Autumn Bach Cantatas

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RE: Autumn Bach Cantatas

Not me for Beethoven's sonatas, but I would love it if someone took the lead.

As for Bach.... just started with this week lot. I'll try to follow the texts this time.

RE: Autumn Bach Cantatas

 

Hi Chris. I haven't forgotten about you my friend. I did listen yesterday to 148. It will probably be Sundays when I listen (no more appropriate day I suppose!) I've also committed myself to a symphony per day on Rob's thread on H called The Symphony since 1920. Some really good discoveries on there for me - Langgaard 6, Rautavaara 3 and yesterday the magnificent Holmboe 8. I could be converting from my beloved 20th C Poles to Danes and Finns what with Aho as well having been a real discovery earlier this year re: symphony 9.

Anyway, a quick note on 148 - glorious fugal writing in the first movement (Durr's structural analysis is available of this on the Bach Cantatas website as I'm sure you already know). Ingenious usage of the subjects, as always with the maestro. 

Sections 2, 3 and 4 were also of much interest before the short Tenor recit 5 and closing chorale 6. I'm always amazed by the long melismatic lines in the arias, and 2 is a real goodie. Each time the phrase 'ich eile' occurs after it's initial appearance in bars 20-22, I think there are four more afterwards, it is massively elongated and embellished.

Also noticeable was some feeling of pain in the alto recit...real tension.

Back anon. Couldn't post yesterday too busy with family stuff...

Chris do you know how the Lutheran calendar tallies or not with the RC one?
Just curious - there's probably a chart on-line somewhere. You mentioned 22/9 yesterday as the 17th after Trinity. In my RC calendar it's the twenty-fifth in ordinary time I think...

 

Fraz Jo - disapntd. Bn ringin this grl al week. No ansr...looks lke she changed her mnd. O well...Ldwg...

RE: Autumn Bach Cantatas

Listening to BWV 148 Nicholaus Harnoncourt

I don't know my obbligatos from my ritornellos yet but I'm on the case.

Anyway, it's sublime music to start my day.

RE: Autumn Bach Cantatas

Good morning Kev, Camaron, Mark (and of course anyone else who is silently following!).

Kev, Glad you are enjoying No.148. Don't worry, there's no requirement to know about ritornello or obbligato! In passing, I just noticed that Nicholas Kenyon draws attention in his book to something I'd noticed, namely that though it's not at all a late cantata (probably 1723), it in many ways looks forward to Bach's later, more popular, galant style.

OK, Camaron, since you are already on the coming week's cantatas, time for some introductions.

All the cantatas for Michaelmas are splendid works, it's hard to choose amongst them. Both 19 and 130 have some Milton-matching music to deal with St.Michael's battle with the dragon.

No19 has a superb opening chorus, Es erhub sich ein Streit, describing in the first part the battle. Bach's text, whilst lacking completely Milton's quality conveys the same idea and serves Bach well. (There arose a great strife./ The raging serpent, the hellish dragon/ Storms against heaven with furious vengeance.).  Bach sets this as a violent fugal chorus, backed up by trumpets, timpani as well as the usual oboes and strings.  Then in the second part, the whole tone changes as Michael triumphs! (But Michael conquers,/ And the host that surrounds him/ Overthrows Satan's cruelty). Dürr describes this as "one of the most monumental choruses in all Bach's cantatas". Oddly it's set as a da capo chorus, so after Michael has triumphed we are returned to the battle again!

Now the theme changes to how God's Angels protect us.  The first of two arias is a lovely but difficult one for soprano, with two oboes d'amore as obbligato (i.e. an elaborate and important instrumental accompaniment, Kev). Harnoncourt's unnamed boy copes superbly with this).

Then, after another recitative, comes the jewel of the cantata, as Camaron has already noticed! The tenor aria, Bleibt ihr Engel, bleibt bei mir (Abide O angels, abide with me!), a gentle dance-like siciliano. Gently accompanied by strings, but with the inspired addition of a chorale played by solo trumpet, it is (Dürr again): "rightly regarded as one of the high points in all Bach's arias". If it had been sung, the text of the chorale would have made reference to Bach's angel.

What would be a final plain chorale is transformed by brilliant trumpets and drums into something splendid, bringing us back to the beginning.

This is altogether a fabulous work. Do try it!

Harnoncourt is at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=btk_iFe5l74

Perhaps someone can help here: Both Dürr and Whittaker refer to an earlier setting (in 22 parts!) of the opening chorus, by Bach's uncle, Johann Christoph Bach. It sounds very interesting: Bach himself performed it in Leipzig.  Anyone know of a recording?

Next up, shortly, No.130.

Chris

PS: Thank you Gramophone Team for your kind comments about these Bach Cantata threads! Appreciated.

Chris A.Gnostic

RE: Autumn Bach Cantatas

Now to the second 'St Michael versus the dragon Satan' cantata.

In No.130, Herr Gott dich loben alle wir, wicked Satan is not depicted in the opening chorus but in the first aria (no.3 in the cantata). The bass, accompanied (hardly the right word) by three trumpets timpani and continuo presents the battle between the angels and the dragon in the most emphatic way possible. After this assault, comes a lovely tenor aria with flute to restore some peace and calm.

The cantata is framed by verses of the same chorale, both with the full panoply of trumpets and timpani, simply and powerfully praising God and his creation. As usual the opening chorus is the fuller version: a powerful, dramatic, exuberant piece: the concluding chorale has, unusually, two verses.

