Recordings/Discussions
Background Information
Performer Bios

Poet/Composer Bios

Additional Information

General Topics: Main Page | About the Bach Cantatas Website | Cantatas & Other Vocal Works | Scores & Composition, Parodies, Reconstructions, Transcriptions | Texts, Translations, Languages | Instruments, Voices, Choirs | Performance Practice | Radio, Concerts, Festivals, Recordings | Life of Bach, Bach & Other Composers | Mailing Lists, Members, Contributors | Various Topics


Weimar-Leipzig Occasional Music of Sorrow
Discussions

Weimar-Leipzig Occasional Music of Sorrow

William Hoffman wrote (November 21, 2017):
Bach’s creation of occasional sacred music of sorrow, often based on biblical texts and chorales, occurred as a well-ordered genre in several overlapping phases: initiated at Mülhausen as vocal concerti, BWV 150, 106, and 131, possibly with proto-Cantata BWV 21; initial motets in Weimar, BWV Anh. 159 and 228, with possible early materials later found in Leipzig Motets BWV 226 and 227, and a possible two-part funeral Cantata for Prince Johann Ernst; Leipzig motets of sorrow, BWV 226-230, special commissions for a 1727 funeral, followed by 1727 funeral music for a Saxon queen, BWV 198, and Cöthen Prince Leopold, BWV 244a, both embracing parodied music found in the St. Matthew and St. Mark Passions; new directions in the mid-1730s with a multi-use pure-hymn chorale Cantata 97 and a chorale motet setting, BWV 118; and finally, adaptations of penitential music of other composers Giovanni Pergolesi, cantor predecessors Johann Schelle and Sebastian Knupfer and cousin Johann Ernst Bach, as well as mid-1740s revivals of funeral music of Johann Michael and John Christoph Bach.

Just before Bach moved to Weimar in mid 1708 he may have composed and presented motet-style music found in cantata, BWV 21, "Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis in meinem Herzen" (I had much affliction in my heart, Psalm 94:19) for a Muhlhausen memorial service on June 3, for Dorothea Susanne Eilmar Tilesius. She was the daughter of Georg Christian Eilmar, pastor of the Marienkirche and Bach's mentor and possible librettist of Cantata BWV 71, "Gott is mein König" (God in my King, Psalm 74:12), Town Council installation, February 4, 1708. Cantata 21 has three choruses in old style set to Psalm passages: No. 2, dictum, two-part fugue (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RtJukOAIud4; No. 6, prelude and fugue, "Was betrübst du dich, meine Seele" (Why are you distressed, my soul, Psalm 42:12; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UMCADkEEb_A); and No. 9, motet chorus, "Sei nun wieder zufrieden, meine Seele, denn der Herr tut dir Guts" (Be satisfied again now, my soul, for the Lord does good to you, Psalm 116/7; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9sG8hTkE5xc) with tenor singing Stanza 2 and soprano Stanza 5 of Georg Neumark's (1657) "Wer nur den lieben Gott läßt Walton" (Whoever lets only the dear God reign, NLGB No. 303, Cross, Persecution & Tribulation). The original form of Cantata 21 (movements 2-6 and 9) was produced for a memorial service held on 8th October 1713 at the Church of SS. Peter and Paul in Weimar for the former Prime Minister Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt's wife, Aemilia Maria Haress

The closing prelude and fugue chorus of Cantata 21, No. 11, "Das Lamm, das erwürget ist, ist würdig zu nehmen" (The lamb that was slain is worthy to receive, Rev. 5:12-13; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4YOFG3TfPO4), may have originated in the 1709 Mülhausen Town Council Cantata BWV Anh. 192. Cantata 21 originated in Weimar c.1712, prior to Bach composing music beginning in 1714 for monthly Sunday services (see http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV106-D7.htm and http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV21-D7.htm. It is a transitional cantata between the earlier Buxtehude-style vocal concerto and the modern so-called "Neumeister" Italian style with original poetry. Other transitional Weimar cantatas may have been BWV 143, 18, 63(a).

Following his use of biblical quotations and chorales together in his two early (c.1708) Mühlhausen memorial Cantatas, BWV 106, Gottes Zeit is die allerbeste Zeit (God’s Time is the best time), and BWV 131, “Aus der Tiefen rufe ich, Herr, zu dir” (Out of the depths I cry, Lord, to you, De profundis), Sebastian Bach in Weimar probably turned to composing funerary motets with these same two ingredients that are typical of the German tradition and particularly practiced by Bach Family members.

