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Thread: David's Bach Cantatas journey ...

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    Admiral of Fugues Contratrombone64's Avatar
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    David's Bach Cantatas journey ...

    Well, this morning I've been listening to Cantata BWV 27, so sorrowful and painfully poignant. There is the most delicious organ obligate with Oboe da Caccia, Alto voice and Cello. Just so delightful, a very dark work.

    The movement "Gute nacht du wetlgetumel" is stormy and highly chromatic, devine.

    The final choral divides the sopranos into two groups and they sing in opposition to the rest of the choir, this includes the most weird change of tempo and metre at the final sectoin of the close. The most unchorale like chorale I've heard thus far...totally weird, Bach must have been mad!

    I've also been following alone with full scores in PDF from cdsheetmusic.com, however, these are freely available from places like IMSLP.
    Last edited by Contratrombone64; Apr-18-2010 at 01:01.
    I'm not an atheist and I don't think I can call myself a pantheist. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many different languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn't know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God.
    —Albert Einstein.

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    Admiral of Fugues Contratrombone64's Avatar
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    Cantata 28, opens with a rather jaunty, though slightly determined aria for Soprano with an orchestra of strings, 2 obos and "taille" (cor anglais before the term was used). Lovely, the second movement is a choral like setting for SATB but in the most wonderful double-fugue the middle sectoin of which contains some very odd upward chromatic steps, must look at the words and find out what picture the great master is painting. Bach never ceases to amaze me.
    I'm not an atheist and I don't think I can call myself a pantheist. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many different languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn't know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God.
    —Albert Einstein.

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    Admiral of Fugues Contratrombone64's Avatar
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    Now I come to Cantata 29 (no surprises here as it's an organists nightmare or dream, depending on which way you look at it). The opening movement, marked Presto, is scored for 3 trumpets, 2 oboes, Obligato organ and the usual strings. Here Bach stole the first movement from one of his Solo Violin sonatas and transposed it from E major down to D major (obviously making it SLIGHTLY more comfortable to play on the organ). Such an incredible opening!

    The second movement is also knicked, from the B minor mass I think, and basically remains unchanged. The third movemnet is scored for solo violin, but on my recording the organ obligato (as if he wasn't tortured enought in the opening) takes the solo and accompainies a rather dreary solo for tenor.

    The fifth movement is a rather poignant but lilting 6/8 for solo soprano that is painfully delicious.
    Last edited by Contratrombone64; Apr-18-2010 at 01:29.
    I'm not an atheist and I don't think I can call myself a pantheist. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many different languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn't know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God.
    —Albert Einstein.

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    Admiral Honkenwheezenpooferspieler Corno Dolce's Avatar
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    Hi David,

    Thanx for your wishing to share your *Cantata Journey* with the Forum. An interesting thought, for me at least, which just passed through my mind is to envision them to be choreographed, staged, and performed as an operetta. I know that JSBach's Passions have been choreographed and staged and performed in Sweden although it escapes my mind at the moment as to when and where it was performed.

    Cheers,

    CD
    *If a man wants God to hear his prayer quickly, then before he prays for anything else, even his own soul, when he stands and stretches out his hands towards God, he must pray with all his heart for his enemies. Through this action God will hear everything that he asks* -Abba Zeno-

    *Protagoras: "Truth is subjective. What is true for you, and what is true for me, is true for me. Your opinion is true by virtue of its being your opinion."

    *Socrates: "My opinion is: Truth is absolute, not opinion, and that you are in absolute error. Since this is my opinion, then according to your philosophy you must grant that it is true."

    "Improvisational Art": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qSxVO3EoCRM

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    Commander, Assistant Conductor Marc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Contratrombone64 View Post
    Now I come to Cantata 29 [....]The second movement is also knicked, from the B minor mass I think, and basically remains unchanged. [....]
    It's probably the other way around. Common opinion is that Bach reused this chorus in this Hohe Messe BWV 232; in the "Gratias agimus tibi" and "Dona nobis pacem" sections. But I deliberately wrote probably, because it's still not puzzled out definitely .... if it ever will. Maybe he composed them both almost at the same time, because the Mass might have been a lifelong composing experience.

