Recordings/Discussions
Background Information
Performer Bios

Poet/Composer Bios

Additional Information

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
Weihnachts-Oratorium BWV 248 - Cantata 4

Discussions in the Week of October 31, 2004

Planned but not discussed.

 

Discussions in the Week of September 6, 2009

William Hoffman wrote (September 9, 2009):
Cantata BWV 248IV: Intro

This week's discussion concludes our study of Bach's cantatas for New Year's Day with the last and liturgically correct work, BWV 248IV. The template can be found at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Vocal/BWV248.htm. Scroll down to 248/4

Last year's BCW discussion included: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV213-D2.htm. Questions I raised last year:

I would like to lead this discussion by framing some pertinent questions that I have encountered through previous BCW discussions which I think are relevant to this BWV 213. There are no "right" or "wrong" answers, and while sources are helpful, I think imagination and connecting the dots can offer possible new insights or directions!

1. Different performing approaches to the original music and its parodied version. While we know from Bach's Obituary that he put a great deal of emphasis on the words in his settings of the sacred four-part chorales, can we assume that he labored likewise with the sacred parodied text from the original secular version? A comparison of the original BWV 213 text with the parodied versions found in the XO, BWV 248, can be helpful. In both versions we have several factors to consider: 1. the context (placement) of the music, both original and parodied; 2. any changes in the actual music, such as revision or the addition of instruments such as the oboe in the XO (BWV 248); 3. the treatment of the dance forms from BWV 213/1,3,5,9,11,13; and 4. of course, the overall intended affect. The opening chorus is considered "minuet-like," and the closing chorus, "gavotte-like"; the others, I would guess, are primarily gigue-like or giga-like, or generic pastorale-style.

2. Did Bach original compose BWV 213 to stand alone, or did he intend from its beginning to transform it through parody into the XO (BWV 248)?

3. The original context of BWV 213 and the music in the XO (BWV 248). Was Bach able successfully to "create" music with a dual purpose: to serve both his sovereign on earth and the ruler of the universe; to demonstrate both his allegiance to profane authority while creating the penultimate component (oratorios, then Masses) of a well-regulated music to the glory of God alone? What were Bach motives?

4. Concerning the setting at Zimmermann's, what were Bach's particular methods and opportunities? Consider the audience, the potential for "staging" and the use of female voices and a full choir.

5. Simon Crouch in his overview of BWV 213 says: "The libretto, by Picander, is a wonderfully sycophantic piece of kitsch!" Picander, who is assumed to be the literary collaborator with Bach on the text of the XO (BWV 248), is still considered in some Bach critical quarters to be an embarrassment. Besides being a skillful parodist, what other qualities do you find in his BWV 214 and BWV 248 texts, especially as realized by Bach?

Fugitive thoughts:

Bach's composition of the XO in late 1734, especially Part 4 for New Year's Day, shows that he wanted to strengthen the well-ordered church music with the appropriate readings for the day. Thus, the XO provides the most comprehensive settings of the six events of the Christmas Festival, including Part 5, the Sunday After New Year's (2nd Sunday After Christmas), which we will begin discussing next week.

The instrumentation in BWV 248/4 includes two hunting horns, derived from Cantata BWV 213. It is the only one of the six parts that has horns instead of trumpets. Parts 2 and 5 have no brass instruments. Thomas Braatz' article,
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Topics/Trumpet-List.htm. shows the use of trumpets in Bach cantatas for church festivals. I would assume the same is true for horns.

I think Bach's connection with horns, although not ubiquitous like trumpets, is equally significant. We know that Bach used horns for works with royalty, especially princes and dukes who liked to hunt, BWV 208, BWV 1046, BWV 213. In a few weeks, we will discuss Bach's first cantata for Epiphany, BWV 65, with its great opening chorus of hunting horns, recorders, and hunting oboes. I'll also explore Bach's connection with Count Franz Anton von Sporck, an amazing man, who had strong connections to the horn, Picander, Vivaldi, and Bach's Masses

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (September 9, 2009):
William Hoffman wrote:
< I think Bach' connection with horns, although not ubiquitous like trumpets, is equally significant. We know that Bach used horns for works with royalty, especially princes and dukes who liked to hunt, BWV 208, BWV 1046, BWV 213. In a few weeks, we will discuss Bach's first cantata for Epiphany, BWV 65, with its great opening chorus of hunting horns, recorders, and hunting oboes. I'll also explore Bach's connection with Count Franz Anton von Sporck, an amazing man, who had strong connections to the horn, Picander, Vivaldi, and Bach's Masses >
Great post, but I wanted to make the point, that during the baroque (and especially Bach), the use of horns was really a historic invocation of Roman triumphant processions. There's a significant difference between the use of trumpets and horns for baroque composers, and there's a reason why.

Thanks for a great job

Douglas Cowling wrote (September 9, 2009):
William Hoffman wrote:
< 5. Simon Crouch in his overview of BWV 213 says: "The libretto, by Picander, is a wonderfully sycophantic piece of kitsch!" Picander, who is assumed to be the literary collaborator with Bach on the text of the XO (BWV 248), is still considered in some Bach critical quarters to be an embarrassment. Besides being a skillful parodist, what other qualities do you find in his BWV 214 and BWV 248 texts, especially as realized by Bach? >
It's funny that 21st century audiences have more trouble with Bach's secular texts than they do with his sacred texts! The secular cantatas have not received their just due because modern sensibilities cannot tolerate the conventions of 18th century homage poetry. It's really inexcusable for Crouch to call these texts kitsch. Can he not give us an historical critical apparatus which allows us to appreciate why Bach found them perfectly worthy as vehicles for his art?

The Romantic disapproval of "parody" technique -- can we not find another term?! -- rumbles in the background of commentaries on both the Mass in B Minor (BWV 232) and the Christmas Oratorio but the genius of the two works generally silences such modern prejudices. Not so lucky are the "Lutheran" Masses. They are magnificent example of Bach's mature vocal style, and yet they are sniffed at and all but dismissed because they are primarily drawn from other works.

It's time for revisionist criticism!

Ed Myskowski wrote (September 10, 2009):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< The Romantic disapproval of "parody" technique -- can we not find another term?! -- rumbles in the background of commentaries on both the Mass in B Minor (BWV 232) and the Christmas Oratorio but the gof the two works generally silences such modern prejudices. Not so lucky are the "Lutheran" Masses. They are magnificent example of Bach's mature vocal style, and yet they are sniffed at and all but dismissed because they are primarily drawn from other works. >
Perhaps the revisionist criticism has already begun. David Hoose, prefatory to a BMM (BWV 232) performance in recent years, noted that at one point the layering reache a depth of 13 lines, and the work represents Bachs counterpoint at its absolute richest. I do not recall him making any mention of parody technique.

I believe Doug is onto something, the common usage of parody is simply incorrect. Even as a strictly musical term it implies satire or caricature (Harvard Dictionary, 1972, 1981 reporint), certainly not appropriate to Bachs technique. It appears that the more precise term is contrafactum. I will leave the promotional logistics of the change to Doug.

William Hoffman wrote (September 10, 2009):
Cantata BWV 248IV: Parody

Douglas Cowling wrote:
< The Romantic disapproval of "parody" technique -- can we not find another term?! -- rumbles in the background of commentaries on both the Mass in B Minor (BWV 232) and the Christmas Oratorio but the genius of the two works generally silences such modern prejudices. Not so lucky are the "Lutheran" Masses. They are magnificent example of Bach's mature vocal style, and yet they are sniffed at and all but dismissed because they are primarily drawn from other works. >
Ed Myskowski pointed out the term overlay (of new text) or contrafactum involving text substitute with Latin.

Whatever the term, it was a widespread practice beginning in the Renaissance with popular songs adapted to Latin and later to German hymns.

