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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

Magnificat in D major BWV 243
Magnificat in E flat major BWV 243a
General Discussions - Part 6

Continue from Part 5

Discussions in the Week of March 22, 2009

Douglas Cowling wrote (March 21, 2009):
Week of March 22, 2009: BWV 243/243a, Magnificat

Week of March 22, 2009:
BWV 243, Magnificat in D major
BWV243a, Magnificat in E flat major

Canticle for Christmas Vespers

BACKGROUND LINKS:

Links to texts, translations, scores, recordings and earlier discussions:
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Vocal/BWV243.htm

PERFORMANCE HISTORY:

(E Flat Major) 1st performance: December 25, 1723 ­ Leipzig
(D Major) 1st performance: 1732-1735 ­ Leipzig

Christmas Week 1723:
Bach¹s First Christmas in Leipzig

* Sat, Dec. 25: Christmas Day
7:00 am: Mass - St. Thomas
³Christen Ätzet diesen Tag², BWV 63 (1st perf)
Sanctus in D, BWV 238 (1st perf)

1:30 pm: Vespers ­ St. Nicholas
³Christen Ätzet diesen Tag², BWV 63
Magnificat in E-fat Major, BWV 243a (1st perf)

* Sun, Dec 26 ­ 2nd Day of Christmas (St. Stephen¹s)
7:00 am: Mass ­ St. Nicholas
³Dazu ist Erschienen², BWV 40 (1st perf)
Sanctus in D, BWV 238

1:30 pm: Vespers
³Dazu ist Erschienen², BWV 40
Magnificat in E-fat Major, BWV 243a (2nd perf)

* Mon, Dec 27 ­ 3rd Day of Christmas
7:00 am: Mass - St. Thomas
³Sehet Welch eine Liebe², BWV 64 (1st perf)

TWO VERSIONS:

Critical attention has always focused on the second D major version of the Magnificat as the definitive version, and the Christmas interpolations have been all but ignored as annoying barnacles forced on the work. In fact, Bach very carefully crafts the interpolations to fit the canticle. On the other hand, the symmetrical unity of the Magnificat proper suggests that Bach may have preconceived his setting before he came to Leipzig where he found that the interpolations were traditional. The removal of these tropes in the second version has been viewed as a vast improvement. More likely is the possibility that Bach reused the D major setting on an occasion other than Christmas when there were no additions: Easter and Pentecost both usually employed the festival orchestra with trumpets. The D major Magnificat remains one of Bach¹s most popular works and provides a complete microcosm of every vocal species he used in his oeuvre. And all in under half an hour!

CHRISTMAS INTERPOLATIONS:

The Magnificat was sung daily at afternoon Vespers as it was in the Catholic rite. (See below for Musical Sequence for Vespers of Christmas Day). On weekdays and most Sundays, it was sung to Luther¹s chorale version, ³Meine Seele Erhebt den Herrn.² On festival days (presumably Christmas, Easter and Pentecost) it was sung in Latin. Ironically, it was the Lutheran church which continued the late medieval practice of ³troping² or ³farcing² (= ³stuffing²) the Latin texts with additional music in Latin or German. The Catholic reforms after the Council of Trent abolished all of these so-called ³abuses.² Praetorius wrote several settings of the Magnificat with interpolations of Christmas chorales.

Schütz¹ mid-17th century setting from Dresden is typical:

1. Magnificat
2. Et exultavit
3. Qui respexit
A. Wir Christen Leut
4. Quia fecit mihi magna
5. Et Misericordia
6. Fecit Potnetiam
7. Deposuit Potentes
B. Lobet Gott, ihr Christen
8. Esurientes
9. Suscepit Israel
10. Sicut locutus est
C. In Dulci Jubilo
11. Gloria Patri
12. Sicut erat in principio

Bach¹s predecessor, Johann Kuhnau, set the pattern which Bach followed. He took four Latin movements from his Christmas cantata and inserted them into his Magnificat. That suggests quite a casual approach to the interpolations. Bach used the same texts in the same position. The sources of these movements are unknown. They do not appear in any other works by Bach. The old-fashioned style of the first three, A-C, might suggest that Bach borrowed them from other composers:

1.Magnificat
2. Et exultavit
A. Vom Himmel Hoch
3. Quia respexit/Omnes generationes
4. Quia fecit mihi magna
B. Freut euch jubileret
5. Et Misericordia
6. Fecit Potentiam
C. Gloria in Excelsis
7. Deposuit Potentes
8. Esurientes
D. Virga Jesse Floruit
9. Suscepit Israel
10. Sicut locutus est
11. Gloria Patri
12. Sicut erat in principio

INDIVIDUAL MOVEMENTS:

* 1.Chorus: Magnificat

D Major: The classic Big Bach Band festival orchestra with 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 3 trumpets & timpani, bassoon and strings. The choir is in 5 voices (SSATB) as in the Kyrie, Gloria & Credo of the Mass in B minor. The movement here is built out of a running circular theme with antiphonal fanfares. The voices add a lively syncopated theme.

E Flat Major: This is the only major work with brass that is in a flat key:C or D major are conventional. The two flutes are not part of the original version and it is instructive to study how Bach later divides up existing parts or writes new material for the flutes: sustained high pedal point of the opening is a good example.

* 2. Aria (Soprano 2): Et exultavit

D Major: Bach asks for five ³soloists² (SSATB) although modern performances almost invariably use four and assign this low soprano aria to the alto. The rising arpeggio in the strings echoes the fanfare motif in the opening movement. The continuo has a delightful falling figure designed to illustrate ³exultavit²

E Flat Major: Bach does not include the careful articulation markings which he added later/

* A. Chorus: Vom Himmel Hoch

The closing ritornello of the previous movement provides the introduction to this four-voice motet. The chorale melody appears as a sustained cantus firmus in the sopranos while the lower voices sing counterpoint on each successive phrase of the chorale. There are many similar settings by 17th century composers, Praetorius chief among them. Interestingly, Bach¹s predecessor, Johann Hermann Schein (Cantor 1616-30) published a hymn book, his ³Cantional² of 1645, in which he provided harmonizations of all the favourite chorales. With some of the more prominent chorales, such as ³Nun Komm Der Heiden², he included contrapuntal miniatures which may have been used in alternation with the congregational verses. His setting of Vom Himmel Hoch shares many features with Bach¹s. This many be just conventional or Bach writing self-consciously in the ³antique² style. Is this movement a loan from another composer?

* 3. Aria (Soprano1): Quia Respexit & Chorus

D Major: The first soprano soloist is given a rhapsodic duet with the oboe d¹amore (is this Bach¹s musical Madonna lullaby?) The chorus enters symbolically at ³omnes generationes² for a vigorous fugue: the beginning of the fugue is masked by immediate counter-melodies

E Flat Major: Bach¹s original oboe solo had a dotted rythym which was completely reworked for the D major version. The opening of the fugue is much denser in the original. Most arresting is the great dissonance at bar 24: here it is a simple diminished chord without the appoggiatura of the D major.