Two Weimar Memorial Motets

While Bach had composed three cantatas with penitential overtones before going to Weimar in 1708, he then apparently produced two funeral motets and possibly a funeral cantata in the next decade in Weimar, as he sought to perfect the composition of church-year cantatas in the new, Italianate opera tradition while exploring the composition of motets using biblical and chorale texts (see Bach Motets, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_motets_by_Johann_Sebastian_Bach, http://www.monteverdi.org.uk/downloads/booklets/sdg716.pdf). About 1712/13, he composed motet “Ich lasse dich nicht, du segnest mich denn, Mein Jesu" (I will not leave you before you bless me [after Genesis 32:26b], my Jesus), BWV Anh. 159 (Bach Compendium BC C-9), with the 1560 hymn, “Warum betrübst du dich, mein Herz.” About 1715 he composed Motet "Fürchte dich nicht, ich bin bei dir" (Do not fear, I am with you, Isaiah 41:10), BWV 228, with Paul Gerhardt's 1653, "Warum sollt ich mich den grämen?," The two motets identified in recent years are eight-voice, double chorus settings (SSAATTBB) with appropriate chorales.1 Bach also may have composed materials found later in Motets BWV 227 and 226 (see below, “Leipzig Motets of Sorrow”).

Motet BWV Anh. 159

Scored for double chorus of two SATB as a prelude and fugue (Section I), Motet BWV Anh. 159 is believed to have been for the Funeral or later Remembrance of the Deceased Service, possibly for the Mayor of Arnstadt's wife, Margarethe Feldhaus, née Wedemann on July 3, 1713. The plain chorale, BWV 421 (authenticity questioned) , probably was added in Leipzig and may have been performed during the funeral of Johann Christoph von Ponickau, noted Leipzig chamberlain, 6 February 1727 at Pomßsen (music, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T7qysPs2xQE; score, http://partifi.org/YHY5P/segment, http://partifi.org/YHY5P/segment/; melody, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/CM/Warum-betrubst.htm).

Motet BWV Anh. 159, Movements, Scoring, Texts, Key, Meter (text & Francis Browne English translation, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/BWVAnh159-Eng3.htm):

1. Motet dialogue between two choruses (prelude 1 and four-voice fugue 2) [SATB/SATB, Continuo]: 4/4 prelude, “Ich lasse dich nicht, du segnest mich denn” I will not let you go, until you bless me, Genesis 32:26b); second chorus repeats in response, then first chorus sings preface, “Mein Jesu (My Jesus), followed by text, “Ich lasse dich nicht, Ich lasse dich nicht”; choruses alternate phrases then portions of phrases (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7o_q9iWXQhE).
2. Measure 84, Fugue (choruses combine) in alle breve 2/2, with ATBs singing “Ich lasse dich nicht,” and the sopranos singing the canto, “Weil du mein Gott und Vater bist, / dein Kind wirst du verlassen nicht.” (Since you are my God and father, / You will not abandon your child); F Major; 4/4.

3. Anhang (Appendix, 1802) (Final four-part Chorale, BWV 421), [SSAATTBB, Continuo]: “Dir, Jesu, Gottes Sohn, sei Preis” (To you Jesus, God's son, be praise); F Major; 4/4 (half notes = whole notes), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QX7ATXpYyaw.

Weimar Motet BWV 228 "Fürchte dich nicht”

The Sebastian Bach authenticity of Motet BWV Anh. 159 was proposed by Daniel R. Melamed. 2 His original article also placed the funeral Motet, "Fürchte dich nicht, ich bin bei dir" (Do not fear, I am with you), BWV 228, in Weimar time. He cites its same structural plan of the polyphonic, eight-part opening chorus (Isaiah 41:10 and 43/1 and chorale setting of two stanzas of Paul Gerhardt's 1653, "Warum sollt ich mich den grämen?" (Why should I grieve?). They are: Stanzas 11 and 12, "Herr, mein Hirt, Brunn aller Freuden!" (Lord, my Shepherd, source of all joys!), and "Du bist mein, weil ich dich fasse" (You are mine, since I seize you). Motet BWV 228 "may not be quite as old as" BWV 159 (Ibid: 521). It also may have been presented in Leipzig for Stadthaputmann Parkbusch's wife or Leipzig Councillor Winkler’s wife on 4 February 1726, although there is no direct evidence to support this date. Motet BWV 228 text and Francis Browne's English translation are found at BCW http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/BWV228-Eng3.htm, music https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5AtB1iWLVuQ). "It is also possible that Bach used another type of orchestral accompaniment with strings only, as a set of parts for the motet `Fürchte dich nicht' reveals. These parts were prepared by someone in the circle of C. P. E. Bach's acquaintances in Berlin around 1760.” 2a

The phrase “fear not” or “be not afraid” (Fürchte dich, nicht”) has its origins in the Prophet Isaiah (41:10): “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” This phrase is the central one in the Old Testament, comparable in the New Testament to Jesus’ greeting, “Peace be unto you” (Luke 24:36), when after his Resurrection, Jesus first appeared to his frightened and terrified disciples in the Upper Room in Jerusalem, asking them, “Why are ye troubled?” In German, the phrase is “Warum betrübst du dich men Herz?” (Why are you trouble, my heart), or more simply, “Fürchte dich, nicht” (Be not afraid).

