumeister's texts have been authenticated (BWV 18, BWV 24, BWV 28, BWV 59, and BWV 61), but a large number were on texts inspired by Neumeister's models. The term 'cantata' was applied by the editors of the collected works of Bach to all the composite works of concerted music intended for the principal service, whether they were of the kind Neumeister designated 'oratorio' or 'cantata' or were closer to the older chorale concerto and motet. This loose employment of the term 'cantata' tends to obscure the fact that the Italian chamber cantata, which was written for one or two solo voices, usually as a succession of recitatives, arias, and duets, without chorus, was only one of the models for the Bach cantatas. The Bach works were not, however, modeled on the Italian sacred cantata, such as Rossi's 'Giuseppe', for this was a continuous narrative-dramatic work, although its components were also recitatives, arias, and choruses or ensembles."

Palisca, Claude V: Baroque Music, third edition
Prentice-Hall Publishing, 1991.
p.321

Erdmann Neumeister's designation of his first published cycle of church music in the year 1700 as 'cantatas' for the Lutheran service must have marked an important step in establishing a structure of sacred music for German worshipers in Bach's time. It is interesting to note that he used the Italian designation of 'cantata', which had been used exclusively to define a work of secular chamber music, and turned this label on its head, so to speak, to define a work of sacred music for the church.

Perhaps Neumeister used the word 'cantata' in part to signify the small musical forces expected to be employed for performances of such works as opposed to the larger forces of the oratorio?

It has been commented generally that church and even organ music in the German-speaking lands at the turn of the eighteenth century was in a dangerous decline, and perhaps raiding Italian musical designations and even the Catholic Church's enthusiasm for musical forms was a way to enrich the waning Lutheran tradition and also to more clearly define and strengthen the Lutheran Church's resolve to embrace music in church worship and differentiate themselves from their Calvinist opponents.

 

Luther in Bach

John Luther wrote (November 6, 2004):
Does anyone know where I can get a list of:

!) Martin Luther Hymns in Bach's Cantatas

2) Martin Luther Hymns in Other of Bach's works?

It seems like it would be readily available but I sure can't find it.

Aryeh Oron wrote (November 6, 2004):
[To John Luther] Please take a look at the page dedicated to Martin Luther at the BCW: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Lib/Luther.htm

At the bottom of the page you will find a list of Bach's works in which Luther's hymns have been used.

Bradley Lehman wrote (November 6, 2004):
[To John Luther] See pp471-481 of the 1998 edition of the BWV: a list of all the chorales used in all the Bach works, cross-referenced over to Zahn's collection (and catalogue numbers).

I've used the Zahn set in some hymnological research projects: it's 100 years old, but it's thorough. That's why it's still the STANDARD reference set about the Lutheran (i.e. German evangelical) tunes.

John Luther wrote (November 8, 2004):
Luther Unlock's Bach

[To Aryeh Oron] Thx for the help. What a great cross-reference tool to see how Luther significantly and specifically influenced Bach. The following 4 cd set of all of Luther's works is a very important step for me in understanding Bach (and Mendelssohn). I just spent the day building playlists on windows media by first copying and pasting Luther's original hymn (in English) and then copying and pasting Bach's applicable Organ Prelude's and Cantatas that Bach composed using Luther's hymns. What great CD's these make.

Bach really comes alive when you can see, hear and understand what he was composing from and what inspired him. I then added some Buxtehude organ works that Bux composed using the same hymns by Luther and it just made the CD's all the better.

In addition, I just got Mendelssohn's 10 CD Complete Choral Works and I can see Luther's Hymns throught his works as well. I can't wait to see how Luther helps me "unlock" Mendelssohn next! (You don't know where I can get an English translation of Mendelssohn's Complete Choral Work's do you?)

I recommend these Martin Luther CD's for anyone who loves Bach and doesn't have all of Luther's works!
http://www.cph.org/cphstore/product.asp?part%5Fno=991726

Paul Farseth wrote (November 8, 2004):
[To John Luther] When looking for clues to Bach's music in the texts of the chorales Bach quotes or sets, it's a good idea to look for a literal translation of the German texts, as the common English translations in hymn books are sometimes not entirely faithful to the original text, often not faithful to the order of images and words, sometimes not faithful to the images and ideas, and sometimes not faithful to the tone or feeling of the original. (On the other hand, the hymn translations intended to be sung may sometimes give a better approximation to the feeling of the original than an unidiomatic literal translation.)

 

Christiane Mariane von Ziegler Expanded Biography

Thomas Braatz wrote (May 4, 2007):
There is now an expanded biography (with Aryeh Oron's kind assistance) of Christiane Mariane von Ziegler available at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Lib/Ziegler.htm

Jean Laaninen wrote (May 4, 2007):
[To Thomas Braatz] Thanks Thomas, for bringing this article to our attention. I did not know of her work, though I recognized many other names in the article from the early hymnals of my childhood, and other musical scores we had at home. I wish I had known this woman. She seems to have been raised in some ways similar to some later pastor's daughters musically. I was encouraged to learn to play numerous instruments and grew up in a household with a father who freely quoted long epic poems at a moment's notice. Dad is now 98 and his mind is as clear as a bell and can still recite these ancient wonders. Mother was an English major who favored poetry, and along with many of my cousin's Ilearned to write verse at a young age (not for publication, however--other than creating verses for special occasions using known hymn tunes.) So this delightful article brings me closer to the Bach circle from a woman's outlook and I am so pleased that I've had a chance to read about her life and achievements.

Thanks to Aryeh and all who contributed to its availability.

 

Paul Gerhardt's Testament

Paul T. McCain wrote (May 4, 2007):
Paul Gerhardt, the 17th century Lutheran pastor, described as the poet-laureate of Lutheranism, write a number of the chorales used by Bach in his cantatas. I received from a colleague today this translation of his "testament" which he prepared on his 70th birthday for his son. It offers insight into this important Lutheran writer of many great chorales. Perhaps this could be incorporated into the Gerhardt information on the Bach Cantata web site.

Now that I have reached the 70th year of my life and also have the joyful hope that my dear, holy God will soon rescue me out of this world and lead me into a better life than I have had until now on earth, I thank Him especially for all His kindness and faithfulness which, from my mother’s womb until the present hour, He has shown me in body and soul and in all that He has given me. Besides this, I ask Him from the bottom of my heart that when my hour comes He would grant me a happy departure, take my soul into His fatherly hands, and give my body a peaceful rest in the ground until the dear Last Day, when I, with all of my [family] who have been before me and also may remain after me, will reawake and behold my dear Lord Jesus Christ face to face, in whom I have believed but have not yet seen. To my only son whom I am leaving behind I leave few earthly goods, but with them I leave him an honorable name of which he will not have to be ashamed.

My son knows that from his tender childhood I have given him to the Lord my God as His possession, that he is to become a servant and preacher of His holy Word. He is to remain now in this and not turn away from it, even if he has only few good days in it. For the good Lord knows how to handle it and how sufficiently to replace external troubles with internal happiness of the heart and joy of the spirit.

Study holy theologiam [“theology”] in pure schools and at unfalsified universities and beware of the syncretists [those who mix religions or confessions], for they seek what is temporal and are faithful to neither God nor men. In your common life do not follow evil company but rather the will and command of your God. Especially: (1) Do nothing evil in the hope that it will remain secret, for nothing is spun so small that it is not seen in the light of day. (2) Outside of your office and vocation do not become angry. If you notice that anger has heated you up, remain still and speak not so much as a word until you have first prayed the Ten Commandments and the Christian Creed silently. (3) Be ashamed of the lusts of the flesh, and when you one day come to the years in which you can marry, then marry with God and with the good advice of pious, faithful, and sensible people. (4) Do good to people even if they have nothing with which to repay you, for the Creator of heaven and earth has long since repaid what humans cannot repay: when He created you, when He gave you His beloved Son, and when He accepted you in Holy Baptism as His child and heir. (5) Flee from greed as from hell. Be satisfied with what you have earned with honor and a good conscience, even if it is not all too much. But if the good Lord gives you something more, ask Him to preserve you from the burdensome misuse of temporal goods.