* 4. Aria (Bass): Quia fecit mihi magna

D Major: The bass is accompanied by continuo alone: there are similaritles to the lordly ³Quoniam Tu Solus² in the Mass in B Minor.

E Flat Major: The D major version shows only minor differences

B. Chorus: Freut euch jubileret

Once again the interpolation is in the same key as the previous movement. This is one of the oddest choral movements in Bach. It is set for four-voices (SI, SII, A, T) over a continuo bass. Why did Bach use this unusual voicing? There¹s nothing like it in his other works. Odd because it would be very easy to create a vocal bass part from the continuo line: a falling arpeggio in the first bar invert the soprano theme nicely. The middle section begins to make more sense with upper and lower voices paired in 3rds and 6ths, but the closing fugue calls out for a fifth vocal entry. The movement owes more to the 17th than the 18th century: perhaps a borrowing from a family source? The bass line is ornamented with mordents similar to that in the ³Esurientes² in the Vivaldi Magnificat in G Minor.

* 5. Duet (Alto & Bass): Et Misericordia

D Major: The duet is built over a descending chromatic figure not unlike the ³Crucifixus of the B Minor Mass

E Flat Major: The original does not have the strings muted or the flutes doubling the violins, an effect which would create the special ethos of the opening of the St. Matthew PAssion

* 6. Chorus: Fecit Potentiam

D Major: This vivid battle chorus is the centre of the Magnificat around which the two halves are arranged in mirror symmetry. The fugue has a gigantic theme, so extended that only the exposition is presented before the voices are hurled down to symbolize ³dispersit². The closing seven-bar Adagio is one of the most impressive moments in all Bach.

E Flat Major:

C. Chorus: Gloria in Excelsis

This movement returns to the SSATB voicing with the strings and oboes doubling the voices: only the first violins have an independent line. This unusual scoring is actually similar to the Sanctus in D Major which was premiered in the morning service in 1723. It too has a single independent violin part. It is tempting to see some connection between the two movements: a complete mass setting? The Gloria here is almost wholly homophonic with the choir intoning the text in block chords. The bass part alone has lively runs on ³Gloria² and a symbolic pedal-point on ³pax.²

* 7. Aria (Tenor); Deposuit Potentes

D Major: The tenor ³rage² aria is a compendium of word-painting: a falling figure for ³deposit² and a rising melody for ³et exultavit²

E Flat Major: Bach originally placed unison violins and violas an octave lower in G minor.

* 8. Aria (Alto): Esurientes

D Major: The two flutes provide a delicious accompaniment which is symbolically ended without a final note.

E Flat Major: The flute parts were originally recorders, presumably played by the oboes. The bass part is not marked pizzicato in the original version.

D. Duet (Sop & Bass): Virga Jesse Floruit

The movement is incomplete in the manuscript but has been reconstructed from Bach¹s parody in the Christmas Cantata BWV 110, ³Unser Mund.² This is the most ³modern² of the interpolations and representative of Bach¹s mature cantata style. It¹s almost as if the four interpolations are progressively showing how German sacred music developed from 1625 to 1725. The florid runs in the voices aptly depict the text.

* 9. Trio (SSA): Suscepit Israel

D Major: The ³puerum² (=boy) of the text is symbolized by the trio of upper voices, originally sung by boys. The oboes intone the chorale version of the German Magnificat, ³Meine Seele Erhebt² which was sung on non-festival occasions (see Musical Sequence for Christmas Vespers below)

E Flat Major: Bach originally gave the chorale melody to the trumpet. The original continuo line was given to the violins and violas in unison/

* 10. Chorus: Sicut locutus est

D Major: Bach writes an old-fashioned fugue with only the continuo. Is this his tribute to his musical ³fathers?²

E Flat Major: no substantial differences between versions

* 11. Gloria Patri

D Major: The Three Persons of the Trinity are symbolized by the three acclamations of ³Gloria² with rising scales of praise: the motif descends for the Holy Spirit.

E Flat Major: no substantial differences between versions

* 12. Sicut erat in principio

D Major: Bach follows typical Baroque practice by symbolically repeating the music of the opening chorus.

E Flat Major: no substantial differences between versions

MUSICAL SEQUENCE OF VESPERS ON CHRISTMAS DAY

[Sources: Wolff, Terry, Stiller, Leaver & Williams. Terry & Wolff omit the opening responses by Demantius which are in the Vopelius ³Neue Leipziger Gesangbuch². In an email last year, Leaver wrote that there were questions about the position and performance of the psalm in the Leipzig vespers.]

Bells are rung at 1:15

Prelude before Motet
[The organ began to play only when the service began after the opening bell. Organ music did not accompany the congregation coming into the church]

Motet: Choices include:
³Cum Natus Esset Jesus:
³Hodie Christus Natus Est² (Gabrieli)
³Surgite Pastores

Responses:
³Deus in Adjutorium/Domine ad Adjuvandum² - plainsong
6-voice polyphony - Christoph Demantius
from Vopelius ³Neue Leipziger Gesangbuch².

Chorale Prelude before Cantata:
³Meine Seele Erhebt Den Herrn² (?) BWV 648, 733?

Cantata

Chorale Prelude on Hymn de Tempore:
³Vom Himmel Hoch² (BMV 701?)
Or ³Vom Himmel Kam der Engel Schaar²
Or ³Lobt Gott,ihr Chirsten² (BMV 608, 732, 732?)
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/CM/Lobt-Gott-ihr-Christen.htm

Congregational Hymn of Season (de tempore)
³Vom Himmel Hoch²
Or ³Vom Himmel Kam der Engel Schaar²
Or ³Lobt Gott,ihr Christen²

Psalm 2 ³Warum toben die Heiden² [or before Hymn de Tempore?]
Settings by Schütz, Schein & Praetorius available

Lord¹s Prayer

Chorale- Prelude on ³Ein Kindelein So Löbelich² (BWV 719?)
Pulpit Hymn: ³Ein Kindelein So Löbelich²

Sermon
Prayers
Collect: chanted in Latin
Polyphonic responses from Vopelius
Benediction: chanted in German

Canticle: Magnificat in Latin
Christmas interpolations:
A. after Et exultavit: Vom Himmel Hoch
B. after Quia fecit mihi magna: Freut euch jubileret
C. after Fecit Potentiam: Gloria in Excelsis
D. after Esurientes: Virga Jesse Floruit

Responsory, Collect & Benediction
Polyphonic responses from Vopelius

Choral Prelude on ³Nun Danket² (BWV 657?)
Congregational Hymn: ³Nun Danket²

[There was no music after the service as the congregation left the church]

William Hoffman wrote (March 21, 2009):
[To Douglas Cowling] Thank you, Doug, for your exemplary presentations, especially with the emphasis on service connections, varied usages, and keen insights. Your cast a wide, inquiring net and breathe new life into familiar works with strong clarity and substance.