The Pentecost Sunday Gospel, John 14:23-31, Jesus’ Farewell Discourse to his disciples, includes verse 27: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

The exhortation “Fürchte dich, nicht” “appears about 60 times in the bible, and comes from the mouths of angels and prophets, speaking on God’s behalf, describing great prospects, or announcing important events,” observes Jan Smelik in the liner notes, “Be Not Afraid,” Bach in Context, “Fürchte dich, nicht” (Musica amphion), http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Performers/Belder.htm, C-3.

Weimar Funeral Cantata BC 19

The extended, two-part sacred funeral cantata for Weimar Prince Johann Ernst was presented on Thursday, 2 April 1716, titled “Was ist, das wir Leben nennen?” (What is this that we call life?) Bach Compendium BC B-19, with a surviving text probably by Salomo Franck. No music is extant but the work contained 22 movements. It has not been accepted into the Bach Werke Verzeichnis (BWV) canon and may have been the work of court composer Johann Samuel Drese or his son, Johann Wilhelm. These movements involved three choruses, four chorales, six recitatives, two ariosi, and seven arias. The chorales (with Bach's harmonization) are Michael Franck's "Ach wie flüchtig, ach wie nichtig" (Ah, how fleeting, ah how transitory), cf. plain chorale (A minor/Major), BWV 26/2 (Trinity 24, 1724); Knoll's Passion chorale "Herzlich tut mich verlangen" (Heartily doth await me), cf. plain chorale in D Major, BWV 271=247/58 (Mark Passion, 1731); and Stanzas 1 and 3 of Vulpius' "Christus, der ist mein Leben" (Christ, You are my life), cf. plain chorales BWV 281-2 (F, G Major). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prince_Johann_Ernst_of_Saxe-Weimar.

Later, two other works of Bach were composed in Leipzig for royalty, Funeral Ode BWV 228, “Laß, Fürstin, laß noch einen Strahl" (Let, Princess, let still one more glance), for Saxon Queen Christiane Eberhardine, 17 October 1727, and Köthen funeral music, BWV 244a, “Klagt, Kinder, klagt es aller Welt” (Cry, children, cry to all the world), for Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Köthen, 23 March 1729. Both works involve parody while Cantata 198 also was adapted through parody as a work for All-Souls/Saints Day, November 2 ( http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV198-D6.htm).

Leipzig Motets of Sorrow

Bach’s initial focus in Leipzig was the creation of three cycles of church years cantatas between 1723 and 1727. His interest in music of sorrow focused on his composition of the annual oratorio Passion for Good Friday vespers, with the John and Matthew Passions. Meanwhile, Bach composed three or four motets appropriate for memorial services but only one has been given an actual performance and occasion: Motet BWV 226, Der Geist hilf unser Schwachheit auf” (The Spirit helpeth our infirmities), an eight-voice double chorus setting of Romans 8:26-7, “The Promise the Holy Spirit,” with a closing plain setting of the Lutheran Reformation chorale, “Komm, Heiliger Geist, Herre Gott” (Come, Holy Spirit, Lord God, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vDvfYkVZOE4).” Bach wrote on the chorus score and rare original orchestral parts that the motet was performed at the burial (20 or 24 October 1729) of Johann Heinrich Ernesti, a professor of poetry at the University of Leipzig and Rector of the Thomasschule were Bach was the cantor (http://www.bach-cantatas.com/VD/BWV226.htm, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/VD/BWV226.htm).

Popular motet BWV 227, “Jesu, meine Freude” (Jesus, my joy), is a setting of six stanzas of Johann Franck’s Jesus Song alternating with five motet chorus settings of verses of Apostle Paul’s warning to the Romans 8:1, 2, 9-11). Bach scholars now agree that most of the the work was composed in the late 1720s, using varied motet chorale techniques. At the same time, various rhetorical gestures “are rooted in the seventeenth-century German motet tradition,” particularly in the brothers Johann Christoph and Johann Michael Bach, says Melamed (Ibid.). Both are derived from earlier materials, with BWV 227 chorale movements dating possibly to the Weimar period (http://bach-cantatas.com/VD/BWV227.htm, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gm8bKN9P9wY). Motet BWV 229, Komm, Jesu, komm, Mein Leib ist müde” (Come, Jesus, come, My body is weary, based on the Paul Thymich 1684 funeral motet, survives in a Bach student copy c1731-32 (http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/BWV229-Eng3.htm, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X2b8_eZtjvo). Chorus Motet BWV 230, “Lobet den Herrn, alle Heiden” (Praise the Lord, all ye nations, Psalm 117), ?c.1720-39, lost score copy Johann Christoph Altnikol, copy Breitkopf 1812 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cncl4dXZ2PM, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/BWV230-Eng3.htm).