    Question (just curious): to what performances are you listening? Leonhardt/Harnoncourt?

  6. #6
    Admiral of Fugues Contratrombone64's Avatar
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    No, can't afford them, I listen own a cheap set of the "complete recorded Bach" by a label called Brilliant (Brilant?).

    The cantatas designed for Sunday services (as opposed to the secular ones) are all played by a small dutch period instrument ensemble and 4 per voice choir (also Dutch). They make a remarkably good job of them though I don't like their main alto soloist, his voice annoys me.
    I'm not an atheist and I don't think I can call myself a pantheist. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many different languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn't know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God.
    —Albert Einstein.

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    Commander, Assistant Conductor Marc's Avatar
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    Ah, the Leusink set.
    200 cantatas recorded in a year .... which, alas, can be heard.

    IMHO, Leusink's own vision of the works are OK, though mainly middle of the road. The altus is Sytze Buwalda, and although I understand your problems with his voice, I think he's one of the most consistent singers of the lot, together with tenor Marcel Beekman and bass Bas Ramselaar. At least they seem to understand what they're singing, unlike f.i. soprano Ruth Holton, who obviously did not have time enough for thorough preparation. She seems to have problems with her German and her understanding of that language. Her voice is pleasant though, no doubt about that. But Holton did a better job when singing for Gardiner, probably because of longer and better preparation (f.i. in Gardiner's DG/Archiv issue of BWV 140/147).
    Tenor Nico van der Meel is disappointing (compared to what I've heard him doing at live concerts that I attended), and tenor Knut Schoch is, IMHO, mostly awful. He apparantly thinks that expressive baroque singing means shouting. Unfortunately the choir seems to adapt this way of singing in the forte-plus passages, especially the boy sopranos and tenors.

    So, as you might have guessed, this is not my fave set , but it's definitely a nicely priced one to get to know these works better.

    Overall, Philippe Herreweghe is my favourite Bach vocal interpreter, but he's only recording a selection of the cantatas. Nevertheless, there are some real gems in his Bach discography, f.i. his first recording of the Matthäus-Passion.
    My fave cantata disc of his ensemble is the one with BWV 8, 125 and 138.
    http://www.amazon.com/Bach-Mit-Fried.../dp/B00000DG07

    And this one is also a very good 2 cd set, though already re-released in several different issues during the years, and also sometimes OOP for a while:
    http://www.arkivmusic.com/classical/...album_id=59832

    Apart from all this blabbering, I really hope (and expect ) you'll have a fine time with your cantata journey.

  8. #8
    Admiral of Fugues Contratrombone64's Avatar
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    Marc, I'd not be so cruel as to say the performances are middle of the road. They are, for me at least, gutsy enough and rough enough to be quite authentic. The Gardiner ones annoy me because they are just too perfect.

    Bach's musicians were, undoutedly, excellent performers on thier instruments (otherwise his writting would have been less demanding). However, they were peasants and serving class people mostly, certainly not of the aristocracy. No matter how much the limp-wristed "authentic instrument" champions try to make "authentic" attempts at re-creating music from the era, the fact is no one actually knows.

    I've read a lovely biography about Bach (author escapes me but I'll endeavour to look it up in my library) and there are plenty of letters from the great master where he begs the authorities that standards be lifted (at St Thomas' for example).

    This would lead me to belive that, unless he was performing, his music was probably just played in a manner that would be "bloody awful".

    My two-cents worth
    I'm not an atheist and I don't think I can call myself a pantheist. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many different languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn't know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God.
    —Albert Einstein.

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    Admiral Honkenwheezenpooferspieler Corno Dolce's Avatar
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    WOW - CT64,

    You stole my thunder in re to Gardiner's reads of the Cantatas - They are too perfect. They are way too perfect, as if one is in a surgical ward. I could not have said it better myself.

