Another St. John Passion to watch today! Available until April 13, 2020: Collegium Vocale Gent’s / Herreweghe’s dress rehearsal of the St. John Passion from Bruges, March 13.
After this rehearsal, their entire St. John tour as well as St. Matthew tour was canceled. For Baroque musicians in Europe, this time of year, with the Bach passions, is when they earn most of their money. The link to the video also includes info on how to donate to Collegium Vocale Gent, who will make sure the money is divided equally over the musicians who are otherwise not getting paid for this long period.
Julian Prégardien, tenor-evangelist Krezimir Strazanac, bass-Christ Dorothee Mields, soprano Alex Potter, countertenor Reinoud Van Mechelen, tenor Peter Kooij, bass
Romina Lischka, viola da gamba
Find the German texts with English translations here, and the score, in two parts: part 1 here, and part 2 here.
Again, I urge you to support all musicians suffering enormous loss of income during this difficult time. Donate at least the money you would otherwise have spent on tickets to their performances, but if you can, give more. Take care of each other, please take social distancing seriously, keep going for walks if allowed, check in on your elderly neighbors, and wash. your. hands.
Wieneke Gorter, March 15, 2020, updated March 21, 2020.
The Rote Schloss (Red Palace) of Duke Ernst August in Weimar, where Bach and Telemann probably first met, while Telemann was working in Eisenach and Bach was working in Weimar
This is a double post: for today, and also for last Sunday. But before I discuss Cantata 99 Was Gott tut das ist wohlgetan (Trinity 15, Sept 17, 1724) and Cantata 8 Liebster Gott, wenn wird ich sterben (Trinity 16, Sept 24, 1724), I would like to introduce you to a Telemann cantata: Du Daniel gehe hin.
Telemann’s beautiful cantata is not widely known today, but must have been rather famous among Telemann’s colleagues in the first half of the 18th century. The Kantor of the St. Nicholas Church in Berlin performed it in 1757, and I just realized this week that it must have been on Bach’s mind in 1724. While Bach and Telemann worked in the same region only from about 1708 to 1712, they were good friends, and it is generally assumed that they would have seen each other in Hamburg and Köthen a few times in the early 1720s.
I don’t know whether Bach’s “Ruht wohl, ihr heiligen Gebeine” closing chorus of the St. John Passion had anything to do with Telemann’s “Schlaft wohl, ihr seligen Gebeine” closing chorus in Du Daniel gehe hin, but it does look to me as if Bach borrowed the music of the soprano aria from Du Daniel gehe hin for the duet of Cantata 99. If that is indeed what happened, then it seems very likely that, one week later, Bach was inspired by Telemann’s use of pizzicato strings as “funeral bells” in Du Daniel gehe hin when writing the opening chorus and tenor aria of Cantata 8.
For Cantata 99 Was Gott tut das ist wohlgetan I prefer the live video registration by the Netherlands Bach Society. Watch this recording on YouTube. Soloists are Gerlinde Sämann, soprano; Damien Guillon, alto; Charles Daniels, tenor; Peter Kooij, bass.
Find the text and translation of Cantata 99 here, and the score here.
For Cantata 8 Liebster Gott, wenn wird ich sterben there is no other choice than Herreweghe. Soloists are Deborah York, soprano; Ingeborg Danz, alto; Mark Padmore, tenor; Peter Kooij, bass. This is definitely in my top five cantata recordings ever because of the combination of Bach’s music and Herreweghe’s interpretation. Listen to the incredibly beautiful oboe playing at the start of the tenor aria, and the horn in the opening and closing chorus. Peter Kooij does a fabulous job in the bass aria, which is so difficult it is on par with bass arias from the Christmas Oratorio and the end of the Trinity season of 1723. I wonder if Bach had an exceptional bass visiting for Michaelmas that year (Sept 29, for which he wrote this dramatic bass aria about the Archangel Michael slaying the dragon*).
Find the text and translation of Cantata 8 here, and the score here.
A striking element in both Cantatas 99 and 8 is Bach’s use of the flute. In cantata 99 Bach uses the instrument in two solo movements, the tenor aria as well as the soprano-alto duet. There could be a simple reason for this unusual choice: showing off his flute player (read more about him in this post). However, it is more likely that Bach wanted to point out the references to the cross in the text of both these movements, and what better instrument to bring out those harrowing chromatic lines than the flute? Using the flute to reinforce the image of the cross makes even more sense when you see what Bach does in the opening chorus of cantata 8. If you believe that his use of staccato flutes in the “Crucifixus” of the Mass in B Minor serves as image of hammering nails into the cross, then it is pretty clear what Bach’s hidden message is here.
Wieneke Gorter, October 1, 2017, links updated September 19, 2020.
*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. Read more about musicians visiting for this feast in my post about cantata 148, written for this same Sunday in 1723 or 1725.
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 (it is possible that this only works for readers in the USA):
Support the artists and purchase this recording on Amazon or on iTunes. (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.
Wieneke Gorter, July 30, 2016, links updated August 8, 2020.