Bach's Magnificat is one of those works with which I think I'm familiar. Your writing shows me that BWV 243(a), next to the B-Minor Mass, is a most amazing and rewarding work, especially its styles, usages, and traditions. It's a veritable and unique encyclopedia of musical and textual substance. In that genre, a class in itself, Bach said it once and that was enough. I can think of no other Magnificat treatments that even approach it. Perhaps by the time Bach did the definitive treatment, that particular musical canticle was in danger of becoming an anachronism.

And second to the B-Minor Mass, the Magnificat is a truly C/catholic work -- from an Evangelical Reformist! It reminds me of what Albert Camus said when debating religion with a Priest: "I would gladly become a convert to your religion if it were not already my own."

One last thought. I assume Magnificat BWV 243 (1732-35) was intended primarily for the three observed Marian festivals, beyond the three major feasts/festivals (Christmas plus perhaps Easter and Pentecost). How did BWV 243 fit in with a particular Marian service; were there possible chorale or older cantus firmus interpolations, and what about for other vespers at other times of the day?

Douglas Cowling wrote (March 21, 2009):
William Hoffman wrote:
< I assume Magnificat BWV 243 (1732-35) was intended primarily for the three observed Marian festivals, beyond the three major feasts/festivals (Christmas plus perhaps Easter and Pentecost). How did BWV 243 fit in with a particular Marian service; were there possible chorale or older cantus firmus interpolations, and what about for other vespers at other times of the day? >
The Magnificat was the final and most important music sung every day at afternoon Vespers, not juston Marian feasts. It was complemented by the other "gospel canticles", the Benedictus and Te Deum at Matins in the morning. On most days it was sung to Luther's metrical German version "Meine Seele Erhebt den Herrn", a melody which Bach used many times in the organ works and cantatas.

It appears that the prose canticle was sung in Latin only on Sundays and high festivals. I'd have to doublecheck Stiller to see how often a concerted setting was sung. Given the size of the orchestra, I would suspect that a major setting like the D Major Magnificat was only sung on the principal festivals when brass was used:

Michelmas (Sept 29)
Reformation Festival (Oct 31)
Three Days of Christmas
Sunday after Xmas/New Year
New Year's Day
Epiphany
Easter Day
Ascension Day
Pentecost
Trinity Sunday

It would interesting to know what other settings of the Latin Magnificat were sung under Bach's direction.

James Atkin Pritchard wrote (March 21, 2009):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< It would interesting to know what other settings of the Latin Magnificat were sung under Bach's direction. >
Perhaps Zelenka in D Major?
www.bach-cantatas.com/Other/Zelenka-Magnificat-ZWV108.htm

Other possibilities:
www.bach-cantatas.com/Vocal/BWVAnh21-Gen.htm
Amazon.com
www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2008/Dec08/Keiser_Carus83417.htm
Amazon.com
Amazon.com
Amazon.com

This is nothing but guesses though...are there music lists extant that could help us?

William Rowland (Ludwig) wrote (March 21, 2009):
[To William Hoffman] The Magnificat dates from 1723 and comes in two versions each for a particular season. BWV 243a in Eb major is done for the Advent and Christmas (Vespers) seasons which is (in the Evangelical Lutheran and Protestant Episcopal Churches). It is rarely heard these days.

BWV 243, in D is done for Easter and other occasions . This is the way that Bach had intended both of these to be done. Each version is slightly different by having the Christmas material removed or added but do not vary so much as to be a totally different work. According to Schweitzer the insertions(Christmas version) come as follows:
after Et exaltavit
VON HIMMEL is inserted
After Fecit Potententiam
GLORIA IN EXCELSIS is inserted
After Esurientes
VIRGA JESSE FLORUIT is inserted.

In Bach's day; the Magnificat was presented after the Sermon.
Instrumentation is also slightly different. In the Christmas version we have the use of Blockflutes.

In the Easter version the Blockflutes are replaced by (2) Flauti traversi, Bach asks for 3
Trumpets (always when Bach asks for trumpets --it is an important occaision; 2 Oboe d'amore and 2 Oboe da caccia (an instrument he invented) in addition to the usual strings and Timpani. The Oboe da caccia looks like a Horn but is not (it is no longer proper in English to say "French Horn"--the International Society of Horn(ists) dropped "French" from "Horn" in the 1990s just as for clairification and good English it is no longer acceptable to use the word "recorder" for Blockflute which was also changed in the 1990s) The mouth piece is fitted with a double reed ( *buccal") where the normal brass mouth piece would go. Once the Oboe da caccia disappeared from the Orchestra---it was some 200 plus years before this instrument was re-discovered in a barely surviving specimen in Sweden. Before then; Musicologists did not know what this instrument really was and had assumed that it was something entirely different than what it is. It was
reconstructed and now can be had upon custom order. We now can hear Bach;s works as he intended them to be played.

The Gloria is truly magnificent but has a big let down after a big build up. It is the choral equivalent of the Toccata and fuge in D minor.

Today, the Magnificat can be fitted into the service at the appropriate scriptural lesson/ reading in the cycle of readings or it can be done as a concert work.
The BWV edition presents some performance problems. As I stated in an earlier post on the organs which Bach played---None of the Churches that Bach played had more than one organ during his tenure although more than one organ had existed before his time and afterwards. The BWV editors apparently thought that the continuo part was separate from the Organ part even apparently adding figured bass to the continuo part when the Continuo and Organ part are and should be the same.

The original MS of the Manuscript exists in the Yale University Library, New Haven, Connecticut and there is also supposedly a copy in the Baldwin-Wallace Reichsmueller(sp?) library which is associated with Oberlin. These are not avalable to just anyone and one has to go through a rather rigorous application process to gain access to them for studies.

James Atkin Pritchard wrote (March 21, 2009):
Ludwig wrote:
< The Magnificat dates from 1723 and comes in two versions each for a particular season. BWV 243a in Eb major is done for the Advent and Christmas (Vespers) seasons >
What is the evidence for the idea that the E Flat Major version would have been performed during Advent?

William Rowland (Ludwig) wrote (March 21, 2009):
[To James Atkins Pritchard] That is the season when the Magnificat is done or will most likely be done in the Church calender along with special feast days and prescribed readings depending on (1) type of Lutheran your are (2) Type of Anglican/Episcopalian your are (3)Type of Catholic you are: (A) Roman (b) Orthodox (c) Coptic. (4)Nation you live in; Ecclesiastical Provence you live in; the Diocese that you are part of and even who your Bishop or Archbishop or Cardinal is. (5) Even the Parish that you are part of. While there is a general conformity ---we do not today have Archbishop Laud running around in the Anglican/Lutheran Church making sure that the services are not getting too high church (Roman Catholic) et al.

Advent begins because of the anticipation that Christ will be born and thus the announcement of the Angel to Mary.