1727 Funeral Double-Bill

As he completed his St. Matthew Passion and third cantata cycle in early 1727, Bach apparently composed and presented a double bill for a memorial service at the Pomßen church. An intimate tenor-bass solo Cantata 157 “Ich lasse dich nicht, du segnest mich denn!” (I am not letting you go, unless you bless me first!, Genesis 32:26), is based on a Picander text also appropriate for the feast of the feast of the Purification. Cantata 157 closes with the Christian Keymann 1658 “Death & Dying” chorale, “Meinen Jesum lass ich nicht” (I do noleave my Jesus), which also closed the Passion first part on April 11, to a Picander libretto.

After the sermon for Christoph von Ponickau, Leipzig Chamberlain and Privy Councillor, the lost Cantata BWV Anh. 209, “Liebster Gott, vergisst du mich” (“Dearest God, will you forget me?), was performed. It is based on a 1711 text by the Darmstadt court poet Georg Christian Lehms (1684-1717), may have originated for an unknown memorial service in Weimar which emphasized Martin Luther’s Theology of the Cross, and is appropriate for the 7th Sunday after Trinity. The Cantata BWV Anh. 209 central chorale (no. 4) is the Erasmus Alberus 1561 hymn "Warum betrübst du dich, mein Herz" (Why are you afflicted, my heart?), which also is the chorale that closes Motet BWV Anh. 159. This is a version of the free-standing chorale, BWV 421 in F Minor (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QX7ATXpYyaw, while BWV 420 in A minor may be the setting in Cantata BWV Anh. 209 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hDHyYiFQ25o. Possibly originating in Weimar, these two cantatas would serve dual purposes as musical sermons for the church year services, BWV 157 for the Feast of the Purification, and BWV Anh. 209 for the 7th or 15th Sunday after Trinity. Details of both Cantatas 157 and Anh. 209 are found at http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV157-D4.htm, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IkefhmWadTc, and http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWVAnh209-D.htm.

During Bach’s completion of the St. Matthew Passion from 1727 to 1729, he had the good fortune to create special, occasional cantatas for memorial services of dignitaries, music involving adaptations and parodies that constitute part of his great fabric of music of mourning and consolation. Following the initial performance of his St. Matthew Passion on Good Friday, 11 April 1727, Bach received another memorial commission: 17 October 1727 at the Leipzig University Paulinerkircke, Christiane Eberhardine, Queen of Poland and Electoral Princess of Saxony, Cantata BWV 198, “Laß, Fürstin, lass noch einen Strahl” (Let, Princess, let one more ray). Then, on 23-24 March 1729 in Cöthen at the Jacobikirche, Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Köthen, Memorial Cantata BWV 244a (Bach Compendium B 22), “Klagt, Kinder, klagt es aller Welt” (Cry, children, cry to all the world; Z. Philip Ambrose translation).3 Bach used material in Cantata 198, as well as the St. Matthew Passion, for the Köthen performance shortly before his second version of the Passion three weeks later on Good Friday, 15 April. Common to all three memorial works was the poet Christian Friedrich Picander, who used the process of parody, or new-text underlay, to alter BWV Anh. 209, and possibly BWV 157, to parody the music from the Passion, BWV 244, and BWV 198 in BWV 244a, and subsequently parodied BWV 198 core music in the St. Mark Passion in 1731. Thus, in 1727 and 1729, Bach was able to compose funeral works for royalty: Cantata 198 for the Saxon Princess, Cantata BWV 244a for the Köthen Prince, and possibly in 1717, BC B-19 for the Weimar Prince Johann Ernst III.

1729 Cöthen Funeral Cantata

Bach’s last funeral work for royalty, BWV 244a, was the summation of his six-year service in Anhalt-Cöthen for Prince Leopold, as recounted in Peter’s Wollny’s narrative.4 <<On 19 November 1728, Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Cöthen, who had been Johann Sebastian Bach’s employer for many years, died a few days before his thirty-fourth birthday. His death must have seemed to the court like the sad culmination of a series of calamities. While the princely couple were travelling in the summer of 1728, Hereditary Prince Emanuel Ludwig, who was then almost two years old, and Princess Leopoldina Charlotta, aged just one, had died in Cöthen. The prince took the loss of his two young children so much to heart that grief swiftly undermined his health. Although he tried to hide his increasing weakness from his subjects, he soon reached a condition that left no hope of recovery. The prince’s death led to a series of major changes in the small principality of Anhalt-Cöthen. The still young Princess Charlotte Friederike and Leopold’s six-year-old daughter from his First marriage had to vacate the castle and leave it to the prince’s younger brother, who immediately took over the reins of government.