Handel took lots of tunes and put new words to them, often from other composers. The Messiah is full of them. Also, we have Bach's and Handel's practice of adapting instrumental music into vocal music.

Much of the prejudice comes from the 19th century, which deplored "borrowings" or (self) plagiarism while expanding opera tunes into virtuoso instrumental fantasies.

Timing had a lot to do with the reception of Bach reworkings. The Mass in B Minor (BWV 232) was performed before most of the cantatas from which it was borrowed. The Christmas Oratorio was not so fortunate. Surviving from Emmanuel's estate along with its original sources, the secular homage Cantatas BWV 213-BWV 214-BWV 215, it was frowned on by Bach scholars, along with the Masses and the St. Mark Passion (BWV 247), which are virtual borrowings.

The significance of the XO is the transformation of old music into a larger, unique mosaic narrative setting, with unity, cohesion, and impact. This wasn't a cut-out and paste-up job! Particularly impressive are Bach's original settings of the chorales in their widest possible forms (elaborated interludes, cantus firmus arias and ariosi and a tutti chorus); the poetic use of original ariosi; and the dramatic use of recitative and turbae choruses (possibly borrowed from the St. Mark Oratorio Passion).

The XO is in a league with its sister form, the St. Matthew Oratorio Passion, as well as the Mass in B Minor (BWV 232), which is a stark contrast in its use of many old and new forms, a stile misto or mixed style, that fits together in profound settings of the established Catholic Mass.

I would add my own belief that Bach's great oratorios could well have been a stunning collaboration of composer Bach, lyricist Picander, and Pastor Christian Weiss selecting the chorale texts and suggesting religious illusions, as well as preaching the sermon.

Ed Myskowski wrote (September 10, 2009):
William Hoffman wrote:
< Timing had a lot to do with the reception of Bach reworkings. The Mass in B Minor was (BWV 232) performed before most of the cantatas from which it was borrowed. >
It is not much of a stretch to suggest that Bach could foresee this, that the details might be dispersed, but that a condensed compendium of the well regulated church music might survive, even prevail.

Douglas Cowling wrote (to reiterate):
< Not so lucky are the "Lutheran" Masses. They are magnificent example of Bach's mature vocal >style, and yet they are sniffed at and all but dismissed because they are primarily drawn from other works. >
In my circles they are not sniffed at, they are simply unheard of. That may give you some idea of my scruffy friends, and why I enjoy to take a moment to exchange ideas on BCML.

A very fundamental thought. The Mass is the fundamental rite of Christianity. As Bach matured, he grew ever closer to it. In a well regulated fashion? I will leave it to Will to argue (or dispute) that point.

It is a reasonable speculation (hypothesis?) that as Bach aged he became closer to basic Christianity, the Mass, and chose that as the format to preserve his best (or favorite) ideas.

Dang that Art of Fugue, as just one counter-example.

Terejia wrote (September 10, 2009):
William Hoffman wrote: http://launch.groups.yahoo.com/group/BachCantatas/message/31898
< The opening chorus is considered "minuet-like," >
I concur with you that it is minuet-like.

> The instrumentation in BWV 248/4 includes two hunting horns, derived from Cantata BWV 213. It is the only one of the six parts that has horns instead of trumpets. <
Yes indeed. For me it is also a striking fact that this is the only flat-key Part while all the other 5 Parts are in sharp key. Whatever the reason might be, this cantata could make a good aethetic contrasting accent with the other 5 cantatas, in my impression.

> Parts 2 and 5 have no brass instruments. <
Indeed now that you mentioned I noticed that.

Different instrumentation has different aethetic effect. Thank you for your insight.

Neil Halliday wrote (September 11, 2009):
BWV 248 tenor aria

The tenor aria is an invigorating fugue-like piece, with at times 'jazzy' continuo movement. The long semiquaver motive of the last 2/3rds of the theme affords a lively workout for voice and instruments alike, especially effective when (continuo) cello and double bass join in the action.

In comparing this version with the secular original (in BWV 213), one feels that the original words better realise the music's driving, soaring motion; specifically, in the secular text, the image is of "flying to the stars like an eagle", whereas the 'sacred' text is a more general invocation of strength to praise and glorify the Lord.

I have Richter and Münchinger for the XO version, and Rilling for the secular version. The first two are 'big-band' versions that enlarge Bach's scoring from two solo violins to string orchestra proportions, which happens to work very well in these - both fine - performances of the aria. The bass strings tackling the 1/16th note continuo passages at lively tempo are indeed impressive.

Unlike the XO version with two solo violins, BWV 213 has perhaps more colourful scoring for solo oboe and solo violin; maybe Bach delibately toned-down the vivid contrast in the timbre of these instruments, for the XO version.

Rilling's BWV 231 version is suitably bright and energetic, with prominent continuo bassoon and double bass (no cello) complimenting the oboe and violin.

Douglas Cowling wrote (September 11, 2009):
Neil Halliday wrote:
< In comparing this version with the secular original (in BWV 213), one feels that the original words better realise the music's driving, soaring motion; specifically, in the secular text, the image is of "flying to the stars like an eagle", the 'sacred' text is a more general invocation of strength to praise and glorify the Lord. >
It's interesting that Bach seems to have adopted a consistent method of ignoring the vivid word-painting of the secular source movements for a more generalized "affekt" in the oratorio. The most notable example is the opening chorus in which the depiction of Baroque instruments in "Tönet Ihr Pauken" becomes a non-specific joyous movement in "Jauchzet Frohlocket". That's odd because there are plenty of cantata movements drawn from the psalms that depict instruments: Pauken, Saiten, Harfen and the like.

Another example which we've mentioned is the B section of "Bereite Dich Zion" in Part One in which the writhing serpent motif in the bass of the Hercules cantata becomes a exclamation about the shining cheeks of the
Daughter of Zion.

I've never looked at the libretto closely, but I suspect we'd find that Bach has intentionally ignored word-painting when the secular movement was adapted for the sacred text. Why? Was he afraid that listeners would remember the secular words and consider the association improper: like singing a hymn to popular song? (the chorales based folk songs had probably long lost their secular cononations by Bach's time). Or did Bach worry that there would be criticism that he was recycling works when he was being paid to write new ones? (Handel certainly heard that grumbling).

Are there any adaptations from secular works in the Mass in B Minor (BWV 232) or the Lutheran masses?

William Hoffman wrote (September 11, 2009):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< It's interesting that Bach seems to have adopted a consistent method of ignoring the vivid word-painting of the secular source movements for a more generalized "affekt" in the oratorio. >
William Hoffman replies: Great observation! I think thereason is context and audience: outdoors in the evening, church during the day.

< Are there any adaptations from secular works in the Mass in B Minor (BWV 232) or the Lutheran masses? >
William Hoffman replies:
Confrimed in MBM (BWV 232): Osana from "Preise deine gluecke," BWV 215, and Es liebe die König, BWV Anh., I think. Also, Rifkin originally suggested that some phrases such as the "Gloria," the "Et in terra pax" and the one from BWV 171 originated in Köthen instrumental pieces (in courtly setting). Also, the opening Kyrie phrase was cited in Bach the Borrower to the opening of "Lass Fürstin," BWV 198/1, which is a sort of in-between secular-sacred work. Also, the origins of the Cum Sancto and the Benedictus are still nebulous.

The few remaining unidentified movements' sources in both the MBM (BWV 232) and the Missae could come from lost German secular cantatas through contrafaction with the surviving texts. This is extreme difficult to determine through texts only and the possible "affekt" the texts suggest, like Osana above.

Ed Myskowski wrote (September 11, 2009):
William Hoffman wrote:
< The few remaining unidentified movements' sources in both the MBM (BWV 232) and the Missae could come from lost German secular cantatas >
This is beginning to sound more like Bach the Conservator than Bach the Borrower?

