Continue of discussion from Weihnachts-Oratorium: Cantata 6 [Systematic Discussions]
Doug Cowling wrote (November 16, 2004):
Neil Halliday wrote: < I've always felt that there was link between this chorus and and final chorale-fantasy which opens with a similar trumpet figure. And there are number of features which remind us that the work is both a set of six cantatas and a single oratorio. The "farewell" of the four soloists in the last recitative parallels the penultimate movement of the St. Matthew Passion (BWV 244). >
More arresting is the repetition of the "Passion Chorale" which is the first chorale in Part One and which closes the work transfigured in D major. As far as I've been able to discover, the chorale did not have the Passion sighnficance that it has for us but rather was a common communion chorale for the Lutherans. Has any ever tracked this chorale through the cantatas to see if it has a particular symbolize for Bach? I know it appears at the end of an alto funeral cantata whose title escapes me at the moment. Lovely scrunchy harmonies with a flute solo above.
Thomas Braatz wrote (November 16, 2004):
Doug Cowling wrote: >>More arresting is the repetition of the "Passion Chorale" which is the first chorale in Part One and which closes the work transfigured in D major. As far as I've been able to discover, the chorale did not have the Passion significance that it has for us but rather was a common communion chorale for the Lutherans. Has any ever tracked this chorale through the cantatas to see if it has a particular symbolize for Bach? I know it appears at the end of an alto funeral cantata whose title escapes me at the moment.<<
The final use of the 'Passion Chorale' as the last mvt. of the WO BWV 248/64 is based upon the 4th verse of the hymn text for "Ihr Christen auserkoren" by Georg Werner (1648.) Just how this hymn became associated with the melody of the 'Passion Chorale' I do not know, but this type of thing does happen rather frequently with other chorale melodies and texts as well. Alfred Dürr describes as 'unusual' the inclusion of a Phrygian-mode melody "Herzlich tut mich verlangen" in a mvt. that beams forth in the purest D major key. The melody, under the latter name, is also found in BWV 153/5. It is of interest that CPE Bach, in his collections of 4-pt chorales gives the melody as "Ach Herr, mich armen Sünder" specifically for the setting of BWV 248/64. Dürr refers to BWV 248/5 as having the same melody ("Herzlich tut mich verlangen"), but interestingly CPE Bach gives the caption of chorale from this same mvt. as "O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden" (the Passion Chorale.) Perhaps there is some esoteric connection with this passion hymn melody after all, even though Dürr does not think so. Dürr, in his book on the cantatas [Bärenreiter, 1971, p. 134] says essentially the following: Bach probably intended the 'bracketing' ["Verklammerung"] of the entire oratorio by using the same melody twice, at the beginning and at the end. Dürr thinks that it is less likely that Bach intended to point toward the passion of Jesus by using this melody, because the Leipzig congregation at that time had not yet established in their minds such a tight connection between the melody and Paul Gerhardt's passion-tide hymn "O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden. The same melody was used just as frequently with the text for "Wie soll ich dich empfangen" so that it would be difficult for the congregation to quickly make or even suspect the association that Bach might have been wanting to establish with the Gerhardt's passion-tide hymn text. [The problem with this is that Bach never set this melody with this text, "Wie soll ich dich empfangen" anywhere else and none of the collections of Bach's 4-pt. chorales reference this text associated with this melody. Strange, isn't it?]
What we find are a number of different 4-pt. harmonizations of the chorale melody listed under "Befiehl du deine Wege" BWV 161/6 and BWV 270, 271, and 272. The other instances of this chorale melody occur in the SMP as BWV 244/15(/17)44, 54, 62.
The untexted use of this melody in BWV 127/1, as reported first by Friedrich Smend, shows that Bach definitely had the 'Passion Chorale' in mind and could expect members of the congregation to recognize it even though the words "O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden" were not being sung.