In summary: Pray diligently, study something honorable, live peacefully, serve honestly, and remain unmoved in your faith and confessing. If you do this, you too will one day die and depart from this world willingly, joyfully, and blessedly. Amen.

[Translated by Benjamin T. G. Mayes, 5/4/2007]

Rick Canyon wrote (May 5, 2007):
Paul T. McCain wrote:
< Paul Gerhardt, the 17th century Lutheran pastor, described as the poet-laureate of Lutheranism, write a number of the chorales used by Bach in his cantatas. I received from a colleague today this translation of his "testament" which he prepared on his 70th birthday for his son. It offers insight into this important Lutheran writer of many great chorales. Perhaps this could be incorporated into the Gerhardt information on the Bach Cantata web site. >
There is a nice recording of Gerhardt chorales available here: http://www.rondeau.de/webbusiness/query.php?cp_sid=27237a63a03&cp_tpl=main
Performed by the Thomanerchor and Martin Petzold.

 

Marianne von Ziegler [was: Perhaps a Dumb question about BWV 176]

Continue of discussion from: Cantata BWV 176 - Discussions

Nessie Russell wrote (June 24, 2007):
The librettist was Marianne von Ziegler. In English speaking countries Marianne is a female name. Was this Marianne female? If so, is this not a strange thing for Bach's time?

Aryeh Oron wrote (June 24, 2007):
[To Nessie Russell] She was...
See her bio and pictures at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Lib/Ziegler.htm

Nessie Russell wrote (June 24, 2007):
[To Aryeh Oron] Thank you Aryeh. A most unusual woman!

Ed Myskowski wrote (June 25, 2007):
Nessie Russell wrote:
> The librettist was Marianne von Ziegler. In English speaking countries Marianne is a female name. Was this Marianne female? If so, is this not a strange thing for Bach's time? <
If you Google 'Ziegler', you will first be directed to BCW (that's us). The information there suggests that you are correct, a female writer (theologian?) was unusual. On the other hand, she was a member of a writers guild, but it is notable that she was the only female.

Which makes me wonder if Bach might have been specifically supporting female participation in the creative process.?

Or if if Marianne was especially well-connected, politically, and Bach was just going along?

Has anyone suggested that the poetry (as distinct from the theology) in any of the texts (Ziegler or others) inspired Bach's music? An interesting thought, perhaps I have overlooked some subtleties in the discussions? Are there any examples where the beauty of the phrase, not just the underlying theologic meaning, or a single word picture, may have inspired the music? Or even been specifically emphasized by the music.

Thomas Braatz wrote (June 25, 2007):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
>>Has anyone suggested that the poetry (as distinct from the theology) in any of the texts (Ziegler or others) inspired Bach's music? An interesting thought, perhaps I have overlooked some subtleties in the discussions?<<
All of the commentaries seem to agree that, based upon the more extensive corrections that Bach (or someone else) made to the text made to von Ziegler's texts (more than Bach ever made to any of his other libretti), Bach had greater difficulty setting her poetry to music than he had with any other librettist he used. In BWV 176 we find, for example:

Mvt. 3:

Ziegler: Die sein Allmacht-volles Wesen
Sich zu Zeugen auserlesen


Bach: Denn sein Allmacht und sein Wesen
scheint, ist göttlich auserlesen


Mvt. 4:

Ziegler: Jedoch du nimmt mein zages Hertz und Geist
Bach: Doch tröst ich mich, du nimst mein

The NBA KB I/15 p. 51 states:

"Wie bei den meisten Ziegler-Texte finden sich auch hier verschiedene Differenzen zwischen Textdruck und Bachs Kantate" ("As in the case of most texts by von Ziegler, there are here various differences between the printed text [Ziegler's text her "Andächtige Gedichte"] and Bach's cantata [the wording used by Bach in the autograph score and in the vocal parts].")

Speculation abounds on what these differences signify:

1.) von Ziegler's poetry did not lend itself as easily to setting to music as that of other poets whose texts Bach used.

2.) von Ziegler revised her poetry subsequent to Bach's use of it and her later printing of these texts show these modifications and differences between Bach's texts and hers.

3.) Bach reluctantly (politically?, a situation forced upon him suddenly?) accepted the task of setting von Ziegler's texts to music only to discover that they did not serve his purpose as composer as well as that of other librettists' efforts did.

4.) Bach had no opportunity to work with her directly on the texts before coming up with a version that both could agree upon.

5.) etc., etc. [add your own speculations]

Richard Unkraut wrote (June 25, 2007):
[To Thomas Braatz] The June BBC Music Magazine has intriguing features about Edward Elgar and the collaborations/inspirations of his lady friends. Is there any chance Bach and this Ziegler had any, um, inspiring relationship outside the text and music? (#5 "add your own speculations!")

As I understand, Bach had to work inside a regimented bureaucracy at Leipzig. Wouldn't it be surprising if Bach as composer did not make any changes in texts assigned for cantata use, before or after he got them approved by his superiors? Perhaps somebody else on staff didn't like Ziegler's wording or theology, and compelled Bach to make changes.

Continue of this discussion, see: Cantata BWV 176 - Discussions

 

German TV Report on Paul Gerhardt

Paul T. McCain wrote (October 5, 2007):
Folks on this list might be interested in a German television short video essay on the life and work of Paul Gerhardt, poet/hymn writer. It is in English: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8HrXxqoC0gI

 

Remembering Philipp Nicolai

Paul T. McCain wrote (January 6, 2009):
Today is Epiphany and the great Lutheran chorale "How Lovely Shines the Morning Star" has come to be associated with this festival day. I'm always very interested in the persons who wrote hymns, their life, their experiences. I find their stories helpful for a greater understanding of the meaning and intention of their hymns.

I posted an article today on my blog site that Bach Cantata list member might find of interest, along with a new literal/literalistic translation of How Lovely Shines, which illuminates the meaning of the original German.

Of course, this hymn is featured in BWV 1.

Here is the link to the post about Nicolai and the hymn: Pastor Philipp Nicolai: Hero of the Faith and Gift to the Church....The Story of the Queen of the Chorales: "How Lovely Shines the Morning Star"

 

OT: Who is Agricola

Continue of discussion from: Bach's Death and Funeral [General Topics]

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (January 10, 2009):
I'm entering into my database entitled "Music in the Home of Martin Luther" on the Cornetto label; and there are several pieces by a "Agricola." SOme of the pieces include "Jesus Christus unser Heiland," "Vater unser im Himmelreich," "Wir Glauben all an einen Gott."

I looked around on the Interwebs and I got the impression Agricola wrote LYRICs and not music. Can someone tell me the specific name of the Agricola to these pieces I've identified?

Thanks much!

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (January 10, 2009):
Ops...

I meant "I'm entering a CD entitled ..." Did a Agricola pen these hymn tunes or did he set existing texts in new musical settings? If so, what was his full legal name.

Thank you again

Evan Cortns wrote (January 10, 2009):
[To Kim Patrick Clow] Tough question! That's a pretty common surname it seems from the 15th through the 18th centuries in Germany... My guess, if we're talking about someone who wrote hymn texts, and was connected to Martin Luther, would be Johannes Agricola (1494–1566). As he was a theologian closely involved with the Reformation, he seems to fit the bill.