Julian Mincham wrote (September 12, 2009):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< It's interesting that Bach seems to have adopted a consistent method of ignoring the vivid word-painting of the secular source movements for a more generalized "affekt" in the oratorio. >
William Hoffman replies:
< Great observation! I think thereason is context and audience: outdoors in the evening, church during the day. >
I'm not too convinced by this. There are many examples of very explicit word painting right throughout the cantatas. If Bach was prone to do this in newly composed movements, why avoid it in the parodies? (incidentally I agree--this is a rotten word. I prefer 'reworkings' as that gives some sense of the actual process). I think that a desire not to evoke memories of the original words and images is a more likely explanation than the contrast of contexts and times of the day.

Incidentally there are a number of recitatives with striking images which Bach ignores completely. There doesn't seem to be any consistency in his approach as many others really glorify in the imagery. Could it be that he was used to turning out the recitatives in a matter of minutes and often just didn't give them much additional time, leaving the more graphic images to be portrayed in the aria and choruses?

A point discussed on list before (but never to any real depth) is the way in which Bach wrote for the three voices not carrying the chorale melody?in the chorale fantasias so as to reflect some image or aspect of each particular line of text. This is a point well worth devoting some time to when the fantasia cantatas (of the second cycle as well as the dozen later ones) are discussed.

Certainly the last word has not been said about Bach's complex approaches to the musical depiction of textual images.

Douglas Cowling wrote (September 12, 2009):
BWV 248 Bach & his Librettists

Julian Mincham wrote:
< I'm not too convinced by this. There are many examples of very explicit word painting right throughout the cantatas. If Bach was prone to do this in newly composed movements, why avoid it in the parodies? >
Bach may have viewed it as an improper intrusion on his poet librettists' art: "So in this movement, make sure you mention trumpets in the first line, and I need a snake in the middle section of this aria".

Perhaps Bach indicated which texts he wished to adapt. Armed with a poetic metre and a general affekt, the librettist would have written the sacred texts without the emblematic images which would appear in original works. I think we have to admit that there some problems in the Christmas Oratorio. The energetic minor key theme of "Bereite dich Sion" works well as an image of bustling preparation, but the serpentine bass motif makes no sense as an accompaniment for the beautiful rosy cheeks of the Daughter of Sion in the B section.

Yet on larger structural questions, there must have been discussion between librettist and composer. "Wachet Auf" is so finely laid out as three choral- fantasies flanking two love duets that it is hard to imagine Bach opening his mail one day and seeing the libretto for the first time. So too the exquisite unity of the Christmas Oratorio.

Golly, I wish Bach had been a letter-writer. We really know so little about his professional working relationships. There is nothing like the wealth of correspondence and anecdote which we have for Handel and Jennens, his librettist. Where did the literary ideas which are so crucial to Bach's art come from? There are very few "literary" composers in history -- Monteverdi, Bach, Wagner and Britten -- composers for whom the genesis of the musical act is first and foremost a literary event. Even music without texts -- the Goldberg Variations (BWV 988) for example -- are literary works in conception.

William Hoffman wrote (September 12, 2009):

Douglas Cowling writes:
< Golly, I wish Bach had been a letter-writer. We really know so little about his professional working relationships. There is nothing like the wealth of correspondence and anecdote which we have for Handel and Jennens, his librettist. Where did the literary ideas which are so crucial to Bach's art come from? There are very few "literary" composers in history -- Monteverdi, Bach, Wagner and Britten -- composers for whom the genesis of the musical act is first and foremost a literary event. Even music withouttexts -- the Goldberg Variations for example -- are literary works in conception. >
JulianMincham writes:
< Certainly the last word has not been said about Bach's complex approaches to the musical depiction of textual images. >
William Hoffman responds:
The key to Bach's literary conception speaks for itself, I think, beyond what he and his collaborators could have discussed. The proof is in the finished product and how it is received. Our task is to go back to the conception and genesis and to examine the source-critical evidence for the elements (content) and the process (form). Bach's techniques and collaboration are astounding, just based on the results. Wait to you see some of the evidence in our pending discussion of Cantata BWV 153, especially Eric Chafe's challenging, complex thoughts about tonal allegory. Like the term "parody," I'm not sure I really grasp "tonal allegory," let alone embrace it. I think the significance is not so much in Chafe's conclusions, but the discoveries he suggests which can lead us in many productive directions. Look for my thoughts on Bach's use of musical rhetoric, which I will include in my BWV 153 introduction today or tomorrow. The end result is a musical sermon accomplished through extensive, fruitful collaboration of composer, librettist and sermon preacher. I think it doesn't get any better.

J.M. also writes:
< Incidentally there are a number of recitatives with striking images which Bach ignores completely. There doesn't seem to be any consistency in his approach as many others really glorify in the imagery. Could it be that he was used to turning out the recitatives in a matter of minutes and often just didn't give them much additional time, leaving the more graphic images to be portrayed in the aria and choruses? >
William Hoffman replies:
We have only begun to scratch the surface of Bach's recitatives, beyond the fundamental compositional technique. I did a paper for the American Musicological Society in 1995, as a beginning graduate student, on "Bach's Parodied Recitatives: A Close Examination." There are Bach scholars who say that he never wrote any, displaying not so much ignorance as disinterest.

Fact: one-fifth of Bach's "parodies" are indeed recitatives, primarily from Koethen and Leipzig secular works. Like his creativity in the B Minor Mass (BWV 232), these are not simple text substitutions of perfunctory recitatives. These involve complex techniques using partial musical and textual changes, only reuse of the figured bass, initial incipit statement, and a blending of several. Just look at the genesis of the reworked recitative in BWV 134 in three versions over seven years, beginning with just text substitution from BWV 134a to compleat revision. I suggest that this is an example not of "improvement" or perfection (Mozart's Arrow) but of transformation (Bach's Circle)

Further, if we cast a wide net, we will find suggestive reworkings, notably in the turbae choruses of the St. John Passion. Here Bach takes four different musical themes and varies them in clusters of extended choruses with different biblical texts, giving John's episodic Passion narrative in Bach's Oratorio Passion structural and thematic unity. These were revealed by Spitta, Schweitzer and Smend. A decade later Bach weaves another marvelous, unique design for his Christmas Oratorio.

Douglas Cowling wrote (September 12, 2009):
BWV 248 Bach's Recitatives

William Hoffman wrote:
< We have only begun to scratch the surface of Bach's recitatives, beyond the fundamental compositional technique. I did a paper for the American Musicological Society in 1995, as a beginning graduate student, on "Bach's Parodied Recitatives: A Close Examination." There are Bach scholars who say that he never wrote any, displaying not so much ignorance as disinterest. >
William, has anyone looked systematically at Bach's recitatives to see if there are any formal links between the cantillation formulas used every Sunday to chant the scriptural readings and Bach's recitative technique? Or is the trajectory of development through Italian secular examples from the late Renaissance?

Luther clearly had some sort of contemporary recitative technique in mind when he replaced the traditional Gospel melodies for the dramatic registers of the Passion tone: middle range for the narrator, low for Christ and high for other characters and the crowd. Those symbolic tessiaturas are very much behind the voicings in the Bach Passions.

In terms of the reception of the cantatas and oratorios at a Sunday service, the recitatives followed extended texts sung in what is essentially a secco recitative. Add the polyphonic settings which the choir sang in the chant dialogues and you have something of the effect of secco recitative and concerted choral responses. Did Bach see his recitatives in an aesthetic continuum with the chant?

I've just edited some of these chant and fauxbourdon sections for a performance in December. If people would like to see how Bach's choir sang the Gospel on festival days, I could send a PDF to be posted somewhere on the site.