Prince Leopold was not an important ruler, and his reign left few tangible traces. After the early death of his father, he was educated at the court of King Frederick I of Prussia, but although he was prepared for his future role, from the beginning he was interested only in the sciences and the arts, showing especial enthusiasm for music from childhood onwards. At the age of sixteen he embarked on his Grand Tour, which is documented in detail by a travel diary that has fortunately survived. This journal informs us that Leopold went to the opera in The Hague twelve times during the winter of 1710/11 and acquired rare prints of French and Italian music in Holland. A second trip took him to England, where he again assiduously frequented the opera house in London and admired the holdings of the old Bodleian Library in Oxford. Then he made his way to Italy. In Venice alone he spent the handsome sum of 130 Reichstaler on visits to the opera. After his return to his native Cöthen in 1713, he formed a high-powered court orchestra of his own, which consisted largely of members of the recently dissolved Prussian court musical establishment. The prince himself regularly performed in this select circle as an instrumentalist – on the violin, the viola da gamba, and the harpsichord – or singer.

At the end of 1716 Leopold succeeded in engaging for his court a rising star in the musical firmament, the Weimar court organist and Konzertmeister Johann Sebastian Bach. There seems soon to have grown up between Bach and the prince, who was almost ten years his junior, a close relationship marked by mutual high esteem that one could perhaps almost describe as friendship. Later on, Bach himself always portrayed his Cöthen years in obviously idealised terms. He wrote to his childhood friend Georg Erdmann: ‘There I had a gracious prince who both loved and knew music, and in his service I intended to spend the rest of my life.’ Bach laid the responsibility for his departure from Cöthen at the door of the prince’s first wife: ‘It had to come about, however, that the said Serenissimus should marry a Princess of Bernburg, and that the impression should arise that the musical inclinations of the said Prince had become somewhat lukewarm, especially as the new Princess appeared to be an amusa [indifferent to the Muses]: and it pleased God that I be called hither to become Director Musices and Kantor at St Thomas’s School.’ The composer’s rose-tinted view of Cöthen is felt even in the obituary of his father written by Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, which states that Bach left his ‘dearly beloved prince’ only reluctantly in 1723. It seems, however, it was by no means the influence of the ‘amusa’ that drove him from Cöthen. On the contrary, the archives prove that Leopold was forced by reasons of state to scale down his high spending on the musical establishment from 1720 onwards and thus increasingly to narrow his Kapellmeister’s creative scope.

Nevertheless, Bach’s departure for Leipzig did not signify a break with Cöthen. He retained his title of Kapellmeister, returned several times as a guest musician, and continued to write works for the Kapelle there. His personal affinity with his former employer is also perceptible in a dedicatory poem that Bach presented to the princely couple in September 1726 to celebrate the birth of Prince Emanuel Ludwig, along with a printed copy of his Partita in B flat major BWV 825.

The news of Leopold’s death must have hit Bach hard. The Bach obituary reads: ‘Providence seemed to wish to remove him from Cöthen before the death of thPrince, which, contrary to all expectations, occurred shortly thereafter, so that he should at least no longer be present at this melancholy event. But he had the sad satisfaction of preparing in Leipzig the funeral music for the Prince whom he had so dearly loved, and of performing it in person in Cöthen.’ The circumstances of this funeral music can be elucidated only in part. After the death of the prince, court protocol decreed that the funeral ceremony and entombment in the Jacobikirche in Cöthen were to take place only four months later, on 23 and 24 March 1729. In the meantime, the Leipzig poet Christian Friedrich Henrici (alias Picander) and the Thomaskantor Johann Sebastian Bach were charged with the composition of solemn funeral music. Picander delivered a poem of twenty-four stanzas, divided into four parts, which Bach set to music as a monumental cantata.

The Cöthen archives confirm that Bach was in charge of the music for both the obsequies on the evening of 23 March and the funeral service on the morning of the following day. We learn from the contemporary court chronicle that ‘the mourning music was heard for some considerable time’ after the arrival of the funeral procession for the entombment. It is possible that this was purely instrumental music, which was supplemented by congregational singing. The large-scale cantata, however, was planned for the following morning: in addition to the Cöthen court Kapelle, the participants included Bach himself, his wife Anna Magdalena, his son Wilhelm Friedemann, and musicians from Leipzig, Halle, Merseburg, Zerbst, Dessau, and Güsten. The performance of the cantata and the memorial sermon together formed a veritable state occasion, skilfully staged, which certainly did not miss its effect. A large part of the church interior was draped with black cloth and the prince’s tomb was decorated as a black portal illuminated by candles.