Not all feast days are fixed and whether they are or are no depends on the same above. IN the United States --the Episcopalians and Evangelical Lutherans do have these fixed dates in general:

August 15th (the Feast of the Assumption of Mary or Blessed Mary)
1 November --All Saints
Magnificat will be at least read or performed and the closer we get to Christmas the more frequent the occaisions become.
Certain Saint Days (which within the Episcopal Church may vary as to if they are a feast day or not---the Canadian Anglican Church celebrates Charles Stuart, Martyr's feast day. However, the Episcopal Church in the US (Anglican) which is part of the world body of Anglicans--- does not.

Advent is the beginning of all the High Feast seasons of Church. This may vary with the prescribed readings of the calender(see the Book of Common Prayer and the Lutheran one also for these) and may vary from Nation to Nation (as it does in the Anglican Church and Lutheran Church (Evangelicals) and even within the Lutheran Church within a single Nation.

An example of this that the Evlangelical Lutheran Churwent into a schizm with other Lutheran bodies and separated them joining the Episcopal Church in the USA (ECUSA). This schism was the result of allowing women as clergy as well as gay clergy and membership as well as recognizing same sex marriages as well as even performing and blessing such Marriages.

James Atkin Pritchard wrote (March 21, 2009):
Recorders [was Intro. BWV 243/243a, Magnificat]

[To Ludwig] The relevant English-language societies, players, makers, and dealers all prefer the term "recorder", which has been the English word for centuries. It's easy to find evidence of this; here are a few links:

www.srp.org.uk
www.recorderhomepage.net/medieval.html#literary
www.kunath.com
www.nyro.info
www.sorel-recorders.nl
http://prescottworkshop.com
http://www.loebnerblockfloeten.de/ehtm/recorder-home.php
www.andreas.glatt.be/home.php
www.historicalwoodwinds.be/content/hw.asp?menu=i
www.earlymusicshop.com/Browse.aspx/en-GB/store28/1/
www.recordermail.co.uk
www.petervanderpoel.nl/index.html
www.flutes-bruno-reinhard.com/Eng/index.htm
www.adrianbrown.org
www.coomber-fern-recorders.co.nz
www.bodildiesen.no
www.blezinger.de
www.mg-woodwinds.com.ar/home.htm
www.bernolin.fr/english/index.html
www.dolmetsch.com
www.recorder-arvidsson.se/eramverk.htm
www.recorder-fingerings.com/en/index.php
www.erps.info
www.americanrecorder.org
www.bostonrecordersociety.org
www.musicadonumdei.org/Flutes/
www.boudreau-flutes.ca/english/indexen.html
www.bcrecordersociety.com
http://giacomo-andreola.fotopic.net/
http://rain.prohosting.com/srpnz/
www.sydneyrecorders.com.au
www.remswa.iinet.net.au
www.aafab.nl
www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/recd/hd_recd.htm
www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/recd/ho_89.4.909.htm
www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/recd/ho_89.4.912.htm
http://tinyurl.com/ck44m8
http://tinyurl.com/dmjx4c
http://tinyurl.com/cynsoe
http://tinyurl.com/cn4l82

John Pike wrote (March 21, 2009):
William Hoffman wrote:
< Thank you, Doug, for your exemplary presentations, especially with the emphasis on service connections, varied usages, and keen insights. Your cast a wide, inquiring net and breathe new life into familiar works with strong clarity and substance.
Your writing shows me that BWV 243(a), next to the B-Minor Mass, is a most amazing and rewarding work, especially its styles, usages, and traditions. It's a veritable and unique encyclopedia of musical and textual substance. In that genre, a class in itself, Bach said it once and that was enough. I can think of no other Magnificat treatments that even approach it. >
I strongly agree with both these comments by William above. Doug's introductions have set a new benchmark on the list, which mere mortals such as myself can only marvel at. The erudition is quite extraordinary.
I also agree that the Magnificat is one of Bach's most remarkable works, even by his own standards. I get the impression that it gets overshadowed by other much longer works, such as MBM (BWV 232), SJP (BWV 245), SMP (BWV 244), but the music is of the highest quality throughout.

Douglas Cowling wrote (March 21, 2009):
Ludwig wrote:
< That is the season when the Magnificat is done or will most likely be done in the Church calender along with special feast days and prescribed readings >
Actually, that's not historically correct. The Canticle of Mary, the Magnificat, is not a seasonal text, a so-called "proper", and is not among the variable texts sung even during Advent and Christmas. It is part of the "ordinary" of the Office (just as the "Kyrie" is part of the ordinary of the Mass) and is sung every day at Vespers in the Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican and Lutheran churches.

It's worth looking at Bach's weekly schedule for Vespers to see how often this text was sung. This was music on an industrial scale!

Each week, Bach had three types of Vespers for which he and his prefects had to prepare music of varying complexity (this corresponds to the distinctions which Luther made for choral and parish masses)

1) Festival days when s concerted Latin Magnificat was sung (Sundays & Feast Days). Choir 1 under Bach always performed.

2) Major ferial weekdays when the German chorale Magnificat and motet settings of psalms were sung. Choir 1 or 2 under Bach or a prefect?

3) Minor ferial weekdays when a shortened vespers was sung with the German Magnificat and chorales only. Choir 3 or 4 under a prefect?

As can be seen below, the administrative demands, let alone the musical challenges were formidable. Bach's struggle with his ecclesiastical superiors over the appointment of prefects indicates that piety and good character were not enough for suitable men: they had to have strong administrative and musical abilities so that Bach could delegate responsibilty. "Prefect" is a misleading term: Bach had four "Assistant Conductors."

The scheduling of the four choirs is hypothetical. Bach's day must have been dominated by bells signaling that various students were heading out to sing services. If he had tried to micro-manage all of the musical selection, choir training and performances, he would never have composed a note. The fact that there were precious few complaints demonstrates that Bach was an unsurpassed genius in well-regulated church music.

BACH'S WEEK: (Source - Stiller)

* Sunday: (or principal weekday festivals)
1:15 pm - Festival Vespers with Sermon & Cantata - Bach directing Choir 1
Week 1 at St. Nicholas, Week 2 at St. Thomas
Choir 2 under a prefect sings vespers at the church without Bach
Choirs 3 & 4 under prefects sing vespers at the other churches

* Monday:
2:00 pm: Minor Ferial Vespers at St. Thomas
Choir 3 or 4 [?] directed by their prefect

* Tuesday:
2:00 pm - Major Ferial Vespers at St. Nicholas
Choir 1 or 2 with prefect or Bach?
[Choirs 3 & 4 in attendance as "altar singers" for hymns?]
[Bach made his weekly private confession at this service]

* Wednesday:
2:00 pm - Minor Ferial Vespers at St. Thomas
Choir 3 or 4 [?] with prefect

* Thursday:
2:00 pm - Minor Ferial Vespers at St. Nicholas
Choir 3 or 4 [?]with prefect

* Friday:
2:00 pm - Major Ferial Vespers at St. Thomas
Choir 1 or 2 with prefect or Bach?
[Choirs 3 & 4 in attendance as "altar singers" for hymns?]