William Hoffman wrote (September 13, 2009):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< I've just edited some of these chant and fauxbourdon sections for a performance in December. If people would like to see how Bach's choir sang the Gospel on festival days, I could send a PDF to be posted somewhere on the site. >
William Hoffman replies:
Yes! I've always wondered what Bach's choir sang during the rest of the main service, besides the chorales and church piece, especially their musical connections, contexts, and connotations. Even for those who don't readily embrace the religious sphere. These texts and readings set to music and are also part and parcel of a well-regulated church music. And, we have the sermons set to music. Their called Bach's cantatas. As Ed would surely echo (in chant): "Let it all hang out!"

Ed Myskowski wrote (September 13, 2009):
William Hoffman wrote:
< The proof is in the finished product and how it is received. Our task is to go back to the conception and genesis and to examine the source-critical evidence for the elements (content) and the process (form). Bach's techniques and collaboration are astounding, just based on the results. >
I have isolated this concise, nicely stated thought, in the hope that everyone may read it at least once. It gains on repetition

Douglas Cowling wrote:
<< I've just edited some of these chant and fauxbourdon sections for a performance in December. If people would like to see how Bach's choir sang the Gospel on festival days, I could send a >>PDF to be posted somewhere on the site. >>
William Hoffman replies:
< Yes! I've always wondered what Bach's choir sang during the rest of the main service, besides >the chorales and church piece, especially their musical connections, contexts, and connotations. >Even for those who don't readily embrace the religious sphere. These texts and readings set to >music and are also part and parcel of a well-regulated church music. And, we have the sermons >set to music. Their called Bach's cantatas. As Ed would surely echo (in chant): "Let it all hang out!" >
Ed Myskowski adds:
(1) Yes! as well. Perhaps an Article for BCW archives?

(2) I have been in the forefront of those emphasizing the need to comprehend Bachs religious sphere in order to fully appreciate his sacred music, perhaps all of his music. I have also been in the forefront of the smaller group emphasizing the need to distinguish Bachs 18th C. religious sphere (mainly European) from our own 21st C. sphere, global (plus?). Locate Heaven (Hell, Limbo, Purgatory, etc.) at your pleasure.

(3) I would indeed echo in chant. Perhaps Ravi Shankar, Chants of India (produced by George Harrison, late of Beatles renown). This 1997 CD appears to have lapsed from ready availability. For shame! It is fresh in my mind because it is my spouses favorite background for Tai Chi, and because I recently burned a copy for a friend, since she could not easily buy one. She was interested becausher daughter gave her an Aum pendant in turquoise. She finds the Chants appropriate and enjoyable. Also the turquoise. As would Bach, if you read the fine print of his Biblical marginalia with an open mind

The Shankar recording is an extened prayer for peace and tranquility, in musical styles and forms spanning several thousand years, obviously not specifically Christian, but certainly not excluding any tradition, old or new.

<Shaantirme Astu Shaantih> May there be peace in me, peace alone. Dona Nobis Pacem.

Neil Halliday wrote (September 13, 2009):
William Hoffman wrote: (in reply to Douglas Cowling)
> Confirmed in MBM (BWV 232): Osana from "Preise deine gluecke," BWV 215<
Perhaps we owe the magnificent, expanded 8-voice setting of the Osanna in the MBM (BWV 232) to the fact that Bach wished to grab the attention of the royal family, with the splendid double choir opening chorus of BWV 215, first performed in Leipzig, October 5th 1734, for the king's birthday celebrations, as well as the anniversary of his ascension to the Polish crown, all happening during the Leipzig trade fair that year; and apparently he succeeded: the royal family "never left their (observation) window as long as the music was being performed, but graciously listened to it, and his Majesty liked it very much" (quoted in the Rilling booklet from a contemporary source).

I can't recall another double chorus movement in the cantatas.

Douglas Cowling wrote (September 12, 2009):
Double Choir Cantatas

Neil Halliday wrote:
< I can't recall another double chorus movement in the cantatas. >
"Nun ist Das Heil" (BWV 50) is set for eight-voice choir although musicologists are controverted about its authorship. There is no autograph score or parts. Scheide suggests that it is another composer's arrangement of a 5-voice chorus by Bach. Rifkin denies that it is by Bach.

If it's not by Bach, it SHOULD be by Bach.

Peter Smaill wrote (September 13, 2009):
Double Choir Cantatas BWV 50

[To Douglas Cowling] John Eliot Gardiner performed this controversial work at Edinburgh this year (as he did at the Albert Hall Proms in London 25 years ago) and clearly does not doubt the authenticity.

Whoever composed it, (and I agree Bach has no known rival for the quality of double fugue writing) may well have been keen on numerology. The natural order number alphabet value (using the original spelling "Heyl" ) for the first fugue is 1509; the sum of the Choir and continuo's notes?is exactly 1509. The whole fugue theme has 65 notes, the number value of "Heyland". (Arthur Hirsch is the source).

Harry W. Crosby wrote (September 13, 2009):
If Rifkin, et alia, believe this is not by Bach, has anyone [qualified] asked them who they conjecture to have written it? And -- if so -- asked them to cite other other works by their composers of choice that establish their credibility at this level of achievement.

I would be very interested to hear other works by putative creators of BWV 50. That would be educational, something I can always use. But if the savants with the conviction that it was not Bach have no alternative candidates, are we to assume that whoever the genius was, this was his first and last work?

I need enlightenment, Harry

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (September 13, 2009):
Peter Smaill wrote:
< Whoever composed it, (and I?agree Bach has no known rival for the quality of double fugue writing) >
Sorry, I really must disagree with that statement. Telemann, Stölzel and Graupner were extremely talented writers of double fugues.

Peter Smaill wrote (September 14, 2009):
[To Kim Patrick Clow] Delighted you have taken up the question of "Nun ist der heil" (BWV 50); and of course Telemann, Stölzel and Graupner are contemporaries of the first rank. Stoelzel's works we know were performed at the Thomaskirche by Bach and he is perhaps especially interesting in this regard. But can you point us in the direction of a choral double fugue by any of the three which can suggest authorship of this exceptional work.

Werner Neumann observed "(the movement) represents the exhaustive realisation of all the structural possibilities determined by the permutation principle and thus embodies the summit of its formal type". Certainly one can agree with Dürr's position in the absence of another model, "Meanwhile, one might well ask who other than Bach, in the vicinity of Leipzig in the early to mid eighteenth century, could have created a work of such breathtaking power".

This question of authorship is one of the most persistent debates and further contributions to answering Duerr's question from a knowledge of the enormous output of Bach's contemporaries?could be illuminating .

Michael D. Costello wrote (September 14, 2009):
[To Peter Smaill] I just have to chime in and say that I cannot imagine this work being by anyone other than Bach. It is entirely possible, of course; however, some of the harmonic progressions, particularly prior to the two primary cadences (at the mid-point of the work and the conclusion), are so incredibly well-crafted and complicated, yet natural enough that my ears are not shocked by them, that I simply don't feel that others of Bach's day would have been capable of creating such a work. Just my opinion, of course!

Incidentally, I am conducting this piece at Grace in River Forest, Illinois in two weeks. I don't think our choir ever struggled so much over a cantata. It is a joyous challenge and we cannot wait to put it all together!

Continue of this part of the discussion, see: Cantata BWV 50 - Discussions

Douglas Cowling wrote (September 14, 2009):
Music for the Mass in Bach's Churches

Aryeh has posted my performing editions of four chant and polyphonic items which Bach's choirs sang on Sundays and festivals: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Articles/Music-Mass[Doug].htm

1) Collect (Collecta, Oratio) with Responses for Christmas Week
2) Epistle for the Second Day of Christmas
3) Gospel with Responses for the Second Day of Christmas
4) Preface with Responses for Christmas Week

The editions are copyright and posted here for study purposes only. For performance licensing, please contact me.

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (September 14, 2009):
[To Douglas Cowling] Thanks Doug! Beautiful music engravings, what software do you use for your editions?

Douglas Cowling wrote (September 14, 2009):
[To Kim Patrick Clow] I'm an indentured slave to FINALE.