The compositions Bach produced for these two events have unfortunately been lost. All the same, we are acquainted with the text of the extensive four-part cantata. This leads to the conclusion that for nos.1 and 7 Bach reused the opening and closing choruses of the Trauerode BWV 198 composed in 1727 on the death of the Saxon Electress Christiane Eberhardine, while he apparently took the music for the ten arias from the St Matthew Passion, which was probably also first performed in 1727. It remains unclear, however, whether he also fell back on

pre-existing material for the ten recitatives and the biblical quotation that frames the second part. Whatever the case may be, these identifiable parodic connections give us certain concrete outlines for Bach’s Cöthen funeral music, even though many aspects will probably always remain uncertain.>>
Peter Wollny Translation: Charles Johnston

<<The reconstruction of the Trauermusik

The story begins in 1873, during the preparation of the first complete edition of the works of Johann Sebastian Bach. The musicologist Wilhelm Rust noticed that the verse rhythms of ten of the twelve arias contained in the imposing libretto of the Trauermusik – the only trace then known of this ‘mourning music’ – corresponds to the prosody of ten movements in the St Matthew Passion: nine solo arias, including the poignant ‘Erbarme dich’ and ‘Aus Liebe will mein Heiland sterben’, and the emblematic final chorus ‘Wir setzen uns mit Tränen nieder’.

Picander is the author of both texts, the verse scheme and metre of the two librettos are similar, and the consonances are sometimes very close: ‘Erhalte mich’ / ‘Erbarme dich’, ‘Zage nur du treues Land’ / ‘Blute nur du liebes Herz’, and so on. The connection was established: the Trauermusik existed; its music was not totally lost. It was a work of parody – that is, one that utilises pre-existing musical material – like the short masses, many of the cantatas, and the monumental B minor Mass.

Friedrich Smend, another Bach specialist,5 added his stone to the edifice in 1951 when he compared the metre of the two choruses still ‘missing’ to that of movements from the funeral music (Trauerode) of 1727 for Princess Christiane Eberhardine. Thus the opening and closing choruses of the first of the four parts of the Trauermusik were added to the tally; there remained only the Dictum, the enigmatic piece that introduces and concludes the second part, and the recitatives.

This earlier research formed the basis for the reconstruction presented on this disc, which was begun in 2011. It was made at the request of Raphaël Pichon, who was convinced of the interest represented by the musical compilation Bach assembled for the funeral of his ‘beloved prince’.

The first version of the St Matthew Passion, probably composed in 1727, provided most of the musical material (see the Table of sources on p.3). That initial version differs in numerous respects – details of scoring and melodic inflections in the vocal and instrumental parts – from the version of 1736 we all have in our collective memory.

In addition to the sources mentioned above, a reading of Klaus Häfner’s study of the processes of parody in Bach’s œuvre (Aspekte des Parodieverfahrens bei Johann Sebastian Bach: Laaber-Verlag, 1987) offered us not only valuable help in understanding the mechanics of his rewriting methods, but also an unexpected gift. In a carefully argued thesis, the musicologist suggests that the missing Dictum, the cornerstone of the funeral service, was none other than the original version of a chorus that Bach was later to reuse – and therefore parody – in the second ‘Kyrie eleison’ of the B minor Mass. The two-section verse of the Dictum is such a smooth fit for the two themes of the fugal motet that his proposal seems self-evident.

Finally, to complete the work with the missing recitatives, the musicians of Pygmalion tried out various solutions over the three seasons of concerts that preceded this recording. The use of instrumental idioms and material drawn essentially from the accompanied recitatives of the Passion and the Trauerode proved to be the most convincing, for without ever betraying or replacing their models, they provide the arias and choruses with a genuine binding agent, giving the Trauermusik undoubted unity. Morgan Jourdain

The central Dictum: a puzzle solved?

As was mentioned above, ever since the first scholarly research into the Trauermusik in the nineteenth century, a central element remained unresolved: the Dictum that opens and closes the second part of the cantata. The Dictum is a pivotal moment in many Lutheran cantatas of the period: generally drawn from the Old Testament, it sets to music a moment of meditation on the poetic and spiritual import of the cantata, and usually expresses a law, a commandment, or some other fundamental article of faith. Here the text is explicit: ‘We have one God of salvation and one Lord, who rescues us from death’ [Wir haben einen Gott, der da hilft, und einen Herrn, der vom Tod errettet, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Performers/Pichon.htm#C1, “Part 2: Mvt. 8: Chorus [3:50]”].

This messianic verse from Psalm 68 reminds us that God was made man in the figure of Christ in order to save humanity. Now, in Bach’s B minor Mass BWV 232, the second ‘Kyrie eleison’, a severe F sharp minor fugue in an archaic style, still continues to raise questions: what is the origin of this movement? Is it an original composition or a parody of an earlier piece? But, more especially, how can one explain a situation extremely rare in the Kantor’s output, the conception of a second ‘Kyrie eleison’ with two ‘faces’, two contrasting musical themes that alternate and confront each other? While the tripartite division ‘Kyrie’ – ‘Christe’ – ‘Kyrie’ is perfectly conventional, an individual ‘Kyrie’ that appears to display two facets in its musical setting is an exceptional phenomenon. What is more, mistakes in the accidentals in Bach’s own hand on the manuscript of this second ‘Kyrie eleison’ suggest a transposition of the music from an earlier source.