English church-goers will immediately recognise the chorale tune: a favourite Anglican hymn, known as 'The Old Hundredth' (I've no idea why).

For anyone unfamiliar with English church music, you can hear its English version, in Vaughan Williams resplendent arrangement (quite a contrast with Bach's):

here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=mj9w7IUQ5AU

For Harnoncourt in No.130: www.youtube.com/watch?v=z8Bk4rUp2FM

Hope you enjoy these!

Chris

 

 

Chris A.Gnostic

RE: Autumn Bach Cantatas

Chris, that’s a superb introduction to superb music, keep them coming.

These are some impressions on the choruses:

The initial chorus for 130 is the most monolithic of the three: it is like a glorified chorale, which is sung by the sopranos, with the rest of the voices playing counterpoint on top. Keeping with this group of cantatas the tone is jubilant and brilliant.

Both initial choruses for 149 and 19 are great even for Bach standards, and they make for really interesting comparison. They both follow da capo form, as chris has already noted for 19, and 149 employs a ritornello too. Also as chris has said, 19 is a depiction of war, but in 149 the battle has already been won. Both choruses introduce the first verse in the same manner, with the voices entering imitatively and upwards, producing -quite literally- a very uplifting mood.But where the tone for 19 is one of warfare and there is violence to it (“ Es erhub sich ein Streit” “There was war”) in 149 is one of joy (“Man singet mit Freuden” “They sing with joy”?). 

In 149 and approaching the end of section B there is a cadenza? that I think (but not sure) is set on the verse “die Rechte des Herrn ist erhöhet” (the right hand of God is exalted?) and that I find is a very inspired moment, and comes as a surprise too.

Even with the difficulties of having to deal with German and the translations it is really impressive to see how the words add a whole new dimension to this music.

Nearly forgot to say: Milton’s poem really put me in the mood for this!

RE: Autumn Bach Cantatas

Thanks Camaron, especially for your comments on 149!

Yes 149 has a splendid opening chorus (in ABA form), as you say.

It has an interesting background!

The English text is:

They sing with joy of victory in the tabernacles of the righteous. (A section)

The right hand of the Lord wins the victory, the right hand of the Lord is exalted. (B section)

This movement is a 'parody' of an earlier secular cantata (BWV208): i.e. Bach borrowed the music, altered it a bit and changed the words.  The original words were:

Your loveliest sights! your joyous hours, May good fortune remain yours for ever. (A section)

May heaven crown you with the sweetest delight! Long live Prince Christian Ernst August

May he remain aware of what pleases the heart, what vanquishes sorrow.

Rather different. Bach also changed the key (from F to D) and replaced the original horns with trumpets! 

Here is Leonhardt in No.149: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZqlxdvXMfYY    Starts at 49'35"

And here is the final chorus of No.208: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y2Vt7EOaBgI   Starts at 30'37"

Amazing how brilliant is the transformation. You would never guess that it was a poarody work!

I loved the gentle soprano aria (another superb boy for Leonhardt). The last duet (6) is unusual in having an obbligato part for bassoon.

Finally the last chorale. If it sounds familiar, it is the same text and music as the final chorale of the St.John Passion, differently harmonised.  The last notes may come as a shock, especially if you know the Passion version! I think this may be the only other occasion Bach used it.

Worth exploring!

Incidentally Cantata 208 is the one with the famous soprano aria, Sheep may safely graze.

Chris

 

Chris A.Gnostic

RE: Autumn Bach Cantatas

That’s really interesting about the 208. I’ve just been listening to it and the transformation really is amazing. 208 is still a da capo movement, but in the form ABBA and far more homophonic. The B section therefore repeats this cadenza I referred to (but not sure if “cadenza” is the appropriate technical name for it), only that here it culminates with the word “besieget” (“defeated” I believe). I’ve just discovered that Julian Mincham shares my liking for this passage:

“The line of 'conquering sadness' (Trauren besieget) is expressed through a most powerful passage of rolling semiquavers in the choir against phrases of the original ritornello theme in the orchestra, culminating in an unexpectedly powerful Neapolitan sixth approach to the final cadence. This is music of real authority and shades of things to come!” Rather technical for me but I get he likes it!

RE: Autumn Bach Cantatas

Listening to BWV208, J.S.Bach Collegium Japan/BIS

'in one respect they are better balanced than the sacred cantatas: Bach more often creates elaborate choruses at the end as well as the beginning of the works'.  (Kenyon)

I've learned something new again.

 

RE: Autumn Bach Cantatas

As for the relevant recordings only and by a person who follows and attaches greater importance to the music more than the texts, I can suggest a good listening to Suzuki and his forces, in an exemplary recording and warm and detailed performances, on BIS (SACD). The No. 19 is on his latest releases (Vol.46, along with BWV45 and 102. The latter in the two existing versions). The No. 130 is in his Vol.33 along with BWV41 and 92, also in a very good recording.

Another very bright and quite convincing recording is on the Canadian Atma, with the excellent group Montreal Baroque conducted by Eric Milnes. In this SACD, one can find the Nos. 19 and 130 together along with No. 149 as well. Very lean and heartfelt performances, with brilliant luminosity in the voices and the individual instruments involved in the solo parts. Dynamics in the Choruses are impressively observed.

Gardined, for all the reservation you may have Chris, is also in superb form and with his usual strong (sometimes over the top) commitment for Bach's works.

Finally and fortunately, Richter has recorded BWV130! For those who can afford an exemplary but almost forgotten way to present these works.

Parla

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