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Recordings & Discussions of Other Vocal Works: Main Page | Motets BWV 225-231 | Mass in B minor BWV 232 | Missae Breves & Sanctus BWV 233-242 | Magnificat BWV 243 | Matthäus-Passion BWV 244 | Johannes-Passion BWV 245 | Lukas-Passion BWV 246 | Markus-Passion BWV 247 | Weihnachts-Oratorium BWV 248 | Oster-Oratorium BWV 249 | Chorales BWV 250-438 | Geistliche Lieder BWV 439-507 | AMN BWV 508-523 | Quodlibet BWV 524 | Aria BWV 1127


Systematic Discussions of Bach’s Other Vocal Works
Motet BWV 226
Der Geist hilft unser Schwachheit auf

Discussions in the Week of January 11, 2004

Aryeh Oron wrote (January 11, 2004):
Motet BWV 226 - Der Geist hilft unser Schwachheit auf

Introduction

The chosen work for this week’s discussion (January 11, 2004) is the Motet BWV 226 ‘Der Geist hilft unser Schwachheit auf’ (The Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness).

Recordings, discussions & additional information

Your gate to the Motets BWV 225-231 - list of recordings, previous discussions, and additional information (texts & translations, score, commentaries, music examples, etc.) - is located at the page:
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Vocal/BWV225-231.htm

Some Background

The leading German composers of the 17th century, Samuel Scheidt, Johann Hermann Schein and Heinrich Schütz, with Michael and Hieronymus Praetorius, were Bach’s predecessors in the art of motet composing both in Latin and in German. Their motets depended heavily on instrumental accompaniment to the vocal forces employed. But in the 18th century the vocal parts began to outweigh the number of instruments used in the motet setting, so that the result would seem to be a capella singing, although the German motet, including Bach’s was usually accompanied by an organ or strings, even tough it was called a capella. For special ceremonies more instruments could be added. The funeral to which the Motet BWV 226 was composed was most probably a very unique event, because this is the only one of his motets, apart from BWV 118 (which is most probably a fragment from a lost cantata), that Bach provided with a full orchestral accompaniment. It includes two oboes da caccia, a bassoon, strings and basso continuo (organ). However, there is also another explanation. This funeral service was held in St. Paul’s, the University Church of Leipzig, where the orchestra and the organ were allowed for burial service.

Bach composed this 8-voice (2 choirs) motet for the Gedächtnispredigt (memorial sermon) at the funeral service, October 30, 1729, for Johann Heinrich Ernesti, rector of the Thomas School and Professor of Poetry at the University of Leipzig, who had died couple of days earlier. Bach’s rapport with him had been most friendly, unlike his dealings with his successor, Johann August Ernesti, who was not related. Yet Bach does not display his own personal affection for the deceased Rector in this motet, but confines himself to translating the Biblical texts that he had chosen into music. He does this by dividing the libretto into three parts: two Biblical quotes and then a final chorale verse.

The central theme of the motet is to show how Holy Ghost influences our lives, according to God’s will. Bach has chosen two verses from Paul’s Epistle to the Romans 8: 26, 27 and the third stanza of the chorale by Martin Luther to illustrate this in words and in music.

Let’s the discussion begins!

Arjen van Gijssel wrote (January 11, 2004):
I have sung this motet a dozen times in concerts. I uploaded a performance of the Laurenscantorij, Rotterdam, the Netherlands, 2001.
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Vocal/BWV225-231.htm

It is not the most difficult motet, in terms of notes, breathing space and length. And of course there's the orchestral support. What is particularly fun to sing, is the part with "unaussprechlichem Seufzen" because here really text and music come beautifully together. I like the choral as well, with words like Brunst, Fleisches Blödigkeit, Trübsal abtreiben, ritterlich. Nice words which you as a singer can really use to give clarity of expression, and to let the public know what you are doing. The best performances have clear expression (you should hear the entire sentences sung), transparent voices (you should be perfectly able to follow individual lines, but the voices should perfectly merge in a warm, clear group sound). I like it when occasionally a voice is given priority over the others for a short (!) while. There are some of these spots, like bar 87 -92, where it seems written as if the tenor is accentuating the Conclusio.

These things are what I am looking for in the recordings. In the end, I don't know of really bad performances. They all sound great, because Bach's music is great. That is my particular experience with the motets, not with all of his music. To me, Corboz, Herreweghe and Harnoncourt do a perfect job. Corboz/Ensemble vocal de Lausanne is warm/gai in a French-like way, Herreweghe's approach is as always perfect (but perhaps a little bit too outstanding, so that it becomes dry), Harnoncourt/Stockholm Bach Choir's attack and is exact (or occasionally choppy?) in letting us hear the structure (the conversations between the voices, the way they come in each after another). Koopman and Dutch Chamber Choir are fine as well, but did not try to be too exact on end-nouns. I hear: der geiz hielf, without t's. Are they singing seusen or seu-f-tzen. The tempo is rather quick (get it over with, bury the man so we can go home). The Laurenscantorij recording is somewhat slower than the aforementioned professional ones. In terms of attack it resembles Harnoncourt. That's all I dare say of it.

Arjen van Gijssel wrote (January 19, 2004):
Bradley Lehman stated:
< And it also very much ticked me off when, on December 31st, I presented a recording from one of my own performances, and Braatz (not even four hours later) lambasted it as completely wrong according to his literalistic way of reading Bach's scores. >
Somebody bashing at your own performance is bad. Worse is that nobody takes the trouble to post a reaction, as happened with my recording (BWV 226) last week....

Neil Halliday wrote (January 20, 2004):
[To Arjen van Gijssel] Your group's performance of BWV 226 has much more character than Rilling's, and has similarities with the Herreweghe recording, an excerpt of which can also be heard at the BCW: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Mus/BWV225-231-Mus.htm

As usual, the less than ideal recording engineering used for this performance by the Laurenscantorij is obviously a drawback - it's about on a par with the low quality Herreweghe 20 b/sec internet sample - but otherwise this recording displays solid musicianship from the choir (and orchestra, a nice addition in this performance). I like the adoption of the moderate tempo, which you noted.

Thomas Braatz noted in his multi-recording review of BWV 225, that Rilling's recording of BWV 225 is less than inspiring, with which I concur, and the same can be said about BWV 226.

The high speeds that Rilling chooses in some sections of this complex choral writing is perhaps part of the problem. More importantly, the generally diffuse sound of the choir(s), which results in an often featureless, amorphous body of sound, is disappointing.

(I'm beginning to wonder what happened to the gloriously colourful, clear and rich sound Rilling was able to achieve in many of the church cantatas that he recorded in the 70's and 80's.)

Jason Marmaras wrote (February 26, 2004):
BWV 226 - Herreweghe

I just downloaded the sample from the BCWs and couldn't stop myself. In exactly the same most naive and childish way that I thought while growing up with Herreweghe's Weinachts-Oratorium (BWV 248) recording, I state: Herreweghe's trills remind me of Bach and Baroque in such a manner as can't be described in words!

(what's going on? what is this long silence that's befallen the list?)

Avi Eilam-Amzallag wrote (February 26, 2004):
[To Jason Marmaras] No silence my dear, that is the greatness of music, and that is the greatness of J.S. BACH, the greatest of the greatest. Don't try to express it with words.

 

Discussions in the Week of January 3, 2010

Neil Halliday wrote(January 3, 2010):
Discussion: BWV 226 Der Geist hilft

Vivid antiphonal effects, a feature of all the double-choir motets, occur in first movement of this motet, in 3/8 time.
On recordings, prominent spatial separation of the two choirs is essential, IMO.

[The 'midi' examples on the BCW page are totally incomprehesible, in part due to lack of separation. Of course, following the score while listening is much easier with clear left-right separation of the choirs].

The counterpoint at the beginning is laced with lively 1/16th note passages, often arranged antiphonally, which are virtually always melismas set to the word "Geist"(spirit). This section uses the first four lines of text.

The next section (4/4 time) has a surprisingly transparent fugal form (considering the eight stave, double choir set-up). A syncopated two bar subject (see the BCW score) occurs continually end to end throughout the movement (except in the last four bars), sometimes heard in one choir, sometimes in both choirs (ie, with two voices doubling the subject); this subject is always relatively easy to identify in the 8-part counterpoint as the movement progresses. Lines five and six of the text are employed here.

[In one sense, Bach makes incredible demands on his listeners who don't have access to the score; I had to learn this rhythmically tricky subject - which always begins on the 2nd beat - by heart in order to easily discern its constant recurrence in the counterpoint; but the music is much more satisfying if one can bring this feature of the counterpoint into focus while listening. As one enthusiast states, in reviewing Jacob's excellent recording of the motets, : 'BACH'S MOTETS ARE AMONG HIS MOST PERFECT WORKS AND CONSITUTE ONE OF THE SUMMITS OF WESTERN POLYPHONY.']

The last section (cut C time) is an impressive quasi double fugue in four voices (the two choirs double one-another). An interesting aspect of the two fugue subjects, both four bars long, is that the fourth bar of each is the same. The first subject is always associated with the 7th and 8th lines of text, and the second subject always has the last two lines of text; the two combine in the double fugue section which completes the work. Note (for those reading the score): the initial statement of the
second fugue subject - in the tenors - is missing its first three minims, which are heard thereafter in the exposition of this second subject.

Finally, note the important countersubject (also taking the text of the first subject) that accompanies the reappearance of the first subject into the counterpoint toward the end.

Those with broadband can sample many recordings of this work, available at the BCW.

BTW, I found the rich acoustic on Parrot's recording of some of the motets (but not BWV 226) to be most attractive; that CD also has a gorgeous performance of BWV 198, with lovely flowing articulation of the opening chorus, and strong instrumental sound (compensating for lack of a 'choir' in the modern sense, for those who find OVPP inadequate at times).

The difficulties these motets present for amateur groups can be seen from some music examples on the page linked from the BCW, which is at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Vocal/BWV225-231.htm

The Bethlehem choir commentary on BWV 226: http://www.bach.org/bach101/motets/motet_dergeist_226.html

This page has an interesting facsimile of the autograph of BWV266; apart from the scratching out of the second bar (in all 8 staves) seen at the bottom, this score appears to be relatively free of mistakes.

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 3, 2010):
Neil Halliday wrote:
< throughout the movement (except in the last four bars), sometimes heard in one choir, sometimes in both choirs (ie, with two voices doubling the subject); this subject is always relatively easy to identify in the 8-part counterpoint as the movement progresses. Lines five and six of the text are employed here.
[In one sense, Bach makes incredible demands on his listeners who don't have access to the score; I had to learn this rhythmically tricky subject - which always begins on the 2nd beat - by heart in order to easily discern its constant recurrence in the counterpoint; but the music is much more satisfying if one can bring this feature of the counterpoint into focus while listening. As one enthusiast states, in reviewing Jacob's excellent recording of the motets, : 'BACH'S MOTETS ARE AMONG HIS MOST PERFECT WORKS AND CONSITUTE ONE OF THE SUMMITS OF WESTERN POLYPHONY.'] >
I wonder to what extent Bach cared about his listeners, other than himself, in an analyticl sense? In most cases (cantatas, motets, and occasional vocal works), the writing was intended for a single hearing, or a repetition at widely separated intervals. SDG?

Of course, Bach might have enjoyed the working out during rehearsals, for his own ear? Unless the performances were sight-read.

Either way, I think the intent was for the listener to absorb by osmosis rather than analysis. Nice that we now have the opportunity to do both.

Edward Lilley wrote (January 3, 2010):
[To Ed Myskowski] I've heard (can't remember source) that Bach's motets were possibly written has training pieces to be used in his choir school, and not for normal liturgical use -- possibly this is why he wrote so few. I agree with bachloverau's enthusiast's sentiment that they are among his most perfect works -- even among normally pop-music-loving friends of mine, they are somehow captivating to the ear.

Douglas Cowling wrote (January 3, 2010):
Edward Lilley wrote:
< I've heard (can't remember source) that Bach's motets were possibly written has training pieces to be used in his choir school, and not for normal liturgical use -- possibly this is why he wrote so few. >
I'd be interested in the source if you have it. Bach's motets may be few in number but they contain some his greatest music: "Jesu Meine Freude' and "Singet dem Herrn' are extraordinarily complex works with tremendous technical difficulties. It is unfair that they are neglected because Romantic tastes valued the concerted works more. The situation is much like the Latin masses -- superb mature works which are ignored because they use parody techniques.

We should look at Bach's motets in the context of the large repertoire of 16th - 18th century pieces which were the core repertoire which Bach performed with his choirs. The great double choir motets of Gabrieli, Schütz and the Bach family are A-list works, not some primitive music which Bach had to endure. In fact, Wolff has shown that Bach had a motet of a relative copied undoubtedly in preparation for his own funeral.

We focus so closely on the cantatas and oratorios that we forget that the greater part of Bach's conducting was directed at the motet repertoire. The "stile antico" was still very much alive in Bach's compositional toolbox.

George Bromley wrote (January 4, 2010):
[To Douglas Cowling] I have had the privilege of singing a few of the motets with the Johanesburg Bach Choir. they went down very well over there.

Peter Smaill wrote (January 4, 2010):
[To Douglas Cowling] On this subject there is to be recommended Dan Melamed's "J S Bach and the German Motet" which very much agrees that Bach is developing an art form in which the previous generation was steeped.

Bach's interest in it is by no means confined to what we generally consider to be his motets. Indeed, the term "motetto" is applied by bach to BWV 71, th Mühlhausen ratswahl Canatta, which has subdivision of instrumental and choral groupings but is not waht we would orinarily consider a motet. BWV 118, Herr Jesu Chist mein Lebens Licht" is listed as a Canata bu is really a motet, albeit the orchetral parts are partly independent of the vocal.

Bach also describes his adaptation of the Pergolesi Stabat Mater as "motetto".

Cantata movements in motet style are listed a BWV 6/1, BWV 22/1, BWV 24/3, BWV 76/1 BWV 105/1 and BWV 41/1. These are an interesting group, BWV 22 and BWV 76 heavily connected to the opening of Bach's career in Leipzig, and BWV 41 for the New Year. As far as I know there has not been any theory posited as to why Bach uses motet style movements in the Canatats from time to time.

As mentioned previously the Cantata BWV 76 is considered to be set by the Burgomaster Dr Gottfried Lange, Bach's ally, (see Wolff, p244 of JSB:The Learned Musician") and concludes with the Luther chorale, "Es danke Gott". This is precisely the text of the very last chorale harmonisation we have by Bach, for the Ratswahl Canatata BWV 69 in 1748. Lange died later that year and we are left to guess whether this isolated late chorale harmonisation (there had been nothing in the cantata form since BWV 195 in 1742) was a coincidence or a tribute to Lange. Either way- the first and last chorales composed for Leipzig are for the exact same text.

