Tags

, , , , , , , , , ,

sleeping_girl

Sleeping girl in a landscape, after Bernhard Keil, 17th century. Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Kassel, Germany.

In the first version of this post, I argued that cantata 148 Bringet dem Herrn Ehre seines Namens for the 17th Sunday after Trinity was written in 1723, dismissing the statements of several scholars it was probably written in 1725. I agreed with them that this cantata is a bit “out of place” between the somber but extremely beautiful and compelling cantatas of Trinity 16 and Trinity 19, and that the text looks very similar to a poem by Picander, the librettist with whom Bach did not collaborate before 1725. However, I was not convinced by their third argument that  Bach’s writing in the  opening chorus would be too “new” for 1723, and at first I didn’t see how Bach could have practically written the cantata in 1725.

I suggested that Bach was too busy in 1725, coming back from a trip to Dresden right before this cantata had to be performed on September 23 of that year. But when I discussed this idea with Eduard van Hengel, he reminded me that Bach would have had plenty of time to compose a cantata well ahead of his trip to Dresden, since–as far as we know–he had not written a new cantata since August 26. So that was argument number 4 for placing this cantata in 1725 instead of 1723.

Argument number 5 presented itself to me while I did my research for cantata 83, reading Pieter Dirksen’s article on Bach’s writing for violin in his first Leipzig cycle of cantatas. Dirksen points out that Bach’s new compositions from 1723 don’t feature virtuoso parts for violin at all. He suggests the reason for this is that Bach’s orchestra in Leipzig (including Bach himself*) was missing a violinist who could play technically challenging music.

After reading Dirksen’s article on Bach’s connection with the Dresden violinist Pisendel, and knowing that soon after Trinity 17 it would be Michaelmas, I got excited: the cantata 148 story was coming full circle! So now I no longer see Bach juggling ink and parchment on the coach back from Dresden to Leipzig on Saturday September 22, 1725, but instead I see a friend in that coach with him: Pisendel. If it is true that Pisendel visited Leipzig for the Purification of Mary holiday in 1724, as Dirksen suggests, it is not far-fetched to assume he would do so again for the feast of Michaelmas in 1725 (on September 29, so only six days after Trinity 17 in 1725). St. Michael’s Fair was a huge event in Leipzig, drawing visitors from as far as England and Poland, increasing the city’s population to 30,000, and thus also increasing the “audiences” for Bach’s music in the churches.

For this cantata, I prefer the recording by Bach Collegium Japan, with soloists Robin Blaze (countertenor), Gerd Türk (tenor), Toshio Shimada (trumpet), and Natsumi Wakamatsu (violin). Listen to this recording on Spotify or support the artists and purchase the album on Amazon.com, Amazon.de, or Amazon.fr. Find the score here.

The text of cantata 148 Bringet dem Herrn Ehre seines Namens talks about the importance of coming to church on Sunday, and listening to the music in the church (tenor recitative and aria), but it also talks about taking a day of rest (alto aria).

While the opening chorus is exceptional,  it doesn’t sound very polished or “finished.” Gardiner, while otherwise excited about it, is not satisfied with the ending, and suggests that “perhaps Anna Magdalena called from the kitchen that dinner was on the table and the soup was getting cold.” What can I say? Only a male writer would say this!

The virtuoso violin part shows up in the tenor aria. On this recording of Bach Collegium Japan, played by Natsumi Wakamatsu, it moves me to tears. Whoever played this in 1725, this person was not resting on Sunday …

Wieneke Gorter, originally written September 18, 2016; revised February 4, 2017.

*In his article Dirksen explains in details how Bach went through the trouble of making the violin solo of cantata 76  relatively easy to play for an intermediate violinist, and suggests Bach was a good violinist, but perhaps not such a virtuoso as many believe him to be. (Dirksen’s article appears on pages 135-156 of “Bachs 1. Leipziger Kantantenjahrgang: Bericht über das 3. Dortmunder Bach-Symposion 2000” — Dortmund: Klangfarben Musikverlag, 2002)