Purchase this recording on Amazon (the album also includes last week’s cantata 105, and two more cantatas from the 1723 Trinity season).
Listen to this Herreweghe recording from 2012 on Spotify.
Or, listen to this same recording on YouTube, via playlist I created (if this shows up as a visual on your screen, and clicking on the main “play button” results in a “this video cannot be played” message, click on the icon on the top left where it says 1/6, and it should work):
I especially enjoy this cantata because of the beautiful opening chorus, the dramatic bass aria (with corno da tirarsi!) and the alto aria.
You’ll recognize the first part of the opening chorus. Bach must have liked this enough to re-use it later as the Qui Tollis in his Mass in B minor. The illustration of the “Schmerz” with two recorders and two oboi da caccia in the orchestra is beautiful.
Last week, with cantata 105, Bach started using features that preluded his passions. In the alto aria in this cantata 46, there is again a reference to the St. Matthew Passion. The pastoral character of the music, as well as the text reference to Küchlein (chicks) make me think of the Sehet Jesus hat die Hand alto aria. I am a huge fan of counter-tenor Damien Guillon. In 2011, I heard him sing for the first time in a live performance of the St. Matthew Passion by Herreweghe in Europe, and have been collecting his recordings since then. He appears on recordings with his own ensemble Le Banquet Celeste, cantata recordings by Herreweghe from 2011 and later, and on several recordings of Marcel Ponseele’s ensemble Il Gardellino. Watch an interview with him (with English subtitles) on YouTube:
My apologies for the delay in posting this – the cantata for Trinity 9 (July 25, 1723 / July 24, 2016) is cantata 105 Herr, gehe nicht ins Gericht.
In the previous episode of this special 1723 Leipzig Trinity series we saw how Trinity 8 marked the start of the shorter cantata, containing only around 6 movements instead of 10 to 14 movements. However, that weeks’ cantata was probably still based on earlier compositions. This means that cantata 105 Herr, gehe nicht ins Gericht could be considered the start of the true Leipzig cantata.
Two striking “Leipzig only” features make an appearance in this cantata: clear references to Bach’s future Passions (see below), and the “corno da tirarsi” (slide horn).
Only three cantatas (Trinity 10’s cantata 46, as well as 162 and 67) show the full name corno da tirarsi written in the manuscript, but there are 27 cantatas from Leipzig requiring a corno in which that part is not playable on a natural horn, so must have been written for this corno da tirarsi as well. Cantata 105 is included in that group. Bach is the only composer who ever mentioned this instrument in writing, and most probably his principal brass player Gottfried Reiche was the only one who ever played it. After Reiche’s death in 1734 Bach did not write for this instrument anymore, and for repeat performances of any cantatas containing a corno da tirarsi part, Bach rewrote it for other instruments. Read more about this inOlivier Picon’s article on the “corno da tirarsi” from 2010.
Herreweghe has recorded this cantata105 Herr, gehe nicht ins Gericht twice: first in 1992 (with soloists Barbara Schlick, Gerard Lesne, Howard Crook, and Peter Kooij), and again in 2012 (with soloists Hana Blazikova, Damien Guillon, Thomas Hobbs, and again Peter Kooij).
Though that first recording from 1992 is excellent, and the soprano aria on that recording has more character to my taste, I recommend the 2012 recording for the following reasons:
At the time of the 1992 recording, no corno da tirarsi was available, which means that on that recording the tenor aria on that recording has an oboe accompaniment. The recording from 2012 does feature a corno da tirarsi in this aria.
The “Herr, Herr” exclamations are more prominent in the opening chorus of the 2012 recording, and the tempo of the opening chorus is also a bit faster, which I like.
The album, which includes three other cantatas, focuses on 1723 Trinity cantatas only, which of course is extra special for this blog’s special 1723 Trinity series.
Listen to this 2012 recording by Herreweghe on Spotify.
Listen to this 2012 recording on YouTube, by way of a playlist I created:
Support the artists and purchase this recording on Amazon (it’s always worth it, but this time you’ll get three more cantatas in that same album that will be discussed on this blog in the coming weeks!)
Read the German text with English translations here, and find the score here.
Listen for the “Herr, Herr” exclamations in the opening chorus. They will appear in the opening chorus of the St. John Passion in early 1724. The exquisite soprano aria has no bass instrument in the continuo. Bach will later use that feature more often in other Leipzig cantatas, to either show purity or uncertainty, and it is a strong feature of the Aus Liebe aria from the St. Matthew Passion. And last but not least: when I listen to the bass arioso from this cantata 105, I am strongly reminded of the bass arioso Am Abend da es kühle war from the St. Matthew Passion. The music is not 100% the same, but very similar, and there are also references in the text.
Other stunning features of this cantata 105: the strings accompanying the soprano aria illustrate the “shivering” and “quavering” in the text, and those same “uncertain” strings turn up again in the orchestra part of the closing chorale.