If we're talking a sixteenth-century composer, there again are quite a number of them. However, off the top of my head, I don't know any who would have been involved with hymn composition...

Hope this helps!

William Rowland (Ludwig) wrote (January 11, 2009):
[To Kim Patrick Clow] Agricola wrote some music but if he wrote what you are asking I can not say since I can not see the music.

William Rowland (Ludwig) wrote (January 11, 2009):
[To Evan Cortens] Agricola was what we would call today a musicologist who wrote various treatises on music and the Organ. He was also a composer of sorts and wrote music also. If memory serves me correct there is some connection between him a Leonardo da Vinci's Masques.

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 11, 2009):
>Agricola was what we would call today a musicologist who wrote various treatises on music and the Organ. He was also a composer of sorts and wrote music also.<
Today, if he was a composer, he would not be a musicologist, I do not believe. The two do not even have coffee at the same in 21st C. academia. But what do I know? Administrator, help us out here!

James Atkins Pritchard wrote (January 11, 2009):
[To Ed Myskowski] Which Agricola is being discussed here? Martin? Johann Friedrich? They both composed and wrote theoretical treatises.

William Rowland (Ludwig) wrote (January 11, 2009):
[To Ed Myskowski] Agricola was both a musicologist and a composer. He wrote a very important treatise on Organology that included information about the PIpe Organ Musica instrumentalis deudsch . He wrote Motets and other Renaissance type of music. An is an very important Music theorist of the Renaisannce.

He has come up in your studies because he was the first one to hamornize Martin Luther's Ein 'feste ein Burg. If you are intrested in old notation and new (what we use today) notation--no work can be a finer reference than Agricola's.

David Glenn Lebiut Jr. wrote (January 11, 2009):
[To Ludwig] Actually, that is incorrect. Luther himself did, then his friend and collaborator Johann Walt(h)er did, then others. All the tunes that Kim was mentioning were originally by Luther himself (with the exception of "Jesus Christus, unser Heiland" which was originally by Jan Hus ["Iesus Christus, nostra salis"] and adapted and translated from the Latin by Luther).

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 11, 2009):
>Agricola was both a musicologist and a composer. He wrote a very important treatise on Organology<
If an Organologist is to an organ as a musicologist is to music, I am now afraid to go to bed!

James Atkins Pritchard wrote (January 11, 2009):
[To David Glenn Lebut Jr.] According to the 1911 Britannica Martin Agricola was the first to harmonize Ein' feste Burg in four parts. Unfortunately no source is given (at least on-line--one might want to check out the article in a library).

What's your source for your claim that Luther harmonized it? And how many parts were there?
http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/1911_Encyclop%C3%A6dia_Britannica/Agricola,_Martin

Aryeh Oron wrote (January 11, 2009):
[To Kim Patrick Clow] Several Agricolas are presented on the BCW:

Georg Ludwig Agricola (1643-1676) - Composer
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Lib/Agricola-Georg-Ludwig.htm

Johann Agricola (1492-1566) - Hymn-writer
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Lib/Agricola.htm

Johann Friedrich Agricola (1720-1774) - Composer, a pupil of J.S. Bach
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Lib/Agricola-Johann-Friedrich.htm

Martin Agricola (c1500 - 1556), Composer & Theorist
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Lib/Agricola-Martin.htm

All these Agricolas are connected to J.S. Bach. directly or indirectly.
I believe there are several more, but the one you are looking for seems to be Johann Agricola, who had strong connections with Martin Luther.

James Atkins Pritchard wrote (January 11, 2009):
Presumably this is Martin you're speaking of...
www.bach-cantatas.com/Lib/Agricola-Martin.htm

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (January 12, 2009):
[To Aryeh Oron] Actually, Aryeh, Johann Agricola was not a musician or composer. Of the Agricolas active during Luther's lifetime and shortly thereafter (Johann, Stephan, and Martin) only Martin Agricola was the musician/composer/hymnist. The other two were theologians and ministers.

Also, Johann Agricola was never referred to as "Magister Islebius" by Luther or those of his immediate circle. That title was reserved for another Agricola, Stephan Agricola.

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (January 12, 2009):
[To James Atkins Pritchard] Actually, the 1911 Britannica is wrong. The first four-part setting was in the Hymnal shortly after its composition in 1529, and then by Johann Walt(h)er. Luther's setting and that in the hymnal were both monolineal, but Walt(h)er's was polyphonic (a Motet).

Aryeh Oron wrote (January 12, 2009):
David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote:
"Actually, Aryeh, Johann Agricola was not a musician or composer. Of the Agricolas active during Luther's lifetime and shortly thereafter (Johann, Stephan, and Martin) only Martin Agricola was the musician/composer/hymnist. The other two were theologians and ministers."
I do not understand your point.

Georg Ludwig Agricola was a composer, as you can read in his bio page.
Among other things, he comnposed "Meinen Jesum laß ich nicht" for 12-18 voices/parts baded on the Chorale Melody "Meinen Jesum laß ich nicht".

Johann Agricola was a hymn-writer. I have not said that he was a composer
He wrote "Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ", used by J.S. Bach in Cantatas BWV 177 (all 5 mvts.) and BWV 185 (Mvt. 5).
As Thomas Braatz informed me, according to recent hymnals Johann Agricola's authorship of this hymn is now questionable. However, all the sources I have checked (including the liner notes by C. Wolff to Koopman's Bach Cantatas Vol. 21) still list him as the writer of this hymn.

Johann Friedrich Agricola, a pupil of J.S. Bach, was also a composer as you can read in his bio page.

Martin Agricola was a theorist and composer. I an not aware of any hymn he had written as you suggested.

Stephan Agricola bio is not presented on the BCW, because I am not aware of any Bach connection (direct or inderct).

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (January 14, 2009):
Aryeh Oron wrote:
< Johann Agricola was a hymn-writer. I have not said that he was a composer
He wrote "Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ", used by J.S. Bach in Cantatas >
BWV 177 (all 5 mvts.) and BWV 185 (Mvt. 5).
Thomas Braatz informed me, according to recent hymnals Johann Agricola's authorship of this hymn is now questionable. However, all the sources I have checked (including the liner notes by C. Wolff to Koopman's Bach
Cantatas Vol. 21) still list him as the writer of this hymn. >
I respond thusly:

Johann Agricola (also appearing as Johannes Agricola) was not a musician. He wrote the words only to the Choraele that have been assigned to him. He was a preacher and theologian. His was a similar case to that of Paul(us) Gerhardt. He also wrote the words to Choraele, but others wrote the tunes.

William Rowland (Ludwig) wrote (January 14, 2009):
[To David Glenn Lebut Jr.] When will you folks listen to me about who Agricola was. He was not a hymn writer per se. He is chiefly known these days for harmonizing Martin Luther's famous Reformation Hymn, which Bach also took up and did a fuge on. Agricola was a composer in his own write and what we would call today a musicologist. His musicology endeavors include an important text on Renaissance Instruments et al.

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (January 14, 2009):
[To Ludwig] Because you have to specify which Agricola you refer to. The ones I mentioned (Johann and Stephan) were not musicians, whereas Martin was.

Also, as I stated earlier, the first one to set "Ein' feste Burg" in four parts was Johann Walt(h)er.

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 14, 2009):
David wrote:
>He wrote the words only to the Choraele that have been assigned to him.<
I would find this sentence much more clear with the emphasis thusly:

He wrote the words only ...

