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Cantatas for Reformation

 

 

Cantatas for Reformation Sunday

Continue of discussion from: Lutheran Mass BWV 236 - Discussions

Cara Emily Thornton wrote (May 21, 2004):
Nanraelle wrote: < Although I haven't heard the actual cantata, I've just gone to the site and looked the lyrics up, and I would agree with Neil as to the origin of the military attitude of the music. Seeing that it is on Reformation Sunday that the cantata was supposed to be sung, and the lyrics are taken from Psalm 84:12 (a Psalm about the church and the psalmist's love for it), I would think that Bach meant to illustrate the stance of the church as militant, on earth, as it certainly was for everyone to see during Martin Luther's time. However, the events surrounding the composition of the cantata could well be influential on the piece. The glory of it is that the music is relevant to ANY period of time, since Bach wrote it from the Bible, which is the infallible word of eternal God, and itself relevant to any time. So Bach could write for the Reformation, the war of 1735, and even, unwittingly, for the church today, since the battle we fight with the world, the flesh, and the devil, is constant. The Lord is always sun and shield, even outside of 1735. Praise him. >
I have seized upon this message, in that it seems I am to give a full-length recital after our church service on Reformation Sunday this year, and my organist tells me that it will be desirable to take at least some of the material from the cantatas for that day (other than that, I was planning to do a lot of arias involving violin solos, for example 'Laudamus te' from the B minor Mass, since God willing I will have an excellent Baroque violinist at my disposal :) ).

So, besides BWV 79, what other items were written for that occasion?

Joost wrote (May 22, 2004):
< So, besides BWV 79, what other items were written for that occasion? >
According to Dürr, the famous cantata BWV 80 "Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott" is written for Reformation Sunday, and the first part of BWV 76 may have been performed at this occasion as well. It has a fine aria for soprano, violin and continuo!

Cara Emily Thornton wrote (May 22, 2004):
[To Joost] Thanks for info. You want to hear something funny? I just recently did the
alto aria 'Liebt ihr Christen...', which as I recall is from BWV 76 - with
concertante oboe d'amore and viola da gamba.

Have also prepared the tenor aria 'Hasse nur...' from the same cantata (an octave up - it's a bit low for me in the original octave - but I fiddle with the placement of my voice to give it a more tenor-like tone quality), it's just awaiting the right opportunity to perform it...

While I think of it, this latter aria is pretty dramatic, even flamboyant. I am tantalized by the idea of treating it theatrically... So, for example, the first bit is 'Hasse nur, hasse mich recht feindlichs Geschlecht' - and I am just so tempted to make those words 'feindlichs Geschlecht' sound, well, feindlich... How far can I go here before I exceed the bounds of good taste?

Bradley Lehman wrote (May 22, 2004):
[To Cara Emily Thornton] I say, go for it: anything (in tempo, articulation, enunciation, accentuation, etc) that makes the text and message immediately perceptible to your listeners is worth at least a try. That's especially important if you were not going to be doing anything visual with it: things have to be even more clear in the sound alone, in that case, to get the message of the music across.

All this is simply to say: sing it well and expressively, using all your resources; Bach's music deserves no less than that.

The "bounds of good taste" are complained about mainly by people who believe they should be the only ones who get the message, through their supposedly superior perceptive abilities, while all the plebes are just supposed to miss half of it.

See also Geminiani's treatise about Good Taste in music: he shows explicitly how one can use vocal and instrumental inflections to help get the message across. Clarity (i.e. having the music come across as a series of clear and specific musical gestures) IS good taste. He also warns that good taste is not a commodity very well available to people who favor their own opinions too much; rather, that it is an objective set of techniques to make the music more expressive.

Cara Emily Thornton wrote (May 22, 2004):
Bradley Lehman wrote: < I say, go for it: anything (in tempo, articulation, enunciation, accentuation, etc) that makes the text and message immediately perceptible to your listeners is worth at least a try. That's especially important if you were not going to be doing anything visual with it: things have to be even more clear in the sound alone, in that case, to get the message of the music across. >
No, I wasn't going to do anything visual with it - we always perform up in the choir loft at the back of the church, so that we are completely invisible. Furthermore, of course, these are not native speakers of German, so...

Having never heard the aria performed by anyone except myself, my instinct with this content is to take it as fast as the rapid passagework will allow (which is pretty fast), with rather sharp articulation/enunciation (at least in the A theme) and... pictorial tone quality. There are certain little bits of passagework which are suspiciously cadenza-like, for example preceding restatements of the A theme, and I am tempted to treat them explicitly as such, i.e. take liberties with the tempo, but otherwise treat them as 'on one impulse'.

I haven't quite gotten a grip on the B theme. Obviously the harshness has to disappear, though I am thinking it could have a trumpet-like quality, especially at the cadences. The passagework is so lengthy that it is probably impossible to do everything in one breath (as is my custom) or should I just assume it must be possible and simply find a way to do it? The problem is that the phrasing just doesn't work out if I breathe... I mean, given the underlying text ('umfa-a-a-...ssen'), it would even make sense to take it all in one breath. Otherwise I somehow can't figure out how that particular setting fits with that text.