The question remains whether there was a stronger association with the 'Passion Chorale' than with the other possible text associations. Did Bach enjoy or make use of the 'double entendre' in the instance of BWV 248? Was it simply a matter of knowing which part of the liturgical year was being experienced at the time or which event or festival was being celebrated at the time?
I, personally, like to think that Bach, in BWV 248, was accomplishing a number of goals at the same time, one of which might have allowed for a hint/indication of the events still to come at the end of Jesus' life.
John Pike wrote (November 16, 2004):
Thomas Braatz wrote: < I, personally, like to think that Bach, in BWV 248, was accomplishing a number of goals at the same time, one of which might have allowed for a hint/indication of the events still to come at the end of Jesus' life.
I agree. The link between the Christmas story and the crucifixion is central. Jesus' main purposes in coming to earth were to teach and to die for our sins. Regardless of how much the Leipzig congregation understood the linkage, I suspect it was a definite decision by Bach to make a very strong linkage between the Christmas and crucifixion stories, much as writers of many carols have done.
Doug Cowling wrote (November 17, 2004):
The Chorale Code
Bradley Lehman wrote: < We can't know what that particular melody "meant" to Bach's people, the many images it conjured up to them from their own experiences of singing and hearing. >
Wolff makes the interesting comment that the chorale "O Lamm Gottes" was sung by the Ripieno choir from the swallows-nest gallery under the chancel arch known as the "Paradise" arch. He suggests that Bach intends a contrast between the minor key double-choir "Kommt Ihr Tochter" and the major key "O Lamm" which was the German Agnus Dei sung at the Lutheran mass to which the communicant passed under the Paradise arch.
There are also examples of chorales which are presented without text by an instrument in a cantata aria. In the tenor aria of the Michelmas cantata, "Es Erhub Sich Ein Streit", the trumpet plays the funeral chorale, "Ach Herr, lass dein Englelein" which certainly recalled the image of the angel at the moment of death to the listeners. The same chorale closes the St John Passion. So, although I agree that Bach's first symbolic language is always musical, there is a Chorale Code which is generally inaccessible to modern listeners.
Bradley Lehman wrote (November 17, 2004):
Bradley Lehman wrote: << We can't know what that particular melody "meant" to Bach's people, the many images it conjured up to them from their own experiences of singing and hearing. >>
Doug Cowling wrote: < Wolff makes the interesting comment that the chorale "O Lamm Gottes" was sung by the Ripieno choir from the swallows-nest gallery under the chancel arch known as the "Paradise" arch. He suggests that Bach intends a contrast between the minor key double-choir "Kommt Ihr Tochter" and the major key "O Lamm" which was the German Agnus Dei sung at the Lutheran mass to which the communicant passed under the Paradise arch. >
Yes. And I find it interesting that--from the perspective of the Chorton organs--that movement is effectively in D minor, which is the plainest (and most "earthly"?) minor key, a neutral start in light of the drama to come. A, the "O Lamm Gottes" there is effectively in F major, which it of course shares with the Orgelbüchlein and several other extant settings of that chorale, in contrast with the others that are in A...a
totally different effect.
And then turn to the "Agnus Dei" of the B minor mass. With the Chorton organ transposition, that little gem is effectively in F minor. The way the temperament interacts with it there, having a large contrast of character between tonic and dominant, is unlike the characters we usually associate with it (hearing it in the garden-variety G minor of other keyboard temperaments). It's in that odd world of "Ich ruf zu dir", and the "Jesus Christus unser Heiland" 689 of the Clavieruebung III.
< There are also examples of chorales which are presented without text by an instrument in a cantata aria. >
Yep--like "Herzlich tut mich verlangen" in the first movement of cantata BWV 161.
Or the Tonus Peregrinus in "Suscepit Israel" of the Magnificat...linked over to the Schuebler #648, or its parent version in cantata 10 (which of course is the Magnificat text, auf Deutsch)! And in the Mozart and Michael Haydn requiems. Isn't there also a Joseph Haydn symphony whose slow movement is a presentation of this plainchant as a cantus firmus, or am I thinking of a different plainchant?