Julian Mincham wrote (January 4, 2010):
Peter Smaill wrote:
< Bach's interest in it is by no means confined to what we generally consider to be his motets. Indeed, the term "motetto" is applied by bach to BWV 71, th Mühlhausen ratswahl Canatta, which has subdivision of instrumental and choral groupings but is not waht we would orinarily consider a motet. BWV 118, Herr Jesu Chist mein Lebens Licht" is listed as a Canata bu is really a motet, albeit the orchetral parts are partly independent of the vocal.
Bach also describes his adaptation of the
Pergolesi Stabat Mater as "motetto".
Cantata movements in motet style are listed a
BWV 6/1, BWV 22/1, BWV 24/3, BWV 76/1 BWV 105/1 and BWV 41/1. These are an interesting group, BWV 22 and BWV 76 heavily connected to the opening of Bach's career in Leipzig, and BWV 41 for the New Year. As far as I know there has not been any theory posited as to why Bach uses motet style movements in the Canatats from time to time. >
It is an interesting question as to what Bach called a motet as opposed to how we think of it today. The ones you quote usually have a more Itaniante opening section, the 'motet' aspect (i.e. with no independent instrumental parts ) coming later. I must say that I had never myself thought of BWV 6/1 as a motet; it's a free ternary form movement in which the middle section has motet charcteristics.

I think that the changes in the nature of the motet from the C13 on have made it difficult to define. I note that different writers have referred to 'motet style' with reference to a) pieces which are wholly vocal b) vocal but supported by an independent continuo line (which may or may not double the basses) and c) vocal with instruments doubling the lines but with no independence of their own (like many of the Bach chorales ending the cantatas).

Bach used all three layouts and went even further by combining them with other formal principles e.g. as chorale fantasias in several of the second cycle first movements (see 2 and 38 for example). These are often referred to as 'motet' styles because of the instrument doubling.

Douglas Cowling wrote (January 4, 2010):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< c) vocal with instruments doubling the lines but with no independence of their own (like many of the Bach chorales ending the cantatas). >
To this category of "motet cantatas", I would add the opening choruses of "Ein feste Burg" (BWV 80) and "Wir Danken Dir" (BWV 29) which later became "Dona Nobis Pacem" in the Mass in B Minor (BWV 232). The latter is fascinating because the instruments double the voices until the trumpets become independent, a "modern" example of the extra instrumental parts "ad placitum" (= at pleasure, ad lib.) which Praetorius would add to motets. The second Kyrie in the Mass is also in motet style.

Neil Halliday wrote (January 4, 2010):
What is a motet?

[To Julian Mincham] Listening to the Rilling recording of the motets recently, I was sure I knew the music in the motet "Jauchzet dem Herrn", which indeed, as the OCC notes, is an arrangement of 28/2 which is a chorale fantasia with brass, woodwinds and strings all doubling SATB voices. The continuo mostly doubles the vocal basses.

William Hoffman wrote (January 5, 2010):
[To Neil Halliday, regarding What is a motet?] Bach is supposed to have presented numerous motets, yet we have only about six originals. But there are many more to be found in the Old Bach Family Archives and works formerly attributed to him (BWV Anhang). You'll find some 10 in BCW www.bach-cantatas.com/Other/Work-Perform.htm
.
Many, especially from the OBFA, also can be found on various CD recordings: "Kantaten us dem Alt-Bachischen Archiv," Capriccio 10029; "Bach Family Motets," Conifer 51306; "De Johann a Johann Sebastian Bach Motets", Pierre Vernay 797111; and "The Bach-Family, Hänssler 98.911. Happy Listening.

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 5, 2010):
Peter Smaill wrote:
< On this subject there is to be recommended Dan Melamed's "J S Bach and the German Motet" which >very much agrees that Bach is developing an art form in which the previous generation was steeped. >
As it happens, I am listening to a nine hour radio program of the music of Orlando de Lassus, including numerous motets, as well as the expected sacred music, and the not so expected bawdy (for his time) music. Several generations prior to Bach. I gather Lassus was Belgian, although since Belgium did not yet exist, the French may disagree (?). I think it is clear that he was not German, and that he was familiar with Italian styles.

PS:
< Bach also describes his adaptation of the Pergolesi Stabat Mater as "motetto". >
EM:
Perhaps he got it via Belgium?

PS:
< we are left to guess whether this isolated late chorale harmonisation (there had been nothing in >the cantata form since BWV 195 in 1742) was a coincidence or a tribute to Lange. Either way- the first and last chorales composed for Leipzig are for the exact same text. >
EM:
It is certainly a satisfying guess that this was intentional, to my mind. Thanks.

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 5, 2010):
Edward Lilley wrote:
<< I've heard (can't remember source) that Bach's motets were possibly written has training pieces to be used in his choir school, and not for normal liturgical use -- possibly this is why he wrote so few. >>
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< We focus so closely on the cantatas and oratorios that we forget that the greater part of Bach's conducting was directed at the motet repertoire. The "stile antico" was still very much alive in Bach's compositional toolbox. >
It is a pleasant surprise to start the New year with so much timely discussion. Re Dougs point, it is approptiate to get out your recording of the McCreesh Epiphany Mass and experience the spread of Bachs performance and composition styles, on the liturgical date (Jan. 6). For today, I am still on ten maids-a-milking.

Recent discussion re the disgrace of DG allowing the Epiphany Mass to lapse from in-print status duly noted and seconded.

Julian Mincham wrote (January 5, 2010):
[To Neil Halliday, regarding What is a motet?] Thanks Neil. Bach's practice is for the continuo to double the basses accept sometimes for a few bars when they drop out before an important entry and he wants to keep the impetus going.

By the way, I hear it's pretty hot where you are---it's bloody cold over here at the moment.

Thérèse Hanquet wrote (January 6, 2010):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< [...] As it happens, I am listening to a nine hour radio program of the music of Orlando de Lassus, including numerous motets, as well as the expected sacred music, and the not so expected bawdy (for his time) music. Several generations prior to Bach. I gather Lassus was Belgian, although since Belgium did not yet exist, the French may disagree (?). I think it is clear that he was not German, and that he was familiar with Italian styles. >
Indeed Orlando (or Roland in French) de Lassus was born in Mons, which is now in the French-speaking part of Belgium.

At that time, the region which now covers Belgium and the North of France was a famous musical centre in Europe, with composers such as Roland de Lassus, but also Josquin des Prés, Ockeghem,...
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franco-Flemish_School

As a student of the vocal chamber music class, I have sung in some pieces (motets or songs) written by Lassus or Josquin des Prés and I enjoyed it very much. Their music is much more complex than one would expect at first guess and you find features that you also find in Bach's motets (we are currently rehearsing motet BWV 228 and we have previously performed BWV 225, BWV 227 and BWV 230). I am no musicologist so I can not explain the technical details but I feel common points.

For those interested, Belgian conductor Paul Van Nevel with his ensemble Huelgas has performed a lot of music of this place and period. I have heard them in concert and they were excellent. They have also produced a number of recordings: http://www.huelgasensemble.be/

Regarding motets, I would be interested to know whether there are links between motets by Bach (and his family) and French motets of the same period (e.g. by Campra, Mondonville, Rameau,...)?

Thérèse Hanquet wrote (January 6, 2010):
Addendum:
among performers of Franco-Flemish polyphony, I shoud have added the ensemble Capilla flamenca: http://www.capilla.be/EN/index.php
One of the conductors of the Chapelle des Minimes, Jan Caals, has been a member of this ensemble until recently: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Bio/Caals-Jan.htm

Douglas Cowling wrote (January 6, 2010):
Thérèse Hanquet wrote:
< Regarding motets, I would be interested to know whether there are links between motets by Bach (and his family) and French motets of the same period (e.g. by Campra, Mondonville, Rameau,...) >
This is an interesting question. The grand motet tradition in France is really a 17th century genre which can be still seen in a work such as the "De Profundis" of Delalande from the 1720's. The works are almost all settings of Latin liturgical texts.

Interestingly, the genre of the cyclical mass is underrepresented. Louis XIV disliked the longeurs of high mass, and prefered a low mass said sotto voce at the altar while the choir sang an extended motet.

Even in the later motets, the style is more like the "verse" anthem than the modern German cantata of Bach and Telemann. Choruses, ariosos and many small ensembles succeed each other, often in a continuous texture. The only Bach work which recalls this form might be "Gottes Zeit" in which the "solo" and "choir" sections are almost continuous. But there are more German models than French for this cantata.

I suspect that French influence was probably more significant for Bach cantatas through keyboard dance forms and orchestral genres like the ouverture.

Thérèse Hanquet wrote (January 6, 2010):
Thérèse Hanquet wrote:
<< Regarding motets, I would be interested to know whether there are links between motets by Bach (and his family) and French motets of the same period (e.g. by Campra, Mondonville, Rameau,...) >>
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< This is an interesting question. The grand motet tradition in France is really a 17th century genre which can be still seen in a work such as the "De Profundis" of Delalande from the 1720's. The works are almost all settings of Latin liturgical texts. >
Two years ago we performed a motet ("Merk auf, my Herz, merk auf") by Johann Christoph Bach (who died in 1703), and I was struck by a feature I had not heard yet in any motet we performed (either by Bach or by someone of his family): "tremulo" indications on a repeated note on the word "ruhn".

This gives a very special effect which reminded me of a section of Mondonville's motet "In exitu Israel", where something of this kind gives a spectacular effect of waves (imitating waves of the Red Sea?).

But "In exitu Israel" is dated from 1753, and so the influence can only be in one way (J.-C. Bach => Mondonville).
Of course I have no idea whether this "tremulo" effect was frequent or not...

Douglas Cowling wrote (January 6, 2010):
Thérèse Hanquet wrote:
< Of course I have no idea whether this "tremulo" effect was frequent or not... >
Purcell used it in the "Freezing" Chorus of "King Arthur" (it's dramatized in the new film "The Young Victoria" although I'm sure the opera wasn't revised until the 20th century.

Handel used the effect in one of the Chandos Anthems for "The Earth Trembled"

Julian Mincham wrote (January 6, 2010):
[To Thérèse Hanquet] You get it quite a bit in Monterverdi. I have also read that he was the first composer to make effective use of string tremelando effects too although that information may now be outdated.

Thérèse Hanquet wrote (January 6, 2010):
[To Douglas Cowling] Thanks Doug. Indeed I had forgotten Purcell's "Cold Genius".

Your examples (and Julian's) show that it was indeed not limited to a special type of piece, and that Mondonville had many predecessors.

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (January 6, 2010):
Thérèse Hanquet wrote:
< Their music [Roland de Lassus, but also Josquin des Prés, Ockeghem] is much more complex than one would expect at first guess and you find features that you also find in Bach's motets. >
Renaissance polyphony is light years ahead of music written during the baroque (yes Bach included), and I'd like to add at least 3 major names to your list: Tallis, Striggio, and especially Jacob Obrecht's music.

Thérèse Hanquet wrote (January 6, 2010):
[To Kim Patrick Clow] Thanks Kim.

Jacob Obrecht, another "Belgian" composer indeed... I will try to find his music.

I can not understand how this music is (comparatively) so scarcely known and played.

Even here in Belgium, I have never seen any international festival or event that would focus on this fantastic heritage. There remains a lot to do in this domain.

Well, maybe we should go on off-list, unless we can establish some connection with Bach's vocal music?

Julian Mincham wrote (January 6, 2010):
[To Kim Patrick Clow] Well, I'd have to question a statement that broad. Ahead in what ways? the devices used? the harmonic language? Instrumentation? Formal structures? Expressive character? Complexity?

To say it's years ahead also implies a progession from something in to something better or superior as in the way that scientific knowledge and technology 'progress'---a dangerous criteria to apply to the arts which are always changing and adapting to different cultural circumstances--but not necessarily getting better, becoming superior or falling behinds predecessors 'light years ahead.' I don't think of Tallis as being superior or inferior to Bach --it's just different.

(Although having said that, when looking back at a lot of C20 popular musical crap I may be arguing against myself !)

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (January 6, 2010):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< Well, I'd have to question a statement that broad. Ahead in what ways? the devices used? the harmonic language? Instrumentation? Formal structures? Expressive character? Complexity? >
Well, you're the person that's written several times "Bach was the greatest polyphonic composer ever," (or words to that effect). That's a pretty broad statement, and shows a wee bit lack of historical knowledge about the subject I'm afraid. Bach was the greatest polyphonic of the baroque period, but these renaissance composers mentioned earlier could write circles around Bach. Yes, much more incredibly complex music and formal structures. Absolutely

< To say it's years ahead also implies a progession from something in to something better or superior as in the way that scientific knowledge and technology 'progress'---a dangerous criteria to apply to the arts which are always changing and adapting to different cultural circumstances--but not necessarily getting better, becoming superior or falling behinds predecessors 'light years ahead.' I don't think of Tallis as being superior or inferior to Bach --it's just different. >
I don't know about that, again you're the one who made the blanket statement that Bach was the absolutely king of the polyphonic music of history. As for the metaphor of "ahead" versus "back", when Bach performed on organs, reactions were usually to the effect they were hearing the "old style" of music (i.e. sophisticated polyphony) revived, and some of Bach's peers obviously considered that very "old fashioned" style of music as some sort of golden age. So they were looking back to that period as their classics. Vivaldi couldn't write any fugal music in the style of Palestrina and was horrible at it (Michael Talbot the British Vivaldi scholar has written about this point specifically). That doesn't mean Vivaldi is a bad composer, it just means he had his limits. Telemann said he could write music that looked pretty on paper, but sounded awful (a swipe at the "old style" of music?). He believed in an absolute focus on melody and thought too much counterpoint hindered that. So every composer in a sense has to be true to his age-- Bach included.

Julian Mincham wrote (January 6, 2010):
[To Kim Patrick Clow] Excuse me I don't think so. I may well have written that Bach was one of the greatest composers of counterpoint which is by no means the same thing.

Do prove me wrong, but i think you may be putting words in my mouth. I am sure that I never made the sort of blanket statement you accuse me of twice.

I take exception to your comment about my having 'a wee bit lack of historical knowledge about the subject'. This is both patronising and ignorant because you have no idea what knowledge I have of other earlier music; I don't tend to write about it on this list becasue this is a list about Bach.

Much of the rest of your rant I don't want to comment on as it seems to me to be rather childish.

I note that you don't really attempt to answer the questions i put to you, in which ways, specificlly were the earlier composers 'streets ahead?'