Douglas Cowling wrote (January 14, 2009):
Ludwig wrote:
< When will you folks listen to me about who Agricola was. He was not a hymn writer per se. He is chiefly known these days for harmonizing Martin Luther's famous Reformation Hymn. >
I understand he played the blockflüte until he moved to England.

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 14, 2009):
Doug wrote:
>I understand he played the blockflüte until he moved to England.<
Beating me to the punch by a demisemiquaver! If I were driving, I would have to pull over to prevent an accident from the laughter.

How much fun can one guy have in one lifetime? Trying to set the standard, I am, as ever

William Rowland (Ludwig) wrote (January 14, 2009):
[To David Glenn Lebut Jr.] Walther lived during Bach's Time. If I recall correctly---Bach (J.S) the greater and Walther knew each other. Agricola lived during the Renaissance and as far as I know when we are talking about music --it refers only to Martin.

Julian Mincham wrote (January 14, 2009):
<< He is chiefly known these days for harmonizing Martin Luther's famous Reformation Hymn. >>
< I understand he played the blockflüte until he moved to England. >
An event which I understand to be very well recorded!

 

OT: Picander- a hack or a gifted writer?

Mahiruha wrote (February 2, 2010):
I am writing a short article on Bach's longtime collaborator, Henrici (Picander), for another forum.

On the back cover of one of my St. Matthew Passion (BWV 244) LPs, the commentator describes Picander as "a facile literary hack of no unusual talent."

Is this fair? I mean, I think the lyrics of the St. Matthew Passion (BWV 244) are beautiful, evocative and quite moving.

Thank you for your time, and I apologize for interrupting the flow of discussion.

William Rowland (Ludwig) wrote (February 2, 2010):
[To Mahiruha] Picander was NO Shakespeare or great literary writer as Goethe and certainly not a great poet as the German equivalent of Keats---Picander's poetry is mediocre at best. He did have a gift for delivering what Bach needed for his cantatas and he was also a very convenient writer for Bach since he was the Pastor of the Church and Bach his Organist/Music director. While the musical setting IS great the literary is not and if it were not for Bach's settings---Picander would have long ago been forgotten and his efforts lost in the garbage dump of human history. Bach's music flatters Picander's efforts. It is like a great actor giving an illuminating performance to a play by a sub-mediocre playwright that barely gets off the ground but attracts a great audience because of the masterful performance of the actor.

Ed Myskowski wrote (February 2, 2010):
Mahiruha wrote:
"a facile literary hack of no unusual talent."
IMO, that is a quite nicely turned phrase, if a bit snide.

< Is this fair? I mean, I think the lyrics of the St. Matthew Passion (BWV 244) are beautiful, evocative and quite moving. >
Provide some examples?

Many folks have said it before me. I only echo the throng: Bach has immortalized some very mediocre (to put it kindly) poetry and prose. Especially the prosaic thoughts forced into rhyme.

A random snatch from last weeks canata, immediately at hand (BWV 72/2):

er fuhre mich nur immer hin
auf Dorn und Rosenstrassen


[Let Him lead me always on
down paths of thorns and roses]

In fact, there is something exotic about <auf Dorn und Rosenstrassen>. Now I will have to go back, find a score, and see if Bach actually stopped (musically) to smell the roses. To feel the thorns.

Julian Mincham wrote (February 2, 2010):
[To Ed Myskowski] Ed small correction, it is BWV 72/3 not 2.---and Dürr attributes this text to Salomo Franck

The aria is another of Bach’s original movement structures, loosely based upon the ritornello principle but combining it with a reiterated ‘motto’ theme for specific emphasis. A fine example of this approach is to be found in the soprano and bass duet from BWV 79 which begins with a four bar assertion----Ah God, do not forsake your children evermore. What follows is a textbook ritornello movement but the strong motto theme is repeated unaltered throughout.

In BWV 72 the principle is the same. The significant opening line states unequivocally---everything I am and have, I entrust to Jesus. The soprano sings this at the beginning of the movement, lightly accompanied by the continuo so as to obscure nothing of the message. This ‘motto’ phrase is heard four more times (beginning in bars 17, 27, 42 and 68). It is always sung at the same pitch and in the same key although not always to the same words. Nevertheless it conveys the fundamental notion underpinning not only the aria but, indeed, the entire cantata.

Ideas derived from the last lines of the stanza-----my mind and soul may not be capable of fathoming His purpose but He may yet lead me through the paths of roses and thorns are reflected in the instrumental motives which expresse the sense of personal inadequacy, yet stretching out to grasp that which is offered. The continuous string quavers suggest both the all-encompassing benefice we seek to receive from the Almighty and the complexities of the route we must follow in order to achieve it.

There is a moment of passing word painting with a briefly convoluted vocal line at the mention of the ‘thorns’ (bar 62).

Neil Halliday wrote (February 2, 2010):

Julian Mincham wrote:
>There is a moment of passing word painting with a briefly convoluted vocal line at the mention of the thorns (bar 62).<
Quite so, Julian; and also that entire section, based on the line "whether he leads me on streets of thorns or roses" (this is the meaning that Rilling's booklet suggests), is the only section in the entire aria that modulates markedly away from the home key (D minor); a harmonic structure based on a circle of fifths can be observed, beginning bar 53, namely, D dom7, G dom7, C dom7, F dom7 etc, so perhaps the shifting modality of this section may itself be considered as tone painting.

This contrasts strongly with the mostly straightforward D minor presentation associated with the other sentences: "With all that I have and am, I want to give myself to Jesus" and "If my weakness cannot grasp the Highest's counsel", always set to the same initial melodic motif (except for the last repetition of "Mit Allem...").

I love the varied, decorative, extended treatments given to "lassen" and "fassen"; sometimes the lower notes reached here by the alto voice seem to disappear behind the instruments in a manner which is quite charming.

Julian Mincham wrote (February 2, 2010):
[To Neil Halliday] Neil good point.

There is still quite a lot to be said and writeen about Bach's use of harmonic progressions (and choral textures too) in the portrayal of textual meaning.

Douglas Cowling wrote (February 2, 2010):
Bach & Picander

William Hoffman wrote:
< Please, let's stop the knee-jerk trashing of Picander. The 19th century can be excused for its intellectual myopia. >
I've always used the title of this cantata as a joke when people ask how I am. I like "Mein Herze Schwimmt im Blut" (BWV 199) and "Die ganze Welt in nur ein Hospital" (BWV 25) as rejoinders as well.

On Sunday, I went to the Bach Vespers at the Church of the Redeemer in Toronto during which they performed the cantata (incredible young tenor from the university who will really go places)

Each Vespers has a short reflection/homily/sermon, and I was surprised that the preacher chose the opening of "Ich Steh mit einen Fuss" as her text. For her it provided a link to the tragedy of Haiti where people trapped in the rubble were literally standing with one foot in the grave. Quite eloquent.

It also served as a corrective that, although we laugh at Bach's librettos, his audiences may very well have been moved and inspired by both the text and music. Bach respected and worked with these poets as colleagues. He didn't see himself trapped in time and space with fools -- he may have even written some of the poetry himself. We injure Bach when we try to extract him from the historical world he lived in.

Douglas Cowling wrote (February 2, 2010):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< A random snatch from last weeks canata, immediately at hand (BWV 72/2):
er fuhre mich nur immer hin
auf Dorn und Rosenstrassen
[Let Him lead me always on
down paths of thorns and roses]
In fact, there is something exotic about <auf Dorn und Rosenstrassen>. Now I will have to go back, find a score, and see if Bach actually stopped (musically) to smell the roses. To feel the thorns. >
Mozart and Schikaneder liked the image as well in The Magic Flute:

Pamina:

Die Liebe leite mich!
Sie mag den Weg mit Rosen streu'n,
Weil Rosen stets bey Dornen seyn.
Spiel du die Zauberflöte an;

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (February 2, 2010):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< It also served as a corrective that, although we laugh at Bach's librettos, his audiences may very well have been moved and inspired by both the text and music. >
Or maybe not.