< In the tenor aria of the Michelmas cantata, "Es Erhub Sich Ein Streit", the trumpet plays the funeral chorale, "Ach Herr, lass dein Englelein" which certainly recalled the image of the angel at the moment of death to the listeners. >
19--a cantata I don't really know. Thanks for mentioning it, I'll go listen to it....
That and Hindemith's use of "Alle Menschen müssen sterben" in the finale of the trumpet sonata.
Thomas Braatz wrote (November 17, 2004):
Doug Cowling wrote: >>So, although I agree that Bach's first symbolic language is always musical, there is a Chorale Code which is generally inaccessible to modern listeners.<<
The examples of the Chorale Code should be sufficient to be considered concrete evidence that Bach did intend this code to be understood by at least some listeners and performers during his time. Now, with the possibility of consulting the scores while
listening to various performances and recordings, modern-day listeners, even those who can rely only upon the help of good program notes, should be able to experience what Bach had in mind, just as it was stated in Brad's Kivy-Levinson quote. Unfortunately, we still do need to use our imagination to reconstruct the spatial experience of the 'Paradise arch,' just as it will be necessary for many listeners to fine-tune their hearing in order to perceive correctly the subtle changes in temperament which Brad speculates will revolutionize our way of hearing and understanding Bach's music on a very different level. Another required change is that listeners will need to be able to actually read the score in order to appreciate Bach's use of "Augenmusik" ['Eye-music.']
Yes, it will be necessary for professional musicians to attempt to make these experiences accessible to modern listeners. This will mean that these musicians will need to educate by 'uplifting' rather than pandering to what the public seems to want or to expect to hear. Bach must have been very much in a similar situation intent upon 'uplifting' his 'audience,' knowing full well that only a part of it consciously understood what he was trying to accomplish. He might now, in this present age, be quite amazed, if he were to see how his audience of 'consciously understanding listeners' has continued to grow and will continue doing so in the future.
Doug Cowling wrote (November 17, 2004):
Thomas Braatz wrote: < The examples of the Chorale Code should be sufficient to be considered concrete evidence that Bach did intend this code to be understood by at least some listeners and performers during his time. Now, with the possibility of consulting the scores while listening to various performances and recordings, modern-day listeners, even those who can rely only upon the help of good program notes, should be able to experience what Bach had in mind, just as it was stated in Brad's Kivy-Levinson quote. >
I doubt we'll ever be able to expereince the "Aha!" feeling that Bach's listemers felt when the melody of a familiar chorale suddenly appeared in the new music of a cantata. A contemporary example would be Vaughan Williams' anthem, "Lord, Thou Hast Been Our Refuge". In the closing bars of the work, a trumpet suddenly appears amidst totally unrelated melodic materal with the hymn tune "St Anne" which English churchgoers instantly recognize as a popular Remembrance Day hymn, "O God, Our Help In Ages Past".
On a related note, I often wonder what Austrian Catholics attending the Magic Flute thought when the Two Armed Men suddenly broke into the Lutheran chorale "Ach Gott Vom Himmel". Did Mozart just like the melody for his Bachesque chorale-fantasy or did it have a "meaning" for the audience?
Bradley Lehman wrote (November 17, 2004):
Thomas Braatz wrote: < Yes, it will be necessary for professional musicians to attempt to make these experiences accessible to modern listeners. >
And some have been doing so for more than half their lifetimes already.
< This will mean that these musicians will need to educate by 'uplifting' rather than pandering to what the public seems to want or to expect to hear. >
There go those wild accusations again, that musicians have impure motives in our musicianship, or that we're dumbing down the music in any way whenever we do anything emphatic or expressive within it.
Get this. Communicating with an audience is not "pandering"; it's presentation of the music with clarity of form and emotion and texture, so the audience will be both moved and educated at the same time. This is called musicianship. It is a difficult job requiring years of work. Clear communication with an audience is not immoral. It is carefully-thought-out phrasing and articulation, and a sense of timing and a sense of balance, to bring out many levels of the music at once. It is not "pandering" (with all its connotations of prostitution). It is clear perception of the work, and the skillful working-out to make things immediately listenable at multiple levels.