Perhaps you think that misattributing and rudeness counts as a response. If so we disagree so fundamentally that there is probably no point in trying to have a grown up discussion.

And finally, do please point out where I have made this alleged statement about Bach----------' you're the one who made the blanket statement that Bach was the absolutely king of the polyphonic music of history'

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (January 6, 2010):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< Excuse me I don't think so. I may well have written that Bach was one of the greatest composers of counterpoint which is by no means the same thing. >
That doesn't change anything, it's still historically wrong I'm afraid.

< Do prove me wrong, but i think you may be putting words in my mouth. I am sure that I never made the sort of blanket statement you accuse me of twice. >
"history has judged the supreme contrapunalist the greater composer."

< I take exception to your comment about my having 'a wee bit lack of historical knowledge about the subject'. This is both patronising and ignorant because you have no idea what knowledge I have of other earlier music; I don't tend to write about it on this list becasue this is a list about Bach. >
That's ok, I went by what you said, not by what you didn't say. We disagree.

< Much of the rest of your rant I don't want to comment on as it seems to me to be rather childish. >
I see.

< I note that you don't really attempt to answer the questions i put to you, in which ways, specificlly were the earlier composers 'streets ahead?' >
You asked in general terms, so I answered in general terms.

< Perhaps you think that misattributing and rudeness counts as a response. If so we disagree so fundamentally that there is probably no point in trying to have a grown up discussion. >
I don't believe I was rude, but you certainly seem to have your feathers ruffled.

< And finally, do please point out where I have made this alleged statement about Bach----------' you're the one who made the blanket statement that Bach was the absolutely king of the polyphonic music of history' >
Didn't you write "history has judged the supreme contrapunalist the greater composer," at one point?

Douglas Cowling wrote (January 6, 2010):
Kim Patrick Clow wrote:
< Renaissance polyphony is light years ahead of music written during the baroque (yes Bach included), and I'd like to add at least 3 major names to your list: Tallis, Striggio, and especially Jacob Obrecht's music. >
I don't think we need to score composers from such radically contrasting periods. The purpose of counterpoint is so different in various periods, and mere complexity is not the aribter of greatness. Monteverdi, the enfant terrible of the solo style of the Baroque also wrote the Missa in Illo Tempore in which he took Gombert's motet and turned it into a churning mass of added strettos and counter-canons. He was able to out-Gombert Gombert. One suspects that he did it on a dare -- happily it's a gorgeous piece of music. I prefer to enjoy counterpoint in Josquin, Bach and Mozart, not rank them.

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (January 6, 2010):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< I prefer to enjoy counterpoint in Josquin, Bach and Mozart, not rank them. >
Me too, and that's why you wouldn't see me making the original silly statement I had pointed out.

Julian Mincham wrote (January 6, 2010):
[To Kim Patrick Clow, regarding his previous message]
1 tell me where you (appear to ) quote me from

2 it's 'historically wrong' that Bach was one of the greatest composer's of counterpoint???? I leave that to others to judge.

3 You didn't go by what i said--but by what you thought I said.!

4 I asked you to explain in quite explicit terms--you didn't.

5 if you 'quote' me by saying 'didn't you say----' please give the precise reference.

And finally--really finally---my feathers are not ruffled. Your silly comments simply remind me why I really don't want to engage in meaningful debate or discussion with some of the people on this list. Nothing personal (before the moderator steps in) because i know as little of you as you know of me---I just don't make unwarrented assumptions about you. I just think that what you are posting is rubbish.

And that's the end of it as far as i am concerned.

Julian Mincham wrote (January 6, 2010):
Kim Patrick Clow wrote:
< Me too, and that's why you wouldn't see me making the original silly statement I had pointed out. >
Inaccurately attributed.

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (January 6, 2010):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< And that's the end of it as far as I am concerned. >
Ditto.

Happy New Year!

Neil Halliday wrote (January 7, 2010):
Julian Mincham wrote:
> Excuse me I don't think so. I may well have written that Bach was one of the greatest composers of counterpoint which is by no means the same thing.<

Wow! Kim must be a bcold over there or something I'm afraid; you certainly copped a serve, Julian!

In fact, 'bachlover' wrote "history has judged the supreme contrapunalist the greater composer." This was my response to an article in which Telemann implied he disliked contrapuntal complexity; note the word greater; my comment was simply that history has judged Bach, who obviously enjoyed contrapuntal complexity (unlike Telemann) to be the greater composer.
(Kim obviously disagrees).

But notice the huge difference between my statement comparing Bach to Telemann, and Kim's comment that "Renaissance polyphony is light years ahead of music written during the baroque (yes Bach included)".

Perhaps Kim is feeling a tad insecure about Telemann's greatness vis a vis Bach, which would explain his mis-attributed response to your rquest for clarification of his statement that renaissance polophony is "light years ahead" of the baroque counterpoint (as if you can compare Tallis polyphony to, for example the 'Art of Fugue' or the fugues of the WTK). In fact when making my statement I deliberately avoided the word "polyphonic" because I wanted to avoid comparison with music of previous centuries - I was aware that a comment like Kim's above could well be made, which would only muddy the point I was making.

Doug made the point that we should enjoy the counterpoint/polyphony of the renaissance and the baroque without ranking them; Kim agrees with this, but he has obviously entirely misread my original statement, for reasons I have suggested above.

Keep warm in the northern hemisphere.

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 7, 2010):
Neil Halliday wrote:
< you certainly copped a serve, Julian! >
I gather that copped a serve is Australian slang, as follows:
<I tried to remember how many times I had copped a serve (physical beatings by prison guards) for having one item out of its designated place.>

Now accepted in my version of American English. Unless I have it wrong, in which case please inform.

Neil Halliday wrote (January 7, 2010):
Neil Halliday wrote:
>"history has judged the supreme contrapuntalist the greater composer."<, ie, comparing Bach to Telemann who by his own mouth was averse to contrapuntal complexity.

Perhaps this should have been more clearly stated:

"history has judged one of the supreme contrapuntalists to be the greater composer", (comparing Bach to Telemann).

Would this have avoided the "light-years ahead" remark (comparing renaissance polyphony with baroque counterpoint, which is another topic)?

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (January 7, 2010):
Neil Halliday wrote:
< In fact, 'bachlover' wrote "history has judged the supreme contrapunalist the greater composer." This was my response to an article in which Telemann implied he disliked contrapuntal complexity; note the word greater; my comment was simply that history has judged Bach, who obviously enjoyed contrapuntal complexity (unlike Telemann) to be the greater composer. >
< (Kim obviously disagrees).>
I offer profuse apologies to Julian for my mistake. And yes, I think you're wrong about Telemann.

< But notice the huge difference between my statement comparing Bach to Telemann, and Kim's comment that "Renaissance polyphony is light years ahead of music written during the baroque (yes Bach included)". >
I noticed that.

< Perhaps Kim is feeling a tad insecure about Telemann's greatness vis a vis Bach, which would explain his mis-attributed response to your rquest for clarification of his statement that renaissance polophony is "light years ahead" of the baroque counterpoint (as if you can compare Tallis polyphony to, for example the 'Art of Fugue' or the fugues of the WTK). >
Perhaps not. Perhaps Kim couldn't find the correct attribution because the archives for Emails didn't go back to October, so Kim couldn't find the original E-mail, so perhaps it had nothing to do with Telemann or insecurity at all. But back in Ocotober, I did share your original E-mail with several musicologists, and they were amused and baffled with it as much as I was.

< Keep warm in the northern hemisphere. >
I will, with plenty of Bach and Telemann and Striggio.

:-)

Neil Halliday wrote (January 7, 2010):
Kim Patrick Clow wrote:
>I did share your original E-mail with several musicologists, and they were amused and baffled with it as much as I was.<
They were amused and baffled by my statement that history has judged Bach (who also was a supreme contrapuntalist, Telemann by his own mouth was averse to contrapuntal complexity) to be a greater composer than Telemann?

It would be interesting to take a poll among the world's musicologists on this point; I'm certainly confident it's not a silly proposition.

Since I admire Bach's great contrapuntal masterpieces, a form Telemann eschewed by his own mouth, Bach is already ahead of Telemann in my estimation.

I see you have admitted Bach to be the greatest baroque contrapuntalist. So the debate comes down to whose music one most prefers?

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (January 7, 2010):
Neil Halliday wrote:
< They were amused and baffled by my statement that history has judged Bach (who also was a supreme contrapuntalist, Telemann by his own mouth was averse to contrapuntal complexity) to be a greater composer than Telemann? >
No, that Bach was the supreme contrapuntalist. Obviously, you've made a distinction now you were only talking about Telemann and Bach, not renaissance polyphony.

< It would be interesting to take a poll among the world's musicologists on this point; I'm certainly confident it's not a silly proposition. >
Why don't you ask them? It would be a fun project!

< Since I admire Bach's great contrapuntal masterpieces, a form Telemann eschewed by his own mouth, Bach is already ahead of Telemann in my estimation. >
No true Scotman's fallacy much?

< I see you have admitted Bach to be the greatest baroque contrapuntalist. So the debate comes down to whose music one most prefers? >
Nah, I retract that now on 2nd though, Purcell's fantastias while technically weren't fugues, he was doing things Bach never dreamt of.

Neil Halliday wrote (January 7, 2010):
Kim Patrick Clow wrote:
>No true Scotman's fallacy much?<
Why fallacy? - I am just stating my own opinion there, with one reason being that Telemann is disinterested in one of my favourite forms (fugue).

But to the specific point: has history - from the baroque up to now, mind you -judged Bach the greater composer (than Telemann)? I originally stated the proposition this way to avoid interjecting personal opinion AFAP.

Purcell's counterpoint greater than Bach? That's an interesting proposition.

Douglas Cowling wrote (January 7, 2010):
Neil Halliday wrote:
< Purcell's counterpoint greater than Bach? That's an interesting proposition. >
Bach could never have written the electrifying 8 part "Hear My Prayer" because he wasn't Purcell -- the job was already filled.

Julian Mincham wrote (January 7, 2010):
Thanks to Neil for identifying the source of the mis-attributed quoand to Kim who has apologised to me on list and privately. I guess this demonstrates the dangers of relying on memory for quotations.

Without wishing to carry on a flame war can i go back to my original question which was actually asking for detail about the specific musical aspects which put some medieval music ahead of the 'high baroque'. I actually thought that this could lead to a lively discussion (well, it did, but not of the type I was expecting)

Incidentally I do agree about the Purcell fantasias. I studied all the scores in some detail a few years ago and they are an amazing compendium of contrapuntal devices and very individual harmonic language, pretty much unlike anything else he wrote (stylistically) and all the more incredible when you remember that he was only about 19 when he composed them. I have never heard that Bach had any access to Purcell's music but it would be fascinating to conjecture what he might have thought of them.

Continue of this part of the discussion, see: Henry Purcell & Bach [Bach & Other Composers]:

Julian Mincham wrote (January 7, 2010):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
<< you certainly copped a serve, Julian! >>
< I gather that copped a serve is Australian slang, as follows:
<<I tried to remember how many times I had copped a serve (physical beatings by prison guards) for having one item out of its designated place.>>
< Now accepted in my version of American English. Unless I have it wrong, in which case please inform. >
ED I always thought it was related to tennis and the big serves of some of the great 1950-60s players. Didn't know about the prison connection.

Morten Lambertsen wrote (January 7, 2010):
The discussion about the superiority of renaissance to baroque (Bach-) counterpoint or vice versa on the forum reminds, me of a similar ongoing paragon-like debate in scholarly circles from my time at the conservatory. Counterpoint - at that time in the 1980's - was still taught from both the Fux 'Gradus ad Parnassum' method (stile antico and Palestrina) - in a modernized version - and from baroque fugue writing in Bach style. The promoters and scholars of either method (from the 1940's onward) had strongly opposed each other, and the debate was very heated in a way that today seems a bit silly and anachronistic. I suspect it partly arose from the neoclassicistic revival of pre-romantic music and counterpoint in general in the 1930's - the Palestrina camp being the more purist, didactical, and the Bach camp more Hindemith and Les Six oriented.

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 7, 2010):
Polyphony/counterpoint [was: BWV 226]

Morten Lambertsen wrote:
< The discussion about the superiority of renaissance to baroque (Bach-) counterpoint or vice versa >on the forum reminds, me of a similar ongoing paragon-like debate in scholarly circles from my time at the conservatory. Counterpoint - at that time in the 1980's - was still taught from both the Fux 'Gradus ad Parnassum' method (stile antico and Palestrina) - in a modernized version - and from baroque fugue writing in Bach style. The promoters and scholars of either method (from the 1940's onward) had strongly opposed each other, and the debate was very heated in a way that today seems a bit silly and anachronistic. >
Silly academic debates never exactly become anachronisitic, in my experience. The proponents get old, die, and the next generation adopts its own issues for debate, often silly. The original issues from the previous generation often remain unresolved. Thanks for the perspective.

Morten Lambertsen wrote (January 7, 2010):
[To Ed Myskowski] I agree. Anachronistic only cause it was a hot topic among theorists and scholars at the time of Elvis and Darmstadt. Silly was perhaps the wrong term, rather highly entertaining, as I remember it.

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (January 7, 2010):
Morten Lambertsen wrote:
< The discussion about the superiority of renaissance to baroque (Bach-) counterpoint or vice versa on the forum >
What prompted this was someone's comment thta when they recently performed some Josqin, they were pleseantly surprised at its complexity. I merely only wanted to provide a broader historical context for that renassisance vocal counterpoin. "Bach" style counterpoint didn't merely spring out of his head when he was trained. The foundations and context for counterpoint before Bach is something rarely talked about on these pages, I wanted to stir that pot, so to speak. Considering some of the more "arcane" debates here, one about renaissance polyphony in relation to Bach hardly seems far-fetched or trivial. And I'd bet at least in the debates in the 1980s that you allude to, the participants KNEW the material and composers involved (although I doubt seriously there was nearly as much knoweledge about Striggio as there is now).

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 7, 2010):
Kim Patrick Clow wrote:
< What prompted this was someone's comment [Therese] thta when they recently performed some Josqin, they were pleseantly surprised at its complexity. I merely only wanted to provide a broader historical context for that renassisance vocal counterpoin. >
That is a reasonable objective, as I read it, but not readily apparent from the original statement (which did indeed stir the pot).