Maybe instead the parishoners wished the 3 hour service would hurry up, so they could go home and have something to eat and warm up after having sat in a freezing cold church. As JEG has noted remorsefully in one of his documentaries, we do not have a single account from 25 years of any cantata services Bach conducted. Not one diary entry, absolutely nothing. That's remarkable considering how many parishoners, town council staff, school staff, teachers, musicians and choir boys passed through St. Thomas over 25 years. For a guy who demands any proof about anything Bach related, it's remarkable you jump to these sorts of "rose-colored" glasses conclusions about his texts and the possible impact they had. We simply do not have any evidence.

< Bach respected and worked with these poets as colleagues. He didn't see himself trapped in time and space with fools -- he may have even written some of the poetry himself. We injure Bach when we try to extract him from the historical world he lived in. >
And by the same token: hagiography for Bach's librettos doesn't do him justice, or the music any favors either I'm afraid. By any literary standard, most 18th century cantata texts are pretty bad, because most of them were written by amateur Lutherean pastors (please reread thisentence before anyone posts lists of the exceptions). Brockes and Klopstock (Der Messias") are notable exceptions I think. So what if Bach wrote poor cantata texts? Mozart wrote some of the most filthy songs and canons and his hack poetry doesn't affect his genius ONE bit.

Aryeh Oron wrote (February 2, 2010):
[To Mahiruha] Thomas Braatz suggested the detailed explanation of Picander given by Spitta in his Bach biography.
See: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Articles/SpittaPicander.pdf
Since the original book is from 1873, the English translation is from 1889 and the Dover publication is OOP, I do not believe that there is a copyright issue with quoting a large segment from this book. However, if anyone is aware of such a problem, please inform me.

Douglas Cowling wrote (February 2, 2010):
Kim Patrick Clow wrote:
< For a guy who demands any proof about anything Bach related, it's remarkable you jump to these sorts of "rose-colored" glasses conclusions about his texts and the possible impact they had. We simply do not have any evidence. >
LOL. You're absolutely right. But as a mediocre poet myself, I feel sorry for Picander.

Ed Myskowski wrote (February 2, 2010):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< He didn't see himself trapped in time and space with fools -- he may have even written some of the poetry himself. >
For an alternative perspective, consider the sign-off used by TNT, quoting Bach:
<The authorities are odd, and little interested in music, so that I must live amid almost continual vexation, envy, and persecution; accordingly I shall be forced, with Gods help, to seek my fortune elsewhere.> (end quote)

The Bach Reader (1966 edition), p. 125. From the letter Bach Applies for Another Position. Leipzig, Oct. 28, 1730

Contrary evidence invited, especially re Wills hypothesis of Bach the contented composer. I remain open-minded, but unconvinced.

Julian Mincham wrote (February 2, 2010):
[To Ed Myskowski] What man (or woman) amongst us is truly contented?

Ed Myskowski wrote (February 4, 2010):
Aryeh Oron wrote:
< Thomas Braatz suggested the detailed explanation of Picander given by Spitta n his Bach biography.
See:
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Articles/SpittaPicander.pdf >
Much illuminating material here, which strikes me from a quick look as supportive of many of Dougs thoughts, especially:
(1) Bach was involved interactively in preparation of the texts .
(2) Whatever we might think a few centuries later, the texts were not unpopular with Bach's comtemporaries.
(3) The working professional (professional poet?!) accommodates to the job at hand.

Mahiruha wrote (February 6, 2010):
I just wanted to thank all of you for indulging my query, and for the generous response I have received. I know now to where I should turn for inspiration and instruction.

Many, many thanks to Thomas Braatz for supplying me with that fascinating entry on Picander by Spitta.

And Aryeh, I am and will always be in awe of your dedication and devotion to this great music. Thank you for moderating and maintaining this unique site. It is a treasure.

 

Christiana Mariana von Ziegler

Thomas Shepherd wrote (May 6, 2010):
EARLY MUSIC SHOW BBC radio3

5 Jun 2010
13:00 (BST)
Mariane von Ziegler
Catherine Bott examines Bach's cantata collaboration with author Mariane von Ziegler.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00smnw7

William Hoffman wrote (May 7, 2010):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< PS is anyone on list able to give a brief review of the recent book on Mariana von Ziegler by Mark Peters? >
I'll be utilizing it in the context of the Easter season cantata discussion. There is much interesting material, also I'll listen to the BBC feed.

Douglas Cowling wrote (May 7, 2010):
William Hoffman wrote:
< There is much interesting material, also I'll listen to the BBC feed. >
I was disappointed in the program. Lots of nice recordings of canatas with her libretti, but not much in the way of historical detail or literary analysis.

I still wonder if Anna Magdalena was ever pissed off that Sebastian took off to Christiana's salon.

"You going out again?

I'm stuck here with these kids and have to copy out your cantatas while you go flirt with that Ziegler woman!

It has to stop. For the next cantata cycle, go find some postmaster to write you poems!

Es ist genug!"

William Hoffman wrote (May 7, 2010):
Douglas Cowling:
< I still wonder if Anna Magdalena was ever pissed off that Sebastian took off to Christiana's salon.
"You going out again?
I'm stuck here with these kids and have to copy out your cantatas while you go flirt with that Ziegler woman!
It has to stop. For the next cantata cycle, go find some postmaster to write you poems!
Es ist genug!" >
Dear Magda: As soon as I finish this second cantata cycle, we'll take a vacation this summer, go to Weissenfels, Koethen, and Zerbst. Wish we could visit Carlsbad again.

Meanwhile, there is Friedelena Margaretha, Maria Barbara's older sister, who has taken care of all my children since 1707, as well as my oldest daughters and our children's Leipzig godparents.

I am starting a a Little Notebook for you, like the one for Friedemann. I'm also arranging a double concerto for you, with violin and oboe. Also, I am ordering some fine French wines and Swiss chocolates, and Telemann is sending you some calypso orchids. And one of these days, we'll get our home remodeled. Sebastian

Evan Cortens wrote (May 7, 2010):
William Hoffman wrote:
< PS is anyone on list able to give a brief review of the recent book on Mariana von Ziegler by Mark Peters?
I'll be utilizing it in the context of the Easter season cantata discussion. There is much interesting material, also I'll listen to the BBC feed. >
I've just worked my way through the entire Peters book. It's fair to say that, for anything to do with Ziegler/Bach, it's indispensable, if only because it's the most significant study of such things to date, in any language. Perhaps the only criticism I can offer is that it's only 200 pages long. The first 50 pages is an extensive biography of Ziegler herself; great reading. The final 50 pages are appendices and such. This leaves only 100 pages for a discussion of nine cantatas. Necessarily, this means that Peters covers many things by relying on representative samples. That said, I'm sure this stems in part from publisher limitations; Ashgate volumes are usually about this long.

In connection with the book, Peters's article in the journal BACH, based on chapter 2 of the dissertation on which the book is based, is also a must read. I think Peters effectively dispatches the notion that it was Bach who revised the texts. The trouble here is of course that Spitta thought many of the cantatas dates from the 1730s or 40s, well after the 1728 publication of the texts, when they in fact date from 1725, as Durr's chronology shows.

Hope this helps,

Evan Cortens wrote (May 7, 2010):
Apologies, I just realized I was confused; it was actually Julian who asked for a review of the Peters volume.

