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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

Weihnachts-Oratorium BWV 248
General Discussions - Part 7

Continue from Part 6

Gardiner's Christmas Oratorio

Josh Klasinski wrote (January 17, 2007):
This past Christmas and indeed over the entire holiday season reaching up to the present I have had the immense pleasure of becoming intimately acquainted with what is certainly one of Bach's most fully realized and extraordinary works, the Christmas Oratorio.

What a joy it has been delving into this music and as always constantly being surprised and moved by this affectionate display of Bach's greatest loves in life, music and his faith. One is hard pressed to encounter a more masterfully sculpting of each piece into a mighty and marvelous musical edifice in the oratorio output both before and after Bach. Again Bach's gift and musical prowess which IMHO could only have come from God, is on full display with this work. Those chorales never cease to move and inspire, it is as if Bach is conversing directly with the Heavens through these beautiful affiances of choir and instrument. To say that each Christmas will not be complete without this work is no exagerration. Gardiner and his troupe perform with a gentle benevolence which the text and music demand. If anyone has any tidbits of info or interesting compositional remarks regarding the Oratorio please feel free...Was this work used in performance proliferately in Bach's time and after...say in the 19th century with the Bach revival did this oratorio recieve much attention?

Just another Bach work to add to the lifetime of wonderment, study and enjoyment a music lover is compelled to undertake.

Thomas Braatz wrote (January 17, 2007):
Josh Klasins wrote:
>>If anyone has any tidbits of info or interesting compositional remarks regarding the Oratorio please feel free...<<
Read Simon Heighes article on the WO in the "Oxford Composer Companions: J.S. Bach", Oxford University Press, 1999.

>>Was this work used in performance proliferately in Bach's time and after...say in the 19th century with the Bach revival did this oratorio recieve much attention?<<

The NBA KB indicates that, without a doubt, additional performances of the WO or at least parts of it took place during Bach's lifetime. No firm dates, however, can be given as to when this did occur. It is possible that CPE Bach used a modified version of the introductory chorus for part 1 in his Easter music in 1778. CPE Bach had all of the original parts and the autograph score in his possession (they were never separated from each other during his lifetime). If CPE Bach did use them for other performances which seems unlikely, he might have selected only a mvt. here or there to be included in a performance with many of his own works. One complete set of parts for the WO (copies of the original) was available for purchase from Breitkopf at the New Years Fair in Leipzig, 1764 (had anyone performed from these before selling them? - these were lost and never seen or
heard from since).

One of the earliest performances (complete in one concert???) would most likely have been under Zelter's direction of the Berlin Singakademie. Zelter would have acquired all the original materials for the WO soon after CPE Bach's death (check the date) after which Zelter between acquisition of them and the time of his death in 1832 would most likely have performed them in public. Zelter had a copyist duplicate all the vocal parts with usually two extra parts for each voice for each cantata in the WO. These are all indications that it was performed during Zelter's lifetime. It would be interesting to determine if Mendelssohn was aware of its existence or may even have performed it as well - there is no record of this, however. Private copies began floating around at the beginning of the 19th century, making a few other performances of this music possible.

There are a few firm records of performances that were either considered or did take actually take place:

1. Johann Nepomuk Schelble considered performing it in Frankfurt am Main in the 1830s.

2. Johann Theodor Mosewius (1788-1855) performed the first two parts as part of the Christmas celebration given by the Breslau Singakademie.

3. Carl von Winterfeld included in his printed collection "Der evangelische Kirchengesang", Part 3, Leipzig, 1847, selected mvts. from the WO.

4. After the publication of the WO in the BGA in 1856, the number of actual performances would have increased dramatically.

As far as the tradition of performing all the cantatas in one sitting/concert, it is very difficult to ascertain this. It might possibly have happened under CPE Bach's direction, then possibly later under Zelter's direction. After that perhaps only after the complete score had been printed in the BGA. No records about this are available here.

The first performance of the WO in England took place under the direction of William Sterndale Bennett in 1861. In 1849 he had founded the Bach Society. He performed the SMP (BWV 244) in 1854 and the WO in 1861. This might possibly have been the first time that the entire WO was performed at a single concert (unless, of course, this already took place under CPE Bach or Zelter, for which no records but reasonable assumptions exist).

Josh Klasinski wrote (January 17, 2007):
[To Thomas Braatz] Many thanks Thomas...will look into this Heighes article.

Bradley Lehman wrote (January 17, 2007):
Thomas Braatz wrote: (...)
< The NBA KB indicates that, without a doubt, additional performances of the WO or at least parts of it took place during Bach's lifetime. No firm dates, however, can be given as to when this did occur.
(...)
One of the earliest performances (complete in one concert???) would most likely have been under Zelter's direction of the Berlin Singakademie. Zelter would have acquired all the original materials for the WO soon after
CPE Bach's death (check the date) after which Zelter between acquisition of them and the time of his death in 1832 would most likely have performed them in public. Zelter had a copyist duplicate all the vocal parts with usually two extra parts for each voice for each cantata in the WO. These are all indications that it was performed during Zelter's lifetime. >
So, to be clear and assuming that this message is internally consistent: this speculation about Zelter's performance(s) is not in the NBA or its KB, correct? Only the record of the source material, that he prepared some parts?

And did Zelter prepare any additional orchestral parts, or just voices?

< It would be interesting to determine if Mendelssohn was aware of its existence or may even have performed it as well - there is no record of this, however. Private copies began floating around at the beginning of the 19th century, making a few other performances of this music possible. >
Or, to be more accurate on this part, instead of saying: "there is no record of this, however" (which is the impossible-to-prove 'universal negative') -- how about saying: "I am not aware of any record of this" ? Which books about Mendelssohn, if any, have you read in the process of formulating this universal negative?

Thomas Braatz wrote (January 17, 2007):
Christmas Oratorio, 19th century conjectured performance(s)

Bradley Lehman wrote:
>>And did Zelter prepare any additional orchestral parts, or just voices?<<
Only the voices, with two minor exceptions, these amount to a double set of parts for each voice. The alto parts throughout are written in the soprano clef, a characteristic peculiar to copies made for the Berlin Siunder Zelter's direction.

The description of the condition of the original parts "leidlich gut erhalten" ('preserved in a bearable, passable condition' or 'their condition isn't too bad') might indicate that they could have been used by Zelter along with the additional parts that he had had copied out.

The conjecture about Mendelssohn possibly having experienced (played along or conducted the WO) is not as far-fetched as it might appear from Mendelssohn's activities with the Singakademie and his own burning interest in uncovering other Bach manuscripts; and yet a detailed modern biography of Mendelssohn, particularly in a section devoted entirely to Mendelssohn's involvement with Bach's music (contained in the Grove Music Online article on Mendelssohn), yields no specific information about Mendelssohn's connection with the WO. This is a matter of reasonable conjecture based upon research conducted, as one might assume with thoroughness by the writer of the article. This article represents the current state of research on this matter. Perhaps if you find an interesting tidbit in a letter by Mendelssohn that refers to the WO, this should be reported to the Grove Music Online? Just a suggestion. I am certain that the recipient of this information would be grateful for having this pointed out to him.

Bradley Lehman wrote (January 17, 2007):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< (...) a detailed modern biography of Mendelssohn, particularly in a section devoted entirely to Mendelssohn's involvement with Bach's music (contained in the Grove Music Online article on Mendelssohn), yields no specific information about Mendelssohn's connection with the WO. This is a matter of reasonable conjecture based upon research conducted, as one might assume with thoroughness by the writer of the article. This article represents the current state of research on this matter. Perhaps if you find an interesting tidbit in a letter by Mendelssohn that refers to the WO, this should be reported to the Grove Music Online? Just a suggestion. I am certain that the recipient of this information would be grateful for having this pointed out to him. >
All this patronizing batch of blather aside, I see that you've dodged my question on this issue as well.