KPC:
< Renaissance polyphony is light years ahead of music written during the baroque (yes Bach included) >

Morten Lambertsen wrote (January 8, 2010):
Kim Patrick Clow wrote:
"Considering some of the more "arcane" debates here, one about renaissance polyphony in relation to Bach hardly seems far-fetched or trivial."
No, that's a vital subject for Bach viewed in a historical perspective, certainly. But to be a bit more clear - Students of counterpoint (for analytical or compositional purpose) have since the 18. century widely been taught using the methods that Fux presented in his famous "Gradus ad Parnassum" (1725), which is primarily based on the stile antico polyphony of the 17. and 16. centuries. After Bach and the Bach-renaissance, fugue-writing in his style (more or less) also became 'fashionable' as a discipline, and in the 20. century these two methods became the subject of academic controversies as to which one was the best, the main difference being modality in renaissance versus functional tonality in Bach on the vertical level. There are many examples of 17./18. century polyphonic music that seems to correspond to the methods of Fux. Bach's double and triple fugues in particular, almost structurally proceeds like one of Fux' excersises.

On a different note though, comes to renaissance polyphony of the first order, the triple canon of the motet 'Nesciens mater virgo virum' by Jean Mouton - wow!

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 8, 2010):
In the course of reviewing (that is, viewing again, scanning, etc.) the BCW archives re BWV 226, it strikes me as worthwhile to point out the source of a comment cited by bachlover (Neil H.) in his introduction:

From amazon.com, re Jacobs CD:

<5.0 out of 5 stars a voice teacher and early music fan, July 26, 2009
By George Peabody "Ariel" (Planet Earth) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)
"BACH MOTETS ARE AMONG HIS MOST PERFECT WORKS AND CONSTITUTE ONE OF THE SUMMITS OF WESTERN POLYPHONY" ...> (end quote)

I am especially satisfied that the writer identifies himself as a resident of Planet Earth (my locale, as well!), presumably true of almost all BCML correspondents?

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 8, 2010):
Kim Patrick Clow wrote:
<< "Considering some of the more "arcane" debates here, one about renaissance polyphony in relation to Bach hardly seems far-fetched or trivial." >>
Morten Lambertsen wrote:
< No, that's a vital subject for Bach viewed in a historical perspective, certainly. >
Indeed, this overheated, as yet barely stirred pot, began with the response by Therese to my mention of a radio program (an Orgy (r) in fact, nine hours worth) featuring the music of Roland de Lassus (aka Orlande de Lassus, etc.). I wrote with the hope that Therese (or someone) would clarify his st(or not) as Belgian, which she did almost immediately (he hailed from Mons).

From the program notes to The Lassus Orgy:
<His name may have varied, but his influence was unquestionable. Lassus (ca. 1532-1594) brought enormous variety, invention, and sheer joy to polyphonic music, and was widely admired as a composer and teacher.>

Less formally, if more picturesquely, the producer and announcer of the program called Lassus <the Leonard Bernstein of his day>, while pointing out that his activities spanned comic theater to sacred music, and the full spectrum between. Geez, Officer Krupke, youve done it again!

I wondered at the time (still do) if there is any connection to Bach, expecially given Schütz, Schiedt, Schein, et al as temporal intermediaries. If all those French chansons damour found their way to become sanitized as Luther chorales, it is hard to imagine otherwise, lack (or lack of discovery, as yet) of specific evidence notwithstanding. I believe this is similar to the point Therese made at the outset.

For those interested in the concept of music Orgies on radio, see http://www.whrb.org

Paul Johnson wrote (January 8, 2010):
I have a preference for the Motets sung a cappella and I've been listening an expanded Hilliard Ensemble sing BWV 226. It's a funny thing, I adore the Hilliards - they could sing the 'phone book and I'm sure I would enjoy it - but there is something about their Bach which doesn't work for me. I'm not sure what it is. Anyone else a Hilliards fan, and got their ECM recording of the motets?

Neil Halliday wrote (January 8, 2010):
Paul Johnson wrote:
>Anyone else a Hilliards fan, and got their ECM recording of the motets? <
I don't have the CD, but listening to the BCW BWV 226 sample, I find the voices lovely; however the first movement is perhaps a little slow and choirs I and II appear not to be sufficiently spatially separated.

This latter shortcoming ofcourse does not apply in the grand double-fugue movement, where the two SATB choirs combine; I find the performance here very satisfying.

But as to your broader point about not liking the Hilliards' Bach, I can't comment.

Paul Johnson wrote (January 8, 2010):
[To Neil Halliday] Perhaps I had overstated it a bit. I am a big fan of the Hilliard's 'Morimur' disc, and I also love their recent recording of BWV 4 (in fact, it's my favourite recording of that early, sublime cantata). There is something 'clinical' about their recording of the motets that doesn't work for me.

Douglas Cowling wrote (January 8, 2010):
Choral Vocal Technique

Paul Johnson wrote:
< I adore the Hilliards - they could sing the 'phone book and I'm sure I would enjoy it - but there is something about their Bach which doesn't work for me. >
I have often wondered why the English choral "sound" both in mixed and all-male choirs seems wrong for the Bach motets. The English use counter-tenors for the alto parts and the boys use a pure-head tone without any chest voice at all. Mixed choirs like The Sixteen and the Tallis Choir replicate this treble sound by having the women sing with no vibrato at all. English choirs are absoutely dead on in ensemble and intonation.

German boys choirs have a much "rougher" sound that mixes a lot of chest tone in the sound. It's very interesting to hear the difference between the King's College Cambridge and the Tölzer Knabenchor sing the Bach motets. We could go on for DECADES airing our preferences about national styles of singing, but the question that intrigues me is whether the German style is more influenced by 19th century bel canto techniques. The English sound has no particular claim to historicity as its present techniques were refined after WWII by David Willcocks who pretty much created the English cathedral sound.

Then there's the Pucciniesque swooping of the present Sistine Choir.

Paul Johnson wrote (January 8, 2010):
[To Douglas Cowling] It's very interesting. I like The Sixteen, The Tallis Scholars, and The Hilliard Ensemble a great deal. But singing the Bach Motets, I wouldn't favour them.

Neil Halliday wrote (January 10, 2010):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
>German boys choirs have a much "rougher" sound that mixes a lot of chest tone in the sound. It's very interesting to hear the difference between the King's College Cambridge and the Tolzer Knabechor sing the Bach motets.<
Though I'm wondering if the Windsbacher all male choir (under Beringer) is a German example of the 'purer' English cathedral-choir sound, with it's vibrato-less treble boy section: Amazon.com

Douglas Cowling wrote (January 10, 2010):
Neil Halliday wrote:
< Though I'm wondering if the Windsbacher all male choir (under Beringer) is a German example of the 'purer' English cathedral-choir sound, with it's vibrato-less treble boy section. >
All of the German choirs use a "whiter" more focussed sound for Renaissance and Baroque music than they did 40 years ago. I suspect this is the influence of period ensembles which adopted that sound as a recreation of boys voices in earlier periods.

Aryeh Oron wrote (January 10, 2010):
Bach's Motets

Thomas Braatz contributed the article:
"Information about Bach's Motets with a Specific Examination of BWV 226 Extracted from Klaus Hofmann's Book on This Subject" - Summaries and Translations
See: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Articles/MotetsHofmann.pdf

Thomas Braatz wrote:
In recent weeks during the discussion of Bach's motets, questions have been raised about their origin and the proper performance practice that Bach may have used. Klaus Hofmann discusses such matters and others as well as he presents in his fairly recent book (2003) a well-documented, up-to-date summary of all the scholarship surrounding these works. I hope to present eventually Hofmann's interesting chronology of the composition and performance(s) of BWV 226 under Bach's direction.

Douglas Cowling wrote (January 11, 2010):
Aryeh Oron wrote:
<Thomas Braatz wrote:
In recent weeks during the discussion of Bach's motets, questions have been raised about their origin and the proper performance practice that Bach may have used. Klaus Hofmann discusses such matters and others as well as he presents in his fairly recent book (2003) a well-documented, up-to-date summary of all the scholarship surrounding these works. I hope to present eventually Hofmann's interesting chronology of the composition and performance(s) of BWV 226 under Bach's direction. >
Hoffmann creates a list of cantata movements with the following items:

4. Specialized forms (motetlike mvts. in cantatas and other vocal works {selection only})

a) cantata movements
BWV 2/1 Ach Gott, vom Himmel sieh darein
BWV 28/2 Nun lob, mein Seel, den Herren
BWV 38/1 Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir
BWV 64/1 Sehet, welche eine Liebe
BWV 144/1 Nimm, was dein ist, und gehe hin

b) Magnificat inserts
BWV 243a/A Vom Himmel hoch, da komm ich her
BWV 243a/B Freut euch und jubiliert

What are his criteria for inclusion? Why not the opening of "Ein feste Burg", the second Kyrie of the Mass in B Minor, or "Sicut Locutus Est" in the Magnificat? The last item in particular seems to be written in the antique motet style to symbolize "adpatres nostro" ("to our fathers.")

Aryeh Oron wrote (January 11, 2010):
Douglas Cowling asked about Klaus Hofmann's reasons for choosing only certain works for his list of motet-like mvts.:
"What are his criteria for inclusion? Why not the opening of "Ein feste Burg", the second Kyrie of the Mass in B Minor, or "Sicut Locutus Est" in the Magnificat? The last item in particular seems to be written in the antique motet style to symbolize "ad patres nostro" ("to our fathers.")"
Thomas Braatz responded:
I clearly indicated that Hofmann was only providing a selection of works in this category and had no intention of listing everything that might be available.

A few minutes ago the PDF was replaced with a corrected and expanded version.
See: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Articles/MotetsHofmann.pdf

Douglas Cowling wrote (January 11, 2010):
Aryeh Oron wrote:
< I clearly indicated that Hofmann was only providing a selection of works in this category and had no intention of listing everything that might be available. >
Gee, I miss that tone of voice on the list. Too bad -- the material is interesting and the discussion could have been fruitful.

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 11, 2010):
<>

Edward Lilley wrote (January 12, 2010):
Paul Johnson writes [Choral Vocal Technique]:
< It's very interesting. I like The Sixteen, The Tallis Scholars, and The Hilliard Ensemble a great deal. But singing the Bach Motets, I wouldn't favour them. >
Has anyone else experienced Cantus Colln's rendition of the motets? I much prefer them to the Rene Jacobs & RIAS-Kammerchor, and pretty much everyone else. (though I still love the several different versions that I have of King's, under Cleobury, doing Lobet & Der Geisthilft, despite it being a supposedly unauthentic cathedral-y sound)

George Bromley wrote (January 12, 2010):
[To Edward Lilley, regarding Choral Vocal Technique] l admire Sir David very much and have sung under him but Bach, no no , far to a romatic approach and not a Bach sound,

Aryeh Oron wrote (January 13, 2010):
The PDF about Bach's Motets has just been replaced with the completed version.
See: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Articles/MotetsHofmann.pdf

 

Discussions in the Week of October 3, 2016 (4th round)

William Hoffman wrote wrote (October 6, 2016):
Motet VWV 226: "Der Geist hilf unsre Schwachheit auf" Intro.

With the onset of the eschatological Cycle of Last Things at the 17th Sunday after Trinity in 1729, Bach had the special opportunity to create memorial 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),” Bach wrote on the chorus score and rare original orchestral parts that the motet was performed at the burial on 20 October or 24, 1729 of Johann Heinrich Ernesti, a professor [of poetry] at the University of Leipzig and Rector of the Thomasschule were Bach was the cantor.1

Evidence from Bach’s autograph score and from details of the scoring suggests that this work was based, at least in part, on older material; whether or not that was an older motet is unknown, which was cast in the form of a concise, directly appealing, extended prelude and fugue setting. Complications over the service setting enabled Bach as Leipzig Music Director and Thomas Cantor eventually to add woodwind and string parts doubling the eight voices (SSAATTBB) and use the celebrated Leipzig Collegium Musicum ensemble which he had began to direct at the beginning of Trinity Time 1729.

Eventually, the music was part of the solemn, academic ceremony held at the official Leipzig University Paulinerkirche, with burial there. The sermon on the chosen text at the appropriate venue, Paul’s Letter to the Romans 8:26-27, was delivered by St. Thomas Pastor Christian Weise, listed as Thursday, October 21. Weise’s printed sermon “emphasizes the words ‘Ehren-Gedächtniß’ [remembrace in honor of] and ‘Todes-Bereitung’[in preparation of death]” as a “remembrance service,” observes Thomas Braatz in his BCW Motet BWV 226 study.2

Bach’s nine-minute, eight-voice study fugal chorus and plain chorale setting, was patterned after for first two memorial Motets composed earlier in Weimar. The two motets identified in recent years are eight-voice, double chorus settings (SSAATTBB) with appropriate chorales: "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” (Why troublest Thou, My Heart), dating to 1712-13, and 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?" (Why should I myself then grieve?), dating to about 1715.

In addition to Bach’s Motet BWV 226, the Ernesti memorial service perhaps included the “Great 18 Leipzig Organ Chorale” setting of “Komm Hiliger Gesit, BWV 652” in G Major ¾ sarabande rhythm, which also runs about nine minutes (recording https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n64pTS_s6Tw). Also possibly presented was music and liturgy related to the adjacent 19th Sunday after Trinity, October 23, 1729, such as Paul Gerhardt 1656 chorale, "Warum sollt ich mich denn grämen?," found in Bach plain chorale setting BWV 422. It also is possible that if the memorial service were repeated, the Weimar full motets with chorales could have been reperfromed, BWV Anh.159, "Ich lasse dich nicht,” and BWV 228, “Fürchte dich nicht, ich bin bei dir."

A similar memorial concert for the Saxon Queen of Poland, Christiane Eberhardine of Brandenburg-Bayreuth, “Laß, Fürstin, laß noch einen Strahl BWV 198,” had been held two years previous, October 17, 1727, under the same auspices. A reconstruction can be found at https://www.amazon.com/Bach-J-S-Tombeau-Majeste-Pologne/dp/B000NQDEJA (BCW http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Performers/Ricercar.htm, C-9).

Ernesti Biography:3 Johann Heinrich Ernesti, born 12 March 1652 at Königsfeld in Saxony, studied theology and philosophy at Leipzig University, and served as co-Rector of the Thomasschule in 1680 and Rector in 1684. His specialty as Latin classicist in poetics at Leipzig University was Cicero. Ernesti was succeeded as rector at Thomasschulle by J. M. Gesner who was succeeded by Johann August Ernesti (no relation) in 1734.

Documentation and texts of Bach’s 20 works presented under the auspices of the Leipzig University, are found at Festmusikenzu Leipziger Universitätsfeiern, http://unichor.uni-leipzig.de/index.php?page=festmusiken; publication, Petzoldt, Martin (2009). Der Geist hilft unser Schwachheit auf BWV 226, in "Booklet for the Anniversary Edition "Leipziger Universitätsmusik," Johann Sebastian Bach: Festmusiken zu Leipziger Universitätsfeiern (source citation, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Der_Geist_hilft_unser_Schwachheit_auf,_BWV_226).