So please, give these moralizing judgments against musicianship a rest, if it is AT ALL possible to do so. If musicians sometimes make things too emphatic for YOUR personal comfort (or whatever it is, behind all this), can you have the decency to grant that we're communicating also with people other than yourself, some of whom will hear even more in the music without staring at a score?
Good communicative musical performances make it less necessary for anti-social listeners to go off and engage in the solitary quest of reading "Augenmusik" for themselves. Bach's music is primarily to be heard, taken in as sound, not stared at.
Bradley Lehman wrote (November 17, 2004):
<< In the tenor aria of the Michelmas cantata, "Es Erhub Sich Ein Streit", the trumpet plays the funeral chorale, "Ach Herr, lass dein Englelein" which certainly recalled the image of the angel at the moment of death to the listeners. >>
< 19--a cantata I don't really know. Thanks for mentioning it, I'll go listen to it.... >
Sure enough, listening to two recordings, I couldn't resist hearing that chorale with the English words to it that I learned as a kid, from our hymnal...a text having nothing to do with funerals or angels.
Johan van Veen wrote (November 18, 2004):
[To Thomas Braatz] Not only English church-goers will instantly recognize the melody. The hymn tune is used in other countries as well, like ours. It's a brilliant move by Vaughan Williams, by the way - very eloquent, not incomparable to the way Bach used hymn tunes to give a specific turn to a passage.
"Passion Chorale" in XO and elsewhere
Bradley Lehman wrote (November 17, 2004):
John Pike wrote: < The link between the Christmas story and the crucifixion is central. Jesus' main purposes in coming to earth were to teach and to die for our sins. Regardless of how much the Leipzig congregation understoodthe linkage, I suspect it was a definite decision by Bach to make a very strong linkage between the Christmas and crucifixion stories, much as writers of many carols have done. >
The older members of the Leipzig congregations also might have been familiar with the dramatic use of this chorale in Johann Kuhnau's Biblical Sonata #4 (published 1700, and he was of course the incumbent organist until his death in 1722--he and his students could have played this any number of times in public, or not). In the story from 2 Kings 20, king Hezekiah is lamenting his likely impending death, but then through his confidence in God (and an application of fig paste as instructed by Isaiah) he has an unexpected recovery and gets up and dances a jig. The lament and the jig are both on this tune!
The tune had been around for a long time, originating as a love song by Hassler, published 1601. Mattheson in 1739 remarked that it was currently in use with 24 different hymn texts! That is, any textual associations in the minds of 18th century church-goers would have been much more complicated than merely thinking of this as "passion week" music, as we tend to give primary association today. Our expectations aren't theirs! Therefore, any question of "Bach's intentions" as to inter-textual associations defies any easy answers, if his own audiences--or Bach himself--had twenty or more different and conflicting things in mind whenever the melody is presented.
It's in the Riemenschneider collection of 371 chorales, nine times. I've collated the numbering with the keys these are in. (And the numbering might be off by 1 from different editions of the "371"--I'm using the Schirmer.)
