Words and Music: one art redeemed by the other!

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RE: Words and Music: one art redeemed by the other!

Camaron, Hi, I thought you'd find those interesting!

The Cantata 146 is indeed amazing!  If you hadn't heard the concerto you would never believe that the chorus was not the original work.  Two extra thoughts come to mind here.  First, there must be quite a few more vocal and choral numbers by Bach that may be parodies, but the originals are lost so we'll never know. Second, the harpsichord concerto of which it is said to be a parody of the second movement is probably later than the cantata. However, scholars consider that the harpsichord concerto is itself a sort of parody of a (lost) violin or oboe concerto. Depending on whether this is true or not, and on the date of the presumed original, it is just possible that the cantata version came first.

I'm still struggling with the other examples myself. The Christmas oratorio, vs. Secular cantata one is particularly fascinating. There is a theory around that Bach, knowing that his secular cantatas would only get a single airing, had Picander (his favourite librettist) write dual texts from the outset. If Bach already had the sacred version in mind when he wrote the secular work, then this would complicate matters a bit!

I'll leave discussion of the Mass in B minor example till you're ready Camaron!

I'm not quite sure, Parla why you plucked out Shostakovich 14th out of the millions of vocal works around, but it's really as much a song cycle as a symphony and could make for some interesting discussion. So I agree with Camaron: why not go for it Parla!

Chris

Chris A.Gnostic

RE: Words and Music: one art redeemed by the other!

Camaron, if "my argument" is a "pure rhetorical tautology", why don't you try to provide us with a "real" and valid one?

It is not all the atheists who like all the religious artists (a very wrong description for any artist who happened to compose or write a certain amount of works, for various reasons sometimes even beyond their actual will, of religious character). If it was not the actual great music of these composers, none would care for any Mass, Requiem or Cantatas etc. Actually, if one has to listen for almost 15 minutes a Kyrie eleison or a Benedictus, it won't be because the words make any better sense, but owing to the transformation of them into something almost irrelevant to the original meaning. And there is nothing really "mystic" in that. It is pure musical craftsmanship, full command of the art of the composer.

Bible never enlightens me. Its interpretation, sometimes. Its purpose, almost always. I do not believe that the practising believers (Christians or others) have any "sincere and sometimes heroic attempt to go beyond the banal and ordinary". Normally, they are so conservative that they cannot even contemplate the idea that there is something beyond their...backyard. Atheist, sometimes, might go a bit further even out of curiosity.

Finally, Shostakovich's 14th is proposed as an exemplified effort to tie established poetry with great music, without mysticism or second/hidden thoughts. It's all about death! However, I cannot open any discussion, unless there is an indication of interest from other members. You may try to listen to this Symphony...perhaps.

Parla

 

RE: Words and Music: one art redeemed by the other!

parla wrote:

Shostakovich's 14th is proposed as an exemplified effort to tie established poetry with great music, without mysticism or second/hidden thoughts. It's all about death! However, I cannot open any discussion, unless there is an indication of interest from other members. You may try to listen to this Symphony...perhaps.

Parla

Parla, what nonsense is this!  Two of us have already expressed an interest. What more indication of interest do you need?  It's your call now. We're waiting!!

Chris

Chris A.Gnostic

RE: Words and Music: one art redeemed by the other!

I know what I'm writing, Chris. Of course, I'm aware that you know the Symphony no 14 by Shostakovich, but, apparently, Camaron doesn't. Besides, I wish to see whether anybody else might come up, so that it won't be a discussion of the three of us.

In the meantime, Camaron may spotify or youtube it, to have a first idea of what we are about to discuss.

Parla

 

RE: Words and Music: one art redeemed by the other!

You are stretching me here Chris! This is more of a puzzle I expected it to be. In moments like this I wish I could actually read music.

 

To start with and to add to the mystery, both arias, from the Ascension Oratory and the Agnus Day, are actually parodies of a lost and preceding wedding (!) cantata. You read it well: WEDDING.

 

Now, between these two arias there are more differences than first impressions suggest. The Ascension Aria seems to have an ABA structure, B not being present in the Agnus Day. There are other differences too, but to me this one is key: the first verse of the the cantata aria is sung on the ritornello melody, whereas the words Agnus Day use a different melody. It is not until you hear qui tollis peccata mundi that the ritornello mellody is used by the voice.

 

Since Bach splits the Agnus into two parts, leaving dona nobis pacem for the epic last chorus the whole aria has to deal with only two verses:

 

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi

miserere nobis

 

… against the six of the cantata aria:


Ah, stay with me, my dearest life thou,

Ah, flee thou not so soon from me!    