My question was about the simple and honest distinction between the statement:
- "there is no record of this, however" (which is the impossible-to-prove 'universal negative')
- and a statement that takes personal responsibility for one's own knowledge/limitations: "I am not aware of any record of this".

At least you've answered one small part. You admittedly looked at one New Grove article (online version), and have then added to it your own rather absurd assumption that that one single article should tell us every possible thing that's worthwhile to know about Mendelssohn. And then, from that, you've extrapolated further to assert that "there is no record", just because that one very short article (overviewing Mendelssohn's life and career) didn't happen to mention any such connection of Mendelssohn ever performing Bach's Christmas Oratorio.

And then your response was not to recognize/acknowledge such a logical flaw and mend your ways, but rather to get all patronizing and belligerent about how research should be done.

And for all your bluster about this, it leaves us still not knowing either one way or the other if Mendelssohn ever encountered the piece.

=====

A far simpler response would have been to say something like this: "I looked at the New Grove article about Mendelssohn, and it didn't happen to mention a Christmas Oratorio performance by him. That's all I know specifically on this topic."

Thomas Braatz wrote (January 18, 2007):
Christmas Oratorio & Mendelssohn

Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)

Mendelssohn began singing in Zelter's Berliner Singakademie in 1820 at age 11. At age 14, in 1823, he had expressed a Christmas wish for a manuscript copy of the SMP which he thereupon received as requested. He then set about getting a group of 16 singers together at his home to perform it. Not including the interruption of a visit to Paris with his father in 1825, Mendelssohn was still regularly attending and performing with the Singakademie in 1826, 7 years after having become a member of the choir. During all these years, Mendelssohn would have had ample opportunity to become acquainted with many works by Bach. The questions that remain are:

1) Did Zelter actually perform the WO (at least we know that he had sufficient extra vocal parts especially copied out for use by the choir)?

2) Was the performance only for a small number of interested parties and for the edification of the choir members only? One of Bach's original continuo parts shows much more wear and tear than the other instrumental parts - could this have been used by Zelter to supply the figured bass with perhaps a violoncello looking on? - Felix could read orchestral scores at sight and play them directly on the keyboard - did he perhaps help out by reading and playing other instrumental parts from the original score?

3) Did Zelter perform the WO publicly? (the most likely answer to the latter would, in all probability be no, judging from his very strong reluctance later on to perform the SMP in 1829 - Zelter: "The general public is not yet ready for this music and the Singakademie cannot perform it properly.") Also, there is no public record (newspaper reports, etc.) or private indications (personal letters, etc.) anywhere to prove that such a concert had actually taken place.

Bradley Lehman wrote (January 18, 2007):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< 3) Did Zelter perform the WO publicly? (the most likely answer to the latter would, in all probability be no, judging from his very strong reluctance later on to perform the SMP in 1829 – Zelter: “The general public is not yet ready for this music and the Singakademie cannot perform it properly.”) Also, there is no public record (newspaper reports, etc.) or private indications (personal letters, etc.) anywhere to prove that such a concert had actually taken place. >
Here is that blasted (and illogical) universal negative again! There is no public record ANYWHERE to prove...blah-de-blah. Sorry, but you're just plain wrong to say so with such a universal and glib presumption at insight--whether the thing actually took place or not.

There is probably no extant (or at least easily accessible) public record to prove that I performed a certain Beethoven piece with our high school orchestra in 1981-2, at a public concert. And that was only 25 years ago. I do have a private record of it, in the form of a cassette tape of that performance, somewhere in some box; but it is unlikely "in all probability" (your construction!) that there will ever be a public record--other than my mentioning it here right now! Just my word for it, plus the several friends of mine who happened to play in that orchestra, plus my piano teacher of that era, plus my parents who happened to be at the concert. Fast-forward 50 more years, or 100. Is it likely "in all probability" that there will exist any publicly-accessible record that that performance ever took place, for perusal by any scholar wwould happen to give a <> about it? I think not. Is that lack of hard evidence sufficient proof that the thing never actually happened? I think not.

Thomas Braatz wrote (January 19, 2007):
Thomas Braatz had written:
>>3) Did Zelter perform the WO publicly? (the most likely answer to the latter would, in all probability be no, judging from his very strong reluctance later on to perform the SMP in 1829....Also, there is no public record (newspaper reports, etc.) or private indications (personal letters, etc.) anywhere to prove that such a concert had actually taken place.<<
Bradley Lehman wrote:
>>Here is that blasted (and illogical) universal negative again! There is no public record ANYWHERE to prove...blah-de-blah. Sorry, but you're just plain wrong to say so with such a universal and glib presumption at insight--whether the thing actually took place or not....Is that lack of hard evidence sufficient proof that the thing never actually happened? I think not.<<
It is necessary for this type of conclusion ('lack of public or private records mean that something did or did not happen') to consider that two centuries have passed during which there has been sufficient interest in these historical matters for someone to come across and make public any newspaper/musical journal reports or letters stashed away in someone's attic that would refer to a Zelter performance of the WO in a public venue. What are the chances that this might still happen today: a revelation that Zelter performed the WO with the Berlin Singakademie? Certainly, nothing is impossible, but how real, seriously, is the remote possibility that such a thing can still happen? In lieu of this evidence which now has only an infinitesimal, ever-decreasing chance of coming to light, one can reasonably assume that 'in all probability' such a public performance of Bach's WO by Zelter did not take place.

Bradley Lehman wrote (January 19, 2007):
[To Thomas Braatz] That wasn't the point. The point was the illogicality of your pseudo-omniscient pronouncements. And the pseudo-omniscience that you impute to your process of divination: of looking at one conveniently available book or internet screen, and extrapolating that whatever's not seen there definitely didn't exist, else you'd know about it and the scholar would have said so.

Try this example:

There is no readily available public record that you, sir, took a drink of water at any time yesterday (just to pick some recent day arbitrarily, and some reasonable activity arbitrarily). Should we then conclude, albeit improperly, that you didn't?

Uri Golomb wrote (January 19, 2007):
On the dangers of looking at just one book and concluding anything from it, especialy for proving a negative: I checked the index of R. Larry Todd's magisterial book, Mendelssohn: A Life in Music (Oxford University Press, 2003). Plenty of Bach citations, as one would expect -- but no mention at all of any of the Oratorios. Assuing the index correctly reflects the book, this means that, in all 600+ pages, Todd never mentions these works (it's always possible that one of Bach's Oratorios is mentioned in the book, but the index missed it -- mistakes happen). So either he never came across referenes to Mendelssohn performing, or examining, or listening to, these works -- or he didn't think these sources are worth citing in his biography.

So someone reading this book could conclude that, to the best of Todd's considerable knowledge, Mendlessohn never came across Bach's oratorios (though even this is not necessarliy the case); and from this conclude that, in all likelihood, he really never came across them.

But then I checked another secondary source -- the Cambridge Companion to Mendelssohn. And -- lo and behold! -- it says there (in Peter Mercer-Taylor's article "Mendelssohn and the institutions of German art music") that Mendelssohn performed the Ascension oratorio (BWV 11) in a festival in Cologne in 1838 (p. 17). Todd apparently doesn't mention this performance (unless, as I said, the index is inaccurate) -- either he didn't know about it, or (more likely) didn't consider it important to mention it (biographers have to be selective -- if they've done their research properly, they must amass much more material than they could fit into a single book, however large).