Ed Myskowski wrote (May 8, 2010):
Evan Cortens wrote:
< Apologies, I just realized I was confused; it was actually Julian who asked for a review of the Peters volume. >
>> In connection with the book, Peters's article in the journal BACH, based on chapter 2 of the dissertation on which the book is based, is also a must read. I think Peters effectively dispatches the notion that it was Bach who revised the texts. <<
Can we get this conclusion from the published Peters dissertation, article in journal BACH, or both? (Hopefully not neither!)

Thanks for the reply to Julians question; . von Ziegler is an interesting topic in the (frantic?) first few years of Bachs Leipzg tenure.

Doug Cowling wrote:
< es ist genug >
Is it out of the question that she contributed to the text of the otherwise anonymous BWV 82: <Ich habe genu[n]g>? (1727, with adoption of an earlier aria, also included in the AMB notebook of 1725).

Enough of that gossip.

Julian Mincham wrote (May 8, 2010):
I've just checked the price for this book--52 quid seems a bit steep for a 200 page book? Amazon even quotes the second hand copies at over 30 quid. Anyone know of a better bargain?

 

Bach's Grand Plan
Sebastian & Marianne

Continue of discussion from: Bach Composing - Part 7 [General Topics]

Thérèse Hanquet wrote (October 27, 2010):
[To Julian Mincham] Maybe these are stupid questions, but if the librettist is anonymous, how do we know when he died?

And if there is not a shred of evidence that he wrote the texts of cantatas, how can we consider him a librettist?

Continue of this part of the discussion, see: Bach’s Librettists [General Topics]

Julian Mincham wrote (October 27, 2010):
[To Thérèse Hanquet] Good questions. Have a look at page 278 of Wolff's book (the Learned Musician) where he propounds the theory (although it had already been around for some time). It is KNOWN that Stübel died at that time--it is THOUGHT by some that he may have been Bach's collaborator in the first 40 cantatas of the cycle (BWV20-BWV1) but there is no supporting evidence that he was----not even a shred! ---he just seems to be a likely candidate.

If you have a look at the introduction to volume 2 on my website on the cantatas (also some of the essays from BWV 1 onwards) you will find I discuss this issue. There is as much (or as little) evidence to suggest that Bach only set out to produce a group of 40 chorale/fantasia cantatas as there is for the 'interrupted grand plan' theory.

Interestingly ,he turned to a woman for 9 (or possibly 10) of the subsequent texts Mariane von Ziegler, an fascinating person about whom a biography was published earlier this year.

Therese Hanquet wrote (October 27, 2010):
[To Julian Mincham] Thanks Julian,

I understand now that you referred to Stübel in your answer.

But it might have been someone else? Or even distinct persons?
Is there evidence (e.g. "litterary patterns") that show there was a single librettist for the first 40 cantatas?

If it was Stübel, is there a reason why he would have remained "anonymous" while it was not the case with
Mariane von Ziegler? Did libretti generally bear the name of the author? (Sorry I do not have Wolff's book...).

As I understand Ed's question, it could also be someone else who (unexpectedly?) left Leipzig at that time, and we would not necessarily have evidence for that? Other easons could be illness, conflicts (even less documented I imagine)...

And why would the anonymous librettist not be also a woman who would have not wanted her name to appear? And/or someone in Bach's family? Is that conceivable?

Evan Cortens wrote (October 27, 2010):
Thérèse Hanquet wrote:
< If it was Stübel, is there a reason why he would have remained "anonymous" while it was not the case with Mariane von Ziegler? Did libretti generally bear the name of the author? (Sorry I do not have Wolff's book...). >
While I can't speak with absolute precision, as I'm writing off the top of my head, Bach's librettos never bear the name of their author. (Or at least I can't think of an instance where they do.) The only way that people have been able to find out who wrote them is that they're often published by the librettist himself, after the fact (or sometimes Bach draws on an already published collection). This former is the case for Picander and Mariane von Ziegler, the latter is the case for Erdmann Neumeister. In fact, the 'Ziegler' cantatas were by an unknown librettist until the late nineteenth century, when Philipp Spitta happened to bump into her first published poetry collection, which contains the nine libretti in question. A few years later, Ziegler completed the full Jahrgang, but Bach is not known to have set any of these later texts.

Douglas Cowling wrote (October 27, 2010):
Sebastian & Marianne

Evan Cortens wrote:
< A few years later, Ziegler completed the full Jahrgang, but Bach is not known to have set any of these later texts. >
The personal and professional relationship of a conservative Cantor with a feminist salonniere would make a wonderful one act play or BBC drama.

So many unanswerered questions ...

Are there more librettos among Bach's lost cantatas?

Did the relationship end for personal or professional reasons?

Did Ziegler continue to publish cantata texts to play on the association with Bach?

Was there social disapproval of the relationship?

Did Anna Magdalena have a role?

Did the church authorities disapprove of texts by a woman?

I'd like to see Helen Mirren as Ziegler and Anthon Hopkins as Bach.

Evan Cortens wrote (October 27, 2010):
[To Douglas Cowling] Fascinating questions! I think part of the issue here relates to Therese's question... did churchgoers in Leipzig even know the libretti were by Ziegler? The initial nine weren't published until 1729, two years after the cantatas were performed. There's an interesting footnote here: Spitta originally thought these cantatas dated from the 1740s, and so thought that Bach had heavily revised Ziegler's libretti. However, since it's turned out that the cantata dating was wrong, the foot is on the other shoe. It seems more likely that Ziegler revised the libretti for publication, rather than Bach for performance. See Mark Peters's article in BACH for more on this.

Speaking of Mark Peters, he makes a big point of discussing these libretti as an instance of a woman's voice in a church where it was otherwise prohibited. His recent book (Ashgate, 2008) is the one to which Julian referred earlier. The first chapter is an excellent biography of her entire career; she was incredibly successful, never mind 'for a woman.'

A lot of your questions have to do with the relationship between Bach and Ziegler.... and this is really the big hole in our knowledge. How did it come that Ziegler wrote these texts in the first place? Did Bach commission her? Did someone else? Were they written already, and Bach simply used them? (This last fits well with the theory that his previous librettist died suddenly...) No one really knows. As far as Ziegler playing off her association with Bach, again, I doubt that this was known very widely. If this were her plan, it wasn't especially successful. As far as anyone knows, no one else set any of her libretti either... (Then again, there's no grand catalogue of all eighteenth-century Lutheran cantatas!)

Ed Myskowski wrote (October 27, 2010):
Thérèse Hanquet wrote:
< Thanks Julian,
I understand now that you referred to Stübel in your answer.
But it might have been someone else? Or even distinct persons?
Is there evidence (e.g. "literary patterns") that show there was a single librettist for the >first 40 cantatas?
If it was Stübel, is there a reason why he would have remained "anonymous" while it was not the >case with Mariane von Ziegler? Did libretti generally bear the name of the author? (Sorry I do not have >Wolff's book...).
As I understand Ed's question, it could also be someone else who (unexpectedly?) left
Leipzig at that time, and we would not necessarily have evidence for that? Other easons could be >illness, conflicts (even less documented I imagine)... >
Yes, that was the point of my question. It was not specific to Stubel, but rather to the interruption, apparently sudden and unexpected, of the source of librettos. Note that I asked the question in the context of Dougs specualtive five-year grand plan, and especially in support of the idea that just because Bach did not complete the plan does not mean that he never had such a plan. In , I notice from the current discussions, the comparisons in unusual architecture for cantatas for the Sundays after Easter from the first and second Leipzig cycles (Jahrgang I and II), in support of large-scale conceptual planning. This is exactly the kind of observation we originally hoped would come out of the current discussion format, and which is easily overlooked otherwise.