< See also Geminiani's treatise about Good Taste in music: he shows explicitly how one can use vocal and instrumental inflections to help get the message across. Clarity (i.e. having the music come across as a series of clear and specific musical gestures) IS good taste. He also warns that good taste is not a commodity very well available to people who favor their own opinions too much; rather, that it is an objective set of techniques to make the music more expressive. >
Have just attempted to find a PDF of this on the Net - so far unsuccessfully. Any ideas where I could go to look for it?

John Reese wrote (May 22, 2004):
Clara Emily Thornton wrote: < Have just attempted to find a PDF of this on the Net - so far unsuccessfully. Any ideas where I could go to look for it? >
Is this referring to BWV 74? I have a score that came with a recording I bought about 20 years ago (kind of a "prize in the cereal box" sort of deal). I could scan to PDF. Not sure of the copyright implications, since the score wasn't for sale on its own but came for "free" with the recording.

Bradley Lehman wrote (May 23, 2004):
<< See also Geminiani's treatise about Good Taste in music: he shows explicitly how one can use vocal and instrumental inflections to help get the message across. Clarity (i.e. having the music come across as a series of clear and specific musical gestures) IS good taste. He also warns that good taste is not a commodity very well available to people who favor their own opinions too much; rather, that it is an objective set of techniques to make the music more expressive. >>
< Have just attempted to find a PDF of this on the Net - so far unsuccessfully. Any ideas where I could go to look for it? >
The facsimile ispublished as a book: check at a real library. If I remember correctly, the title is "A Treatise of Good Taste in the Art of Musick", Francesco Geminiani.

Good luck!

Cara Emily Thornton wrote (May 23, 2004):
[Toi Bradley Lehman] Thanks for info and good wishes - maybe the Musicology Institute Library at the Jagiellonian University will have it? I am about to go to bed, have a performance in about 9 hours, I'm doing 'I know that my Redeemer liveth', and 'the boys' (or two of them, at least - gamba and bassoon) are going to play a couple of fun shorter works (actually, they go first, now that I think of it). So you can wish us luck, think of us, pray for us, etc.!

Cara Emily Thornton wrote (May 23, 2004):
Thanks for any good wishes and prayers that may have been sent up by folks on this list - I am pleased to report that our performance went well!

Cara Emily Thornton wrote (May 23, 2004):
[To John Reese] Not BWV 74, but rather BWV 76. Is it the BGA (Bach-Gesellschaft-Ausgabe) you have? See, I can Xerox the NBA (Neue Bach-Ausgabe) here, but that is not really legal, because it is new enough that Baerenreiter still holds the copyright to it. The story with the BGA is different because it's over 100 years old, so that the copyright has theoretically expired, the claims of that 'gentleman' I have alluded to elsewhere notwithstanding... Or am I missing something here?

If what you have is BWV 76 in the BGA, then I will be quite interested in your extraordinarily kind offer to scan it for me... Thank you muchly for your thoughtfulness :)

God bless you

John Reese wrote (May 23, 2004):
[To Cara Emily Thornton] You're right, it is BWV 76 that I have. The score has a 1978 copyright by Teldec-Telefunken-Decca-Schallplatten GmbH, so it may not be legal to copy it, although it was not published for resale but as an LP insert.

John Reese wrote (May 23, 2004):
[To Cara Emily Thornton] Were you looking for the score of the entire cantata, or just one of the arias?

Cara Emily Thornton wrote (May 23, 2004):
[To John Reese] One of these days, I'm basically going to have to get the whole thing. I have Xeroxed and performed one aria, and the rest of the ensemble has performed the 'Nach der Predigt' instrumental movement; I have also Xeroxed but not yet performed another aria, and now I am informed there is a pretty soprano aria near the beginning of the cantata, and of course I would find that interesting...

I had been planning to purchase the Carus-Verlag edition of it while in the States this past January, since at last report, Baerenreiter had not yet come out with a performing edition of the NBA - and besides, apparently Carus has a realization of the figured bass in the full score (which is what all of us perform from, as far as possible), and while our organist has many priceless virtues, realizing figured bass at sight is not one of them...

However, there was a mess-up and it didn't get ordered, I was told it would be cheaper and easier to get it in Poland. To the best of my knowledge, this is complete nonsense. I'd be better off ordering it, no doubt, from that music store in Luebeck (Germany) that I've done business with in the past. At very least it would arrive quicker.

I mean, I was told in the States that I ought to order it via the dealer in Krakow, and ask them to have it air couriered to me from the publisher (or something to that effect). When I asked about that back in Poland, they looked at me cluelessly... Yes, Poland is a much more civilized place now than when I moved here 13 years ago, but in this area it still leaves much to be desired.

Never mind... I will manage somehow. Since your edition probably is still copyrighted, it makes no difference legally if I use that or if I just Xerox the NBA - which is actually, from what I understand, the best edition available (and they have the entire set at the musicology library here if they give me trouble about Xeroxing it, I'll just have one of my customers who is associated with the Musicology Institute do it).

But thanks again for your offer!

Bradley Lehman wrote (May 24, 2004):
Cara Emily Thornton wrote: < I had been planning to purchase the Carus-Verlag edition of it while in the States this past January, since at last report, Baerenreiter had not yet come out with a performing edition of the NBA... >
Some of those Carus editions include more recent scholarship than the NBA. I played from one of them last summer (excerpts from one of the cantatas) and found it to be an excellent Urtext score, and very well laid-out for performance also.

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Last update: June 2, 2004 00:57:08