Of course, Zelter -- or ANYBODY in Mendelsohn's lifetime -- performing the entire WO is an endeavour much more likely to be documented than the examples Brad mentioned (e.g., Thomas Braatz drinking a glass of water yesterday). In fact, I would say that, if no such performance is mentioned anywhere in contemporaneous sources, than in all probability it didn't happen (not 100% certainty, of course -- just high probability). I don't know how well the Berlin Singakademie files were kept, but if they did a good archive of their own activities, that makes it even less likely for a WO performance with that particular group to have remained undocumented.

However, if secondary sources do not mention such a performance, this does not automatically mean that no primary sources mentioned it. And the the lack of a mention in Grove's dictionary certainly signifies nothing. If a book-length biography cannot mention all known facts, an encyclopaedia entry certainly can't!

And it's not all or nothing either. What if Mendelssohn heard (or took part in) a performance, not of the entire WO, but just of of one cantata out of the six? Or just one movement -- say, an aria? Offhand, I'd say that such an event (esp. the performance of just one movement, or a few selections) is more likely to have gone unreported than a performance of the entire work. But this is not a matter for guesswork -- to truly judge the likelihood, we'd need to KNOW much more: about how well the Singakademie, and other ensembles, kept records of their own performances; of how conscienteous the press of the time were in reporting such events; etc. etc. I readily confess that I have no such knowledge; so my judgement on likelihood is, in this case, nothing more than reasonable (or unreasonable) guesswork -- good enough (with this caveat attached!) for an online conversation, perhaps, but not for actual scholarship.

Bradley Lehman wrote (January 19, 2007):
[To Uri Golomb] All very well said, thanks Uri!

One other bit I'd add, for what it's worth (and maybe nothing): I'd second the idea that excerpts perhaps happened, but that no extant records are known anymore. Just in the past 25 years -- and I'm of course no Mendelssohn! -- I can recall two occasions when I conducted Christmas Oratorio excerpts myself (with a church choir and with college students), and I'd venture that it's very unlikely that any written record of those performances exist anymore. Nobody would know, one way or the other, if not written down and reasonably accessible in some archive or collection. That's not even 25 years ago.

There probably exists no written evidence that I have ever even seriously studied the piece, in any capacity, since my copy of the full score sits on my shelf unmarked. If someone were to go through my score collection, 50 years from now and making inferences from my markings, they'd probably conclude that I knew Wagner's "Meistersinger" much better than any full score of a vocal piece by Bach; and that conclusion would simply be wrong, but not provable by the written evidence. The evidence shows merely that I had some occasion in the past to mark "Meistersinger" up with a zillion analytical remarks, and that I didn't replace that copy later with a cleaner unmarked score. One wouldn't know that I haven't even bothered to listen to "Meistersinger" even once, straight through, on any occasion after the school year when I marked up that score...or ever conducted or played or sung any of it, markings or not.

Any other BCML members performed the ChriOratorio, either whole or in excerpts, but for which no written records are available anymore?

Thomas Braatz wrote (January 20, 2007):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
>>That wasn't the point. The point was the illogicality of your pseudo-omniscient pronouncements. And the pseudo-omniscience that you impute to your process of divination: of looking at one conveniently available book or internet screen, and extrapolating that whatever's not seen there definitely didn't exist, else you'd know about it and the scholar would have said so.
Try this example:
There is no readily available public record that you, sir, took a drink of water at any time yesterday (just to pick some recent day arbitrarily, and some reasonable activity arbitrarily). Should we then conclude, albeit improperly, that you didn't?<<
Some important points conveniently overlooked here for the purpose of serving your argument: ('Event' here refers to a probable event that may or may not have taken place)

1. Who (or which entity) is performing the event?
[the importance of the individual or group causing the event is significant]

2. What is the context of the event? What is its significance?
[surrounding conditions will either favor the noting of the event or allow it to pass into oblivion]

3. How long ago did this event take place?
[the further back in time (century by century) an event occurs, the less likely its preservation as a recorded event]

4. How much research has been conducted focused on the subject, time and place of the event?
[the more investigation and research by Bach experts has been focused on a specific individual or group, the greater likelihood that the record of the event will be found or a reasonable determination can be made that it may never have existed in the first place]

Summary:

Reasonable assumptions can be made based upon consulting a few key sources of information because thorough methods of musicological scholarship performed by Bach experts will have gleaned and sifted large amounts of source materials bringing otherwise unknown, but important information to the fore.

Question to Uri Golomb:

Did either of the books on Mendelssohn you referred to document/mention the 1st(?) public performance of Bach's 'Piano' Concerto in D minor BWV 1052 by Mendelssohn at a concert with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra in early March of 1837. Footnote to NBA KB VII/4, p. 39: "There is no reason to doubt that Mendelssohn performed this concerto frequently." Are there any earlier (or later) public performances of this work recorded in either book?

Uri Golomb wrote (January 20, 2007):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< Question to Uri Golomb:
Did either of the books on
Mendelssohn you referred to document/mention the 1st(?) public performance of Bach's 'Piano' Concerto in D minor BWV 1052 by Mendelssohn at a concert with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra in early March of 1837. Footnote to NBA KB VII/4, p. 39: "There is no reason to doubt that Mendelssohn performed this concerto frequently." Are there any earlier (or later) public performances of this work recorded in either book? >
BRIEF ANSWER:

Todd mentions this performance (p. 328), and a later one at the Gewandhaus on April 23, 1843 (p. 451). He also mentions two earlier performances, in Berlin -- December 1, 1832 (pp. 268/9); and September 15, 1835 (p. 284). This does not mean that these are the only occasions (or even the only documented occasions) on which Mendelssohn performed the work, but certainly these events are documented. The Cambridge Companion (which is a collection of articles, not a biography) doesn't mention any of these performances, but does mention a thematic link between the Concerto and Mendlessohn's first published piano piece, the F-shapr minor Capriccio Op. 5 (1825; Glenn Stanley, "The music for keyboard", Cambridge Companion to Mendelssohn, p. 150).

BTW, Todd also mentions performances of the D-minor Concerto by another pianist -- Sarah Itzig Levy (1761-1854), who, "in 1807 and 1808, frequently appeared as soloist in J. S. Bach's Fifth Brandenburg Concerto and Concert in D minor for harpsichord" (Todd, p. 11). So Mendelssohn's first public performance of the work (whether it took place on Decmeber 1832 or earlier) is not the first public performance of the work -- maybe Levy's was the first, maybe it was done even earlier than that. Todd mentions Levy as one of several sources for Mendelssohn's familiarity with J. S. Bach's and (esp. in Levy's case) C. P. E. Bach's music; she had close links with Zelter's Singakademie, and on her death, her collection of Bach manuscripts was bequeathed to the Singakademie.

Thomas Braatz wrote (January 20, 2007):
Uri Golomb wrote:
>>Todd mentions this performance [Bach's D minor 'Piano' Concerto] (p. 328), and a later one at the Gewandhaus on April 23, 1843 (p. 451). He also mentions two earlier performances, in Berlin --December 1, 1832 (pp. 268/9); and September 15, 1835 (p. 284)....<<
Thanks, Uri, for taking the time to look up and share this detailed information with the BCML.