Bruce Simonson wrote (September 22, 2009):
[To Douglas Cowling] Thanks for posting these. I am particularly interested in the fauxbourdons chants you provided ... do you know if this style of composition was common practice in Lutheran services in Bach's time? We'll be taking up the Monteverdi Vespers in rehearsal soon, and I'd like to have some additional context for this type of composition as it appeared in Bach's time (for contrast), in case folks ask.

If I recall correctly, BWV 18 has response elements in it which sound (to my ear) like chanted responses, albeit these are mensural (and if I recall correctly), include some moving parts in the harmonization.

Douglas Cowling wrote (September 22, 2009):
[To Bruce Simonson] Harmonized plainsong was a constant feature of Bach's services. His choirs used a 1682 collection, the "New Leipzig Songbook" which contains primarily 17th century harmonizations by composers such as Schütz and the ubiquitous Praetorius. We see the same harmonizations in the Monteverdi "Vespers", especially in the opening "Deus in Adjutorium" where Monteverdi inserts instrumental interludes between the chant portions, but also in the Dixit Dominus where the choir freely chants the texts on a sustained chord, the same kind of fauxbourdons which were still being used by Bach's choirs when they chanted the psalms in Lutheran vespers. The "Deus in Adjutorium" of Demantius was the fauxbourdon used in Leipzig.

You're right about Cantata BWV 18: the recitative Mein Gott hier wird" is interrupted three times by the solo verse and choral response of the German Litany which replaced the Gloria in Lent. The three "-gesima" Sundays are a kind of preview of Lent, and this quotation on Sexagesima Sunday is pointing ahead to the penitential season when the entire Litany was sung, perhaps with this fauxbourdon by Bach. There is a brief quotation in "Jesu Nun Gepreiset" The Kyrie of the Mass in F quotes two themes from the Litany but as a sustained cantus firmus, not in the verse and respond form.

 

Discussions in the Week of January 7, 2018 (4th round)

William Hoffman wrote (January 7, 2018):
Christmas Oratorio, BWV 248IV: New Year's Day: Naming of Jesus

Christmas Oratorio, Part IV

For the New Year's Day feast of the ritual circumcision naming of Jesus, Part 4 of the Christmas Oratorio, "Fallt mit Danken, fallt mit Loben" (Fall [Bow] with thanks, Fall with praise) Bach composed the shortest cantata, lasting under 25 minutes, with only one narrative line (Luke 2:21) and one plain, closing chorale. Instead he and his anonymous librettist (probably Picander), created a most intimate, operatic sacred drama, using three parodied movements — opening chorus and two arias — from the dramma per musica, composed the previous year, BWV 214, "Herkules auf dem Scheidewege: Laßt uns sorgen, lasst uns wachen" (Hercules at the Crossroads: Let us take care, let us keep watch).

Bach then took two Jesus Hymns from pietist Johann Rist, with Bach's own melodies, transforming one into a two-movement symbolic arioso love duet in the style of unio mystico through inhabitatio with a soprano chorale and a bass poetic response, and a closing congregational hymn, "Jesus richte mein Beginnen" (Jesus, guide my beginning), with the music of the opening chorus (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-NJduP9tbbQ) repeated in interludes with regal pairs of hunting pastoral horns and oboes (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XD9wk4GR8cQ). Meanwhile, Bach followed each symbolic duet with a commentary aria: "Flößt, mein Heiland, flößt dein Namen (Does your name instil, my saviour) a dialogue in pastorale-giga style between the Christian Soul and the child Jesus (echo, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nz8hgx65cCQ), and "Ich will nur dir zu Ehren leben" (I shall live only to honour you, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dt5ovIHFhKw), a prayerful response for tenor in rare fugal style. 1

Symbolism, Theology

Following the sacred trilogy of the three-day Christmas festival on the initial incarnation of Jesus' first coming in the flesh, the half part of the Christmas Oratorio, Parts 4-6 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TrJYDQ8YQ5s, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5SHDTNy_rUM), further reflects on the three-fold meaning of Christmas with the unio mystica concept of the inhabitatio perpetual, spiritual indwelling. They portray the three events of the ritual circumcision naming of Jesus and his Passion sacrifice, the recognition of his kingdom, and the darkness of human evil which will be judged at the final coming at the end of time. The outward journey of Jesus begins with his symbolic, sacrificial naming through circumcision, eight days after his birth and before the arrival and adoration of the Magi.

Part 4 begins as a traditional New Year's celebration of praise and thanksgiving, says Markus Rathey,2 which in Bach's previous five cantatas presented in Leipzig were directed at both God and governing civic authority; and also found in Bach's profane serenades composed for New Year's Day in Cöthen (http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Articles/HoffmanBachDramaII.htm#P3), which include spiritual import, says Rathey (http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/01411896.2016.1228358). The theological history of the initiation concept of circumcision and its Lutheran application in baptism as part of a new covenant is explored in sermons of Bach's day by Rathey (Ibid.: 273f). Circumcision then represented the ritual of Jesus' shedding drops of blood, the symbolic foreshadowing of Jesus Christ's shedding blood on the cross and death, passing into salvation history. Exactly a year before Bach's Christmas Oratorio, the view of circumcision is found in sermon notes for New Year's Day 1734 of Leipzig superintendent Salomon Deyling. He saw the ritual as the doctrine of faith in salvation, as the duty in life in a renewal of love, and as the consolation of faith. This sacrificial covenant now expressed through baptism represented the second focus of New Year's Day, following praise and thanksgiving, and the concept of the naming of Jesus, as sanctifying or making holy, was the essence of his being, Luther emphasized. The name symbolizes his essence and :underscore his human nature, says Rathey (Ibid. 276f). Jesus also means Emmanuel or "God with Us" and is linked to humanity through unio mystica (mystical union). This union through inhabitatio and these symbolic "concepts play an essential role for Bach's libretto as well in the positive concepts of "sweetness" of Jesus' name and the union of the Song of Songs.

The sole biblical quotation in Part 4 is Luke 2:21, the Gospel for New Year's Day, describing the ritual circumcision of Jesus, eight days after his birth, when he was named "Jesus," "which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb" (kjv). This is a reference to Matt. 1:21, when an angel appears to Joseph in a dream, telling him that Mary will bear a son, "and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins" (kjv).

New Year's Day Premiere

The New Year's Cantata, BWV 248IV, "Fallt mit Danken, fallt mit Loben," was premiered on Saturday, 1 January 1735 at the early main service of the St. Thomas Church before the sermon (not extant) of Pastor Christian Weise Sr. on the Gospel, Luke 2:21 (circumcision, "Jesus" naming), as well as the afternoon vesper service at the Nikolaikirche before the sermon (not extant) of substitute sub-Deacon Karl Gottlob Hoffmann on the day's Epistle, Galatians 3:23-29 (Through faith we are heirs of God’s promise), says Martin Petzoldt.3 The day's readings in German (Martin Luther 1545), and English (kjv, 1611) are found at BCW http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Read/New-Year-Day.htm. The main service introit Psalm was No. 34, Benedicam Dominum (I will bless the Lord at all times, kjv), says Petzoldt (Ibid.: 275), who calls Psalm 34 “Thanksgiving for God’s joyfulness.” It also is the Introit Psalm for the 12th Sunday after Trinity in Bach’s Leipzig. Motet settings of the chant are among the most popular and recorded.4

Christmas Oratorio, Part 4, New Year's Day, movements, scoring, text, key, meter (German text and Francis Browne English translation):