- Herzlich tut mich verlangen #21, a
- Befiehl du deine Wege #270, a
- ibid #286, b
- ibid #367, b
- O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden #74, d
- ibid #80, b
- ibid #89, b
- ibid #98, b
- ibid #345, a
And from p475 in the 1998 BWV, here's a list of Bach's other usages of that tune, where again I've collated the keys:
- Herzlich tut mich verlangen BWV 161 mvt 6, a
- ibid BWV 161 mvt 1, a (played by the organ in 1st version, and sung in 2nd version)
- ibid BWV 727, b (organ solo)
- Ach Herr, mich armen Sünder BWV 135 mvts 1 and 6, a
- ibid BWV 742, b (organ solo)
- Befiehl du deine Wege BWV 153 mvt 5, a
- ibid BWV 244 mvt 44 (St Matthew Passion), b
- ibid BWV 270 (also in Riemenschneider), b
- ibid BWV 271 (also in Riemenschneider), b
- Ihr Christen auserkoren BWV 248 mvt 64 (Christmas Oratorio), b (stanza 4 of this 1648 text)
- Wie soll ich dich empfangen BWV 248 mvt 5 (ditto), a (stanza 1 of this 1653 text)
- O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden BWV 159 mvt 2, c
- ibid BWV 244 (St Matthew) mvt 15, c#
- ibid mvt 17, c
- ibid mvt 54, d
- ibid mvt 62, a
Argumentative people might protest that some of these are really in major, this being a close judgment call, especially in the ones that start with a deceptive cadence into the first full bar, or the ones that end on a dominant! But, for consistency, I went with the first two notes of the tune being dominant-tonic (which also generally agrees with the way the first section ends, as to tonic).
And with the Chorton/Cammerton transposing situations (some by a tone, some by a minor third) it's quite a bit more complex and interesting yet, in those vocal works. Or, it would be so, if the modern editions of scores and performing parts hadn't transposed the keyboard continuo to the keys of the orchestra, losing the point that some basic characteristics of the music get messed up that way. The soul of the music is in the thorough-bass, as Bach said. But that thorough-bass needs to be played in the keys where Bach wrote it, for all this to work out properly, the way it interacts with the singers and other players.
The most interesting thing here, in my opinion, is the way Bach juxtaposed two settings of this "passion chorale" within the St Matthew Passion (BWV 244) itself, separated by only a short recitative: movements 15 and 17 as noted above. The first one is in c# minor (or E major), which from the transposing organ's perspective (organizing the pitch relationships for the whole ensemble) is b minor or D major: an easy key with medium tension to it, the way Bach's organ was tuned. The disciples are hailing Jesus as the good shepherd there, and everything seems fine, relatively relaxed. In the recitative Peter and Jesus have a dialogue about the way Peter is going to deny him, even though he insists he won't, and all the disciples agree they won't either. Then the chorale comes in again, but this time in c minor (the organ's b-flat minor!). This is not merely the mild contrast of any old semitone here! This is a completely different character, different mood from the preceding, because of the way that key sounds on the organ playing this chorale, the quality of the melodic and harmonic intervals. From the perspective of the organ this begins and ends in D-flat major, which has both a warmth and an unsettled character to it...like this moment of the drama, where there's tension between confidence and betrayal, the disciples being shaken up by the announcement that they aren't as strong as they'd like to believe they are. The choice of key relationships here is not arbitrary. This is big contrast within the drama, dropping this particular semitone into this particular key.
This isn't heard in any recordings yet, because none have had the organ tuned Bach's way yet, or taken account of the Chorton/Cammerton transposing of that temperament, the intervallic relationships that are part of the compositions. I've been playing through this here on harpsichord to analyze these passages, playing the basso continuo down a step as the organist would see on the page and hear in the harmonies. (And as Bach himself would have heard, while composing this in the first place and
taking these parameters into account...as I've been hearing and analyzing for half a year, the tuning issues obviously influenced his procedures as a composer. Where he does surprising things with his harmonies, a play-through on keyboards tuned his way readily reveals the dramatic points in these compositions.) The first modern organ with Bach's temperament is being tuned and voiced last week and this week--approximately 1600 pipes--and the builder told me yesterday that it's already sounding wonderful as almost completed. I have an appointment to go inspect it and try out a bunch of Bach on it, which makes me considerably excited in anticipation...!
As for connections across the Xmas Oratorio, from mvt 5 to mvt 64 where the same chorale gets used in two places, don't forget that the piece was for performance on six different days: not the congregation (or modern listeners to CDs) sitting there listening through all six sections at once.