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (January 21, 2007):
Sarah Itzig Levy

Uri Golomb wrote:
< BTW, Todd also mentions performances of the D-minor Concerto by another pianist -- Sarah Itzig Levy (1761-1854), who, "in 1807 and 1808, frequently appeared as soloist in J. S. Bach's Fifth Brandenburg Concerto and Concert in D minor for harpsichord" (Todd, p. 11). So Mendelssohn's first public performance of the work (whether it took place on Decmeber 1832 or earlier) is not the first public performance of the work -- maybe Levy's was the first, maybe it was done even earlier than that. Todd mentions Levy as one of several sources for Mendelssohn's familiarity with J. S. Bach's and (esp. in Levy's case) C. P. E. Bach's music; she had close links with Zelter's Singakademie, and on her death, her collection of Bach manuscripts was bequeathed to the Singakademie. >
We have been told here that perhaps JSB never had the "pleasure" of running into a Jew (as opposed e.g. to Handel's frequent contact with that "race"). This lady's triad of names is so very obviously Jewish (sorry, there really is such a thing as blatantly obvious Jewish names and here it applies to all three names) that one wonders exactly what was going on in this generation after JSB. First there is Mme. Levy and later cometh Felix. Please don't tell me that Zelter was half-Jewish himself:-). There is a serious sociological matter that may lie hidden here.

 

Weihnachts-Oratorium (WO)

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (March 5, 2007):
[To Josh Klasinski & Peter] Due to Yahoo non-sense I did not receive either of your posts which I see on the website and which I am too lazy to respond to from that place. In the Gardiner Bach major choral works boxed set there is an essay by Werner Breig on the very question that Josh and Peter and I have been discussing here. I expect that the essay was in the original Gardiner WO also. It concerns esp. in Part 3 the question of whether this was a set of six cantatas or an oratorio. Conclusion, it all depends when you live more or less. As to Peter's question about what precisely is an oratorio. Well, technically a bunch of Handel things that I would like to lump together as oratorios fall into all kinds of terminological distinctions which have little importance to me. I do however make a distinction, a major one, between Handel's very singer oriented, somewhat singing for its own purpose, operas in Italian and his much more depicting of character and narrating of story English oratorios. His biblical oratorios to me personally are often sublime. His operas on the whole are not my cup of tea. I would be killed in certain circles for this. Yes, I guess earlier that oratorio was a sacred drama without costumes (or without clothes!) as you suggested and allowed to be performed at certain seasons when opera was forbidden.

I think Josh should also want to look at Werner Breig's diagram of the parody sources of the WO's cantatas. It is very instructive and in my boxed set is separated from the English essay as it goes with any of the languages in which Breig's essay is given.

Josh Klasinski wrote (March 5, 2007):
[To Yoël L. Arbeitman] Thanks Yoel for this info. The insert to Gardiner's performance also contains a diagram of which I have briefly glanced over. I was not completely ignorant of the genesis of much of the Oratorio's music, yet to tell you the truth I am just as much at home calling it an oratorio as a series of cantatas which can be played separately. I say this because many times I have listened to each cd (Gardiner's being a 2cd set) all the way through in one sitting, and find that each cantata complements the others to a whole which is to my delight and ears above and beyond satisfactory.

Robert Sherman wrote (March 5, 2007):
[To Josh Klasinski] I will compliment, not kill, Yoel for his comment on Handel operas. There are exceptions (e.g. some of the arias in Semele), but in most cases they lack the spirit of the oratorios. Julius Caesar sounds like a student composer trying to emulate Messiah: the nominal form is there but the inspiration isn't. BORING! (The current trendy fashion of using female singers for male roles and male singers for female roles is bizarrissimo, but that's another subject.)

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (March 5, 2007):
[To Robert Sherman] :I have gradually learned over my near decade on the internet (as I did not have many non-virtual persons who shared these interests) that different persons appreciate different things. Now that not only applies to performances but more importantly perhaps to genres of music. The Handel list rarely goes into any other works of that master but his endless operas. There is rarely interest in his oratorios which I have always esteemed and come to know more and more of them. In his religious works like the several Te Deums there is about no interest in his own list and the orchestral works, forget it.

But I must respect that many persons are deeply moved and fascinated by these operas and yes, Handel himself actually cast women (not only castrati) as men such as Solomon or the Israelitish man in Judas Maccabeus. It is a different understanding of the use of voice. Personally I prefer even for Monteverdi a tenor Nerone.

Josh Klasinski wrote (March 5, 2007):
[To Yoël L. Arbeitman] At the library today I happened upon the score to the Joshua Oratorio, I am interested in hearing this as it is my namesake and also since you count the Oratorios as some of Handel's best music? Have you heard this oratorio Yoel?

 

Christmas Oratorio

Santu de Silva wrote (September 25, 2008):
Corentin Bresson wrote:
< I am Corentin Bresson from Paris, France.
I know nothing about music, but two of my long-time bedside recordings have been solo works from Bach (the Goldberg Variations and the Cello Suites). I stumbled across BachCantatas.com after discovering the Matthaus-Passion, and the idea of getting into the cantatas with the infos provided here appealled to me, so here I am. >
I know there's plenty of time before we start talking about the Weihnachtsoratorium, but I want to urge any list-members who may not own a copy of it to send out for one, and start listening in early December, when the "Let it Snow" lobby starts to get a little too in your face!

Two of my personal favorite recordings have been Harry Christophers and The Sixteen choir and orchestra (http://xrl.us/SixteenXO), and Ralf Otto and Concerto Koln (http://xrl.us/OttoXO)

Just this spring, though, I learned that the complete recording, of which the highlights on cassette had been given to me as a Christmas present almost 30 years ago, was available! I bought it, and lost it, and now I'm going to get it again:
Gerhard Schmidt-Gaden and CollegiumAureum (http://xrl.us/AureumXO)
This features the Toelzer boy's choir, and most importantly, features boy alto soloists. The virgin's lullaby --at least on the tape; I have lost the CDs, and must get new ones, and do not want to give false information-- as sung by the boy soloist, is very lovely, and strangely touching.

For those who are totally unfamiliar with this human-scaled masterpiece of Bach's, the more you listen to it, the more you get into its wonderful groove, and the more "Christmassy" it feels. Christmas, for better for worse, has come to be a time when you look back with fondness, a time for retrospection (or nostalgia, if you want to use that tarnished word). If this is the Christmas at which you make the acquaintance of the Christmas Oratorio (or Weihnachtsoratorium, or simply XO), you will look back on it with the greatest fondness, I guarantee it!

[A warm welcome to Corentin Bresson, and I hope you join us in talking about the XO, if it ever gets started up this season! We talk about it every other year, and some years the discussion fizzles out early.]

Vivat205 wrote (September 25, 2008):
Santu de Silva wrote:
< ...I hope you join us in talking about the XO, if it ever gets started up this season! We talk about it every other year, and some years the discussion fizzles out early.] >
Hmm-I guess right now we're talking about talking about the Christmas Oratario.

Anne Bedish wrote (September 26, 2008):
[To Santu de Silva] I don't ever need to wait for Christmas to listen to the Christmas Oratorio, but I only have John Eliot Gardiner's recordings, both the older CD version and the newer DVD version from his Bach Pilgrimage, so I was very intrigued by your message. So intrigued that yesterday evening I went on Naxosmusiclibrary.com to which I have a subscription, and found the Harry Christopher's version....I had a blissful evening listening to it. Was there a boy soprano in it sometimes ? Or just a very high female soprano ?