Motet BWV 226 Thomas School Headmaster Tribute

Motet BWV 226 is a tribute to Thomas School Headmaster J. H. Ernesti, observes John Eliot Gardiner in his 2012 notes ton his "Bach Motets" (Soli Deo Gloria). << Besides serving as Cantor and musical director of the city of Leipzig, Bach worked at the Thomasschule as a somewhat reluctant schoolmaster under the veteran rector (headmaster in today’s parlance) Johann Heinrich Ernesti. In his later years Ernesti had rather let things slide: discipline was poor and the school building in urgent need of repair and enlargement. Baand his colleagues probably regarded Ernesti’s death in October 1729 with mixed feelings; to the University of Leipzig, however, the death of a distinguished scholar was an event that called for commemoration, and Bach was commissioned to compose BWV 226, “Der Geist hilft unser Schwachheit auf,” the only motet whose precise original function is documented, for a memorial service held in the University church of St Paul on 20 October.

Bach’s text is taken from St Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, a passage which tells of the Holy Spirit’s intercession with God the Father on behalf of believing Christians. The motet is in four sections. The first is dominated by an airy melisma representing the working of the Holy Spirit (‘Geist’), comparable to the melisma on ‘geistlich’ in [Motet BWV 227] ‘Jesu, meine Freude,’ [Jesus,My Joy], while the second attempts to express the inexpressible groaning(s) of man which pass for prayer, transformed by the Spirit into the most eloquent intercession. The two choirs then unite in a four-part double fugue of consummate skill, the mood one of certitude and unbounded optimism. These three contrasting sections of the Biblical setting lead towards, and are neatly summarised by, the third strophe of Luther’s Whitsun chorale ‘Komm heiliger Geist, Herre Gott’, first published as united text and melody in the Erfurt hymn-book of 1524.
© John Eliot Gardiner, 2012>>

Ernesti Memorial Tribute

Public funeral events for Thomas School Rector J. H. Ernesti probably were spread over several days in October 1729, according to Klaus Hofmann’s 2009 liner notes to the Masaaki Suzuki BIS recording of the Motets BWV 225-230, Ang. 159.. << “Der Geist hilft unser Schwachheit auf,” BWV 226, Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities. Bach’s autograph score bears the remark: ‘For the funeral of the reverend professor and headmaster Ernesti’. Johann Heinrich Ernesti, a prominent figure in Leipzig as headmaster of the Thomasschule and university professor, died on 16th October 1729 at the age of 77, and his burial was accompanied by public funeral events spread over several days at the Paulinerkirche. We do not know exactly which of these occasions saw the first performance of Bach’s motet.

The text is based on a passage from Romans 8 (verses 26–27), which Ernesti had chosen well in advance as the sermon text for his funeral. This text is focused not on mourning but on confidence. Bach’s music takes up this idea; its flowing, dancelike opening develops into a splendid, virtuosic double-choir setting followed by a shorter, contrasting section dominated by ‘sighing’ gestures and then by a weighty four-part fugue. Bach may have added the concluding chorale verse (from Martin Luther’s Komm, Heiliger Geist [Come, Holy Spirit], 1524) at a later date, and it is uncertain whether this movement was performed along with the rest.

As Bach’s performance material shows, the first choir was reinforced by the strings, and the second choir by oboes and bassoon; the organ and violone were used as continuo instruments. Evidently the instrumental accompaniment had not been planned from the outset, perhaps because – according to the funeral customs of the time – this would have been an exceptional circumstance requiring special permission.
© Klaus Hofmann 2009>>

Context of Ernesti Funeral Service

The autograph of BWV 226 “contains on the reverse side a six bar fragment” sketch, observes Alfred Dürr in the Cantatas of J. S. Bach.4 It begins with the usual Bach inscription: “J.J. (Jesu Juva), Dominica 19 post Trinitas a 4 Voci. I. Violino Conc: 2 violini/ viola e cont. di Bach.” It is an Untexted Fragment, BWV Anh. I 2 Bach Compendium BC A 147 (Neumann XXIX). The music is printed in full score in B-Flat Major, 6/8 pastorale-style syncopated, possibly Lombard rhythm. “Evidently this is the opening of a cantata; and since the Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity took place that year on 23 October, the day before the performance of motet, we may confidently date the fragment 1729,” says Dürr. “The composition of this cantata was probably interrupted by the intervening death and at least temporarily discontinued. It is questionable whether the sketch may be linked with Picander’s text [P 63] for this Sunday from the cycle of 1728-29, Gott, du Richter der Geadnken [God, Thou Judge of thoughts], for the text already existed in 1728 and could therefore have been set during the previous year.”

Picander’s Cantata P 63 text (no music) closes with the Paul Gerhardt 1656 chorale, "Warum sollt ich mich denn grämen?" (Why should I myself then grieve?), S. 6, "Satan, Welt, und ihre Rotten" (Satan, World, and your kind), associated melody adapted by Leipzig poet Daniel Vetterer 1713, from J. G. Ebeling 1666). The harmonization of chorale, BWV 422, "Warum sollt ich mich denn grämen?," is in the unrelated key of C/G Major. Dürr assumes that Bach began the cantata composition (in October 1729) but ceased and began composing the motet for the coming funeral. At this time, Bach had ceased regular service composition, having assumed the directorship of the secular Leipzig Collegium musicum in the late spring of 1729 when he composed his last sacred Cantata BWV 174, "Ich liebe den Hochsten von ganzem Gemute," for Pentecost Monday, June 6, 1729, using a Picander 1728 printed text.

Bach’s Motet 226 Setting

Gardiner performed Motet BWV 226 for the 19th Sunday after Trinity in the 2000 Bach Cantata Pilgrimage, says his 2009 notes to the 2000 Bach Cantata Pilgrimage recordings on Soli Deo Gloria. An overview of Motet BWV 226 with its stern Pauline-Lutheran text, is found in John Eliot Gardiner’s 2009 notes to his 2000 Bach Cantata Pilgrimage recordings on Soli Deo Gloria [recording with score, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dXxRDkeh4ZY].5 “We ended our programme [for the 17th Sunday after Trinity] with the most instrumentally conceived of Bach’s double-choir motets, BWV 226 ‘Der Geist hilft unser Schwachheit auf,’ incidentally the only one for which original doubling parts for winds and strings have survived. It was performed in October 1729 at the burial of J. H. Ernesti, the ageing headmaster (rector) of the Thomasschule, who may himself have compiled its stern Pauline-Lutheran text and whose musical tastes are perhaps reflected in Bach’s hieratic [stylized] treatment, softening only at the mention of the ‘inexpressible groaning’ of the spirit and for the ravishing a cappella chorale with which it ends.”

Holy Spirit Drives Motet 226

The ”invigorating power of the Holy Spirit is the determining factor in the Christian’s acknowledgement of Christ’s Godhead,” observes Gardiner in his Bach musical biography, Bach: Music in the Castle of Heaven.6 Focusing on the great vocal music, Gardiner compares the closing “Cum sancto spiritu” chorus that closes the Gloria with an SSATB ¾ time movement in the Mass in B Minor with the double-choir Motet BWV 226. The text is, “Cum Sancto Spiritu in Gloria Dei Patris, Amen (With the Holy Ghost in the glory of God the Father, Amen) [music, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BWRrgHZV_Ks]. “Immediately the Cum sancto takes off with a tremendous jolt,” observes Gardiner. “Mention of the Holy Spirit is the key to the changes in both pace and mood of this new music.”

While Bach was beginning to work on the completion of the B-Minor Mass in the mid-1740s, beginning with the central Credo section, he had the opportunity to do another contrafaction of the “Cum sancto spiritu,” that he had composed to conclude the Gloria of the Missa: Kyrie-Gloria, BWV 233a in 1733. The original source of the music remains hidden, possibly originating in a Köthen instrumental prelude and fugue that could be adapted with a Latin text, or revised or mostly composed anew for a Leipzig civic celebration in the mid-1720s to an obcure German text, as was possible with the “Et Resurrexit” at later, the “Osanna in excelsis” At any rate, Bach set the exhilarating Holy Spirit Latin text to a another established text, the Lesser Doxolgy Trinitarian canticle that with the eschatological affirmation, “Sicut erat in principio et nunc et semper / et in saecula saeculorum, amen.” (As it was in the beginning and is now and always will be /And for age after age, amen.)

The five-part chorus closes Lesser Latin Doxology Cantata 191, “Gloria in excelsis Deo,” Bach's so-called "Missa Cantata” is listed as Latin Music for the first Christmas Festival (Christ's Nativity) and its composition is dated 1743-46. The work may have been presented on Christmas Day 1745, along with the “Sanctus in D Major, BWV 232III, to celebrate the Peace of Dresden at the conclusion of the 2nd Silesian War (during which Leipzig had been occupied by the Prussian troops of Leopold of Anhalt-Dessau). The special academic thanksgiving service was held in the Leipzig University Church.

Chorale "Komm, Heiliger Geist"

Motet BWV 226, movements/sections, scoring, key, meter7 Motet BWV 226, lasting about nine minutes, has three movements: A. Double-choir chorus to the text Romans 8:26; B. Double-fugue chorus to the text Romans 8:27; and C. Four-part extended plain chorale, Luther’s “Komm, Heiliger Geist, Herre Gott (Come, Holy Spirit, Lord God), concluding Stanza 3, “Du heilige Brunst, süßer Trost” (You sacred warmth, sweet consolation).

A. Double-Choir Chorus I/II in two parts (chorus, double fugue), alternating structure ABA1B1C [SATB; Oboe I/II, Taille, Fagotto, Violino I/II, Viola, Violoncello, Continuo (+ Violone)]: Double-Choir chorus, Romans 8:26:a (AB structure, 3/8 passepied dance-style), “Der Geist hilft unser Schwachheit auf” (The spirit comes to help our weakness); Rom. 8:26b (A1B1 structure, bar 41),“denn wir wissen nicht, / was wir beten sollen, / wie sich's gebühret;” (For we do not know / What we should pray,/ As we ought to pray;); Rom. 8:26c (C Structure, bar 124, 4/4 meter), “sondern der Geist selbst vertritt / uns aufs beste mit unaussprechlichem Seufzen.” (But the spirit itself pleads / For us in the best way with inexpressible groans.) B. Chorus double fugue, two subjects (2/2 Alla breve), Romans 8:27a, “Der aber die Herzen forschet, der weiß, / was des Geistes Sinn sei;” (But he who searches our hearts knows / what the Spirit means); Rom. 8:27b, “denn er vertritt die Heiligen nach dem, / das Gott gefället.” (since he pleads for the saints / In the way that pleases God).

Motet BWV 226 originally may have been conceived in five parts with the closing 2/2 Alla breve fugue based on a previous-existing piece, suggests Christoph Wolff, Bach Compendium C-2: 949. The first two contrasting sections in 3/8 meter begin with the 16th-note, four-measure runs on “Geist” as a motto in canonic entries initially in the two soprano voices “may be adapted from an older composition,” says Daniel R. Melamed in OCC: JSB (Ibid.: 134.). “The buoyant opening section is musically somewhat uncharacteristic for a motet in use of 3/8 meter and in the tunefulness of its opening material. It also uses the double-choir forces unusually. The tune is presented first in the soprano of choir 1 in duet with the soprano of choir 2, accompanied by the lower voices of both choirs.” Pairs of the same voices enter and develop the material accumulating the Romans 8:26 text of the believer uncertain what to pray.

Apostle Paul’s extended Letter to the Romans is the subject of the first movement of Motet BWV 226, the double-choir chorus setting of Romans 8:26 in three parts, followed by the double fugue setting of Romans 8:27 in two parts. Paul’s Epistle teaching letter focuses on how God’s people are put right through faith against the foes of sin and death, with the New Life in union with Jesus Christ through the power of God’s Spirit in the believer’s life. Romans Chapter 8 addresses the “Life of the Spirit,” that creation would be set free from human slavery since those who have the spirit as God’s gifts also “groan within ourselves as we wait for God to make us his children and set us free” (8;23 Holy Bible TEV). Thus, in the same way, “The spirit comes to help our weakness, argues Paul,” uplifting mankind in the opening statement, who struggles to pray in the contrasting, antiphonal passages, as the spirit in 16th note runs beginning in the two soprano voices eventually join in two choruses singing, “to pray as we ought to” (Romans 8:26b).

A change of meter to 4/4 and affect takes place in the fugal second section beginning at m124, text Romans 8:26c, with Paul’s response to the possible dialectic dilemma that believers may feel when they try to pray: “sondern der Geist selbst vertritt / uns aufs beste mit unaussprechlichem Seufzen.” (But the spirit itself pleads / For us in the best way with inexpressible groans.). Particularly effective word-painting is found in the “unaussprechlichem Seufzen” “unspeakable sighing,” or “inexpressible groans.”

This leads to the traditional 2/2 Alla breve double fugue on Romans 8:27, beginning “Der aber die Herzen forschet, der weiß, / was des Geistes Sinn sei;” (But he who searches our hearts knows / what the Spirit means). This is followed by the second subject, “denn er vertritt die Heiligen nach dem” (since he pleads for the saint), with the first two combined into the third, concluding subject, “das Gott gefället.” (In the way that pleases God.).”

2. Chorale [Chorus I/II: SATB; Oboe I/II, Taille, Fagotto, Violino I/II, Viola, Violoncello, Continuo (+ Violone)].

Du heilige Brunst, süßer Trost
Nun hilf uns, fröhlich und getrost
In deinem Dienst beständig bleiben,
Die Trübsal uns nicht abtreiben.
O Herr, durch dein Kraft uns bereit
Und stärk des Fleisches Blödigkeit,
Dass wir hie ritterlich ringen,
Durch Tod und Leben zu dir dringen.
Halleluja, halleluja.

You sacred warmth, sweet consolation,
now help us joyful and comforted
in your service, always to remain
do not let sorrow drive us away!
O Lord, through your power make us ready
and strengthen the feebleness of our flesh
so that we may bravely struggle
through life and death to reach you!
Alleluia, alleluia.

Motet BWV 226 closes with the Lutheran Reformation Pentecost hymn, “Komm, Heiliger Geist, Herre Gott” (Come, Holy Spirit, Lord God), with the setting of the third and final stanza of the nine line AABBCCDDE, “Du heilige Brunst, süßer Trost” (You sacred warmth, sweet consolation). The four-square symmetrical hymn is divided into two parts with a closing “Hallelujah,” typical of early Luthern hymns. Each of the four lines has a purpose: l. invocation or salutation, 2. petition, 3. action agent, 4. gift.