* Saturday
2:00 pm - Major Ferial Vespers with Sermon at both St. Thomas & St. Nicholas
Choir 1 with Bach at St. Nicholas? [Choir 3 in attendance?]
Choir 2 with prefect at St. Thomas? [Choir 4 in attendance?]

Peter Smaill wrote (March 21, 2009):
[To Douglas Cowling, in response to his 1st message] According to Robin Leaver, Bach does something even more subtle theologically in addressing the Persons of the Trinity in the Gloria:

"Trinitarian theology is expresed in three sections, one for each Person, in which the voice entries are in triplets and parallel thirds. Further, the voice entries for for the "Gloria Patri", progress from the lowest to the highest, with a pedal-point in the middle of the three measures of the bass part. "Gloria filio" has staggered voice entries, beginning with the soprano 1, which is now asigned the pedal-point in the middle of these three measures, that is, the inversion of what appears in the bass part of the "Gloria Patri". Then for the "Gloria et Spiritui Sancto" the voices enter in simple descending order, in five steps from Soprano 1 to bass. Here again Bach gives musical form to Trinitarian theology: the Son is the image of the Father, and the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son".

[Luther's Liturgical music, p.290.]

William Hoffman wrote (March 22, 2009):
Intro. BWV 243(a)/ Magnificat Festival

Stiller on p. 58 talks about Advent, citing Rost, that the First Sunday in Advent in Leipzig, "was often emphasized as a special festival day over against the rest of the season...." To that end I found a reference to a Thomas Selle cantata for that Advent Sunday with trumpets and drums in the opening chorus. If only Bach could have had the whole Collegium musicum band in 1723 for his cantata cycles. I do suspect that on occasion he was able to recruit some "ringers" in both the figurative and literal senses, perhaps in disguise. I also wonder if perhaps, on occasion, he might have brought in some female sopranos (slight, page-boy hair and thick robes) with voices like Emma Kirkby, Ely Amelung, etc.

At any rate, I think what is one of the most important factors in Bach's contribution to church music is how he explored all facets and applications in order to achieve his life-long goal of a well-regulated church music to the glory of God, in the process pushing the envelope of both Protestant and much Catholic music appropriate in Leipzig.

William Rowland (Ludwig) wrote (March 22, 2009):
[To Douglas Cowling] You misread what I stated which is: that aside from the times of the Canticle of Mary are bt canon required and feasts days involving Mary or some other Major Feast---this is the time that the Magnificat would be performed.

Advent for those of you who are not one of the varieties of Lutherans, Episcopalians or Catholics is the beginning of the more important feasts of the year. I was not speaking of the ordinary of which you speak--I am speaking only of important major feast days. During Advent the Canticle of Mary begins at Evening Prayer after the Old Testament Reading and thereafter IF there is a service ---it is done on alternative days. after the New Testament Reading. It is done on "Feasts of our Lord and other Major Feasts" otherwise the Nunc dimittis is done. During the ordinary period of the Church year; the Canticle is not required although it is often done.

You should bear in mind that the Canadian Anglican Church while basically the same as the US Church---there are differences--one such difference is the honoring of Charles Stuart Martyr. While I feel that he should be here in the US because of his founding via Grants the states of North Carolina and South Carolina--he is not. The US Church has removed from its calender many Saints that both it and hte Canadian Church shared. Another difference is that clergy can legally perform same sex marriages throughour Canada while here in the US with two and soon to be four exceptions that is not true.

Douglas Cowling wrote (March 22, 2009):
Ludwig wrote:
< You misread what I stated which is: that aside from the times of the Canticle of Mary are bt canon required and feasts days involving Mary or some other Major Feast---this is the time that the Magnificat would be performed. >
Modern liturgies in other churches tell us very little about the Lutheran rite which shaped Bach's work in 18th century Leipzig. Even as prominent a Bach historian as Robin Leaver attests to the difficulty of outlining Bach's working schedule because of the paucity of sources. Lateral comparisons with other contemporary cities are problematical as well because of local variants, let alone projecting back practices from the 21st century.

William Rowland (Ludwig) wrote (March 22, 2009):
[To James Atkins Pritchard] This is an _____ use of the word because the 'recorder" in the sense that you and certain others wish to use it neither records, writes , remembers anything,.practices anything, or preserves anything for posteriorty. The excuse of using corrupt Latin in an age when the Latin language was in its final dying days semantically.

It is now going on some almost 20 years since other groups have adopted the correct word. It has been 10 plus years since "French" was dropped from "Horn" which I myself did not know until recently. If I can adapt and change with the times then certainly people like you can adapt. Such things are very important in my field since I compose, arrange and write music. So I assume that you recorder folks are still also saying french horn it is that you just do not record anytihing, if you get the pun.

William Rowland (Ludwig) wrote (March 22, 2009):
[To Douglas Cowling] I fully understand Mr Leaver's difficulties because it appears that Bach was so busy he had very little time to do much of anything other than compose let alone sire 20 children-----something somewhere must have gotten neglected. While his wives could have helped ---the two of them could not achieved all that Bach had to do and take care of the children too not to mention all that cooking ---in the days when there were no mixers, and other kitchen convieniences--the noon mean began before Breakfast and the evening meal began preparation after the noon meal was over. I assume Bach put his kids to work too but we see no manuscripts of his (I am aware) in the hands of his children although at least one of them falsely claimed his father's works were his.

James Atkin Pritchard wrote (March 22, 2009):
[To Douglas Cowling] Doug, getting back to 18th Century Leipzig, is it true to say that it's most unlikely that either version of the Bach Magnificat would have been performed in Advent?

James Atkin Pritchard wrote (March 22, 2009):
William Hoffman wrote:
< Stiller on p. 58 talks about Advent, citing Rost, that the First Sunday in Advent in Leipzig, "was often emphasized as a special festival day over against the rest of the season...." To that end I found a reference to a Thomas Selle cantata for that Advent Sunday with trumpets and drums in the opening chorus. >
This is extremely interesting. Do you happen to know whether this cantata has been recorded? I'd also love to find a recording of Selle's St John Passion if anybody knows of one.

At the same time I note that none of Bach's own cantatas for Advent include trumpets, which is one of the reasons I doubt that either version of the Bach Magnificat would have been used in Advent.

Douglas Cowling wrote (March 22, 2009):
James Atkins Pritchard wrote:
< Doug, getting back to 18th Century Leipzig, is it true to say that it's most unlikely that either version of the Bach Magnificat would have been performed in Advent? >
I have always assumed that trumpets and timpani were reserved for the most festive days such as Christmas, Easter, Ascension and Pentecost, although if the Selle cantata has brass, we have to include Advent 1 -- yet Bach never took advantage of the local tradition.

I've never seen a list of the Magnificats which Bach performed. In two weeks, we'll look at the Hoffmann Magnificat in A Minor which was copied by Bach and misattributed to him. Presumably, Bach could draw on 17th century settings by Praetorius and Schütz, and from contemporaries such as Buxtehude, Zelenka and Hoffman.