I would love to hear the Toelzer version you recommend and will look out for it. I love to hear Bach sung with boy sopranos, I really do feel that they sound better in Bach than women sopranos....maybe because the music was composed with the idea that boys were meant to be singing it rather than mature women's voices ? Obviously when a boy doesn't sing well that's no good, but that applies to poor women singers too !

 

Christmas Oratorio conducted by F Grossmann

Bradley Lehman wrote (November 10, 2008):
The first recording listed on the page: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Vocal/BWV248-Rec2.htm
was the old Vox Box 201, a 3-LP set. I have it here. It's mono, but the enclosed libretto has a publication date of 1959 on it. I'm listening to it today. It doesn't say how long before 1959 it was recorded. The sound is clear.

My question: since this is the Vienna Symphony, anybody know if Nikolaus Harnoncourt was playing in this recording? I believe he was still a regular cellist in that orchestra at the time.

I have the companion Vox Boxes 200 (St Matthew Passion) and 202 (St John) by this same Vienna Symphony/Grossmann. Apparently I missed his Easter Oratorio and Motets: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Performers/Grossmann.htm

 

Weihnachts-Oratorium BWV 248 - Revised & Updated Discography

Aryeh Oron wrote (July 28, 2009):
Following the revised discographies of SMP, SJP, MBM & SRP I am glad to inform you of the revised & updated discography of the WeihOratorium BWV 248 (XO).

For the already existing recordings I have added exact recording date (not only month/year) and link/s to source of info/possible purchase sources.
I have done the deepest possible search over the web and discovered many dozens of unfamiliar recordings.
For each new recording I have built performer page (or updated existing performer page) and bio page for each artist (conductor, vocal & instrumental ensembles, vocal soloists) who took part in the recording. I have added hundreds bios and updated many others. The number of musicians' (& poets') bios on the BCW in now over 6,300.

The 7 pages (a page for a decade) of the XO discography are linked from:
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Vocal/BWV248.htm
144 complete recordings (all 6 Cantatas) of XO and/or complete Cantatas from XO are now presented in the discography pages (in the previous version there were 99).

Despite my efforts, the info presented for some of the recordings is only partial. Therefore, I would appreciate any help in making this discography (as well as other discographies on the BCW) even more comprehensive, updated and accurate by adding recordings, correcting errors and completing missing details.

 

Christmas oratorio alto arias

Michael Cox wrote (December 17, 2010):
It occurs to me that in the six cantatas of the Christmas Oratorio, each originally performed on different days, the boy alto soloist may have not have alway been the same.

In aria 4 "Bereite dich, Zion", in Cantata no. 1 for performance on Christmas Day, the alto soloist is at first doubled by the Oboe d'amore I and Violino I (bars 16-24), but the soloist is then given freedom to sing unsupported, while the continuo and then the oboe d'amore and violin go their own way. This suggests to me that the soloist was an experienced one, able to maintain his part with confidence.

In aria 19 "Schlafe, mein Liebster" in Cantata no. 2 for performance on the 2nd day of Christmas, the alto soloist is doubled throughout by the Flauto traverso I. This suggests to me that the original soloist needed support because he was not so experienced or had a weaker voice. Perhaps it was his first solo, who knows? On the other hand, the flute gives extra colouring to the music.

What do others think?

(I refer to the Bärenreiter Urtext edition)

Happy Christmas to all!

Thérèse Hanquet wrote (December 17, 2010):
[To Michael Cox] A few years ago, I asked my voice teacher whether I could sing an alto aria of the Christmas Oratorio.

He proposed me "Bereite dich, Zion" because he found "Schlafe, mein Liebster" too requiring for breath and support!

Of course I did not sing with an orchestra but with a piano reduction, but I did not find difficult at all to hold the part, compared with other pieces (and I was surely not an experienced soloist...).

This does not challenge your hypothesis of different soloists. Some may find different difficulties in different arias.

Michael Cox wrote (December 17, 2010):
[To Thérèse Hanquet] Merci, Thérése, pour ta réponse.

Joyeux Noël!

 

CHRISTMAS ORATORIO QUIZ

Michael Cox wrote (December 17, 2010):
Yesterday I wrote the following:

In aria 19 "Schlafe, mein Liebster" in Cantata no. 2 for performance on the 2nd day of Christmas, the alto soloist is doubled throughout by the Flauto traverso I. This suggests to me that the original soloist needed support because he was not so experienced or had a weaker voice. Perhaps it was his first solo, who knows? On the other hand, the flute gives extra colouring to the music.

The Christmas Oratorio drew on a number of different sources, the source of aria 19 was as follows:

19 Aria (alto) G maj/E min 2/4 Schlafe, mein Liebster, genieße der Ruh' Flute I (colla parte an octave above the alto soloist throughout), 2 oboe d'amore, 2 oboe da caccia, strings, continuo BWV 213: Aria, Schlafe, mein Liebster, und pflege der Ruh

My quiz question is:

How often in Bach's cantatas is the soloist doubled by a flute, oboe or violin, so that in theory the piece could be performed as an instrumental piece without voices? Taking into account the fact that some of the music of the Brandenburg Concertos is also (re)used in the cantatas.

I don't know the answer, but I would like to challenge you experts to find an answer.

Happy Christmas!

Julian Mincham wrote (December 17, 2010):
[To Michael Cox] Taking into account the fact that some of the music of the Brandenburg Concertos is also (re)used in the cantatas.

Actually surprisingly little. Two fast movements from 1 and one from 3. Considering how much use bach in the cantatas made of the other earlier concerti he had composed it has alway been something of a mystery to me how little he plundered the Brandenburgs.

Douglas Cowling wrote (December 17, 2010):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< Actually surprisingly little. Two fast movements from 1 and one from 3. Considering how much use bach in the cantatas made of the other earlier concerti he had composed it has alway been something of a mystery to me how little he plundered the Brandenburgs. >
Do you think there was a recognition factor at play? Was Bach ever reticent to reuse secular music, vocal and orchestral, because he thought it might be recognized by his larger audience, or even by sniggering musicians? He never opened himself to criticism by reusing sacred cantatas as secular works. Perhaps I'm just projecting my own reaction: I'm always startled by the appearance of any Brandenburg music in the cantatas. I wonder what his protocols for reuse were: well-regulated I'm sure.

Evan Cortens wrote (December 17, 2010):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< He never opened himself to criticism by reusing sacred cantatas as secular works. >
This sort of statement goes back through Friedrich Smend to Philipp Spitta, and maybe even further, but I've always wondered if it's really true. One issue is the survival of the sources themselves. To generalize, it seems to me that Bach's sacred works tend to be better preserved than his secular works. Very many of them are lost entirely, preserved only in their sacred forms. All this to say: it is hypothetically possible that Bach reused a sacred cantata from, say, the 1720s as a secular piece in, say, the 1740s, but if the latter doesn't survive, we would have no way of knowing. Traces of copying only show up in the copy, not in the original. [*]

Another issue is how one defines "secular." Typically wedding music is assigned to the secular category, but one can justify this by noting that in the Lutheran church, marriage wasn't a sacrament. (Was it still performed in a church, or with clergy involved? I don't know...)

What of funerals, I wonder? Sacred still, perhaps, but not part of the regular church year. The "Bach-Compendium" (BC) assigns them to Work Group B: "Church pieces for special cases", so still sacred in some sense, but not part of the every day church year. One interesting instance arises here, that of the funeral music for Price Leopold of Anhalt-Cöthen (BWV 244a/BC B 22). When the Matthew Passion (BWV 244) was originally thought to date from Good Friday 1729, there was no issue here, since the funeral music (which uses bits from the passion) was a few weeks earlier. However, when it was discovered that the Matthew-Passion was actually first performed in 1727, we have an issue. Bach has taken music originally written to commemorate the
death of Jesus and used it to commemorate the death of a secular ruler. Perhaps not "sacred -> secular" in the sense that we see bits of the Hunting Cantata (BWV 208) reused in, say, BWV 68.