I would also like to emphasize Thereses observation that anonymous is not necessarily a single person, and point out that unknown is likely a more accurate description. Do we have any evidence that these unknown librettists were anonymous by choice, or design? In particular, are text authors identified in the surviving published booklets? Many of the known text authors are known by current research, rather because they signed any particular score. So even if they were not intentionally anonymous, where would there names have been publicized?

I did not review Wolff’s discussion at the moment, but I do recall that he endorses the idea that the unusual (and new to Bach, if not new, period) relation of libretto and chorale texts, from the beginning of Jahrgang II through the first 40 works, suggests a single author. This is also supportive (but certainly not conclusive) of an unexpected death, or other unplanned interruption. Stubel is suggested mainly because he may have been qualified, and his death certainly fits the required timing.

TH:
< And why would the anonymous librettist not be also a woman who would have not wanted her name >to appear? And/or someone in Bach's family? Is that conceivable? >
EM:
Yes, but see above. Unknown and anonymous are not exactly synonomous, although I think they are used that way in the Bach literature. In fact, it is conceivable that the group includes both truly anonymous, and simply unknown, authors.

Julian Mincham wrote (October 28, 2010):
[To Thérèse Hanquet] Most of the questions you raise remain possibilities as does the theory that Bach only set out to compose chorale cantatas up until easter in the first instance.

The fact is that any possible answers to these questions must be purely speculative. However I guess that von Ziegler is particularly remembered as the first woman to provide texts--it is generally belived that only men had done this previosly, and there is an assumption that the musical integrity of the first 40 cantatas of the cycle implies a unity and integrity of texts as well---but it is only an assumption.

Might i suggest that you put Wolff's book on a list of 'birthday and christmas presents I would like to receive!' It's good to read and worth having at hand for purposes of reference. I think the paperback edition is reasonably inexpensive now.

Ed Myskowski wrote (October 28, 2010):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< However I guess that von Ziegler is particularly remembered as the first woman to provide texts--it is generally believed that only men had done this previosly >
Of course, generally believed assumes that unknown and/or anonymous were men!

I belive some clever lady has a succesful book (not specific to Bach) with a title along the line of Anonymous Was a Woman.

Anne (Nessie) Russell wrote (October 29, 2010):
Anonymous was a Woman [was: Bach's Grand Plan]

Ed Myskowski said:
< Of course, generally believed assumes that unknown and/or anonymous were men!
I believe some clever lady has a succesful book (not specific to Bach) with a title along the line of Anonymous Was a Woman. >

I haven't read the book. I will have to look it up. I agree with the premise. We know that many women have used male pen names. I have often wondered how many women have had their work published under a husband's name. I also wonder if Anna M composed.

Thérèse Hanquet wrote (October 29, 2010):
[To Nessie Russell] I agree!

I was precisely thinking about the (sad) story of Camille Claudel, whose work was long left in the shadow of her lover, Auguste Rodin (and of her brother, Paul Claudel): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camille_Claudel

And how about Bach's daughters? They could also have had musical gifts...

Julian Mincham wrote (October 29, 2010):
[To Nessie Russell] We know that many women have used male pen names. I have often wondered how many women have had their work published under a husband's name.

One excellent example of a very accomplished and overlooked woman was Mendelssohn's sister Fanny.

Douglas Cowling wrote (October 30, 2010):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< One excellent example of a very accomplished and overlooked woman was Mendelssohn's sister Fanny. >
And Mozart's sister.

Among all those Frau and Fraülein Bachs, there must have been talent.

Hmmmm ... Perhaps Anna Magdalena visited Marianne von Ziegler to chat about the state of women in the arts.

Ed Myskowski wrote (October 30, 2010):
[To Nessie Russell] It is definitely not relevant to Bach, so drifting off-topic. Mostly specific to the contributions of women to early American culture, including anonymous artworks: samplers, quilts, etc.

If you are a feminist (as I am!), you will enjoy both the art, and the anonymity.

Ed Myskowski wrote (October 30, 2010):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< Hmmmm ... Perhaps Anna Magdalena visited Marianne von Ziegler to chat about the state of women in the arts. >
Scandal in the offing? Looking for that shred of evidence, to support some speculation.

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (October 30, 2010):
[To Ed Myskowski] The real tragic story with Bach's children? The girls who never had any chances or opportunities to become composers in their own right. They were more than likely had just as much talent as their more famous brothers, but due to the constraints of the circumstances of the period, we'll never know. The same idea applies to Mozart's sister too.

Douglas Cowling wrote (October 30, 2010):
[To Ed Myskowski] "Sebastian, why is there pink wig powder on your jacket?"

George Bronley wrote (October 30, 2010):
[To Douglas Cowling] Do you think that JSB had any free time to flirt?

Douglas Cowling wrote (October 30, 2010):
[To George Bromley] Well, we do know that he had a well-developed sex drive!

Julian Mincham wrote (October 30, 2010):
[To George Bromley] Unless the Rector was sneaking in while Bach was in the composing room--he must have spent a lot of time there!

George Bronley wrote (October 30, 2010):
[To Julian Mincham] no doubt composing himself for when mrs B got there.

Harry W. Crosby wrote (October 30, 2010):
All of you contributor's pertinent remarks --- plus a little general knowledge of European society during the Renaissance and thereafter --- only make more poignant the story of Barbara Strozzi, born 1619, Giulio Strozzi's illegitimate daughter, a virtual outcast from polite society, but elevated by her father to be the mistress of an inner circle of patrician Venetian music lovers --- whose collective influence may have been a major force in the publication of many of her compositions, or at least opening that door.

I find her work very strong and quite avant garde for any composer in the late 1630s to 1650s.

A lesser example of a woman fortuitously placed would be Anna Bon di Venezia, born 1740 of musical parents employed in a German court who could train her, give her a position in the court orchestra, and make it possible for three opus numbers of her compositions to be promptly published. To me, her works are charming and it is one of those historical bummers that she apparently died in her early twenties.

Julian Mincham wrote (October 30, 2010):
[To George Bromley] I don't reckon she would have interrupted him for a 'bit of that' in the composing room. I reckon JS would have finished the night's work and gone and woken her up!

Unless she too was working late copying out parts!

Would be wonderful to have a bit more insight into the private life of the busy Bachs----alas.

Marva Watson wrote (October 30, 2010):
[To Julian Mincham] I am enjoying this bit of speculation and banter about women compose. Can anyone recommend some good books/reading/papers on little known women composers? Especially their life stories, (i.e. Barbara Strozzi). Has anyone done and research or writing on the Bach women?

Evan Cortens wrote (October 30, 2010):
[To Marva Watson] It's worth noting in this context that David Yearsley has recently written a paper entitled "What is a Sängerin?" exploring exactly these sorts of things. Specifically, he imagines (no hard evidence of such a thing!) a performance of the Coffee Cantata, in which Bach's wife and daughter participate.

The paper isn't yet published, but it was discussed in a conference report for the recent "Women in Baroque Music" conference at Yale, appearing in a recent issue of Early Music.

Douglas Cowling wrote (October 30, 2010):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< Would be wonderful to have a bit more insight into the private life of the busy Bachs----alas. >
I've often wondered what AMB's public role as Frau Cantor Bach was like. As the wife of a court musician she would have had much more social and artistic freedom. She may well have had a public profile as a singer. But the collegiate church system retained much of its monastic, celibate structure in which wives had no social place (some fellowships in Oxford still require its members to be unmarried!). It must have quite a sacrifice to give up her public persona for a strictly domestic role. She may well have had no public social role. One wonders whether Bach's Notebooks are a tribute to her frustrated talents and a gracious acknowledgement of her singular contribution to the musical formation of their children.