If you're interested in the 17th century Vespers music which Bach would have known and perhaps performed, there are a few clips of the Schütz Vespers which Paul Mcreesh reconstructed. Psalm 2 could well have been sung by Bach's choir on the Christmas when the Magnificat was performed. The Schütz Magnificat is an amazing setting -- Monteverdi on acid!
http://www.arkivmusic.com/classical/album.jsp?album_id=2121

Given the enormous of amount of music performed every year in Leipzig, it's frustrating that we can't access Bach's playlists.

James Atkins Pritchard wrote (March 22, 2009):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< I've never seen a list of the Magnificats which Bach performed. In two weeks, we'll look at the Hoffmann Magnificat in A Minor which was copied by Bach and misattributed to him. Presumably, Bach could draw on 17th century settings by Praetorius and Schütz, and from contemporaries such as Buxtehude, Zelenka and Hoffman. >
Given the enormous of amount of music performed every year in
Leipzig, it's frustrating that we can't access Bach's playlists. >
Thank you for your comments. I agree that it would be wonderful to have the lists or even an inventory of the music library.

William Rowland (Ludwig) wrote (March 22, 2009):
[To Douglas Cowling] While it could be that either version was performed it is not likely since Advent is the prelude to Christmas . The Christmas one is the longer version while the Easter conversely is the shorter version since various items have been removed from it to make it more appropriate for Easter. The Easter version perhaps or at least today would be performed all year long except during Advent and Christmas. The Easter Version would begin to perfomed after the Feast of Christ's Circumcision and Christmas was over. This is called the Ordinary in the church calender.

Jean-Pierre Grivois wrote (March 22, 2009):
[To James Atkins Pritchard] You can find BWV 243a recorded on amazon.fr in two versions Gonnenwein and Philip Pickett.

Douglas Cowling wrote (March 22, 2009):
[To Jean-Pierre Grivois] You can hear a couple of clips of the lovely Hoffmann Magnificat at:
Amazon.com

While you're there, listen to the anonymous Mass in C which Bach copied and presumably performed in Leipzig. Positively Mozartean!

Excellent performances.

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (March 23, 2009):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< I have always assumed that trumpets and timpani were reserved for the most festive days such as Christmas, Easter, Ascension and Pentecost, although if the Selle cantata has brass, we have to include Advent 1 -- yet Bach never took advantage of the local tradition. >
I know Telemann and Graupner wrote cantatas for the 1st Sunday in Advent that required trumpets and timpani. It's notable for Graupner because Darmstadt was much more influenced by Pietism than Leipzig. I'm not sure what the nature of the Lutheran rites in Frankfurt or Hamburg when Telemann worked there.

Neil Halliday wrote (March 23, 2009):
Here are three fine examples of the Magnificat - Kuhnau, Zelenka, and J.S. Bach (with Bach at the pinnacle, of course), all excellently performed by Suzuki's team: Amazon.com

Following the big choruses of Bach's Magnificat with the score, one is astounded at his mastery in marshalling large forces; in many places there is different material on all 17 staves. And these are large forces; the continuo line of 'Suscepit Israel' is marked 'organ and cellos, without bassoons and violone, with obvious implications for the required size of the continuo body in the 'Tutti' choruses. (Suzuki sensibly varies these continuo forces in the arias, eg, you can hear a dominant bassoon with harpsichord featured in 'Quia fecit mihi magna').

Study of the text reveals much expressive word painting throughout, and the complexity of the syllabic setting is mind-boggling in places; eg, at one point in the mighty 'fecit potentiam', three phrases of text, viz, he has power - in his arm - he disperses (the proud), are being sung simultaneously in the various vocal lines.

Also, a 'power' motive consisting of a quaver and two semiquavers is carried over into the following "rage" tenor aria: "he deposes the powerful".

Douglas Cowling wrote (March 23, 2009):
Neil Halliday wrote:
< Here are three fine examples of the Magnificat - Kuhnau, Zelenka, and J.S. Bach (with Bach at the pinnacle, of course), all excellently performed by Suzuki's team: Amazon.com >
Thanks for the link to the clips. It's instructive to get a taste of what Bach's contemporaries were doing with the same text, so that the Magnificat doesn't stand in splendid isolation. It's not hard to imagine Bach performing these splendid works as part of his music repertoire for the Leipzig churches.

Douglas Cowling wrote (March 23, 2009):
Intro. BWV 243/243a, Bach the diplomat

Kim Patrick Clow wrote:
< I know Telemann and Graupner wrote cantatas for the 1st Sunday in Advent that required trumpets and timpani. It's notable for Graupner because Darmstadt was much more influenced by Pietism than Leizpig. >
It suggests that there were varying interpretations of whether concerted music was considered festively frivolous and therefore something to be "given up" for Lent and Advent. We see this increasingly on the Catholic side in the late 18th century where the prohibition against the use of even the organ is enforced. By the end of the century, however, Catholic musicians circumvented the spirit of the law by substituting the piano! The young Beethoven drew attention for his extravagant piano accompaniment to the Lamentations of Jeremiah sung in Holy Week.

It's hard to judge whether Bach's Leipzig had identified the "antique" motet style with penitential seasons and the "new" figural style with festive occasions. If so, the cantor and court factions in both the municipal and ecclesiastical establishments would certainly have a ready-made, Catch-22 criticism for whatever Bach d. Perhaps we should have more regard for Bach's diplomatic genius.

William Rowland (Ludwig) wrote (March 23, 2009):
[To Kim Patrick Clow] Anytime that Bach scores for Trumpets (especially the more the merrier) AND Tympani you can bet this is a very special occaision. Over all the Cantatas; he does not restrict the use of trumpets and timpani to just the times you mention. This is a pattern borned out over the entire survey of all the cantatas. When he scores for solo voice and a smaller group of instrumentalists---it is not usually a very special event and he is hurting for instrumentalists and well as singers.

William Rowland (Ludwig) wrote (March 23, 2009):
BWV 243 error

I was told that Yale University owned the original manuscript for BWV 243. Richard Boursy, Librarian-n- chief, of the University Libraries informs me that they do not. They do own a facsimile edition of most of Bach's works.

The orginal is in the German State Library in Berlin.

There are 21 Libraries throughout the world who own these facsimile editions in some 21+volumes.

This is the information that you need should you have an occaision to do a critique of a score:
Title Faksimile des Autographs," of a series called

"Faksimile-Reihe Bachscher Werke und Schriftstücke." Volume 21 (or other vol you might need).

Subtitle: "Magnificat BWV 243: Faksimile des Autographs,"

Editor Hans-Joachim Schulze;

Publisher is VEB Deutscher Verlag für Musik,1985.

William Hoffman wrote (March 24, 2009):
BWV 243: Magnificat Fugitive Notes

Thank you one and all for the information on Magnificat connections and contexts, as well as some amazing recordings. For the Feast of the Visitation we also have settings of Luther's German Magnificat, "Meine Seele erhebt den Herrn," BWV 10, as well as the other majestic adaptation, "Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben," BWV 147, which we will take up later.