Something worth thinking about, I think...

One final thought on Doug's phrase "opened himself to criticism." This sort of criticism relies of course on the audience recognizing that the work is based on something else. Again, to take my hypothetical from above, if Bach reused a sacred work from the 1720s as a secular work in the 174s, what are the chances anyone would recognize it? Not good, I would bet, since it was unpublished, and not likely performed more than a handful of times in the interim.

[*] Bach's handwriting when he's copying from another source differs significantly from when he's composing anew. (And not just that the former is neater; see Marshall's "Bach's Compositional Process.") Thus one can usually tell if a piece is based on a model, even if that model does not survive.

Julian Mincham wrote (December 17, 2010):
[To Douglas Cowling] Difficult to know what is going on here. Of the movements we know he used ,two were for church cantatas (Brandenburg 1/1 and 3/1) and one for a secular work (1.3) More movements seem to be taken from other concerti---all three from the harpsichord concerti in E and D minor, one from that in F minor, for example.. It is possible that some reuses have been lost of course--but I am surprised not to see other movements from the Brandenburgs cropping up.

Incidentally, my own classifications of the secular cantatas are for weddings, municipal events, homage, funeral and sundry (for those which don't fit the main four categories).

Michael Cox wrote (December 18, 2010):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< Taking into account the fact that some of the music of the Brandenburg Concertos is also (re)used in the cantatas.
Actually surprisingly little. Two fast movements from 1 and one from 3. Considering how much use bach in the cantatas made of the other earlier concerti he had composed it has alway been something of a mystery to me how little he plundered the Brandenburgs. >
"it has alway been something of a mystery to me how little he plundered the Brandenburgs"

I remember reading or hearing somewhere that when Bach applied for a post in Leipzig, even though the city council considered him not to be the best candidate, the Brandenburgs were seen as evidence of his skill as a composer. They were generally well received and well known. One might say that they were on Bach's CV (US:resumé), so that any reuse of the music would be instantly recognised. I suppose that any lesser known music written earlier in Weimar, Cöthen etc, could be more easily disguised as new composition, if indeed it was necessary to disguise that fact at all. Musicians and composers might recognise reused music, as it was a common practice, but would the average unmusical member of the congregation have noticed or even cared?

Michael Cox wrote (December 18, 2010):
"How often in Bach's cantatas is the soloist doubled by a flute, oboe or violin, so that in theory the piece could be performed as an instrumental piece without voices?"

I am not suggesting that "Schlafe, mein Liebster" is an easy aria to sing - I couldn't have sung it when I was a choirboy in the 1960s. But having accompanied many singers over the years, I know from experience that when learning a difficult piece a singer needs support, the accompanist playing the "tune" until the singer has learnt the part. Only then can the accompanist play his part safely. The point of my question was whether Bach or one of his students, occasionally or regularly, accompanied a boy soloist on the violin, flute or oboe when practising a new aria, retaining the supporting instrument in the instrumentation of actual performance(s). This is just speculation, of course, unless you know of any evidence.

And could the original version have sometimes been an instrumental work to which a voice part(s) was later added, as is the case with the reuse of the Brandenburg Concertos.

It is known, at a later period, that Schumann sometimes made sure that a theme could be heard by doubling the instruments because he didn't always trust solo instruments to get it right, so that his orchestration has been criticised as being "thick". Bach's orchestration is, by contrast, economical and varied, depending on what instruments he had available on any particular occasion. So there must be a reason why the solo part is doubled by a flute. Instrumental colour or lack of confidence? Lack of confidence in two senses: Bach didn't have confidence in the soloist (one particular soloist or boy soloists in general?) or the soloist lacked confidence without support?

I very much appreciate your input. Thank you all for interesting and stimulating discussion.

And my very best Christmas wishes to all.

Evan Cortens wrote (December 18, 2010):
Michael Cox wrote:
< And could the original version have sometimes been an instrumental work to which a voice part(s) was later added, as is the case with the reuse of the Brandenburg Concertos. >
I wonder if we can devise a sort of typology of instrumental reuse in the Bach cantatas. I might suggest three possible ways (with names I'm coming up with off the top of my head):

1) Straight reuse (instrumental to instrumental)
2) Textual overlay
3) Integration of vocal material

For the first type, we might think of BWV 174/1. This movement is the first movement of the third Brandenburg, with added horns and oboes. Despite the orchestral additions, the string parts remain the same, the structure hasn't changed, and the movement remains instrumental.

For the second, I think of movements like BWV 110/1, based on the overture of the fourth orchestral suite (BWV 1069). The opening slow section remains instrumental, and Bach has simply overlaid text over the fast, fugal middle section. A similar thing can be seen in two of the works Julian mentions elsewhere, BWVs 207 and 207a, with the third movement of the first Brandenburg.

Finally, we have pre-existing instrumental movements to which entirely new musical material has been added. In this category I think of movements like 169/5 (based on the concerto slow movement BWV 1053/2). One could probably well put BWV 146/2, based on BWV 1052/2 (another concerto slow movement) in this category as well. In this category, I always like to recall CPEB's remark to Forkel that his father often liked to add an additional part ex tempore to a trio, turning it into a quartet.

This is a little rough around the edges, but food for thought...

Julian Mincham wrote (December 18, 2010):
[To Evan Cortens] Despite the orchestral additions, the string parts remain the same, the structure hasn't changed, and the movement remains instrumental.


Actually in the vast majority of Bach's reuses of his own material the basic structure remains unchanged which would seems to indicate that he was happy with the overall shape and balance--to which he added instruments or voices. The examples where he radically reforms the original structure are much less common--the aria from the Ascension Oratiorio which became the Bm Mass Agnus Dei is a very notable and instructive example (although some believe that the one did not come from the other but both from an original lost source--but this doesn't alter the prinicple).

One of the most interesting rearrangements, which substantially improves upon first thoughts (which is not always the case) is of the soprano aria from BWV 68 taken from the early secular cantata BWV 208.

Evan Cortens wrote (December 18, 2010):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< One of the most interesting rearrangements, which substantially improves upon first thoughts (which is not always the case) is of the soprano aria from BWV 68 taken from the early secular cantata BWV 208. >
I most certainly agree with you, especially with the very effective use of the instrumental ending (called BWV 1040, though why that's the case is a different discussion) from the end of the BWV 208 manuscript score.

However, Albert Schweitzer (oddly in my opinion) disagrees:

The arrangement [of BWV 208/13 into BWV 68/2] is not wholly satisfactory. The simple aria of the hunting cantata is in its own way more beaand better balanced than that of the Whit Monday cantata [BWV 68], in which we cannot help seeing ultimately that a new patch has been placed on an old garment. [Schweitzer, Vol 2, 263-264.]

Julian Mincham wrote (December 18, 2010):
[To Evan Cortens] Yep I have enjoyed re-reading Schweitzer when involved with my own study of the cantatas and I applaud his great achievement (how many of the cantatas would he actually have had the opportunity to hear, one wonders!) and he did not have the advantage os modern research. But he made some whopping bloomers. His complete misunderstanding of the sinfonia to BWV 42 is classic case in point as his condemnation of the tenor aria of BWV 38. But I still quote some of his wisest conclusions which remain very much on the ball.