    Seriously, Gardiner's perfection seems to suck the soul, spirit, heart, mind, and lifeblood out of Bach's creations.

    Cheers,

    CD
    *If a man wants God to hear his prayer quickly, then before he prays for anything else, even his own soul, when he stands and stretches out his hands towards God, he must pray with all his heart for his enemies. Through this action God will hear everything that he asks* -Abba Zeno-

    *Protagoras: "Truth is subjective. What is true for you, and what is true for me, is true for me. Your opinion is true by virtue of its being your opinion."

    *Socrates: "My opinion is: Truth is absolute, not opinion, and that you are in absolute error. Since this is my opinion, then according to your philosophy you must grant that it is true."

    "Improvisational Art": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qSxVO3EoCRM

  10. #10
    Commander, Assistant Conductor Marc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Contratrombone64 View Post
    Marc, I'd not be so cruel as to say the performances are middle of the road. They are, for me at least, gutsy enough and rough enough to be quite authentic. The Gardiner ones annoy me because they are just too perfect.

    Bach's musicians were, undoutedly, excellent performers on thier instruments (otherwise his writting would have been less demanding). However, they were peasants and serving class people mostly, certainly not of the aristocracy. No matter how much the limp-wristed "authentic instrument" champions try to make "authentic" attempts at re-creating music from the era, the fact is no one actually knows.

    I've read a lovely biography about Bach (author escapes me but I'll endeavour to look it up in my library) and there are plenty of letters from the great master where he begs the authorities that standards be lifted (at St Thomas' for example).

    This would lead me to belive that, unless he was performing, his music was probably just played in a manner that would be "bloody awful".

    My two-cents worth
    Yeah, I'm a cruel man.



    That's why I need and (ab)use Bach's music as a remedy.

    You're right, we know that Bach wasn't happy with the level of performing of his own works. Maybe it's because of that, that I see no reason to be satisfied with middle of the road performances, too. (This being very presumptuous , yet only a personal opinion of course.)

    And I would like to add: if some 'authenticity' movement is going to claim play your Bach bloody awful, because that's the way it was played in Bach's own time then I'm definitely against such a movement.

    Don't get me wrong though: I think the level of playing in Leusink's set is quite good, especially the instrumental parts. But the overall interpretation is superficial, IMHO. Leusink is not entirely to blame for that: he did not get the time, because the entire project started in the autumn of 1999 and had to be finished some time before the end of the Bach-year 2000. The Brilliant Edition had to be 'ready for the press' by then.

    John Eliot Gardiner has been mentioned, and he's not my fave Bach interpreter, either. But that has got not much to do with the fact that his musicians play too perfect. The musicians of Musica Antiqua Köln (for instance) played perfect, too. Yet there is a great difference in soul and spirit between those two ensembles, both with musicians who aren't all part of 'authentic aristrocracy' btw. I believe that most of them just love to play ancient music on ancient instruments, that's all.

    Personally, I appreciate the work of scholars and 'limp-wristed authentic champions' very much. Fact is that they made it possible to come closer to a historical 'truth'. Nevertheless: real authenticity can never be claimed IMO. I agree with you on that. And therefore this 'truth' shouldn't be imposed as a dogma. Unfortunately some of these champions seem to think that musical interpretation should be shaped into firm rules, and those who don't accept those rules are almost considered as sinners.

    Anyway, in the end this 'truth' is not decisive if my personal preferences are concerned. These are .... errr .... personal. From the very first moment I began listening to Bach (at around 13 years of age), I preferred f.i. Harnoncourt to Karl Richter, even though I had not read one scholastic article or book about baroque music at the time.

    Compared to many of his contemporaries, I think that Bach's music isn't all that easy to perform. Besides of that: times, societies, music and most instruments have changed. For musicians in 1725, many contemporary performance and interpretation requirements were already part of their 'standard' package and skills. But IMO, in the 21st century we need more time to get a grip of Bach's intentions. That's nothing to be ashamed of.