Excerpt from the title page of the manuscript, Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, Preußischer Kulturbesitz
Previously on Weekly Cantata: Beginning on May 30, 1723 (the first Sunday after Trinity) Bach presented a long cantata of 10 to 14 movements each to the Leipzig congregations every Sunday, including cantatas for the special occasions of St. John (Johannis) on June 24 and the Visitation of Mary (Mariä Heimsuchung) on July 2.
However, only a few of these were newly written in Leipzig. The first two cantatas (75 for Trinity 1 and 76 for Trinity 2) were new, but he had probably already prepared them in Köthen, before moving to Leipzig.* For several weeks after that, he wrote almost no new works, but “recycled” creations from his Weimar period, adding recitatives and sometimes changing aria texts to make them better suited for the specific Gospel readings in Leipzig, and adding chorales to make them longer. The only two new works he wrote in Leipzig in those first months were the “additional” cantata 24 for Trinity 4 and the modest cantata 167 for St. John.
With the exception of cantata 167, all cantatas in the first seven weeks after Trinity were 10 to 14 movements long, divided over two parts, one before the sermon, one after.
What changed for this 8th Sunday after Trinity in 1723 (July 18, 1723) was not yet the recycling of older works—scholars think that this cantata 136 Erforsche mich, Gott, und erfahre mein Herz most probably was an assembly of several different unknown compositions from Köthen.** However, at this point the length of the cantatas changes: starting with this one for Trinity 8, cantatas will generally be around six movements long. We don’t know the reason for this: an order or request from the Leipzig Council, Bach’s own decision that it would be too much work to write such a long work every week, or Bach’s experience that the notable members of the congregation would not actually arrive in the church until right before the sermon?
For this cantata 136 Erforsche mich, Gott, und erfahre mein Herz, I prefer the recording by Bach Collegium Japan, because of their interpretation of the opening chorus, alto aria (with one of my favorite countertenors, Kai Wessel), bass recitative (excellent job by Peter Kooij), and tenor/bass duet (the voices of Makoto Sukurada and Peter Kooij are a wonderful match here). Listen to this recording on Spotify.
Read the German text with English translation of this cantata here. Find the score here.
About ten years later, Bach reworked the glorious music of the opening chorus of this cantata into the In Gloria Dei Patris, Amen of his short Mass in A Major (BWV 234). This entire opening chorus is terrific, already from the very beginning: before the fugue even starts, its theme already sounds in the horn part, and then in the soprano part.
The alto aria elaborates on the Doomsday which was already announced three times in the tenor recitative. To make the vocal part of this aria sound a bit more threatening, Bach composed a new, fast middle part for the Leipzig performance. I enjoy listening to Kai Wessel’s voice, which is deep and clear at the same time, and this aria truly showcases his talent and skills.
At first, the closing chorale seems like a normal, “simple” setting, the way it will be in most cantatas after this, but when you pay a bit more attention, you’ll hear that the first violins play a beautiful ornamental part which floats over the vocal lines.
Wieneke Gorter, July 16, 2016.
*The paper of the manuscripts has been declared “non-Leipzig” paper by the researchers, and the compositions have many similarities and cross-references. Read more about this in the posts about cantata 75 and cantata 76.
**The manuscript is written very neatly, as if existing work was being copied, the opening chorus doesn’t really match the rest of the work in style or key, and the tenor-bass duet is very similar in style to the secular cantatas Bach wrote for the Köthen court.
The Miracle of the Five Loaves and Two Fishes, unknown artist, St. Apollinare Nuovo, Ravenna
On the 7th Sunday after Trinity, July 11 in 1723, Bach again (just like last week for Mariä Heimsuchung) reworked a short Advent cantata from Weimar into a two-part cantata for Leipzig, adding recitatives and a closing chorale at the end of each half. but this time he also changed the texts of the arias a bit, to better match the Gospel for this Sunday: Jesus feeding the four thousand with just five loaves of bread and two fishes (Mark 8: 1-9).
What is interesting to me is that the version from Weimar, for the third Sunday of Advent, was based on a Gospel text about John the Baptist (believed to be the person paving the way for Jesus), and that, now in Leipzig, Bach had just finished two cantatas related to John the Baptist and his mother (see my previous posts).
So I would like to think that, instead of possibly needing to use the Weimar cantata because of being overwhelmed with all the work in his first months in Leipzig, perhaps Bach thought it entirely appropriate to perform this particular cantata at this time, directly after the two weeks of holidays related to St. John.
I recommend the recording of this cantata 186 Ärgre dich, o Seele, nicht by Bach Collegium Japan, with soprano Miah Persson, countertenor Robin Blaze, tenor Makoto Sakurada, bass Peter Kooij, and the noteworthy continuo of Hidemi Suzuki (Baroque cello) and Naoko Imai (organ). Listen to this recording on Spotify.
Read the German text with English translations here.