Chorale Melody (Zahn 7445a, EG 98, “Komm, Heiliger Geist, Herre Gott”; Composer: Anon, related somewhat to the melody for the hymn Adesto, sancta spiritus by Marchetto di Padua (c1270). Text and melody information and Bach’s uses, BCW http://www.bach-cantatas.com/CM/Komm-Heiliger-Geist-Herre-Gott.htm.

<<The original performing parts for the motet— copied by Bach, his son Carl Philipp Emanuel, his wife Anna Magdalena, and other assistants -- include instrumental parts: a continuo group (string bass and organ with figures), strings doubling one choir, and woodwinds doubling the other, says Melamed (OCC: JSB, Ibid.). This is the best evidence we have that Bach performed his motets with basso continuo and calla parte instruments.

Nowadays one always hears this motet followed by a four-part chorale, ‘Du heilige Brunst’, the third stanza of Martin Luther’s hymn ‘Komm, heiliger Geist.’ The composition is Bach’s, but the chorale is quite probably not part of the motet. It is present in the original vocal parts, so we know that it was sung in connection with the Ernesti funeral, but it does not appear in the instrumental parts. The best guess is that the chorale was performed later in the ceremonies—perhaps at the graveside—but was not part of the motet, and so it should not be performed as if it were the concluding chorale of the kind often found in Bach’s church cantatas>>

Notes on the Text

For the introduction of the Reformation to Leipzig in 1639, Luther preached the sermons on Pentecost Sunday at the main service of the Thomas Church, and the evening service in thePleissenburg Castle adjacent to the main square, which in Bach’s time was the official residence of the Saxon Governor of Leipzig, as designated by the Elector, of Saxony, Augustus. While the sermon for the main service is not extant, Luther later preached the Gospel, John 14:23-31. This is “The Promise of the Holy Spirit.” It begins with Jesus, asked by apostle Judas (not Iscariot), “Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?” Jesus answers (26-27): “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. 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 phrase “fear not” or “be not afraid,” 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 exhortation “Fürchte dich, nicht” “appears about 60 times in the bible, and always 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 notres, “Be Not Afraid,” Bach in Context, “Fürchte dich, nicht” (Musica amphion), http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Performers/Belder.htm, C-4(a).

“Fürchte dich, nicht”

“Fürchte dich, nicht” is the topic of Motet BWV 228 (Yahoo No. 38857)
https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/BachCantatas/search/messages?query=Furchte%20dich%20March%2017.

Melamed's original article8 also placed the funeral Motet, "Fürchte dich nicht, ich bin bei dir" (Do not fear, I am with you), BWV 228 earlier 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?). It "may not be quite as old as" BWV 159 (Ibid: 521), that closes with a plain chorale, BWV 421, amended to BWV Anh. 159/1. It may have been presented in Leipzig for Stadthaputmann Parkbusch's wife on February 4, 1726. Motet BWV 228 text and Francis Browne's English translation are found at BCW http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/BWV228-Eng3.htm.

Bach used two stanzas of the chorale, "Warum sollt ich mich den grämen?," in his Motet BWV 228, "Furchte dich nicht" (Do not fear),: Movement No. 2, Chorus SATB (Do not fear) with soprano chorale, V. 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).

The chorale, "Warum sollt ich mich denn grämen?," is not found in the <Neu Leipziger Gesangbuch> of 1682, since it was too recent, but was popular in Bach's time as an <omnes tempore> hymn under the heading, "Trust in God, Cross, and Consolation." Bach's harmonization, BWV 422, four-part chorale in C/G Major, ?c.1730, is found in the Hänssler complete Bach edition (No. 85), A Book of Chorale settings: "Trust in God, Cross, and Consolation," No. 16, CD 92.085 (1999).

Pentecost Chorale: ‘Komm, Heiliger Geist, Herre Gott’9

In Cantata 59, Bach sets Neumeister’s third movement chorale text as a four-part plain chorale and recycles this setting to a different text closing the 1725 Pentecost Tuesday solo Cantata BWV 175, “Er rufet seinen Schafen mit Namen” (He calls his own sheep by name, 1 John 10:3). In Cantata 59, Bach sets stanza 1, “Komm, Heiliger Geist, Herre Gott” (Come, Holy Spirit, Lord God), versification of the antiphon Veni Sancte Spiritus of an anonymous 15th century German poet. Martin Luther added verses 2 and 3 which first appeared in print in Wittenberg, 1524. The associated melody of an unknown composer first appeared in the present form in Geystliche Gesangk Buchleyn (edited by Johann Walter) in Wittenberg, 1524 together with the additional verses which Martin Luther had added. The music is related somewhat to the melody for the hymn Adesto, sancta spiritus by Marchetto di Padua (c1270).

“Komm, Heiliger Geist, Herre Gott” is found in Bach’s Neu Leipziger Gesangbuch (1682) as No. 124 for Pentecost, “The Sending of the Holy Spirit” (Wackernagel, III, #19), set to Zahn melody 7445a. It was the de tempore chorale for Pentecost services and was set by various Lutheran composers in various vocal settings and as an organ chorale. Here is the text of this central movement, according to Martin Petzoldt (Bach Commentary, Vol. 2, Advent-Trinity: 974), with its affirmation of grace, love, and light using allusions to affirmative Psalms 50, 102, and 150:

Komm, Heiliger Geist, Herre Gott,
Come, Holy Spirit, Lord God,
Erfüll mit deiner Gnaden Gut
fill with the goodness of your grace
Deiner Gläubigen Herz, Mut und Sinn.
the heart, will and mind of your believers.
Dein brünstig Lieb entzünd in ihn'n.
Kindle your ardent love in them.
O Herr, durch deines Lichtes Glanz
O Lord through the splendour of your light
Zu dem Glauben versammlet hast
you have gathered together in faith
Das Volk aus aller Welt Zungen;
people of every language from the world;
Das sei dir, Herr, zu Lob gesungen.
May this be sung in your praise, Lord.
Alleluja, alleluja.

Bach also set the established text (EKG 98) as a plain chorale in the 1729 Motet, “Der Geist hilf unsre Schwacheit auf” (The spirit upholds our infirmities), suitable for Pentecost. Bach also set the chorale’s alternate text, Johann Rist’s 1561, “O Gottes Geist, mein Trost und Rat” (O God’s Spirit, my trust and counsel), to his recycled plain chorale harmonization found ending Cantata 175 with changes in full instrumental support and based on a Christiane Mariana von Ziegler operatic-style text. In addition, Bach had set the melody as an instrumental obbligato in the soprano-alto duet (Mvt. 5) in the Weimar Pentecost Cantata BWV 172, as well as two separate, extended organ chorales, BWV 651 and 652, in the so-called “Great Leipzig 18” of the 1740s, based on materials first developed in Weimar as early as 1708.

Dance Style in Motet, Chorale

Bach’s three mature Leipzig motets, BWV 225-227 were composed in the later 1720s for various special services. While sections of biblical text choruses and plain chorales may have originated earlier in Weimar, Bach composed definitive versions at this time. While there is no record of reperformances of these motets there is the possibility that Bach repeated them for other special services. Bach’s Tommmanerchor performed these motets, usually unaccompanied in the second half of the 17th century. and Mozart’s visit in 1789 documents such a performance of BWV 225 at the Thomas Church.

The beginning of BWV 226 is triple-meter 3/8, passepied-style, and is only one of a few Bach motet sections in dance style [music, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_wDxkup3oQ4 “Mix - Bach’s own score – Der Geist hilf unsre”] . Another is the eighth section in BWV 227, “Jesu, Meine Freude” (Jesus, my joy), the alto-tenor-bass chorus in 12/8 pastroral tempo (Romans 8:10): “So aber Christus in euch ist, so ist der Leib zwar tot um der Sünde willen; der Geist aber ist das Leben um der Gerechtigkeit willen.” (If Christ is in you, then the body is dead because of sin, but the spirit is life because of righteou) [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kr1X7vg697Y].

References to Jesus, love, joy, and the spirit can stimulate dance-style in Bach’s music. Motet BWV 225, with its Psalms of Praise 149-15), begins with “Singet dem herrn ein neues Lied” (Sing to the Lord a new song, Psalm 149:1), in ¾ time with the prelude section having a reprise of the opening “Singet” music (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lc14Jv1eTUE). The fugue section is playful and joyous, reflecting the text, “Die Kinder Zion sei'n fröhlich über ihrem Könige” (Let the children of Sion be joyful about their king, 149:2a). The reflective aria and chorale is in 4/4 time, “Wie sich ein Vater erbarmet / Über seine junge Kinderlein” (As a father feels compassion / For his young little child). The concluding chorus of massed rorces continues in 4/4, “Lobet den Herrn in seinen Taten” (Praise God in his works, Psalm 150:2) but changes to a quick. Dance like 3/8 for the concluding fugue, “Alles, was Odem hat, lobe den Herrn Halleluja!” (Let all that has breath praise the Lord, Hallelujah, Psalm 150:6).

Trinity 19

While the appointed New Testament lessons for the final quarter of Trinity Time are increasingly grim and harsh, Bach met the challenge in his cantata musical sermons, beginning with the initial 19th Sunday after Trinity: chorus Cantata BWV 48, "Ich elender Mensch, wer wird mich erosen?" (I, wretched mortal, who shall deliver me?); chorale Cantata BWV 5, "Wo sol lich fliehen hin? (Where shall I fly to?); and bass solo Cantata BWV 56, Ich will den Kreuzstab gerne tragen" (I will the cross-staff gladly carry).

Bach employs various techniques and devices to engage the listener in all three works: a general shift from the problem to the solution (negative to positive) in the text and musical setting, the use of well-known chorales with mostly selective Catechism confessional stanzas to confront the listener with the Living Word of God, graphic and descriptive poetic texts, various biblical quotations and illusions, and the use of dance style and other musical techniques. Bach also uses elements of tonal unity and allegory in all three cantatas, with flat, descending keys established in g minor in the opening dicta, moving to Bb and Eb Major in the initial recitatives and all the arias, and returning to c and g minor in the closing recitatives and chorales.

The Trinity Time Christian teachings become increasingly austere and severe, as observed by John Eliot Gardner, in his recording notes to his Bach Cantata Pilgrimage 2000. "Now that we are approaching the end of the Trinity season, the thematic emphasis is on the thorny and intractable issues of belief and doubt. With autumn giving way to winter the character of the appointed texts for each Sunday becomes steadily grimmer, underlining the rejection of the world by the faithful and the prospect of eventual union with God - or the horror of exclusion. From week to week this dichotomy appears to grow harsher." Sources: BCW, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV48.htm, Recordings No. 6, or http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Pic-Rec-BIG/Gardiner-P10c[sdg110_gb].pdf

The final quarter of the Trinity Time mini-cycles on the meaning of being a Christian emphasizes the "last things" (eschatology) couched in symbols of the annual Coming and Sacrifice of Jesus Christ, says Paul Zeller Strodach, <The Church Year> (United Lutheran Publication House, Philadelphia PA, 1924: 239). The final cycle theme is the "Completion of the Kingdom of Righteousness" involving fulfillment and rewards. This Cycle of Last Things closes a complete year of instruction and emphasizes the promise/warnings of eternal life.

Chorale, "Warum sollt ich mich denn grämen?"

The chorale, "Warum sollt ich mich denn grämen?," is not found in the <Neu Leipziger Gesangbuch> of 1682, since it was too recent, but was popular in Bach's time as an <omnes tempore> hymn under the heading, "Trust in God, Cross, and Consolation." Bach's sole harmonization, BWV 422, four-part chorale in C/G Major, ?c.1730, is found in the Hänssler complete Bach edition (No. 85), A Book of Chorale settings: "Trust in God, Cross, and Consolation," No. 8, CD 92.085 (1999).

The best source for Gerhardt and this chorale, "Warum sollt ich mich denn grämen?," is <Paul Gerhardt, The Singer of Comfort, Hope, and Peace in Christ: His Life and Summaries of Seventeen of His Hymns>, http://www.evangelischeandacht.org/Gerhardt-Book.pdf. The article observers that: "Paul Gerhardt based this hymn of joy on Psalm 73 [Truly, God is good to Israel], especially verses 23-26. `Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.'"

Bach used two stanzas of the chorale in his Motet BWV 228, "Furchte dich nicht" (Do not fear), ?funeral, Feb. 4, 1726: Movement No. 2, Chorus SATB (Do not fear) with soprano chorale, V. 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). Francis Browne English translation, BCW http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/BWV228-Eng3.htm.

Bach set the associated Ebeling/Vetterer melody of "Warum sollt ich mich denn grämen?," to another Gerhardt text, "Frölich soll mein Herze springen diese Zeit" (Joyfully shall my heart soaring up this time, 1656), as four-part chorale in the <Christmas Oratorio? (Part 3, Adoration of the Shepherds), "Ich will dich mit Fleiß bewahren" (I will firmly cherish three), BWV 248/33 (248III/10), "Und die Hirten kehrten wieder um" (And the shepherds went back again), December 27, 1734.

The chorale, "Warum sollt ich mich denn grämen?," is found in two recent American Lutheran hymnbooks: the 1941 Missouri Synod <Lutheran Hymnal> (St. Louis: Concordia), No. 523, "Why Should Cross and Trial Grieve Me" (S. 1, 4, 5, 7, 8, 10-12, John Kelly translation 1867) under the heading "Cross and Comfort," and restored in the current <Evangelical Lutheran Worship> hymnbook (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2006), No. 273, "All My Heart Again Rejoices" (Catherine Winkworth 19th century alternate translation), in the Christmas section.

FOOTNOTES

1Motet BWV 226, BCW Details, Discussions, Recordings, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Vocal/BWV225-231.htm. Score BWV 226 (BGA, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BGA/BWV226-BGA.pdf), BWV 226a, Bach’s own score https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_wDxkup3oQ4, “Mix - Bach’s own score – Der Geist hilf unsre.” References: BGB XXXIX (Motets, Franz Wüllner 1892: 41); NBA KB III/1 (Motets, Konrad Ameln 1965: 37).
2 Braatz BWC 2010 study, "Information about Bach's Motets with a Specific Examination of BWV 226, Extracted from Klaus Hofmann's Book on This Subject" - Summaries and Translations, http://bach-cantatas.com/Articles/MotetsHofmann.pdf (the book Klaus Hofmann, Johann Sebastian Bach: Die Motetten (Kassel: Bärenreiter, 2003: 92-95 (BWV 226).
3 Ernesti biography, Oxford Composer Companions: J. S. Bach, ed. Malcolm Boyd (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999: 158).
4 Alfred Dürr, Cantatas of J. S. Bach, revised and translated by Richard D. P. Jones (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005: 588f)
5 Gardiner BWV 226 notes, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Pic-Rec-BIG/Gardiner-P09c[sdg159_gb].pdf. BCRecording details, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Performers/Gardiner-Rec2.htm#P9..
6Gardiner, Bach: Music in the Castle of Heaven (New York: Vintage, 2015: 497).
7 German text, St. 1, anonymous 15th century from antiphon Veni sancte spiritus; S.2-3, Martin Luther 1524, and Francis Browne English translation, BCW http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/Chorale103-Eng3.htm.
8 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, <JSB and the German Motet> (Cambridge MA Univ. Press, 1995).
9 Source material, BCML Cantata 59 Discussion Part 4 (May 4, 2014), http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV59-D4.htm.