[36] 1. Chorus free da-capo, with ritornelli complex, homophonic & free polyphony [SATB; Corno da caccia I/II, Oboe I/II, Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo]: A. Fallt mit Danken, fallt mit Loben / Vor des Höchsten Gnadenthron!" (Fall with thanks, fall with praise / Before the throne of merof the Highest!); B. Gottes Sohn / Will der Erden / Heiland und Erlöser werden, / Gottes Sohn / Dämpft der Feinde Wut und Toben." (The son of God / Is willing to become / The saviour and redeemer of the world, / The son of God / Subdues at the rage and fury of the enemy; F Major; 3/8 passepied-menuett style.
[37] 2. Recitative secco (narrative, Luke 2:21) [Tenor, Continuo]: Evangelist: "Und da acht Tage um waren, / dass das Kind beschnitten würde, / da ward sein Name genennet Jesus, / welcher genennet war von dem Engel, / ehe denn er im Mutterleibe empfangen ward." (Evangelist: And when eight days were passed /And the child was to be circumcised / He was given the name Jesus / as he had been called by the angel / Before he was conceived in his mother's body.); C Major to a minor; 4/4.
[38] 3. Recitative Accompagnato arioso [Bass] and chorale canto trope [Soprano; Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo]: "Immanuel, o süßes Wort! / Mein Jesus heißt mein Hort, / Mein Jesus heißt mein Leben. / Mein Jesus hat sich mir ergeben, / Mein Jesus soll mir immerfort / Vor meinen Augen schweben. / Mein Jesus heißet meine Lust, / Mein Jesus labet Herz und Brust. / Jesu, du mein liebstes Leben, / Meiner Seelen Bräutigam, / Komm! Ich will dich mit Lust umfassen, / Mein Herze soll dich nimmer lassen, / Ach! So nimm mich zu dir! / Der du dich vor mich gegeben / An des bittern Kreuzes Stamm! / Auch in dem Sterben sollst du mir / Das Allerliebste sein; / In Not, Gefahr und Ungemach / Seh ich dir sehnlichst nach. / Was jagte mir zuletzt der Tod für Grauen ein? / Mein Jesus! Wenn ich sterbe, / So weiß ich, dass ich nicht verderbe. / Dein Name steht in mir geschrieben, / Der hat des Todes Furcht vertrieben." (Emmanuel, O sweet word! / My Jesus is my refuge, / My Jesus is my life, / My Jesus has given himself to me, / My Jesus shall constantly / Hover before my eyes, / My Jesus is my delight, /My Jesus refreshes heart and breast. / Jesus, you who are my dearest life, / My soul's bridegroom, / Come! I will embrace you with delight / My heart will never leave you / Who gave himself for me / On the bitter beam of the cross! / Ah! Then take me to yourself / Even in dying you shall be / What I love best; / In distress, danger and affliction / I gaze at you with longing. / How at last should death strike me with terror? / My Jesus! When I die / Then I know that I shall not perish / Your name written within me / Has driven away the fear of death.); d minor to C Major; 4/4.
[39] 4. Aria tri-partite (ABB'), with ritornelli complex[Soprano] with (Echo) [Oboe solo, Continuo]: A. "Flößt, mein Heiland, flößt dein Namen / Auch den allerkleinsten Samen / Jenes strengen Schreckens ein? Nein, du sagst ja selber nein. (Nein!) (Does your name instil, my saviour, does it instil / Even the tiniest seed / Of that fierce terror? / No, you yourself say (No!); B B', "Sollt ich nun das Sterben scheuen? / Nein, dein süßes Wort ist da! / Oder sollt ich mich erfreuen? / Ja, du Heiland sprichst selbst ja. (Ja!) (Shall I now be afraid of death? / No, your sweet word is there! / Or should I rejoice? / Yes, you my saviour say it yourself (Yes !); C Major; 6/8 pastorale-giga style.
[40] 5. Recitative Accompagnato arioso [Bass] and Chorale canto trope [Soprano; Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo]: "Wohlan, dein Name soll allein / In meinem Herzen sein! / Jesu, meine Freud und Wonne, / Meine Hoffnung, Schatz und Teil, / So will ich dich entzücket nennen, / Wenn Brust und Herz zu dir vor Liebe brennen. / Mein Erlösung, Schmuck [or Schutz] und Heil, / Hirt und König, Licht und Sonne, / Doch, Liebster, sage mir: / Wie rühm ich dich, wie dank ich dir? / Ach! wie soll ich würdiglich, / Mein Herr Jesu, preisen dich?) (Well then, your name alone / Shall be in my heart / Jesus, my joy and delight, / My hope, treasure and share / This is what I shall call you in my delight, / For my breast and heart burn with love for you. / My redemption, my adornment and salvation, / Shepherd and King, Light and Sun, / Yet, my beloved, tell me: / How can I praise you, how can I thank you / Shepherd and King, light and son, / Ah ! How can I worthily / My Lord Jesus, give you praise?); C to F Major; 4/4.
[41] 6. Aria da-capo, ritornelli complex, fugal style [Tenor; Violino solo I/II, Continuo]: A. "Ich will nur dir zu Ehren leben, / Mein Heiland, gib mir Kraft und Mut, / Dass es mein Herz recht eifrig tut!" (I shall live only to honour you, / My saviour, give me strength and courage / So that my heart may do right eagerly); B. "Stärke mich, / Deine Gnade würdiglich / Und mit Danken [Adagio] zu erheben!" (Strengthen me / So that I may worthily / And thankfully extol your grace!); d minor; 4/4.
[42] 7. Chorale plain with ritornelli complex (instrumental introduction, interludes) [SATB; Corno da caccia I/II, Oboe I/II, Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo]: "Jesus richte mein Beginnen, / Jesus bleibe stets bei mir, / Jesus zäume mir die Sinnen, / Jesus sei nur mein Begier, / Jesus sei mir in Gedanken, / Jesu, lasse mich nicht wanken!" (Jesus, guide my beginning, / Jesus, stay with me always, / Jesus, curb my inclinations, / Jesus, be my sole desire, / Jesus, be in my thoughts, / Jesus, do not let me waver!"; F Major; 4/4.

Notes on Text

For this New Year's cantata, Bach's librettist paid particularly close attention to various sources for the madrigalian texts parodied from Cantata 214 or new texts in the accompanying love duets, such as pietist-oriented hymns as well as biblical and theological concepts found in sermons and biblical commentaries for this day. The theme of the opening chorus is "Praise God for his Son who is our victorious Savior," says Melvin P. Unger.5 Besides the general sense of praise and thanksgiving in the Psalms is the fifth line, referring to Jesus as "the saviour and redeemer of the world," from Isaiah 49:26, "I the Lord am thy Saviour and thy Redeemer" (kjv).6 This is the Christological emphasis on Christ' sacrificial atonement which leads to his final coming in judgement, as well as Martin Luther's Theology of the Cross (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theology_of_the_Cross).

Another theme of the madrigalian movements is: No. 38-3 accompagnato/chorale, "Emmanuel, Jesus' name, means everything to me," with "Emmanuel" in Hebrew meaning "God with us." The juxtaposed soprano aria with echo (no. 39-4) emphasizes that "Jesus' name inspires no fear of death, rather joy." The duet resumes (No. 40-5) with the theme, "Jesus' name alone shall be in my heart," the hymn phrase "Shepherd and King, Light and Sun," referring to the transfigured Jesus in Matt. 17:2, "and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light" (kjv). The tenor aria (No. 41-6) is a prayer, "Help me to live only for thy honor," addressed to the Saviour. The closing chorale also is a "Prayer for Jesus to direct and keep us true always."

The ways of celebrating Christmas (the Consecrated Night in German, Weinachten) are "reflection, joy, thanks, and responsibility to the neighbor," says Erdmann Neumeister, and they "resound throughout the six cantatas comprising Bach's Christmas Oratorio," observes Jaroslav Pelikan.7 Beyond the reference to "birth and grace" are the hymn allusions (No. 40-5) to Jesus as "delight, hope, treasure, refuge, and salvation," he points out. Meanwhile, Bach "had no compunctions about taking these three works [BWV 213-215], which are secular in content and all but operatic in style, setting Christmas words to them for (presumably) many of the same people who has heard the secular works, adding a substantial amount of other and new material, and putting it on during the six feast days of Christmas . . . for performance in church," says Pelikan (Ibid. 137f).