On a personal note, some 10 years ago I had a large extension made to the house. When it was completed i invited the architect, a man in his 60s, and his wife around for dinner. As he wandered around he came across a copy of Schweitzer's Bach volumes on my desk and he asked me why i was reading them. It transpired that he had known Schweitzer well and owed his marriage to him! As a young man he went out to help with the extensions to the hospital and his future wife as a volunteer nurse also working for the great man!

Small world eh??

Douglas Cowling wrote (December 18, 2010):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< Yep I have enjoyed re-reading Schweitzer when involved with my own study of the cantatas and I applaud his great achievement (how many of the cantatas would he actually have had the opportunity to hear, one wonders!) and he did not have the advantage os modern research. >
Terry is another pioneer scholar whose work remains remarkably fresh and cogent. It's hard to imagine how Spitta, Schweitzer and Terry did their work without the assistance of hundreds of graduate assistants.

William Hoffman wrote (December 19, 2010):
"How often in Bach's cantatas is the soloist doubled by a flute, oboe or violin. . . ?

Werner Neumann, Handbuch der Kantaten JSB (Breitkopf & Haertel, 5th ed. 1984), No. 13. Die Arien mit 1 oder 2 obligaten Instrumenten:

Querfloete: Sopran. 36b, 100, 204, 210, 210a, 211, 249, 249a; Alt. 45, 79, 94, 103; Tenor. 55, 78, 96, 102, 107, 113, 114, 130, 180, 248II; Bass. 123; Alt+tenor 205.

Oboe: Sopran. 21, 89, 93, 98, 187, 199, 202, 248IV; Alt. 12, 222, 44, 48, 79, 102; Tenor. 73; Bass. 56, 152; soprano.+bass. 63, BWV 140.

Violin: Sopran. 30, 30a, 36, 47, 57, 58, 76, 147, 150, 171, 186, 196, 202, BWV 204, BWV 205, 249, 249a; Alt. 2, 11, 24 (+viola), 75, 86, 103, 132, BWV 146, BWV 213, 248III; Tenor. 9, 29, 36b, 37, 43, 61 (+viola), 85 (+viola), 97, 101, 108, 139, 148, 186 (+oboe), 201, 206; bass. 13 (+blockfloete), 32, 59, 98, 117, BWV 174 (+viola), 178, 187, 201, 212; S+A 91; S+T 145, BWV 208; S+B 79, 164(+querfloete,oboe); A&T 66; T+B, 136; SAT, 248V.

Evan Cortens wrote (December 19, 2010):
William Hoffman wrote:
"Die Arien mit 1 oder 2 obligaten Instrumenten:"
But that's not the same as "doubled by", is it? ... Undoubtedly some doubling goes on in obbligato arias, but my guess is that Michael meant doubled throughout.

Peter Smaill wrote (December 19, 2010):
Evan Cortens wrote:
"Die Arien mit 1 oder 2 obligaten Instrumenten:"
< But that's not the same as "doubled by", is it? ... Undoubtedly some doubling goes on in obbligato arias, but my guess is that Michael meant doubled throughout. >
I rather agree with Evan to the effect that we still do not have an answer to the intriguing question: Is the aria from the XO the only case in all the Cantatas where the vocalist is doubled by an instrument?

To this can be added a sub question, "Is such doubling purely or at all in order to support the vocal line?"

The only parallel from Bach's world I can think of is his very late Passion-Pasticcio based on St Mark's Gospel. Here he places Handel's aria "Wisch ab der Traenen scharfe Lauge" ("wipe away the tears' bitter brine") at the vital penultimate position in the work and in this case Handel sets the soloist in unison with instruments. The effect is a striking parallel to the conclusion of the other St. Mark Passion BWV 247 where it is the choir which is doubled in unison by the instruments. Here may thus be a symbolic or musical effect intended and perhaps not the question of the vocalist lungpower. In both instances the effect is solemn and mournful.

On this doubling issue my mind is open and any other examples would be most interesting!

Ed Myskowski wrote (December 19, 2010):
Peter Smaill wrote:
< To this can be added a sub question, "Is such doubling purely or at all in order to support the vocal line?" >
See the chorale finale, BWV 1/6, for an extreme example. Probably not a coincidence that this was the last of the chorale-based cantatas written in 1725 for Jahrgang II, although apparently Bach subsequently designed later works to fill in blanks in this series.

Peter Smaill wrote (December 20, 2010):
[To Ed Myskowski] We are now in the territory of chorale instrumental support and it perhaps of significance that the sister Chorale by Nicolai, "Watchet Auf" in BWV 140 also concludes with orchestral support to the vocal line. The texts of both these Chorales if set out centre-adjusted form the image on the page of a kelch, or communion cup.

Both these chorales conclude parts of the church year and/or a sequence of cantatas, giving some support to their choice as not wholly coincidental; and then given emphatic treatment by Bach. There is IMO no issue of vocal power needing doubling, unless (just perhaps) the minim treatment of the last chorlae of BWV 140 was so slow that the choir were gasping for breath!

Michael Cox wrote (December 26, 2010):
Thank you all for sharing your expertise. I am enriched by it, as thus we gain greater insight into the wonderful music of Bach and his contemporaries.

Your prize: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=83M-CKKSATQ&feature=related

William Hoffman wrote (December 26, 2010):
[To Michael Cox] Isn't it amazing that all the turba choruses in the Christmas Oratorio (1734-35) may be from the St. Mark Passion (1731)? Yet it all makes sense when we hear the XO closing chorus singing the Passion chorale, "O sacred head now wounded." As we observe the Christmas Season in real time and the BCW discussion nearing the Trinity Season, I am reminded of Richard Rohr's thought today:

"The path of prayer and love and the path of suffering seem to be the two Great Paths of transformation. Suffering seems to get our attention; love and prayer seem to get our heart and our passion."

Ed Myskowski wrote (December 27, 2010):
[To William Hoffman] Original send time: ca. 8:06 EST (0106) UT. Sorry if this is a duplication, I have no record of the original transmission.

In the interim, I caught this line from the Gantry opera: To his intended paramour: <Other than my mother, I have never adored a woman as much as I adore you.>

William Hoffman wrote:
< Isn't it amazing that all the turba choruses in the Christmas Oratorio (1734-35) may be from the St. Mark Passion (1731)? Yet it all makes sense when we hear the XO closing chorus singing the Passion chorale, "O sacred head now wounded." As we observe the Christmas Season in real time and the BCW discussion nearing the Trinity Season, I am reminded of Richard Rohr's thought today:
>"The path of prayer and love and the path of suffering seem to be the two Great Paths of transformation. Suffering seems to get our attention; love and prayer seem to get our heart and our passion." >
This seems an appropriate opportunity to record this thought, before it goes fugitive:

(1) The Ascension cantata texts include the image of the *head* (J) in heaven; the *limbs* (the body of the Church) must follow.

(2) By coincidence (it was an Xmas gift from last year) I listened on Xmas eve, with some friends (including the donor), to a set of Buxtehude cantatas, Membra Jesu Nostri, with a related (?) theme. Without further checking at the moment, I am going with my instinct that *membra* is approximately *body parts*.

On local radio or webcast, there is WKCR Bach Fest, WCRB Bach Hour, and WHRB speciaL presentationb of a performance recording of Robert Aldridge, *Elmer Gantry* (Thank you Jesus, thank the Lord!). I am going with the Elmer Gantry for the moment, probably not otherwise available.

These are all available as webcasts, and the WCRB (99.5allclassical) has website access for the following week. What an embarrassment of riches, even for the technically not-so-savvy (me).