It is here that our reconstruction of the Trauermusik and the reresearch of Klaus Häfner can shed new light on our understanding of the beginning of the B minor Mass: if we accept the exciting and solidly argued hypothesis that the second ‘Kyrie eleison’ is in fact a parody of the central Dictum of the Trauermusik, transposed a tone higher for the needs of the B minor Mass, we uncover a fascinating symbolic perspective on the second ‘Kyrie eleison’. For, over and above the traditional Trinitarian symbolism inherent in the triptych that opens the B minor Mass, Bach chose to parody this movement for his second ‘Kyrie eleison’ in order implicitly to incorporate the two facets of Psalm 68, the Father and the Son. Now everything seems obvious: the severe, chromatic first subject of the fugue subsequently generates a freer and more human second subject, in a faster rhythm, evoking the deliverance brought by the Son. The Father is indissociable from the Son, thus elucidating our interpretation of this movement from a monument in the history of western music.>>
Raphaël Pichon Translations: Charles Johnston

Late (1735 Plus) Memorial BWV 97, 118

In the mid 1730s, Bach resumed composing music of sorrow for memorial services. In 1734 he completed undesignated pure-hymn cantata BWV 97, "In allen meinen taten" (In all my doings), based on Paul Fleming’s text and set to Paul Gerhardt’s 1648 Passion melody, "O Welt, ich muss dich lassen" (O world, I must leave thee). It probably was performed on 25 July 1734 for the 5th Sunday after Trinity (Penzel 1767 copy). It’s basic theme is unconditional faith in God with a new beginning. With its festive French Overture, it is appropriate for both a wedding, a memorial service, as well as for Exaudi (6th Sunday after Easter). It was reperformed after 1735 and between 1740-47 (http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV97-D3.htm, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qog4b2OV9ns). Various motets of the Bach Family also served dual purposes for occasions of sorrow or joy, such as memorial services and Passiontide or Christmas, Advent, and Reformation.

Motet BWV 118, "O Jesu Christ, meins Lebens Licht” (O Jesus Christ, my life’s light), is based on Martin Behm's 1610 funeral hymn set to Seth Calvisius' 1594 adaptation of the melody Rex Christe factor omnium in two versions of the first stanza, composed 10 years apart, about 1736 for brass outdoors, and c.1746 for strings with winds indoors at church services (http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV118-D3.htm, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y5i3OqXY_So).6

Other Composers’ Works Adapted

Beginning in the mid 1730s with Bach's adaptation of Johann Kuhnau's "Der Gerechte kommt um," BC C 8, until the late 1740s, Bach was involved with memorial or penitential "motets" by other composers, including arrangements and members of the Bach Family. See http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Other/Work-Perform.htm. They include an arrangement of Giovanni Pergolesi's "Stabat Mater," BWV 1083. Other memorial music performed in the mid 1740s includes: the Sebastian Knüpfer (1633-76) "Erforsche Mich, Gott," BWV deest; three movements from Johann Ernst Bach's funeral cantata, "Mein Odem ist schwacht," BWV 222; and three "motets" of Johann Christoph Bach. In addition, Daniel Melamed in his J. S. Bach and the German Motet (Ibid.: 37), also identifies four works of Johann Michael Bach, including "Herr, wenn ich nur dich habe" (which uses the BWV 118 chorale), in Table 3-2 (p.37), "Motets from J. S. Bach's library and their texts."

Johann Kuhnau's "Der Gerechte kommt um” (The righteous perisheth, Martin Luther), is based on to the Jacob Händel Gallus (1550-91) SATB motet, "Ecce quando moritur justus" (Behold how the righteous man dies, Isaiah 57:1-2), from the Florilegium portense to an SSATB Passion motet setting of "Tristis est anima mea" (My soul is exceeding sorrowful; Matthew 26:37-38,51,56), as Bach Compendium C 8 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X96zXtX_20Q;

see http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Vocal/BWV1088-Gen.htm, paragraph beginning “For the crucial death music”). Bach’s setting also is found in his Passions-Pasticcio after Graun, BWV 1088 (no. 39), in the late 1740s on Good Friday.

Bach’s contrafaction of Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater, "Tilge, Höchster, meine Sünden" (Blot out, Highest, My Sins, penitential Psalm 51), BWV 1083, was composed in Leipzig 1746/47, occasion unknown (http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Vocal/BWV1083-Gen2.htm, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DHCoKWZLXKA).