There is still a big gap in writings about the Magnificat, BWV 243(a), perhaps because it almost falls through the cracks. John Butt's <Cambridge Companion to Bach> has a telling section on the Magnificat, pp. 109-111, in Robin Leaver's "The mature vocal works and their theological and liturgical context, citing Robert Cammarota's 1986 BWV 243 PhD dissertation. There is Robert L. Marshall's chapter, "On the Origin of the Magnificat: A Lutheran Composer's Challenge," in his collected essays, <The Music of JSB: Sources, Style, Significance>, Alfred Dürr's cherished thoughts in his Cantata book on BWV 10 and BWV 147 (the only German source), and Charles S. Terry's collected essays on Bach's major works -- the last rarely mentioned in any "scholarly" bibliographies.

My Soapbox: IMHO, there is still a profound neglect in substantial (beyond specialized) writings about Bach's major works, with the exception of the collective cantatas and BWV 232 (mostly English texts). We do have writings in English which now begin to fill the void, including recording "notes." The Passions are the most impoverished, followed by Latin works and oratorios (still a prody hangup?). In the Passion field, primarily the SMP (BWV 244), we do have some significant findings -- all in English -- Chafe on planning and tonality, Rifkin on dating and sources, Melamed on performing forces. And, we have Dürr's exemplary SJP (BWV 245) monograph, recently published in English.

Again, thank you, BCW. Keep up the good work, battling the forces of myopia, ignorance, intimidation, politics, and economics (etc.)

Neil Halliday wrote (March 24, 2009):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
>5. Duet (Alto & Bass): Et Misericordia
D Major: The duet is built over a descending chromatic figure not unlike the ³Crucifixus of the B Minor Mass E Flat Major: The original does not have the strings muted or the flutes doubling the violins, an effect which would create the special ethos of the opening of the St. Matthew PAssion.<
These changes represent a brilliant touch by Bach, showing his awareness of the possibilities of orchestral timbre.

This duet, one of the most sensually beautiful in the music literature, is especially affecting on modern instruments, possibly due to the richer timbre of modern flutes and violins; and viola players will love letting their part sing.

Münchinger's pizzicato double bass, accompanying the gently swaying, swinging octaves in the continuo, wonderfully enhances the depth of the orchestration.

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (March 26, 2009):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< It suggests that there were varying interpretations of whether concerted music was considered festively frivolous and therefore something to be "given up" for Lent and Advent. We see this increasingly on the Catholic side in the late 18th century where the prohibition against the use of even the organ is enforced. By the end of the century, however, Catholic > musicians circumvented the spirit of the law by substituting the piano! >
The court pastor in Darmstadt (Lehms) wrote the cantata texts for Graupner, so he wasn't apparently too opposed to concerted music during Sunday services, but there are no motets, or any short Mass settings by Graupner or any other composers from this period.

But even still, local clergy in Darmstadt were mildly critical about Landgrave Ernst Ludwig's use of music in his services, mildy because they certainly didn't want to risk being thrown into jail.

I know in Gotha, another Lutheran court, Gottfried Heinrich Stölzel wrote quite a few Masses (both long and short) as well as other liturgical pieces, but it's unclear how many of those were for Dresden, and how many were for Schloss Gotha.

My editor/publisher is currently working on a Mass setting by Stölzel and he mentioned a lovely duet for tenor and alto with a thrilling trumpet obbligato ;) I really wished there was a complete edition in the works for Stölzel!

Marcel Gaureau wrote (March 26, 2009):
Recorders [was: Intro. BWV 243/243a, Magnificat]

James Atkins Pritchard wrote:
< The Oboe da caccia looks like a Horn but is not (it is no longer proper in English to say "French Horn"--the International Society of Horn(ists) dropped "French" from "Horn" in the 1990s just as for clarification and good English it is no longer acceptable to use the word "recorder" for Blockflute >
Ludwig wrote::
< This is an idiotic use of the word because the 'recorder" in the sense that you and certain others wish to use it neither records, writes ... >
Good heavens, I have been out of touch! Political correctness mmets instruments of the orchestra...

I always thought "recorder" was the correct English word, in the old English sense that to "record" was to make a pleasing sound. Elizabethan birds used to record, did they not? After all, canon and other items in the habit of exploding used to create "loud reports". The latter now just land on my desk. Sometimes quietly.

The Germans, on the other hand, used "Blockflöte" because of the "block" of wood the mouthpiece started out life as. I thought.

Damn it, I'm just catching up with corporate speak. I can no longer claim to have played the "French horn" in high school - it was just a lowly horn. So what's a "cor anglais" in the new musical double-think, a big oboe? And what is the plain-old e-flat horn that usually doubles the 2nd cornet in a brass band? Or is that also now called something else? A stringless semi-wind band, perhaps?

James Atkins Pritchard wrote (March 26, 2009):
[To Marcel Gautreau] Your quotation from me is ultimately from Ludwig; I was quoting him, and am in fact in agreement with your comments.

William Hoffman wrote (March 26, 2009):
BWV 243: AdCantata Correction

I found my previous reference to an Advent cantata by Bach predecessor in BCW Discussion BWV 62:

Since the First Sunday in Advent is treated as a festival in Leipzig, one of the characteristics would be the use of trumpets and drums, found in the opening tutti movement in Bach predecessor Johann Schelle's (1648-1701) German biblical cantata, "Machet die Tore weit" (CPo recording).

James Atkins Pritchard wrote (March 26, 2009):
[To William Hoffman] I'm curious to know whether anyone has any ideas about why Bach didn't use trumpets in his own cantatas for Advent. Is this likely to have been a consequence of practical considerations such as cost or does it reflect an evolving understanding of the Advent season? Or is there some other explanation?

Szaginder wrote (March 26, 2009):
[To James Atkins Pritchard] Probably because there where no trumpetplayer available that weekend. I like to think that if an instrumentalist happen to pass by, Bach did grab him, wrote something appropriate and "forced" him to play that Sunday.

Douglas Cowling wrote (March 26, 2009):
[To James Atkins Pritchard] The use of trumpets, more specifically cornetti with their famous similarity to human voices, was an intrinsic part of a 17th century aesthetic where polychoral works were doubled by contrasting "choirs" of instruments. Praetorius, Schütz and Schein provide many works with this colouring technique at work, including works for Advent ("Nun Komm" in particular. The practice is still operative to a degree in Bach's time. Several of the double-choir motets have parts for wind and string choirs doubling the voices. Indeed, at the very end of his life, Bach had doubling parts written for the family motet he perhaps intended for his own funeral.

However, the sound of a brass choir of cornetti and trombones was definitely 'antique" for Bach. Its use in "Christ Lag in Todesbanden" may have been chosen to symbolize death. We see this in "Es ist nicht Gesund" where the brass choir plays the funeral chorale "O Haupt Voll Blut" (the "Passion Chorale") like a passing cortege.