More to come

Ed Myskowski wrote (December 27, 2010):
Elmer Gantry Opera [was: CHRISTMAS ORATORIO QUIZ]

Ed Myskowski wrote:
< I am going with the Elmer Gantry for the moment, probably not otherwise available. >
According to the back-announcement, there will be a forthcoming release on Naxos, the first commercial recording by Florentine Opera. Highly recommended, especially (but not only) for you guys who need to learn (like me) what not to say to your wife and/or girl-friends, about your mother.

To sneak a BCML connection in here, tenor Frank Kelley has a key role in the performance. He is familiar from Bach recordings with Emmanuel Music, and Joshua Rifkin (where he is, of course, the one voice on the tenor part). You cannot miss him, with Rifkin, for better or worse. Better, to my ears. See BCW archives.

The opera libretto is adapted from the Sinclair Lewis novel, I do not have the writers name handy (sounds like Herschel Keiser), music by Robert Aldridge.

 

OT: Unusual Christmas calendar

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (December 25, 2010):
I don't know why this didn't hit me until today, but if Bach were to have composed the Christmas Oratorio for this year, there wouldn't have been a 2nd and 3rd day cantata, correct?

Sunday would take precedence over those feast days (as definite in the Roman Missal of today).

And it would be a very fast week between the Solemnity of Christmas, and the 1st Sunday after Christmas, since this year-- it's the next day.

Merry Christmas!

Douglas Cowling wrote (December 26, 2010):
[To Kim Patrick Clow] By coincidence, Christmas falls on a Saturday in 2010 as it did in 1734 when Bach wrote the Christmas Oratorio:

Saturday, December 25 - 1st Day of Christmas (Part One)
Sunday, December 26 - 2nd Day of Christmas (Part Two)
Monday, December 27 - 3rd Day of Christmas (Part Three)
Saturday, January 1 - New Year's Day (Part Four)
Sunday, January 2 - Sunday after New Year's (Part Five)
Thursday, January 6 - Epiphany (Part Six)

Bach's calendar reflects the late-medieval usage where Saint's Days and Festival superseded the observance of Sunday. We see this in the year when Annunciation fell on Palm Sunday and replaced the latter. That was the occasion for "Himmelskönig sei Willkommen" (BWV 182)

Modern calendars have restored the patristic primacy of Sunday, but that was not the custom in Bach's time. Thus, the First Sunday after Christmas (Dec 26) is bumped by the 2nd Day of Christmas, and the Second Sunday after Christmas (Jan 2) was popularly referred as the Sunday after New Year's.

I know calendar-talk makes people's eyes glaze over, but it would be interesting to know why this unusual configuration of holidays attracted Bach's attention for the Christmas Oratorio. Coincidentally, the pattern occurred in 1723, Bach's first Christmas in Leipzig. Did he note the occurrence and think it suited his preliminary ideas about a new kind of oratorio extended over the whole 12 Days of Christmas as six cantatas?

The pattern only occurred once more in 1745 before Bach's death, although there would be a few more years when a Sunday fell in the narrow window between Jan 1 and Jan 6 and the Christmas Oratorio could be performed again.

I have always believed that scholars have neglected the influence of the calendar on Bach's compositional method, even though collections like the Orgelbüchlein are a microcosm of his church music.

Fröhliche Weihnnachten!

Ed Myskowski wrote (December 26, 2010):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< I know calendar-talk makes people's eyes glaze over >
Not evetyones! Please carry on.

 

BWV 248/19 Article

Aryeh Oron wrote (January 1, 2011):
Thomas Braatz contributed another article to the Articles section of the BCW.

Thomas Braatz wrote:

Recently, during the discussions on the BCML, a question was raised about the significance of the colla parte flute part that Bach added to the alto 'slumber' aria in Part II of the Christmas Oratorio BWV 248/19 "Schlafe, mein Liebster". In the process of trying obtain an answer to this question many other relationships of this aria with its historical predecessor and its context within the Christmas Oratorio seemed worthy of investigation. Finally, in the summary section, I present what I consider to be a reasonable explanation for this rather unique phenomenon within Bach's oeuvre.

Re: "Liebster Gott, wenn werd ich sterben" is the title given by the NBA to BWV 8. Under normal conditions the NBA has an editorial policy in effect that would, as they state at the beginning of each printed volume, 'normalize' or 'modernize' the orthography. The problems in this regard are numerous and must be resolved on a case by case basis. Take the modern German interrogative form 'wann' = 'when'. In Old High German the interrogative forms for Eng. 'when' were 'hwanne, hwenne, wanne, wenne'. These were coexisting forms where one could easily be replaced by another. The same was true for a later period: Middle High German. Here the forms 'wanne' and 'wenne' were still interchangeable, but, by the time New High German began to take over, the preference had been only for 'wann', while various German dialects still tended to use both forms. Nürnberg (not too far from Leipzig) dialect preferred 'wenn' over 'wann'; Buttelstedt near Weimar preferred 'wenn'; the general picture regarding these two words as dialect forms is quite complicated.

It does not help one bit when the opening text of BWV 8 is the first verse of a chorale text by Caspar Neumann (earliest publication of the text was 1690). In his travels in Germany, Bach probably heard both forms and probably knew that 'wann' would be the preferred form in polite conversation between highly educated individuals, but that 'wenn' as used by Neumann probably had a more 'homey' intimate sound. Also, as an already existing chorale (relatively modern), Bach probably felt no need to change the 'wenn' to 'wann'. There are quite a few manuscript copies of the score for BWV 8. Those from the beginning of the 19th century almost automatically modernized the text to read what we might expect today: "Liebster Gott, wann werd' ich sterben?"

The new article: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Articles/BWV248M19.pdf
Linked from: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Articles/index.htm

Links from other relevant pages would be added alter.

Regarding "Es ist genug/genung" or "Ich habe genug/genung" see Braatz' footnote on 'genug/genung' at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/CM/Es-ist-genug.htm

Happy New Year!

Douglas Cowling wrote (January 1, 2011):
Aryeh Oron wrote:
< Thomas Braatz contributed another article to the article section of the BCW. >
There are some terrific engravings of the garden ampitheatre where the secular cantata may have been performed, as well as the title page of the libretto booklet for Part One of the Christmas Oratorio. Interesting that Bach added "tutti" to the text of the opening chorus.

Call me contrary, but I still don't believe that there is any documentary evidence to support the conclusion that Bach composed the Christmas Oratorio in haste peas late as Christmas Day. If anything, the over-arching unity and complex interrelationships of the parts of the oratorio suggest a considered period of creation. Alas, we will never know his schedule.

I don't think the score of the Christmas Oratorio indicates that Bach was "covering" tired voices in the season by doubling with the flute. The vocal demands on soprano and alto voices in both solo and choral movements throughout the work are prodigious. Bach's documented concern about over-singing outdoors demonstrates that he was prepared to offer special compensation to ensure that his best singers were never compromised.

The flute doubling may be a symbolic extension of the pastoral music throughout the cantata: we see and hear the events through the eyes and music of the shepherds. There is certainly plenty of visual evidence for shepherds playing for the Christ Child in the manger.

 

Weihnachts-Oratorium BWV 248: Details
Recordings: 1900-1949 | 1950-1959 | 1960-1969 | 1970-1979 | 1980-1989 | 1990-1999 | 2000-2009 | 2010-2019 | Individual Movements
General Discussions:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7
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 - 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

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Last update: ýJanuary 22, 2011 ý13:55:24