Unlike the other Christmas Oratorio five cantatas, Bach in Part 4, moves from the sharp key of D Major to the flatted key of F Major, in part to accommodate the hunting horns in lieu of trumpets, as well as to preserve the original key of Cantata 213, while possibly moving to the lower harmonic spectrum that is appropriate for the reference to Jesus as "saviour and redeemer" (opening chorus) his Passion. The parodied closing two lines in the first duet (No. 38-3), says Ignace Bossuyt,8 link the believer with Jesus' sacrifice: "Your name written within me / Has driven away the fear of death." Meanwhile, the opening chorus with its "very consistent symmetrical structure, the dancing 3/8 meter [passepied-menuett style], and the frequent chordal declamation make this song of praise one of the most 'modern' and galant works Bach ever composed," says Bossuyt (Ibid.: 127).

Two Popular Johann Rist Chorales:

Bach returns to noted pre-pietist hymn writer Johann Rist (1607-1667) for both bar-form chorale text settings in the New Year's Naming cantata, hymns popular in Bach's time: "Jesu, du mein liebstes Leben" (Jesus, you who are my dearest life; 1642 Fischer-Tümpel II: 206) in the soprano-bass chorale trope duets (Nos. 38-3 and 40-5), and the closing plain chorale (No. 42-7), verse 15 of the New Year's hymn, "Hilf, Herr Jesu, laß gelingen," 1642 (Fischer-Tümpel II: 194, ELG 4336). The new melodies were composed by Bach (not in Zahn) although he set both original Rist-Schoop hymns as plain chorales, BWV 356 and BWV 344, both in G Major. Bach derived the new melodies for both hymn settings from the melody of his opening chorus, Fallt mit Danken," suggests Charles S. Terry.9 In the concluding chorale, "Jesus richte mein Beginnen," as with the first three parts of the Christmas Oratorio, Bach rounded off the music by using the same materials and setting of the opening movements. In Part 4, closing hymn, he composed the melody, "an aria rather than a hymn-tune," as he had done with the concluding chorale of the motet," BWV 230, "Komm, Jesu, komm" (Come, Jesus, come), "Drum schließ ich mich in deine Hände" (Therefore I put myself in your hands, http://www.bach-chorales.com/BWV0229_2.htm).

Bach in his Christmas Oratorio departed from his own practice of not composing new melodies to hymn texts for two reasons, suggests Marcus Rather in "Chorale Tropes in Bach's Oratorios."10 With Part 4 as "a meditation on the power and meaning of the name of Jesus," Rathey says (Ibid.: 60), Bach found the original Schoop melody "insufficiently captured" "the highly emotional character of the text" and also disregarded the original AAB Bar-form in order "to create a through-composed melody" to complement the Rist text, as well as the new poetry commentary sung by the bass. Bach set the Stollen four-line beginning portion of the chorale in No. 38 and the final Abgesang six lines in No. 40. "In No. 38, the hymn text is embedded into a larger recitative text and is framed by passages of simple recitative," says Rathey (Ibid.: 62, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XRDhY4n4ZbU). "In No. 40, the voices sing together almost from the beginning" while "the character of the two voices in No. 40 is similar" with the bass singing in a more arioso-like tone" so that "the movement ceases to be a traditional chorale trope and dissolves instead into a real duet" (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iGjuuNnCRMY).

"The melody Bach composes resembles a song rather thank a chorale," like the melodies he chose and published in the Schemelli Gesangbuch in 1736, comments Rathey (Ibid.: 60). While the soprano as the bride with unconditional love represents the Soul, the bass as bridegroom could represent the figure of Simeon, the pious elder, with his canticle, Nunct dimittis (Now let your servant depart in Peace), accepting death after seeing Jesus presented in the Jerusalem temple in Luke 2:252-33, immediately following the circumcision narrative, suggests Bossuyt (Ibid.: 130f).

Johann Rist's 11 "Jesu, du mein liebstes Leben" is a 13 eight-line stanza Bar Form Soul-Jesus hymn to the associated melody (Zahn 7891) of Johann Schop (c.1590-1665, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Lib/Schop.htm), first published in 1642 in Part 5 of his Himlischer Lieder (Lüneburg). It is listed in the NLGB as No. 320, "God's Word & Christian Church," with the description, "Heart-felt love and unspoken favor of our Savior Jesus Christ." As a Jesus Hymn also appropriate for Epiphany Time, it is found in the Dresden hymnbooks with the "added heading 'A Hymn of Praise Concerning the Tender Love and the Ineffable Benefactions of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ'," says Güther Stiller,12 and "assigned specifically to the Sunday after Christmas," also known as the "Turning Time" (http://www.bach-cantatas.com/LCY/M&C-Turning-Time.htm). Bach also set the Rist hymn, "Jesu, du mein liebstes Leben,"13 as a plain chorale, BWV 356 in G Major (http://www.bach-chorales.com/BWV0356.htm, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IvzJnBUW0s0).

"Hilf, Herr Jesu, laß gelingen" 15th stanza (abridged, Stanza 5), "Jesus richte mein Beginnen" (Jesus, guide my beginning), first published in Part 3 of his Himlische Lieder (Lüneburg, 1642), 16 stanzas of 6 lines, entitled "Godly beginning of the New Year in, and with the most sweet name of Jesus."14 It is one of the best German New Year's Hymns, and became speedily popular (though often abridged), source https://hymnary.org/text/hilf_herr_jesu_lass_gelingen). The original, associated Bar-form melody (No. 1, Zahn 3687a), is by Johann Schoop, and was set as a plain chorale, BWV 344 (http://www.bach-chorales.com/BWV0344.htm, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_u_tOckbuaA). It is one of five New Year's chorales found in the NLGB, as No. 47.

Arias: Meaning, Transformation

In Cantata 213, the echo aria represents Hercules' internal debate between pleasure and virtue, accepting the latter, while in the New Years cantata it is a dialogue inserted between the two duets, showing the soprano as faithful soul struggling with death and the Christ child offering eternal life, observes Bossuyt (Ibid.: 132f). In Bach's time, hew says, the Echo aria represented a theological expression of Jesus' consolation to believers for any wavering uncertainty, while being part of the tradition of the sacred dialogue.

The tenor aria (No. 41-6), "Ich will nur dir zu Ehren leben" (I shall live only to honour you), following the two duets and soprano aria, is "a powerful answer to the difficult questions raised in the preceding recitative," says Bossuyt (Ibid. 135). Where Virtue sang of joy at Hercules' acceptance in the Cantata 213, now this is transformed into the Christian's duty to offer to offer life in service to God while being worthy of God's grace, the Lutheran Doctrine of Justification. The affirmative relationship between the divine and humanity in the echo aria becomes an expression of gratitude in the tenor aria. The second aria and the closing chorale, linked textually, says Rathey (Ibid.: 296), "represent a typical way of celebrating at the beginning of the New Year by praising God, dedicating all actions to him, and requesting the strength to be able to do this." The previous five stanzas of the closing hymn express praise and service to God in order that "Jesus, guide my beginning."