If we're looking for birth and death connections, and the drama of weird and surprising chords illustrating the Affekt of the text, based objectively on the way the organ is tuned, a good example is the recitative "Immanuel" in part 4 of the Xmas O (BWV 248). This is strong moment-by-moment stuff, and doesn't depend on listeners' cultural associations with chorale melodies outside the piece itself. The dramatic strokes come up by the way those specific chords sound, as the recitative goes along. The music gets tenser or more relaxed, or darker or lighter, by the way those harmonies are tuned. Bach has matched this with the extra-musical ideas in the sung text.
Another simple little spot like this is the ending of part 6's recitative "Was will der Hölle Schrecken nun", relaxing into "in Jesu Händen ruhn". The voices all stop, and then the continuo cadences into one of the calmest and most restful chords anywhere in the organ's temperament! That moment loses some effect if the orhas been tuned in "Vallotti" (which is pretty typical for current recordings), or worse, in equal temperament where that chord is not even close to being as calm as it should be. A similarly wonderful spot is "et sepultus est" in the B minor mass, the way it goes to unexpected and startlingly well-tuned chords, as the body is being laid to rest. Another poignant spot, but opposite in effect, is the ending of "Qui tollis" earlier in the mass. We're left sitting atop the sins of the world in a disturbing way, and it must resolve forward, being worked out in the next movement.
Maybe this all seems picky, but these are effects that Bach wrote into the music in these spots knowing how it would sound in his performance situations, at that point in the dramatic flow. And, if modern performances don't have the instruments tuned quite the right way according to his instructions, some of the character of the piece is lost or changed.
To sum up: sure, the use and reuse of familiar chorales had (and has) some dramatic effect in the ears and minds of listeners, and that's part of these pieces by Bach. But, he was concerned also with the more moment-by-moment deployment of specific harmonies and melodic features. These make his vocal music even more dramatic than has been heard yet, since the 18th century. These special moments are palpable. It can't happen adequately until the organs and harpsichords are tuned correctly, his way, such that these chorales and whatnot have the proper character of intonation wherever they turn up. (This isn't any sort of mysticism. It's measurable differences among the keys and chords, where the tensions and resolutions are intertwined inextricably with the intonation and the counterpoint, working together. It's like seeing a color movie, where everything has been only black-and-white up till now.)
I had a good discussion about all this with a conductor, just a few days ago, playing through musical examples from the SMP (BWV 244) and instrumental pieces, and from a Bach cantata he's been working on. Upon hearing it, he was won over by the sound itself; the music comes out with such clarity and perfect balance, and it makes musicians' interpretive tasks easier, too. All the musicians need to do is to listen closely to these effects that are already written into the music, and then react instinctively and naturally to them. The intonation itself determines a large part of the character.
A separate illustration about chorales and songs acquiring meaning that the composers really did not intend: a few days ago I put on a recording of Beethoven's variations for cello and piano, on a theme from Händel's "Judas Maccabeus" (and in his earlier "Joshua"). My wife started humming along, hearing the words and extra-musical ideas she knows from our hymnal. It turns out that those particular words were put there with that tune as recently as 1925 or thereabouts, and didn't achieve its popularity in this combination until 1948; all of this having nothing to do with either Händel or Beethoven in the associations. Some people hearing this set of variations now will of course make that connection and misjudge what Händel and Beethoven "intended" with it, because the cultural associations have changed around the melody. (This is similar to a point that Peter Kivy brings up in his philosophical presentations of "authenticity"...authentic to what, at what level? How can anyone reproduce the original cultural effect of a composition like this one, from before such later associations came into play in a different culture?)
Let's bring this back around to the Mattheson remark, which I pointed out above, that there were multiple hymn texts associated with the "passion chorale" as heard in both the St Matthew (BWV 244) and the Christmas Oratorio (BWV 248). We simply can't be sure about what Bach intended or didn't intend listeners to pick up there along with that melody, given that there were so many different associations already going around, and different associations in our culture. (There's even a popular association of this chorale with a song by Paul Simon, and that can't be erased from the minds of some people who listen to the St Matthew (BWV 244) and the Christmas Oratorio (BWV 248)! Nor is Simon's song about fig paste.) Obviously the people in Bach's Leipzig did not think about Paul Simon, but they might have thought about Kuhnau's older connection with Hezekiah and fig paste and Isaiah, and we can't prove that they didn't....whether Bach himself intended that they think about fig paste or not.