The high brilliance of clarino trumpets is certainly present in Bach's works as an "affect" of rejoicing. Thus, we see 3 trumpet-with-timpani scoring on the principal feasts of the year (Michelmas, Reformation, Christmas, Easter, Ascension, Pentecost, Trinity, and Council Inauguration). I suspect that these were traditional days when the municipal brass players were required (by statute?) to be present in church. The intriguing question is whether they played other repertoire from the 17th and early 18th centuries at those services.

Leipzig certainly had its own peculiar traditions. The addition of the cantata "Himmelskönig sei Willkommen" on the day that the feast of the Annunciation fell on Palm Sunday is unexpected -- Bach's genius in thematically linking the Incarnation and Passion is matched only by the poet, John Donne. It appears that the First Sunday in Advent was celebrated as a "festival" and earlier composers used brass. Bach's aesthetic had clearly evolved and he chose not to use the "traditional" brass (would he have been criticized for this "novelty"?) It would certainly have been arresting to have brass in a minor key in the French overture of "Nun Komm der Heiden Heiland." Nor did he choose to depict again the trumpet of the Last Judgement as he did in "Wachet, betet", which was a Weimar Advent cantata.

William Hoffman wrote (March 26, 2009):
BWV 243: Bach & Brass

Fugitive Notes (Connections & Connotations)

1. References: Werner Neumann: Handbuch der Kantaten JSB , Vol. 5, 1984: Wiesbaden, Breitkopf & Haertel; Appendix 11: "Das Instrumentarium der Kantaten, pp. 277f. Listings for: Corno, Corno da caccia, Corno da tirarsi, Cornetto, Lituus, Tromba, Tromba da tirarsi, Clarino, and Trombone. Also, Ulrich Prinz (trans. Mary Whittal); "horn" (p. 222f), "trombone" and "trumpet" (pp. 484 f); Oxford Composers Companions JSB, ed. Malcolm Boyd: Oxford Univ. Press.

2. BCW: Thomas Braatz, 25 June 2005. Details, Cantatas BWV 22, BWV 23 (Quinquageisma estomihi Sunday), www.bach-cantatas.com/Ref/BWV22&23-Ref.htm. Fascinating study of Bach adapting instrumentation for specific performances, especially the brass quartet (trumpet and three trombones, colla parte SATB chorus, for chorale "Christe du Lamm Gottes, final movement, BWV 23, with its origins perhaps to the lost 1717 "Weimar-Gotha Passion," BC D-1. Thank you, Thomas.

3. New Recording: Philippe Herreweghe, "Jesu, deine Passion" (Cantatas BWV 22, BWV 23, BWV 127 & BWV 159 for Quinquageisma-estomihi), BCW www.bach-cantatas.com/Rec/Rec-2009-02.htm. Omits brass quartet BWV 23/4 (1728-31 version). Also, Cantata BWV 159/4, "Wenn einstens die Posaunen schallen," Peter Wollny's recording notes (trans. Elisabeth Rothmund): "In the ensuing movement, halfway between recitatives and aria, Bach contrives a dramatic depiction of the Day of Judgment. The sound of the last trump (in German, `Posaunen,' that is, trombones) evoked by the bass soloists is portrayed in the fanfares of the trumpet which joins the strings here" (chorale cantata, 1725; biblical ref. I Corinthians 15:52). Eat your heart out, Georg Frideric; also "Worthy is the lamb" (Rev. 5:12, Cantata BWV 21/11, "Das Lamm, das, das erwuergte ist," dating perhaps to 1709, with trumpets and drums.

4. Serendipitous situation? In March 1729, Bach takes over Collegium musicum. He can now get his full brass fix. He's putting the finishing touches (almost) on SMP BWV 244b and Köthen Funeral Music BWV 244a for performances. He's also just presented Cantata BWV 159, Picander text, his last pre-Passion cantata. Except for the possible use of the brass quartet in "Christe du Lamm Gottes" closing the 1725 SMP (BWV 244), Bach never deploys brass in his Passions performances. He saves them for his B-Minor Mass (BWV 232) and Oratorios, coming in the 1730s.

5. BWV 243 Postscript: This is probably Bach's first major vocal work, see Robert L. Marshall's "On the Origin of the Magnificat: A Lutheran Composer's Challenge." He shows Bach's mastery of the big form: the unified text, adapting to local conditions and traditions, the plan for a full-scale concert piece in a Vesper service, the insertion of appropriate hymns, the overall-design (movements) and tonal plan of the work. Marshall's thesis (p. 169): "Bach's composing score contains no corrections testifying to any changes of mind bearing on these fundamental matters of movement type and tonal design. These issues were decided before Bach wrote down a single note."

James Atkins Pritchard wrote (April 4, 2009):
Trumpets in Advent [was: BWV 243 Advent Cantata Correction]

I've been intending for some days to thank you, Doug, for this magnificent reply. It really is most helpful and informative.

With regard to your comment that "Bach's aesthetic had clearly evolved" it occurs to me that the text of BWV 61 "Nun Komm der Heiden Heiland" presents the saviour as both having come and yet to come; in the second movement the text reads "Der Heiland ist gekommen" (the saviour has come), and yet the Cantata ends with "Deiner wart ich mit Verlangen" (I wait for you with longing). It occurs to me that Bach may not have wanthis tension resolved into one view or the other; Advent for him must be at once about a good already present and a good yet to come, and I'm thinking that his avoidance of trumpets may have to do with a desire to avoid a one-sided presentation of the Advent message. Does this make any sense?

Douglas Cowling wrote (April 4, 2009):
James Atkins Pritchard wrote:
< Advent for him must be at once about a good already present and a good yet to come, and I'm thinking that his avoidance of trumpets may have to do with a desire to avoid a one-sided presentation of the Advent message. Does this make any sense? >
That studied ambivalence is certainly there in all Bach's Advent cantatas. It's worth noting that although Advent was a "closed" season, it didn't have the patently penitential themes of Lent. The gospel for Advent 1 was the triumphal entry into Jerusalem. If anything called for trumpets, it would have been a cantata opening with "Hosanna in the highest!" Yet Bach never chose to write such a work.

 

Continue on Part 7

Magnificats BWV 243 & BWV 243a: Details
Recordings: 1900-1949 | 1950-1959 | 1960-1969 | 1970-1979 | 1980-1989 | 1990-1999 | 2000-2009 | 2010-2019 | BWV 243a | Individual Movements
General Discussions:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Systematic Discussions: BWV 243 | BWV 243a
Individual Recordings:
BWV 243 - E. Haïm | BWV 243 - N. Harnoncourt | BWV 243a - T. Hengelbrock | BWV 243 - P. McCreesh | BWV 243 - J. Rifkin | BWV 243 - H. Rilling | BWV 243 - R. Shaw | BWV 243 - M. Suzuki | BWV 243a - P. Herreweghe

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