 

The Role of Librettos

Douglas Cowling wrote (August 10, 2013):
Although we have little taste for the librettos which Bach set and to which he seems to have given considerable importance, their publication would seem to indicate that the cantata was as much a literary event as a musical occasion. That would underline the suggestion that an educated portion of Bach's congregation appreciated the literary aspects of his music in its forms, genres and particular word-painting.

The printing of word-books was ubiquitous in the 17th and 18th century for all vocal music, but paritcularly for oratorios and operas. James Levine fnally agreed to surtitles at the Met because of the historical evidence
that the reading of librettos was an intrinsic part of the 18th & 19th century operatic expereince. Only Wagner turned out the lights.

I suspect that tha librettos were part of a larger tradition of devotional reading which complemented the conventional predictability of the Sunday liturgy.

William Zeitler wrote (August 10, 2013):
[To Douglas Cowling] A practice I've adopted at my own organ post is to include a 'music box' in the bulletin: a paragraph or two about one of the pieces I'm playing. I generally avoid straight boring bios, and look for interesting anecdotes about the composer or piece that give it some context in the culture of the time or life of the composer.

I've been surprised at how popular they have been.

I hadn't thought of my 'music boxes' as being consistent with a long historical practice that goes back at least to Bach of accompanying printed materials -for Sunday morning!

To really do the 'Bach' idea I guess I could publish and sell each year's worth as a collection. Hmm.

Arthur Ness wrote (August 10, 2013):
[To Douglas Cowling] Some opera librettos were sold with candles for reading. Candle wax can still be seen on some surviving copies.

Peter Smaill wrote (August 10, 2013):
The librettos are of increasing interest due to Tatiana Shabalina's discoveries in St Petersburg, which have allowed several to be redated. However, the mysteries of authorship remain.

I'd be interested to know why several posts say the Council had to approve them. My recollection is that Rochlitz recorded that it was an ecclesiastical authority, Superintendent Deyling, (who predated and survived Bach in his 35 year tenure), who could veto them. IMHO the variety of doctrinal emphases, some crypto Calvinist, and a few texts from the Meiningen court which are nature-worshipping or pantheist (no mention of Christ happens ), indicate Deyling was quite broad minded for a Lutheran at this date.

Here is the quote from Stiller, "Johann Sebastian Bach and Liturgical life in Leipzig" p 219:

"Bach "regularly at the beginning of the week sent several (usually three) texts of his church cantatas arranged for the day and Deyling then chose one"

This report relates to the last decades of Bach's cantorate so we can interpret it as implying selection from the cycles already composed. Stiller goes on however to say that the implication is that Deyling always had this function and would have vetoed the original texts when introduced in Bach's early tenure if unhappy with them.

There is of course the banning by the Council of a performance of the St John Passion in but it is the only recorded instance we have of their interference in Bach's musical performances, and that despite the inhibition on theatricality stated at the beginning of the cantorate: completely ignored by Bach as far as we can see!

William Hoffman wrote (August 10, 2013):
The Role of Librettos and Literacy

[To Peter Smaill] Robin Leaver, I believe, has researched home devotional books but now is working on a collection of essays (?CUP) on the Matthew Passion. It is possible that church pastors encouraged devotional book reading, as well as the catechism for parents to teach their children. In addition, it also is possible that a pastor, presenting an annual series of emblematic sermons (see Duerr, Cantatas of JSB Intro.) on certain biblical themes, may have published them and it may be that on occasion a composer may have done an annual cycle related to these sermons. Duerr mentions Christian Weiss returning to the pulpit at Easter Season 1724, possibly for a series of emblematic sermons.

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (August 10, 2013):
William Hoffman wrote:
< It is possible that church pastors encouraged devotional book reading, >
It's not even a question really at this point. Gotha's court library is loaded with all sorts of these books; and took it quite seriously, even if they preferred short and very direct to the point cantatas (that applies to Zerbst too, where Fasch got into trouble more than once for his cantatas being too long and had some texts rejected for religious reasons).

Douglas Cowling wrote (August 10, 2013):
Kim Patrick Clow wrote:
< It's not even a question really at this point. Gotha's court library is loaded with all sorts of these books >
Was there any reading of devotional books DURING the service? 18th century Catholics of course came armed with books to a Latin liturgy, but did Lutherans also read non-liturgical texts during their three-hour marathons in church?

Douglas Cowling wrote (August 10, 2013):
Kim Patrick Clow wrote:
< they preferred short and very direct to the point cantatas (that applies to Zerbst too, where Fasch got into trouble more than once for his cantatas being too long and had some texts rejected for religious reasons). >
Which official made the ecclesiastical decision?

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (August 11, 2013):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< Which official made the ecclesiastical decision? >
It came from the Duke himself (Frederick Augustus) to the court pastor "Dr Kluge." Fasch writes in a letter of 1752 the poet Uffenbach explaining he would have to split up the cantata text into two parts because "it has been made known to me..." because it was too long.

"Verwichenen Advent wurde der wirkliche Anfang mit Aufführung dieses Jahrganges [texts by Schmolck] gemacht; allein, da die Herrn Prediger eine Erinnerun bekahmen [sic], sich etwas Kürzer zu fassen, so wurde uach mir zu verstehen gegeben, dass die Music etwas zu lang wäre, welchedenn zu beygefügter unterthänigster Auflage Gelegenheit gabe und die gnädigst daneben signierte Resolution obligirte mich aus einem Stück zwey zu machen, in der Mitte Choräle (wie das zweite beygefügte Büchel weisst) anzufügen und nunmehro dahin zu sorgen, dass zur anderen Hälffte Chöre woran zum Anfange ausgeführt würden."

Fasch > Friedirch von Uffenbach in Frankfurt/Main 1st March 1752

Many thanks to Brian Clark who provided me with this information.

Douglas Cowling wrote (August 11, 2013):
Kim Patrick Clow wrote:
< It came from the Duke himself (Frederick Augustus) to the court pastor "Dr Kluge." Fasch writes in a letter of 1752 the poet Uffenbach explaining he would have to split up the cantata text into two parts because "it has been made known to me..." because it was too long. >
My German isn't good enough to tell if the cantata is being split into two sections flanking the sermon or just one half is being performed.

Interesting to note the line of command from Duke to Dr. Kluge (!) the pastor, to Fasch the composer, to the librettist Ufenbach. That would suggest that the composer had the responsibility to find or commission librettos.

Are there any examples when Bach was given a pre-existing text and told to set it?

William Hoffman wrote (August 11, 2013):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< Are there any examples when Bach was given a pre-existing text and told to set it? >
There are a few examples: Strophic aria, "Alles mit Gott und nichts ohn' ihn," BWV 1127, for Weimar Duke Wilhlem Ernst birthday 1713 (12 stanzas), BCW Discussion, Week of August 25, and the Gottshed Ode text for the Christiane Eberhardine funeral, October 1727 which Bach set (restructured) as Cantata BWV 198. I suspect other funeral and wedding works may have had texts already prepared, some with chosen chorale stanzas, as well as academic commissions. Some of these will be discussed later this year when we examine the secular cantatas, serenades, and drammi per musica.

Douglas Cowling wrote (August 11, 2013):
William Hoffman wrote:
< I suspect other funeral and wedding works may have had texts already prepared, some with chosen chorale stanzas, as well as academic commissions >
When you say texts already prepared, are you saying that Bach did not have any input into those texts?

 

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Last update: ýOctober 12, 2013 ý20:52:35