Nor can we assume that they recognized that the closing movement of Xmas O part 6 is specifically the fourth stanza from its 17th century hymn, or had anything to do with the other stanzas, or with the stuff they'd heard last week back in part 1, from a hymn by a different 17th century writer. Maybe they made those connections and maybe they didn't; we can't know their minds. We can't be sure that any of those people (other than Bach himself) remembered all the way back to seven years earlier, if they were even there themselves for the first performance of the St Matthew Passion (BWV 244), making such a connection when hearing the first performance of the Xmas O. And, any connoisseurs among Bach's audiences were not sitting there following along with full scores during performances; they had to go by only what they could pick up from the sound itself, during the performance. Every listener, then and now, brings different sets of associations and remembrances to the listening experience. This is the age-old philosophical problem of "other minds"--there's no way to know for sure what was in them, although we can get quite a distance by examining the circumstances, and by coming to it with minds and bodies that are trained as closely as possible to have had similar experiences. We have the advantage of going over things as many times as we want to, a luxury not available before published scores and recordings. But we can't recapture what might have been in those people's minds hearing it for the first and only time.
We can't know what that particular melody "meant" to Bach's people, the many images it conjured up to them from their own experiences of singing and hearing. Something we can work out, though, is the objective way these particular Bach harmonizations of the melody contrast with one another, in the keys where they're set, singing them with an organ tuned according to Bach's instructions. We can't control or predict those other cultural extra-musical associations, which will always be changing depending what the listeners bring to it themselves. But we can listen to exactly the melodic and harmonic intervals produced and then (reasoning as composers ourselves, familiar with Bach's habits and other work) try to figure out why Bach has composed these pieces in the way he did, what effects he tried to put across. What did he do with the available materials, and what did he create from them? The authenticity here, one form of it anyway, is to reproduce the sounds as closely as possible, and then let those sounds work whatever magic they have in them, put there by Bach. The quest here is to reveal those details that are already in the music, letting them be heard as clearly as possible.
A quote I like from Kivy (1995, p62), himself quoting from Levinson: "It is not artworks that, in the crucial sense, change over time, it is rather us. We think more, experience more, create more--and as a result, are able to find more in artworks than we could previously. But these works are what they are, and remain, from the art-content point of view, what they always were. It is not their content that changes over time, but only our access to the full extent of that content, in virtue of our and the world's subsequent evolution." I also like this one from Malcolm Boyd (1997, p220): "The quest continues, nfor that complete 'authenticity' in performance which is unattainable and probably undesirable, but to establish what conditions are indispensable for any performance that hopes to capture the true essence of Bach's art. Possibly the most revealing discoveries still to be made await a more thorough application than has so far been attempted of the temperaments (tunings) in use during Bach's time."
Thomas Braatz wrote (November 17, 2004):
Bradley Lehman wrote: >>We can't know what that particular melody "meant" to Bach's people, the many images it conjured up to them from their own experiences of singing and hearing..We can't control or predict those other cultural extra-musical associations, which will always be changing depending what the listeners bring to it
As I indicated yesterday, by means of considering the limited uses that Bach made of a specific chorale melody, assessing the various contexts in which it is used by Bach in his works, and considering the use of untexted chorales which have a direct connection with the surrounding text as well as help to establish a particular mood/emotion, it is possible to establish a reasonable connection with a particular chorale text that Bach may have had in mind. Bach certainly did not expect that every last person in the audience would be capable of making all of Bach's intended connections, but that did not stop him from commencing with his plan to stimulate his audiences musically on various levels simultaneously with all the means at his disposal.