    Thy parting and thine early leaving

    Bring me the most egregious suff'ring,

    Ah yes, then stay yet here awhile;

    Else shall I be with pain surrounded

 

In the Agnus the word peccata (sins) is really prominent, being repeated extensively, and the whole word-painting seems to center around it. Interestingly, the “equivalent” word in the cantata aria as for the position in the first verse would be liebstes (dearest) and before moving onto this aria I wondered if Bach would use the same word-painting round this word: he doesn’t.  All in all I find this wonderful Agnus of a very contemplative nature (which is very fitting, I think), and the lack of proper parts reinforce this.

 

I’ve listened to several version for the Agnus, and the big singers of the past all seem to stress the poignancy of the aria. But Suzuki's version is very different and I find it very successful: the music seems like suspended in space, emphasizing the contemplative nature of the music as opposed to a more worldly sadness.

 

So I feel this poignancy, or worldly sadness is somehow stronger in the cantata, but could not say whether it comes down to just the words or all the changes Bach has placed here or there.

 

What’s your take on this Chris, probably you can see more things there (with a score) and might need to correct some inaccuracies in all the above!

 But after so much analysis the music remains: and what music!

RE: Words and Music: one art redeemed by the other!

Never too late. Here I've found a long and very interesting comparison of both arias:

http://www.jsbachcantatas.com/documents/chapter-50-bwv-11.htm

The whole website is -by the way- fantastic.

 

 

 

RE: Words and Music: one art redeemed by the other!

I think the very true statement on the link you provided, camaron, is this "on occasion, and driven by pressures of time, he (Bach) might not have always met his own standards. The miracle is that he so often did". So, nobody and nothing is perfect.

The other observation that comes to the fore is that composers like Bach, driven by pressures of time and necessary "commissions" to make a living, were often quite effective in recycling their own material.

Finally, I cannot agree more with the last sentence of your penultimate post, camaron: "The music remains"...The point where we can all meet...

Parla

RE: Words and Music: one art redeemed by the other!

Two points, tjh, on your last post in this thread:

- I referred to "Christians and others" (not only Christians).

- The fragile, vulnerable, precarious world of Opera cannot be a safe and reliable source to describe the practising believers of any religion, particularly nowadays.

Parla

RE: Words and Music: one art redeemed by the other!

I just had a first peek to this misterious (to me) Shostakovich's 14th. Ah, but what a surprise: it sets two poems by Lorca.... in russian.

It seems there is some version with the original poems, I'll see if I find those.

RE: Words and Music: one art redeemed by the other!

Good morning Camaron, and of course anyone else who is following this!

You've been doing your research very thoroughly. I think your summary of the differences between the two versions of the (eventual) Agnus Dei is spot on!  The final version gains because (as the notes from Bach cantata com you found say) the later version is pared down to the minimum, much more austere. Also the much shorter text enables Bach to expand the words peccata and miserere to very powerful effect. As you say, the B section of the original aria (ABA') is removed in the Mass.

I listened to the Suzuki and several others last night. It seems to me that the biggest difference is between the contraltos and the counter-tenors. Less vibrato, less poignant, but moving in a stiller, calmer way. An interesting feature of Suzuki's recording (shared also by Herrewege) is the way he treats the bass line (the opening and elsewhere). Bach writes a series of semiquavers separated by quaver rests. These two emphasise the gaps more strongly than others: perhaps this is what Bach meant: quite effective. Others tend to play them as accented crotchets, with less emphasis on the spaces in between. Hope this makes sense!

The WEDDING cantata presumed original is extraordinary isn't it!  Durr is positive about this.  In Bach.cantatas.com the authors says 'likely' parody. On that site I managed to find the text of that cantata:

Entfernet euch, ihr kalten Hertzen, 

Entfernet euch, ich bin euch feind. 

Wer nicht der Liebe Platz will geben, 

Der flieht sein Glück, der haßt das Leben 

Und ist der ärgesten Thorheit Freund; 

Ihr wehlt euch selber nichts als Schmertzen;


Remove yourselves, ye frigid spirits, 


Remove yourselves, I am your foe. 


He who for love no room would offer 


Doth shun good luck, doth hate life's nature,


And is to arrant folly friend;


Ye choose yourselves no course but sorrow; 


Remove yourselves, etc.

Curious! Without the rest of the music it's difficult to see how this fits into a Wedding cantata. The whole text can be found at:

http://www.uvm.edu/~classics/faculty/bach/I.html

I'm not a very good score reader, but I've got used to Bach's idiom over the years and can read scores of his music reasonably well.  I used to sing in a Bach Society choir once, and I still remember the conductor telling us (during a rather rapid section): stop looking at the individual notes, there isn't time: you have to read in patterns. It was a great help, eventually!

OK, now I have to look into this Sunday's cantatas!

Chris

Chris A.Gnostic

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