    In the year 2000 Leusink was only given one year for recording 200 cantatas, with an amateur choir of mostly children who weren't born in 1700 . And I guess that Leusink had other things at hand in his life, too.
    At least Bach had one year for 52 cantatas, with performers who were grown up in a Lutheran 18th century environment. Which made things all the easier for him .... still, even Bach wasn't satisfied with the results.

    I get more satisfaction from the complete Leonhardt/Harnoncourt cantata integral, even though this one is far from perfect, either. But they present this music like I want it to hear: as a serious add-on to the weekly gospel and sermon, with a better sense of the meaning of both notes and lyrics. Herreweghe might be less severe in this, but he adds a wonderful warm-felt soul to the music.

    Apart from all this: Leusink's performances constitute a worthwhile set to get to know these wonderful compositions. But I won't take them to the proverbial lonely island.

    Of course, like you said: all of this just my tuppence worth.

    So please, don't stop posting about your cantata adventures.

    I'm always interested in other opinions, even though my own might be different.

  11. #11
    Admiral of Fugues Contratrombone64's Avatar
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    Well Cantata 30 is an interesting creature as there are obviously (at least) two versions, one including 3 trumpets and timpani. The recording I'm listening leaves these out. The opening is a rather jaunty D major gallop across the meadow-like chorus, relentless in its persuit of joy (not surprising considering the text-Rejoice oh ransomed throng).

    The Bass Aria (blessed is God) is a rather paunchy minuet in praise of God, rather rococo in feel for me at least. Had I not heard it and read the score I'd not have been entirely sure it was by Bach, not particularly contrapuntal harmonically rather more classical or rococo in style.

    The aria for Alto is rather weird, with an absurdely long introduction deliciously scored for muted first violins in unison with flute and the rest of the strings pizzacato ... the scores states "organo stacatto". I guess indicating that Bach really didn't use harpsichord for his continuo. Again I didn't enjoy this because of the dreadful vibrato laden male alto the recording uses. This is really Bach at his oddest.

    Part Two opens with a rather sad Bass Aria (considering the text: you are my salvation), scored for two oboes and continuo.

    Next the Bass rather sings a rather dark Aria (God, everything I read is repugnant!), with a spikey and hateful acommpaniement for solo violin, strings and oboe.

    The final soprano aria is just glorious (despite the text) and the final chorus is a regurgitation of the opening, Bach must have been busy making babies simultaneously?

    I now understand this is a Cantata where Bach crowbared music unsuited to the text. Well done Bach, it's dreadful! But your music is sublime, if very odd.
    Last edited by Contratrombone64; Apr-24-2010 at 02:45.
    I'm not an atheist and I don't think I can call myself a pantheist. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many different languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn't know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God.
    —Albert Einstein.

  12. #12
    Admiral of Fugues Contratrombone64's Avatar
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    Cantata 31, scored for 3 trumpets, 3 oboes, taille (tenor oboe), strings, timpani and bassoon opens with the most riotous unison for six bars before he introduces harmonies and some very prolonged and odd chromatic harmoney for a work so joyous, this is one of the rare Sinfonia openings of Bach's cantatas and it is a ripper.

    The opening chorus is scintilating (The Heavens Laugh the Earth is Jubilant). Here Bach divides the violas and cellos. Typical of Bach there is a wonderously mournful sounding middle section, poignant and heart wrentching and just before you got and grab some rope to hang yourself the joy returns.

    The recitative is worth mentioning as it's a sword fight between Bass and Cello II (sic) with much harmonic scampering about and florid semiquaver (16th note) passages.

    The following Bass Aria is a mongrel for the solo cello with loads of scampering arpegios rather similar to a passge for solog viola da gamba in the St. Matthew Passion. The text Fürst des Lebens, starker Streiter, (Prince of Life, Strong Warrior) makes sense to the music that weaves about.

    A gorgeous Tenor Aria follows (Adam must rot before the new man can arise), scored for 2 of each violins, violas and celli (plus continuo of course). This is just so lovely, the tune is as good as Bach could muster. The strings writing here, especially for the violins fits like a glove (being a string player I know so), he just knew what was violinistic like no other.