David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (November 17, 2004):
[To Bradley Lehman] Good analysis, but two problems:
1.) There is no such thing as a "Passion Choral". There are many Passionschoraele (Passion Chorales).
2.) Please, when referring to the one that people know as the "Passion Chorale", use the tune's correct name and ssay that it has been used with the texts mentioned. After all, the name of the tune is not "Passion Chorale", but rather Mein G'muth (Gomut) ist
mir Verwirret. We went on about this earlier.
Doug Cowling wrote (November 17, 2004):
David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote: < After all, the name of the tune is not "Passion Chorale", but rather Mein G'muth (Gomut) ist mir Verwirret. We went on about this earlier. >
In fact, the melody has been called "Passion Chorale" in all North American hymn books for over a century, Lutheran hymnbooks of course use the German title. Interestingly, some of the German titles of some chorales were changed during the First World War because of xenophobia.
Bradley Lehman wrote (November 17, 2004):
David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote: < Good analysis, but two problems:
1.) There is no such thing as a "Passion Choral". There are many Passionschoräle (Passion Chorales). >
Well, duh. Nobody here said there was only one.
< 2.) Please, when referring to the one that people know as the "Passion Chorale", use the tune's correct name and ssay that it has been used with the texts mentioned. After all, the name of the tune is not "Passion Chorale", but rather Mein G'muth (Gomut) ist mir Verwirret. We went on about this earlier. >
I gave at least five valid German names for it, in the posting that you quoted back in its entirety while adding only a couple of sentences at the end. (Annoying in itself....)
And this use of multiple German titles wasn't good enough for you...why, exactly? Things must be reduced to a single name of your own choosing, to be valid? Really? Why? To fit into the way things somehow MUST be organized, where it's more important to ORGANIZE an entity (such as a tune) than to understand its salient features? Why? Wasn't the point that there were two dozen different names for this tune in Bach's lifetime, in circulation? That's what I thought the point was, when I wrote it.
Boy, I hate being chided and "corrected" with superficial criticism, on work that I've put a substantial amount of thought and dedication into doing!
John Pike wrote (November 17, 2004):
[To Bradley Lehman] Brilliant and most interesting stuff, Brad. Many thanks for all the effort you put into this.
John Pike wrote (November 17, 2004):
[To Thomas Braatz] In recent years, various scholars have claimed to have discovered all kinds of symbolism in Bach's music, much of it mathematical. I have heard, for example, that there is much numerical symbolism in the solo violin works, although I have not yet been able to access the work concerned.
I do strongly suspect, though we can never prove it, that this music has all sorts of depths that we never appreciated before. Bach's genius had no bounds.
In the art world, the painter Piero della Francesca in the fifteenth century had a very advanced knowledge of geometry which is apparent in his paintings and is quite mind-blowing. I suspect that Bach is the equivalent of the musical world.
David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (November 18, 2004):
[To Bradley Lehman] No, you did not. You gave the name of the texts, but the tune, as I have constantly stated, was not used for those texts until way after its initial composition, and not by the composers himself, but rather by poets who latched onto this tune as one setting of their poems (note that none of the people that wrote the texts were musicians).
Doug Cowling wrote (November 18, 2004):
[To David Glenn Lebut Jr.] And they're off again.
We almost had a full week!
Chorales BWV 250-438Recordings | General Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Chorales in Bach's Vocal Works: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Hidden Chorale Melody Allusions | Passion Chorale
Individual Recordings: Hilliard - Morimur | Chorales - Matt | Chorales - Rilling | Preludi ai Corali - Quartetto Italiani di Viola Da Gamba
References: Chorales BWV 250-300 | Chorales 301-350 | Chorales 351-400 | Chorales 401-438
Texts & English Translations of Chorales: Sorted by Title
Chorale Melodies: Sorted by Title
MIDI files of the Chorales: Cantatas BWV 1-197 | Other Vocal Works BWV 225-248 | Chorales BWV 250-438