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To Come: “Der Geist hilf unsre Schwacheit auf,” Great Leipzig Organ Chorales, BWV 652, with the sarabande ¾ time setting of Stanza 3, “Komm, Heiliger Geist, Herre Gott.”

William Hoffman wrote wrote (October 12, 2016):
Motet VWV 226: "Der Geist hilf unsre Schwachheit auf" Intro.

The 1729 memorial Motet BWV 226, “Der Geist hilf unser Schwachheit auf” (‘The Spirit helpeth our infirmities’), marked the high point of Bach’s realization of music involving the Holy Spirit and particularly the Lutheran Reformation Pentecost chorale, Komm, Heiliger Geist, Herre Gott (Come, Holy Spirit, Lord God). Initially, the chorale had its origins two decades earlier in the first of the extended “Great 18” organ chorale preludes and a decade later in 1739, some of this music could have been provided during the Reformation. In all, Bach was able to craft two different extended organ chorale preludes, BWV 651 and 652, set an ingenious love duet with instrumental cantus firmus in Weimar Pentecost Cantata BWV 172, “Erschallet, ihr Lieder, erklinget, ihr Saiten!” (Ring out, you songs, resound, you strings!), and with little opportunity in 1723 to present Cantata 59, “Wer mich liebet, der wird mein Wort halten” I (He who loves me, he will my word keep, John 14:23). While Bach had many opportunities to revise his work, especially the “Great 18” organ chorale preludes in the 1740s, initially he created the Motet BWV 226 in four days and Cantata 59 probably in the same time, using various techniques of borrowing, next text underlay, and adaptation.

The composition of the memorial Motet BWV 226, “Der Geist hilf unser Schwachheit auf” (‘The Spirit helpeth our infirmities’) on short notice in November 1729, based on Paul’s Romans epistle Chapter 8:26-27, “the Promise of the Holy Spirit,” probably required Bach to turn to other, earlier primary sources, dating to as early two decades previous in Weimar to reveal the significance of the Trinitarian Holy Spirit. Based on the 1729 autograph manuscript score of the multi chorus movement lasting nine minutes, Bach apparently relied on at least two models. While examining Bach’s compositional processes and the influence of German motet style in Weimar, various scholars have suggested Bach’s adaptation of previously-existing work enabled him to compete the work in four days. These are summarized in Martin Geck’s “The Motets,” Johann Sebastian Bach’s Life and Work.1

Motet BWV 226: Models, Sources

The model Motet BWV 226 opening double-chorus movement may have been a “secular composition for just two voices,” says Geck, citing Daniel Melamed’s suuggestion in Bach and the German Motet.2 This is based on the two soprano entries with the so-called Holy Spirit “sigh” 16th-note melisma motive that moves to the other voices in successive entries (see BCW, score, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BGA/BWV226-BGA.pdf, recording, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pbq5sW2hWLE. While the original source is lost, it is assumed that Bach developed this 3/8 passapied-style passage possibly from a dance-influenced duet composed in Cöthen or earlier.

The result is a striking, uplifting chorus in Bach’s masterly polyphonic style as the voices compete antiphonally in the second line (Romans 8:26b, A1B1 structure, bar 41),“denn wir wissen nicht, / was wir beten sollen, / wie sich's gebühret;” (For we do not know / What we should pray,/ As we ought to pray;). The “sigh” motive reenters in different sequences and pairings with the repeat of the opening line text and the full participation of all eight voices, in typical Bach fashion.

The “distinctive opening phrase describes the moving of the spirit in a fashion that occurs in other vocal works dealing with the Holy Ghost, as in the motet [chorus] “Jesu, meine Freude” (Jesus, my joy), at the words “der Gest aber ist das Leben (“the spirit still yet is living” [Romans 8:10], observes Geck (Ibid.). Motet BWV 227, Bach’s longest (20 minutes) interspersing six chorale stanzas and five verses from Romans 8:1-11, probably composed in July 1723 for the funeral of Frau Kees, wife of the Leipzig postmaster, and is forerunner of Bach’s 1729 BWV 226 setting. Another comparative chorus is the “Cum sancto spiritu” that closes the Gloria of the 1733 Dresden Missa: Kyrie-Gloria, BWV 233a, the music of which may have originated in a 1725 secular cantata setting or a Cöthen ¾ instrumental piece.

The third section of the motet chorus is the four-part fugue (2/2 Alla breve), Romans 8:27a, “Der aber die Herzen forschet, der weiß, / was des Geistes Sinn sei;” (But he who searches our hearts knows / what the Spirit means); Rom. 8:27b, “denn er vertritt die Heiligen nach dem, / das Gott gefället.” (since he pleads for the saints / In the way that pleases God). It “contains corrections in the autograph, especially in the text chosen for the music,” says Geck (Ibid.), who points out one of the examples of faulty declamation from the original, at the new words, “denn er vertritt die Heiligen.” “Stylistically, the model for this section in strict style could have come from a cantata from the Leipzig period,” although no source is cited or further details provided.

The fugal second (or middle) section in 4/4 begins at m124 with the text Romans 8:26c, “sondern der Geist selbst vertritt / uns aufs beste mit unaussprechlichem Seufzen.” (But the spirit itself pleads / For us in the best way with inexpressible groans.). It “evidently was written down in the conceptual sketch and thus should be considered as original,” says Geck. “There are indications that Bach wrote this middle section last and that he wrote the Bible text he set from memory: he forgot the word ‘selbst’,” Geck observes (Ibid.: 461f). A genre piece on the theme of “Seufzen” (sighing or groaning), this is the motet’s showpiece, with its nine entries on the sighing figures of the counter-voices that “the whole section has the effect of a single, unutterable sigh.” While reflecting the “expressive madrigal art of the old Italians,” says Geck, “and the consistent use of motifs, this is authentically Bach.”

The closing chorale, Luther’s Pentecost “Komm, Heiliger Geist, Herre Gott (Come, Holy Spirit, Lord God), is a four-part setting of the concluding and entirely appropriate Stanza 3, “Du heilige Brunst, süßer Trost” (You sacred warmth, sweet consolation). There are no supporting instrumental parts, suggesting that it was not part of the service but for Ernesti’s internment in the church after the service, sung a cappella. At one point, Bach may have considered an eight-part setting – or perhaps even two four-part plain chorale settings, as there is sufficient space on the score paper. The four-voice plain chorale setting may have been composed earlier, probably for a lost Pentecost cantata, says Geck (Ibid.: 462), citing Klaus Häfner’s Aspekte des Parodieverfahrens bei Johann Sebastian Bach (Laaber 1987: 195ff). The chorale “constitutes the end of a motet that cannot conceal its motley ancestry, nor, given its greatness and rhetorical power, does it need to,” concludes Geck.

For the Picander (Fourth) Cantata Cycle of texts for PentSunday, June 5, 1729, P-38, “Rauset und brauset, ihr heftigen Winde” (Rage and roar, you violent winds), has texts for two plain chorale settings of Martin Luther’s “Komm heiliger Geist, Herre Gott” (Come, Holy Spirit), Movements Nos. 2 and 7 (Stanzas 1 and 3 respectively). These may survive as the second-movement plain chorale setting in the Motet BWV 226. It is possible that Bach considered two different harmonization’s, based on the different stanza texts.

Luther was extremely fond of “Komm heiliger Geist, Herre Gott,” based on the Latin antiphon, Veni sancte spiritus. In his table talks, he remarked that it “was composed by the Holy Ghost himself,” both words and music.”3 For his setting, Luther left the original medieval hymn intact but added two stanzas. Set in May 1524 and published hat year on the Erfurt Enchiridia, the melody is a simplified version of the rather melismatic plainchant melody of the German sequence. It has almost the form of a double-versicle two-part sequence, with its first four lines virtually the same as the second four lines, with an appended “Allelujah” in this long, nine-line cantus.

Connections to Early Chorale Settings

There are various strong connections between the 1729 setting of the memorial Motet BWV 226, “Der Geist hilf unser Schwachheit auf,” with its chorale, “Komm heiliger Geist, Herre Gott,” and Bach’s earliest setting as an organ chorale prelude in 1707-08 at the beginning of his tenure in Weimar as court organist and musician. This would become the first of two versions of the “Great 18 Leipzig Organ Chorales,” all begun in Weimar and finally completed c.1739-42 in Leipzig. This first setting, BWV 652a, is in the form of a chorale motet with four-part polyphonic writing, and an ornamental chorale with another musical model of the sarabande, says Russell Stinson in J. S. Bach’s Great Eighteen Organ Chorales.4 This setting in F Major, 4/4 common time, lasts 48 measures in the shortest setting of its cantus firmus, while the Leipzig reworking, BWV 652, runs to 106 measures.

The first in the original "Great 18" collection, BWV 652a, is an expansion of Bach’s chorale motet form found in his earlier, usually shorter settings of organ chorale preludes, using multi-voice madrigal style with musical figures that illustrate the meaning of the text lines and words. These preludes dating to c.1600 and found in the Neumeister Collection of church year preludes reflect the North German Style of Bach’s teachers, including Bach Family members. Now that Bach had a substantial position at the Weimar Court, he had the opportunity to create chorale preludes for church year services. In addition to the early chorale partita (variation) free-style sometimes called “fantasia,” Bach began to expand the preludes, introducing ornamental chorales. This was an effective way to introduce new compositional techniques. About 1711, the Weimar Court began performing Italian-style music, particularly Vivaldi’s concerti, that greatly influenced Bach’s technique, with the use of fugue and ritornello form. In early 1714, the other major development was Bach’s appointment as concert master at the Weimar Court, responsible for composing cantatas as musical sermons every four Sundays. This was Bach’s first opportunity for a “well-ordered church music to the glory of God.” For a study of the Great 18 Chorale Preludes, including compositional models, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Eighteen_Chorale_Preludes.

Pentecost Cantata Duet Chorale Prelude

One of Bach’s first service opportunities was the festive chorus Cantata BWV 172, “Erschallet, ihr Lieder, erklinget, ihr Saiten!” (Ring out, you songs, resound, you strings!) probably to a text of Court poet Salomo Franck, for Pentecost Sunday, 20 May 1714. The fifth movement is a soprano (Soul), alto (Holy Spirit) duet, “Komm, laß mich nicht länger warten” (Come, let me wait no longer), “Ich erquicke dich, mein Kind” (I refresh you, my child). This quartet aria is fashioned as a chorale prelude arrangement with the ornamented cantus firmus, “Komm heiliger Geist, Herre Gott,” played by the oboe (or organ right hand) and cello (bc) [music https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jpsqTFtweYk]. The movement “is one of the most elaborately decorated of all Bach’s chorale cantus firmi,” observes Eric T. Chafe in “Descent and Indwelling: Cantata 172.”5

Lasting almost four minutes, the aria is a quasi ground-bass movement with three clear divisions between the Soul-Holy Spirit dialogue and the chorale as the three stanzas of dialogue correspond and align with the melody reinforcing the overall theological indwelling of the Holy Spirit as found in three stanzas of the chorale. Chafe also suggests that “Bach has mirrored the three persons of the Trinity in the three sections” (Ibid.: 561). In the Cantata 172 duet with chorale, Bach treats the chorale “in the same highly exceptional way as our organ setting” conflating the two plain chorales into one treatment, observes Stinson (Ibid.: 19).

At the same time in 1714, Bach undertook a second version of “Komm heiliger Geist, Herre Gott,” BWV 651, in the “Great Eighteen Organ Chorales” collection. It is a more extended cantus firmus setting with fugue in the manner of Vivaldi’s concerti. Also, Bach began compiling his Orgelbüchlein (Little Organ Book) collection, BWV 599-644, of concise chorale preludes as a template for the church year, his initial outline for “a well-ordered church music to the glory of God.” Set during his Weimar years, the 45 of some 164 planned settings focus on the de tempore first half of the church year from Advent to Trinityfest, setting three of 10 works designated for Pentecost, "Herr Jesu Christ, dich zu uns wend" (Lord Jesus Christ! Turn towards us), BWV 632, also a designated pulpit hymn for general use; "Komm Gott Schöpfer, Heiliger Geist" “Komm Gott Schöpfer, Heiliger Geist” (Come, Creator God, Holy Spirit), BWV 631; and “Liebster Jesu, wir sind hier” (Dearest Jesus, we are here), BWVhuge continuous frntasia, musically and dogmatically as grand as 633-34. Of the 18 extended chorale preludes Bach developed in Weimar and expanded in Leipzig c.1740, there are the two settings of “Komm heiliger Geist, Herre Gott,” BWV 651 and 652, as well as settings of "Herr Jesu Christ, dich zu uns wend," BWV 655, and "Komm Gott Schöpfer, Heiliger Geist," BWV 667.

“Komm heiliger Geist,” Preludes BWV 651, 652

Turning to the first of the Great 18 chorale preludes, “Komm heiliger Geist, Herre Gott,” BWV 651, insight into the character of this 4/4 prelude in F is provided in Peter Williams’ The Organ Music of J. S. Bach.6 Bach’s designation “Fantasia super,” leading off the Great 18 collection, is Bach’s only use of this designation, “and recalls [Samuel] Scheidt’s Tabulatura nova, for long fantasia based on a chorale” melody,” says Williams. Scheidt’s melody in his four-part 1650 setting is found at BCW Chorale Melodies, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/CM/Komm-Heiliger-Geist-Herre-Gott.htm.

Chorale Prelude BWV 561, “A huge continuous fantasia, musically and dogmatically as grand an opening as the Prelude [BWV 552] to Clavierübung III, this setting is easy to see as a response to Pentecost”: “And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting” (Acts 2:2, KJV). “With its rushing theme paraphrasing the chorale on two levels,” observes Williams (Ibid.: 342, music, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O5isYiTEUE4), its internal repetition and new subject (‘Hallelujah’, b. 89), this is a masterly unified piece, indeed inflaming the hearts of the faithful as its lines spin out the opening theme and invent a new melody in b. 25.”