This part of "the Christmas Oratorio focuses almost exclusively on one aspect: the name of Jesus and his presence in the believer's heart," says Rathey (Ibid.: 279). The aspects of praise/thanksgiving, and the covenant-sacrifice "are not entirely absent" "but they appear only in fleeting allusions." Praise and thanksgiving are found prominently, sometimes exclusively, in Bach's earlier New Year's Day Cantatas (BWV 143, 190, 41, 16, and 171) and are present in BWV 248IV opening movement (Fall with thanks, fall with praise), the aria no. 41 (And thankfully extol your grace!), and the opening of the final chorale, no. 42, (Jesu, guide my beginning). The covenant-sacrifice is referred to in the opening chorus with the word "Gnadenthron!" (the throne of mercy), later as Paul's symbol of Christ's forgiveness in the Theology of the Cross. The center of the fourth part, theologically and numerically, is the echo-aria (no. 39), a dialogue between the divine and human, framed by the duets, says Rathey (Ibid.: 280). The second aria (no. 41), as well as the duets, "express the affect of joy," says Rathey (Ibid.: 294f), serving the dual purpose of ways to praise and thank Jesus, and elaborates on the con sequences of the power of Jesus' name and his on-going presence in the human heart.

Thus the New Year's Naming of Jesus establishes the Christological significance of Jesus through the power of incarnation, found in the Lukan Chapter 1 angel announcements to Zacharias, father of John the Baptist, and to Mary, with her Magnificat response (http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Vocal/BWV243-Gen8.htm). At this point in the Christmas Oratorio narrative, the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 2 is used, portraying the Journey and adoration of the Magi, with the involvement of Herod, for the Sunday after New Year's and the Feast of the Epiphany, as the challenge of threat evil faces the infant Jesus, who eventually will fulfill the Christological sacrifice with his death on the cross.

FOOTNOTES

1 Christmas Oratorio, Part 4, Details & Discography, BCW http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Vocal/BWV248.htm, BWV 248/2; Score Vocal & Piano, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Scores/BWV248-4-V&P.pdf; Score BGA, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BGA/BWV248-4-BGA.pdf. References: BGA V/2 (BWV 248, Wilhelm Rust,1856), NBA KB II/6 (BWV 248, Walter Blankenburg/Alfred Dürr, 1962), Bach Compendium BC D 7, Zwang K 193).
2 Markus Rathey, Chapter 9, "What's in a Name? (Part IV)," Johann Sebastian Bach’s Christmas Oratorio: Music, Theology, Culture (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016: 271ff).
3 Martin Petzoldt, Bach Kommentar: Theologisch Musikwissenschaftlicke Kommentierung der Geistlichen Vokalwerke Johann Sebastan Bachs; Vol. 2, Die Geistlichen Kantaten vom 1. Advent bis zum Trinitatisfest; Internationale Bachakademie Stuttgart (Kassel: Bärenreiter, 2007: 312).
4 Introit Psalm settings include: Lassus (5 vv 1562, 4 vv 1585, http://www.allmusic.com/artist/orlande-de-lassus-mn0001416262/compositions), Palestrina (5 vv, 1593, http://imslp.org/wiki/List_of_works_by_Giovanni_Pierluigi_da_Palestrina), Hieronymus Praetorius (SSTBB, 1622, http://www3.cpdl.org/wiki/index.php/Benedicam_Dominum_(Hieronymus_Praetorius); Henrich Schütz (STB 1629, http://www3.cpdl.org/wiki/index.php/Benedicam_Dominum_in_omni_tempore_(Heinrich_Schütz); Buxtehude (Adendmusik, BuxWV 113, http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2007/Nov07/buxtehude_7773182.htm; and Johann Rosenmüller (TTB, bc, http://www.discogs.com/Cantus-Cölln-Cantus-Cölln-Edition/release/3767272.
5 Unger, Handbook to Bach Sacred Cantata Texts: An Interlinear Translation with Reference Guide to Biblical Quotations and Illusions (Lanham MD. Scarecrow Press, 1996: 713-717).
6 Cited in Michael Marissen: Bach's Oratorios: The Parallel German-English Texts With Annotations (Oxford University Press, 2008, 15).
7 Jaroslav Pelikan, Bach Among the Theologians (Philadelphia PA: Fortress Press, 1986: 5f).
8 Ignace Bossuyt, Johann Sebastian Bach Christmas Oratorio, trans. Stratton Bull (Leuven University Press, 2004: 125).
9 Charles S. Terry, Bach’s Chorals, Part I: The Hymns and Hymn Melodies of the “Passions” and Oratorios, (Cambridge University Press, 2018: 53ff), http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/2055.
10 Marcus Rathey, "Drama and Discourse: The Form and Function of Chorale Tropes in Bach's Oratorios," in J. S. Bach and the Oratorio Tradition, Bach Perspectives, vol. 8, ed. Daniel R. Melamed (Urbana IL: University of Illinois Press, 2011: 59-62); Bach Perspectives, sponsored by American Bach Society.
11 Johann Rist biography, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johann_von_Rist; German text, https://hymnary.org/text/jesu_du_mein_liebstes_leben_meiner_seele; English (on-line) translation, https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=de&u=https://hymnary.org/text/jesu_du_mein_liebstes_leben_meiner_seele&prev=search.
12 Güther Stiller, Johann Sebastian Bach and Liturgical Life in Leipzig, ed. Robin A. Leaver, trans. Herbert J. A. Bouman, etc. (St. Louis MO: Concordia, 1984: 236f).
13 Rathey commentary, Christmas Oratorio (ibid. 76), https://books.google.com/books?id=UHDADAAAQBAJ&pg=PA76&lpg=PA76&dq=jesu+du+mein+liebstes+leben+text&source=bl&ots=gW-MNVy-dM&sig=iSoDhEDH1fsumOUTJoVmBKDQGVU&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwi4sLfUh7_YAhUC3GMKHRPJCzkQ6AEIajAN#v=onepage&q=jesu%20du%20mein%20liebstes%20leben%20text&f=false
14 "Hilf, Herr Jesu, laß gelingen," German text, http://www.lutheran-hymnal.com/german/tlh120g.htm; English (on-line) translation, https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=de&u=http://www.lutheran-hymnal.com/german/tlh120g.htm&prev=search.

William Hoffman wrote (January 8, 2018):
Christmas Oratorio, BWV 248IV: Correction, Additions

Corrections/Additions

In the paragraph beginning "The ways of celebrating Christmas (the Consecrated Night in German, Weinachten), the word "Weinachten" should be spelled "Weihnachten."

The parodied chorus and arias in their originals are: BWV 248IV (No. 36-1), "Fallt mit Danken, fallt mit Loben," was BWV 213/1, "Laßt uns sorgen," https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KwPG1MoHL1E; No. 39-4, "Flößt, mein Heiland, flößt dein Namen," was BWV 213/5 "Treues Echo," https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gppdAH8Jw3Q; and No. 41-6, "Ich will nur dir zu Ehren leben," was BWV 213/7, Auf meinen Flüggeln, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6162nXU6qBY.

 

Weihnachts-Oratorium BWV 248 (1734-1735): Details
Complete Recordings: 1900-1949 | 1950-1959 | 1960-1969 | 1970-1979 | 1980-1989 | 1990-1999 | 2000-2009 | 2010-2019 | Recordings of Individual Movements
General Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8
Systematic Discussions: Cantata 1 | Cantata 2 | Cantata 3 | Cantata 4 | Cantata 5 | Cantata 6 | Part 7: Summary Individual Recordings: BWV 248 – Collegium Aureum | BWV 248 - H. Christophers | BWV 248 - J.E. Gardiner | BWV 248 - N. Harnoncourt | BWV 248 - P. Herreweghe | BWV 248 - R. Jacobs | BWV 248 - N. McGegan | BWV 248 - R. Otto | BWV 248 - K. Richter | BWV 248 - H. Rilling | BWV 248 - P. Schreier | BWV 248 - M. Suzuki | BWV 248 - K. Thomas | BWV 248 - J.v. Veldhoven
Articles: A Bottomless Bucket of Bach - Christmas Oratorio [D. Satz] | BWV 248/19 “Schlafe, mein Liebster” - A Background Study with Focus on the Colla Parte Flauto Traverso Part [T. Braatz]


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



 

Back to the Top


Last update: Monday, February 05, 2018 23:04