The opening chorus, unchanged from the Weimar version, plays on the text from the Matthew Gospel about John the Baptist. While John is in prison, he wonders if Jesus is really the Messiah, since he has not displayed any godly or royal character (hence no trumpet in this cantata!), and if it had been worth it to work on his behalf. Jesus then sends some of his disciples to deliver the message “Don’t you be annoyed with me.”
Just as in cantata 147, the arias are absolutely beautiful, and again I can see that the Duke of Weimar didn’t want to let Bach go to Köthen in 1716. The tenor aria is very charming, the bass aria very cool with the organ accompaniment, and the soprano aria is amazing: a very virtuoso voice part with a string accompaniment that loops back to the chromatic lines from the opening chorus.
On July 2, eight days after Johannis(St. John, the birthday of John the Baptist), the churches in Leipzig celebrated Mariä Heimsuchung (or Visitation of Mary, celebrating the story of a newly pregnant Mary going “back home” to visit her relative Elizabeth, who was six months further along, carrying John the Baptist). It is one of the few Marian feast days the Lutheran Church kept on their calendar, and which is still celebrated on July 2.*
For this holiday in 1723, Bach reworked a short Advent cantata from Weimar into a longer, two-part cantata, with a chorale at the end of each half. This cantata 147, Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben is a truly beautiful and memorable cantata, and for many more reasons than just the famous closing chorale Jesus bleibet meine Freude. What actually stands out the most for me is the incredible trumpet part in the opening chorus and the bass aria, and the beautiful violin accompaniment of the gorgeous soprano aria. All these movements are from the original Weimar composition, which contained only the arias, the opening chorus, and a different closing chorale (we don’t know which one). For the Leipzig performance, Bach changed the order of the arias, added recitatives to reflect the Gospel reading of the story of the visitation and Mary’s praise to God (the Magnificat), and added a new closing chorale at the end of each half of the cantata.
I recommend the recording by Bach Collegium Japan of this cantata 147 Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben, with wonderful singing by soprano Yukari Nohoshita, countertenor Robin Blaze, tenor Gerd Türk, an excellent performance by bass Peter Kooy, and fabulous playing by Toshio Shimada (trumpet) and Ryo Terakado (violin). Listen to this recording on Spotify.
Support the artists and purchase this CD on Amazon.
If you don’t have access to Spotify, or would love to watch a live performance, I recommend the YouTube video by the J.S. Bach Foundation (Bach Stiftung), with with Hana Blažiková, soprano; Margot Oitzinger, alto; Jakob Pilgram, tenor; and Wolf Matthias Friedrich, bass.
Follow the German text with English translations here.
Continuing on the path of the wild hypothesis I made last week, that many of Bach’s colleagues and students would be in town for these two weeks of holidays, let’s now imagine that many of these visitors were playing in the orchestra for this week’s cantata, thus creating a situation where all orchestra seats were filled, and the musically gifted among the choir boys could actually sing in the choir. Of course I don’t know if this is what happened, and if Bach maybe even planned it this way, but I hope you’ll allow me this indulgence. (We do know from later letters that choir members often had to fill the many vacancies in the orchestra).
Several scholars have suggested that Bach recycled/reworked so many of his Weimar cantatas in the first months in Leipzig because he was overwhelmed. But what if he just really wanted to show off these Weimar cantatas to the Leipzig congregation? Especially the ones originally written for Advent, since he knew he would not be able to perform those in Leipzig at all. (No figural music was allowed during Advent in Leipzig). What if he hadn’t found a librettist yet in Leipzig who matched the talent of Weimar court poet Salomo Franck? What if he wanted to show off the talent and skills of his first trumpet player in Leipzig, the famous Gottfried Reiche, to all the visitors who were in town for this holiday? When we see cantata movements returning in the form of movements of his Lutheran Masses, his Mass in B minor, and repeat performances in Leipzig, we say “he must have been proud of that piece.” Well, when I hear the opening chorus and the arias of Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben, I can understand why the Duke in Weimar didn’t want to let Bach go. Those movements already composed in Weimar are exciting and deeply moving at the same time. Definitely something to be proud of.
We don’t know who the librettist of the new recitatives was, but he or she did a good Lutheran job of teaching the congregation that even though they were celebrating a Marian feast day, they should really not praise her too much, but praise Jesus instead. Bach did an even better job setting these recitatives to music. Listen to all the word painting in the bass recitative, and the musical illustration of the text Er wird bewegt, er hüpft und springet(he is moved, he leaps and jumps) in the alto recitative, describing how John moved in Elizabeth’s womb upon hearing Mary talk of Jesus. The other remarkable thing about this alto recitative is that it has an accompaniment by two oboi da caccia, as Bach would later use in his St. Matthew Passion.
Wieneke Gorter, July 2, 2016.
*In 1969, the Catholic Church moved this day to May 31, after they realized that it is strange to celebrate a mother (Elizabeth) being pregnant after celebrating the birth of her son (John the Baptist), but the Lutheran Church has kept the feast day on July 2.