The second Great 18 setting of “Komm heiliger Geist, Herre Gott,” BWV 652, in G Major, ¾ time, is so “astonishingly different from BWV 651’s setting of the melody,” sWilliam (Ibid.: 345), that the longest of Bach’s organ chorales [199 measures] “must be responding to something different in the text: now the Holy Ghost is the ‘sweet comfort’ of v. 3, rather that the ‘brilliant light’ of v. 1, though it to has a Hallelujah!” That verse begins “Du heilige Brunst, süßer Trost” (You sacred warmth, sweet consolation), or in William’s words, “O holy ardour, sweet comfort.” With Bach’s designation “alio mode” (another style), it runs nine minutes, about the same length as the Motet BWV 226 with its chorale ending (music https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b-PvIrPoubE).

Small-scale models using Sarabande-like features are found in North German organ compositions, Willaims points out: Dietrich Buxtehude’s “Komm, helilger Geist,” BuxWV 200 (music https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kBDhG41iViM), and Georg Böhm’s “Ach, wie nichtig” (Ah, how insubstantial), partita Var. 8 (music https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7fNu4ZeWG_U. Another major influence “might well be the French textures learn from Grigny, Boyvin or Du Magre,” says Williams. “Like BWV 651 the setting sustains a flowing line but one now gentler, endlessly spinning anew.”

Chorale fantasia setting BWV 651 focuses on Stanzas 1 and 2 of “Komm heiliger Geist, Herre Gott,” where Bach explores uses of opposites in Luther’s teaching on Pentecost,” finds Anne Leahy in J. S. Bach’s “Leipzig” Chorale Preludes: Music, Text Theology.7 “For Luther and his followers, the Feast of Pentecost has a fearful as well as joyful side,” with the goal of the New Pentecost ultimately to dispel fear. The “positive side may be represented in the joyful, exuberant sixteenth notes [also found in Motet BWV 226], and the frequent parallel [harmonious] third and sixths, while the more fearful aspects are perhaps found in the use of syncopatio, parrhesia, and ‘sighing’ motives,” also found prominently in Motet 226. The prominent sighs and groaning of the Holy Spirit, found in Paul’s Letter to the Romans 8:26, the Motet 226 chorus biblical dicta, “are associated with ridding humanity of its infirmities,” says Leahy (Ibid.: 13). Here (mm.124ff), “Bach employs the syncopatio” to the text Rom. 8:26c (C Structure, bar 124, 4/4 meter), “sondern der Geist selbst vertritt / uns aufs beste mit unaussprechlichem Seufzen.” (But the spirit itself pleads / For us in the best way with inexpressible groans.). The music is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dXxRDkeh4ZY, timing 2:49. “It may be possible that the syncopations of BWV 651 could take on a similar meaning to those of BWV 226.”

In chorale prelude BWV 652, “Bach portrays aspects of Pentecost in a completely different manner from BWV 651,” says Leahy (Ibid.: 17). Previously, Stanzas 1 and 2 in BWV 651 “seem to concentrate on the fires of Pentecost and the dominant and forceful nature of the Holy Spirit, while Stanza appears to demonstrate the gentler side of the Spirit, emphasizing his sweet, comforting role that helps humanity strive towards salvation,” observes Leahy (Ibid.: 23). The triple meter of BWV 652 defines the sarabande nature of the work, as it does Bach’s other two succeeding “Great 18” chorale settings, penitential “Am Wasserflüssen Babylon,” BWV 563, and communion Schmücke dich, o Liebe Seele,” BWV 654. “The similarities between the three compositions lies in the use of the sarabande meter, the ornamental lines, and the many parallel third and sixths” for sweetness and love, says Leahy (Ibid.: 17). In addition in BWV 652 the abundance of ornaments and the use of the figure corta, Bach “employs the sarabande rhythm in an eschatological context,” says Leahy (Ibid.: 23). Here, “the Holy Spirit is the bringer of salvation.

Leahy examines (Ibid.: 28ff) common musical and textual elements between Great 18 Organ Chorale prelude BWV 652 and the duet aria from Weimar Pentecost Cantata Cantata BWV 172, “Erschallet, ihr Lieder, erklinget, ihr Saiten!” (Ring out, you songs, resound, you strings!). The aria is a love duet between soprano (Soul, Anima) and alto (Holy Spirit, Spiritus Sanctus), “Komm, laß mich nicht länger warten” (Come, let me wait no longer), “Ich erquicke dich, mein Kind” (I refresh you, my child). Both Cantata 172 and prelude BWV 652 were composed in 1714 in Weimar. This quartet aria was fashioned as a chorale prelude arrangement with the ornamented cantus firmus, “Komm heiliger Geist, Herre Gott.” Stanza 3 of the chorale, “Du heilige Brunst, süßer Trost” (You sacred warmth, sweet consolation), deals with love and “it seems likely that Bach was also portraying this stanza in the instrumental. obbligato of BWV 172/5,” says Leahy. Often Bach quotes a chorale melody instrumentally to send a theological message along with the poetic text, Leahy observes. The duet shows “The Holy Spirit to be Gentle and full of love. Similar sentiments are to be found in Stanza 3 of Komm heiliger Geist, Herre Gott.”

Here is the text and Francis Browne’s English translation of the duet: Sopran: “Komm, lass mich nicht länger warten, / Komm, du sanfter Himmelswind, / Wehe durch den Herzensgarten!” (Soprano: Come , let me wait no longer, / come, you gentle wind of heaven, / blow through the garden of my heart); Alt: “Ich erquicke dich, mein Kind.” (Alto: I refresh you, my child); Sopran: “ Liebste Liebe, die so süße, / Aller Wollust Überfluss, / Ich vergeh, wenn ich dich misse.” (Soprano: Dearest love, who are so delightful, / abundance of all joys, / I shall die, if I have to be without you); Alt: “ Nimm von mir den Gnadenkuss.” (Alto: Take from me the kiss of grace.); Sopran: “Sei im Glauben mir willkommen, / Höchste Liebe, komm herein! / Du hast mir das Herz genommen.” (Soprano:

Welcome in faith to me, / Highest love, come within! / You have taken my heart from me); Alt: “Ich bin dein, und du bist mein!” (Alto: I am yours, and you are mine!); F Major to G Major, 4/4.

Here is the text and Francis Browne’s English translation of Stanza 3, “Komm heiliger Geist, Herre Gott”:

“Du heilige Brunst, süßer Trost, / Nun hilf uns fröhlich und getrost / In dein'm Dienst beständig bleiben, / Die Trübsal uns nicht abtreiben! / O Herr, durch dein' Kraft uns bereit / Und stärk des Fleisches Blödigkeit, / Daß wir hier ritterlich ringen, / Durch Tod und Leben zu dir dringen! / Halleluja! Halleluja!” (You sacred warmth, sweet consolation, / now help us always to remain joyful and comforted / in your service, / do not let sorrow drive us away! / O Lord, through your power make us ready / and strengthen the feebleness of our flesh / so that we may bravely struggle / through life and death to reach you! / Halleluja! Halleluja!); BWV 226/2 B-flat Major; 4/4.

Common musical elements also are found between BWV 172/5 and BWV 652, observes Leahy (Ibid.: 30). The original Weimar version and the Leipzig version of BWV 172/5 cantus firmus was assigned to the oboe d’amore. Bach frequently employed this version of the oboe in the context of love. Aria BWV 172/5 in similar in mood (music, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w7jtZL0zvgE to BWV 226/2 (music, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w7jtZL0zvgE. In the later Leipzig version (after 1731), Bach replaced the oboe d’amore with the organ, “thereby making the similarity between BWV 652 even more marked,” says Leahy. “The longing for heaven can be expressed in BWV 652 and in the obbligato part of the aria in the use of the sesquialtera stop [hemiola ratio 3:2], which Bach described as “volkemmene schöne Sesquialtera” (welcomed lovely Sesquialtera). For musical examples of the melody used in BWV 172/5, 651 and 652, see BCW Chorale Melodies, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/CM/Komm-Heiliger-Geist-Herre-Gott.htm.

In his two settings of the three verses of “Komm heilger Geist,” preludes BWV 651 and 652, “Bach seeto have thoroughly covered all aspects of Pentecost,” concludes Leahy (Ibid.: 31). “The role that the Holy Spirit plays in the salvation of humanity is highlighted.” Prelude 651 emphasizes “Luther’s concept of light as a representation of faith.” Prelude 652 in its sarabande rhythm “underlines the eschatological aspect of the Feast of Pentecost” as salvation. In both settings, Bach “celebrates the euphoria of the feast in an ecstatic portrayal of the word ‘Hellalujah’ to close each composition.”

Pentecost Cantata 59: Chorale Revived

Before he officially began his tenure as Leipzig Cantor on the 1st Sunday after Trinity 1723, Bach had a serendipitous opportunity to present on short notice a festive cantata two weeks prior on Pentecost Sunday, May 16. It was part of his official duties as Leipzig Music Director, to present cantatas on feast days at the Leipzig University Church called, the Paulinerkirche. Bach wasted no time establishing relations through the progressive Saxon Court wing on the Leipzig Town Council with the university community, meeting with faculty and students, most notably member of the Leipzig Collegium musicum which provided the musicians for the St. Paul Church festive services. He undertook his first university commission, “Murmelt nur, ihr heitern Bäche,” BWV Anh. 195, a congratulatory serenade for the promotion of Johann Florens Rivinus, jurisprudence professor and member of a prominent, progressive Leipzig family. Only the homage text survives and it is assumed that Bach borrowed music through parody from one of his now-lost Cöthen serenades to Prince Leopold, since he was finishing the composition of his first two sacred cantatas, BWV 75 and 76.

Meanwhile, Bach welcome the Pentecost Sunday opportunity at the University Church, presumably also borrowing Cöthen festive music and set to an available Erdmann Neumeister IV 1714 text. Soprano-bass dialogue Cantata 59, “Wer mich liebet, der wird mein Wort halten” I (He who loves me, he will my word keep, John 14:23). Bach presented only the first four movements, opening duet, soprano recitative, plain chorale, and bass aria, lasting 14 minutes. The chorale is “Komm heiliger Geist, Herre Gott,” Pentecost hymn of the day (music, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rGtnAJfxE18. The opening love duet set to the Pentecost Gospel dictum, John 14:23, features two trumpets and drums, presumably members of the Collegium musicum (music, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nzUIGElqEIY.

Bach was unable to set music to the next two movements of the Neumeister text, recitative, aria. The closing chorale (no. 7), was the third stanza of “Komm heilger Geist,” “Du heilige Brunst, süßer Trost” (You sacred warmth, sweet consolation). The plain chorale harmonization to a different text that closes Cantata 6, “Bleib bei uns,” Easter Monday 1725, is thought to have been the setting for the closing chorale for Cantata 59 on Pentecost Sunday 1723, repeated a year later, then salvaged by Bach.

Reformation Bicentennial, 1739

Finally, for the Reformation bicentennial in 1739 in Leipzig, serendipity also may have enabled Bach to provide music for Pentecost Sunday, May 25, the exact bicentennial of the acceptance of the Reformation in Leipzig when Martin Luther preached sermons at two venues. While no documentation exists, previous special Reformation observances included the three-day 200th Anniversary of the Augsburg Confession, in 1730, when Bach quickly fashioned three parodies of festive town Council Cantatas BWV 120 and Anh. 4, and New Year’s Cantata 190.

For the introduction of the Reformation to Leipzig in 1539, Luther preached the sermons on Pentecost Sunday, May 25, at the main service of the Thomas Church, and the evening service in the Pleissenburg Castle adjacent to the main square, which in Bach’s time was the official residence of the Saxon Governor of Leipzig, as designated by the Elector, of Saxony, Augustus. While the sermon for the main service is not extant, Luther later preached the Gospel, John 14:23-31. This is “The Promise of the Holy Spirit.” It begins with Jesus, asked by apostle Judas (not Iscariot), “Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?” Jesus answers (26-27): “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. 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 phrase “fear not” or “be not afraid,” 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 exhortation “Fürchte dich, nicht” “appears about 60 times in the bible, and always 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 notres, “Be Not Afraid,” Bach in Context, “Fürchte dich, nicht” (Musica amphion), http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Performers/Belder.htm, C-4(a). “Fürchte dich, nicht” is the topic of Motet BWV 228 https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/BachCantatas/search/messages?query=Furchte%20dich%20March%2017 (Yahoo No. 38857).

FOOTNOTES

1 Martin Geck’s Johann Sebastian Bach’s Life and Work, trans. John Hargraves (Orlando FL: Harcourt Inc., 2006: 461).
2 Daniel Melamed, Bach and the German Motet (Cambridge University Press 1995), diss. Harvard 1989: 198ff.
3 Cited in Luther’s Works, Vol. 53, Liturgy and Hymns (Philadelphia PA: Fortress Press, 1965: 265ff).
4 Russell Stinson, J. S. Bach’s Great Eighteen Organ Chorales Russell Stinson in J. S. Bach’s Great Eighteen Organ Chorales (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001: 26; Table 1 – 1. The Compositional Models of the Great Eighteen Chorales According to the Early Versions).
5 Eric T. Chafe, Tears Into Wine: J. S. Bach’s Cantata 21 in Its Musical and Theological Contexts (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016: 550).
6 Peter Williams, The Organ Music of J. S. Bach, 2nd ed. (Cambridge University Press, 2003: 342ff).
7 Anne Leahy, J. S. Bach’s “Leipzig” Chorale Preludes: Music, Text Theology, ed. Robin A. Leaver (Lanham MD: Scarecrow Press, 2011: 12).

 
Motets BWV 225-231: Details
Recordings: 1900-1949 | 1950-1959 | 1961-1969 | 1970-1979 | 1980-1989 | 1990-1999 | 2000-2009 | 2010-2019
General Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Systematic Discussions: BWV 225 | BWV 226 | BWV 227 | BWV 228 | BWV 229 | BWV 230 | BWV 231 | BWV 225-231 - Summary
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Recordings & Discussions of Other Vocal Works: Main Page | Motets BWV 225-231 | Mass in B minor BWV 232 | Missae Breves & Sanctus BWV 233-242 | Magnificat BWV 243 | Matthäus-Passion BWV 244 | Johannes-Passion BWV 245 | Lukas-Passion BWV 246 | Markus-Passion BWV 247 | Weihnachts-Oratorium BWV 248 | Oster-Oratorium BWV 249 | Chorales BWV 250-438 | Geistliche Lieder BWV 439-507 | AMN BWV 508-523 | Quodlibet BWV 524 | Aria BWV 1127



 

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