    The Soprano Aria next is scored for solo oboe. Here Bach makes C major almost feel sad and mournful. It takes a while for the strings to enter, strange and the continuo at the opening is pizzacato and remains this way. When the strings do enter, they sneak in almost silently, as if not to disturb the beautiful spell Bach here weaves.

    The closing chorale is magnificent with lip splitting altisimo writing for the poor trumpets who have sat not playing for 20 minutes until this point. Obviously they had their instruments up their jackets to keep them warm!
    Last edited by Contratrombone64; Apr-24-2010 at 02:01.
    I'm not an atheist and I don't think I can call myself a pantheist. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many different languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn't know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God.
    —Albert Einstein.

  13. #13
    Admiral of Fugues Contratrombone64's Avatar
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    Cantata 32 (oboe and strings) is sadness on toast. the opening Aria is painful in the extreme, it even made me weep a little, such poignant oboe writing. The bass aria which follows the interceding recit. is just as sad, with a fabulous and painful solo violin accompaniment. This is a classic case of Bach writing in the major yet making it sound minor. An accompanied recit follows, with sustainted string writing, not surprising as Bach here talks of God's greatness.

    The Duet that follows (Bass and Soprano) is marvellous and very definitely in D major with virtuosic 1st violing writing and the rest of the strings (mostly) marked sharp and pointed. A solo oboe dances above throughout, chirping and squeaking like a baby bird.
    Last edited by Contratrombone64; Apr-24-2010 at 02:17.
    I'm not an atheist and I don't think I can call myself a pantheist. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many different languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn't know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God.
    —Albert Einstein.

  14. #14
    Admiral of Fugues Contratrombone64's Avatar
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    Cantata 33: 2 oboes and strings has an amazing opening which is basically a helter skelter fugato passage in A minor, rather reminding me of the double violin concerto in flavour (only). the text Jesus you are alone my hope, kind of fits as Bach just runs along regardless of the world with the voices firmly stating their blind faith.

    The alto aria which follows the interceding recit is scored for muted first violins with pizzacato strings. It is just lovely despite the hideous Alto soloist murdering the vocal line.

    A painful Duet follows for Bass and Tenor in e minor. It is beautifully scored for two solo oboes, both of whom have a battle royal of pure delicious counterpoint that ONLY Bach could muster.

    The closing chorale is beautiful.
    Last edited by Contratrombone64; Apr-24-2010 at 02:28.
    I'm not an atheist and I don't think I can call myself a pantheist. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many different languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn't know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God.
    —Albert Einstein.

  15. #15
    Admiral of Fugues Contratrombone64's Avatar
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    Cantata 34 is a classic! Trumpets and drums shouting hysterically in D major, scampering string writing and murderously difficult flord vocal lines. Not surprising as Bach is painting a picture of eternal love! Just a riot, so joyous and intriguing. Here's the text in full:

    O eternal FIRE, o source of love
    ignite our hearts and consecrate them.
    Make heavenly flames penetrate and flow through us,
    We wish, o most high Lord, to be your temple,
    Ah, make our souls pleasing to you in faith

    The alto aria that follows the intervening recit is scored for transverse flutes (as opposed to recorders) and muted strings. This is really, a beautiful pastorelle ... I imagined naked women lying in the riparian zone of some forest waiting for fauns to play with. Of course, that's risible as the words are: Rejoice, all ye, the chosen spirits, Whom God his dwelling did elect. Bah! I prefer my thinking on this music, which is wonderful.

    The closing choral is fabulous (despite the text) Peace be over Israel. Thank the lofty hands of wonder,
    Thank, God hath you in his heart. It has a slow ponderous opening followed by pure joy. Again oboes and trumpets trip abot helter skelter. The string writing is merciless but fantastic.
    Last edited by Contratrombone64; Apr-24-2010 at 02:43.
    I'm not an atheist and I don't think I can call myself a pantheist. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many different languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn't know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God.
    —Albert Einstein.

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