Sebastian Knüpfer's "Erforsche Mich, Gott," BWV deest, survives as a 1746/47 copy of the Thomas Cantor (1632-76) https://www.muziekweb.nl/Link/DBX9989/Die-Motetten, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sebastian_Knüpfer).

Movements of Funeral Cantata BWV 222, "Mein Odem is schwach" (My breath is weak, Isaiah 17:1) are attributed to Johann Ernst Bach (1722-1777) c. 1740 (http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV222-D.htm, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KjOwrT2O2x8).

The three funeral cantatas of Johann Christoph Bach (1642-1703, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Lib/Bach-Johann-Christoph.htm) that Sebastian copied in the mid 1740s are: “Der Gerechte, ob er gleich zu zeitlich stirb” (Though the righteous man die too soon, Provewrbs 4:7, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=biNMVFKpZM4); “Unsers Herzens Freude hat ein Ende” (The joy of our hearts is ceased, Lamentations 5:15, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=89FAQkxpZVo); and “Herr, nun lässest du deinen Diener” (Lord, let thy servant depart in peace, Luke 2:29-32, Simeon’s canticle, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5YiGUUQtHAc); also http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Vocal/AltBachische-CantusColln.htm. Christoph’s setting of "Fürchte dich nicht" is found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ZTktGJgEGU. Johann Michael Bach’s "Herr, wenn ich nur dich habe” is found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tzSWeesuPSE. Other Michael Bach (1648-94, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johann_Michael_Bach) memorial motets that Bach did not copy from his Altbachisches Archiv (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Altbachisches_Archiv) but may have performed, are: “Halt, was du hast” using “Jesu, meine Freude” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i-zV214l2gw), “Ich weiss, dass mein Erlöser lebt” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cRstkU5_NAI), “Herr, wenn ich dich nur habe Herr” (Herr, wenn ich dich), “Herr ich warte auf dein Heil” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=15e2-yiCOyc), and “Unser Leben währet siebenzig Jahre” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4fZVHFJ6V08).

FOOTNOTES

1 Discussions in the Week of March 13, 2016 (BCML 4th round, March 13, 2016): Motets BWV Anh. 159, Ich Lasse dich nicht, and BWV 228, Furchte dich nich; BCW http://www.bach-cantatas.com/VD/BWV228.htm.
2 Melamed article, "The Authorship of the Motet, Ich lasse dicht nicht," Journal of the American Musicological Society, 1988: 491-526. It is part of Melamed's book, J. S. Bach and the German Motet (Cambridge MA Univ. Press, 1995)
2a Information about Bach's Motets with a Specific Examination of BWV 226 / Extracted from Klaus Hofmann's Book on This Subject / Summaries and Translations by Thomas Braatz © 2010; BCW http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Articles/MotetsHofmann.pdf.
3 BCW Articles: The Relationship between BWV 244a (Trauermusik) and BWV 244b (SMP Frühfassung), Copyright © 2006, Thomas Braatz), http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Articles/SMP244avsb.pdf, and The Genesis of Bach's `Great Passion': 1724-29 [by William Hoffman, April 2009] http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Articles/SMPGenesisWH.pdf (pp.13-15). Text, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/BWV244a-Ger5.htm.
4 Funeral Music for Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Cöthen, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Performers/Pichon.htm#C1; Liner Notes,
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Pic-Rec-BIG/Pichon-R-C01c[HMF-CD-booklet].pdf,
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Performers/Pichon.htm#C1.
5 That Nikolaus Forkel, Bach’s first biographer, in 1802 had possessed a copy of the now lost First Köthen Funeral Cantata, BC B-21 (BWV deest) is discussed at length in Smend's Bach in Köthen, Footnote 91 (ed. & rev. 1985). If true, Forkel probably received the manuscript from Friedemann about 1770. Its whereabouts is unknown.
6 See: Hans-Joachim Schulze's "'O Jesu Christ, meins Lebens Licht': On the Transmission of a Bach Source and the Riddle of its Origin," trans. Paul Brainard, in the festschrift, A Bach Tribute: Essays in Honor of William H. Scheide, eds. Paul Brainard & Ray Robinson (Bärenreiter/Hinshaw, 1993; pp. 209-220).

——————

To Come: the 21st to 23rd Sundays after Trinity; later pietist-related eschatological Judgement chorales.

 


General Topics: Main Page | About the Bach Cantatas Website | Cantatas & Other Vocal Works | Scores & Composition, Parodies, Reconstructions, Transcriptions | Texts, Translations, Languages | Instruments, Voices, Choirs | Performance Practice | Radio, Concerts, Festivals, Recordings | Life of Bach, Bach & Other Composers | Mailing Lists, Members, Contributors | Various Topics



 

Back to the Top


Last update: Friday, January 12, 2018 11:43