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Thread: Bach and Luther

  1. #61
    Senior Member Zhdanov's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Victor Redseal View Post
    Bach didn’t care much for the Princess
    to start with, he was in no position to decide whether he cares for a person of such rank or not.

    Quote Originally Posted by Victor Redseal View Post
    we see the quagmire of politics and bureaucracy Bach was stepping into in Leipzig.
    as if it could have been any other way anywhere back then, today and tomorrow...

  2. #62
    Senior Member tdc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Victor Redseal View Post
    I doubt too many (of Bach's works) were lost but putting a number on it is difficult. Maybe 50 or 100?....Others may have outdone him in quantity but still he averaged about 17 pieces per year
    I've done more research on this and it turns out this is incorrect. According to the Christoph Wolff book on Bach only 10-15% of Bach's music from the Weimar period survived, in the Cothen period losses almost certainly exceed 200 works, and about 40% of the Cantatas have been lost. I'm still reading about the Leipzig period, so there could be other losses I discover beyond this.
    Last edited by tdc; Jan-29-2019 at 22:34.

  3. #63
    Senior Member Victor Redseal's Avatar
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    Bach’s first published piece after assuming his new duties in Leipzig was what is now known as Cantata 75 or Die Elenden sollen essen (“The miserable shall eat”). Because the autograph manuscript is available to us today, we can see that it was written on paper not found in Leipzig meaning Bach either composed the piece before coming to Leipzig or he took paper from Cöthen perhaps and brought it with him to Leipzig. It was performed on May 30, 1723, the first Sunday after Trinity at Nikolaikirche. It is composed of 14 movements in two parts of seven movements each. The cantata is structured in two symmetrical parts because part 1 was to be performed before the sermon and part 2 was for afterward. For being 14 movements long, the piece is surprisingly short taking not much more than a half an hour in its entirety.

    The text, recited by an unknown poet, is based in the first movement on the twenty-second psalm. The text in the seventh and 14th movements is based on the 372nd hymn of the Protestant hymnal, Was Gott tut, das ist Wohlgetan, by theologian Samuel Rodigast (1649-1708) which is based on Deuteronomy 32:4. Bach would use parts of this hymn, whole or in part, for nine other cantatas including BWV 12, BWV 69a, BWV 98, BWV 100 and BWV 144. The text for the rest of the movements is by an unknown librettist except for the eighth movement which has no words.

    In the 75th Cantata, Bach is most concerned with the contrast between wealth and poverty but is actually more interested in showing that one may be poor in the material sense but rich in the spiritual sense—the implication being that material wealth does not automatically confer God’s favor.

    It should be noted that Cantata 75 was twinned with Cantata 76 (Die Himmel erzählen die Ehre Gottes or "The heavens are telling the glory of God") and that each was performed on successive Sundays. Both had the same layout of 14 movements with seven to be performed before the sermon and seven after. The patterns of arias and recitatives emerge from both pieces are identical. Both were based upon the epistle 1 John 4:16-21 and 3:13-18. These deal with Christian love exhorting the audience to love their sisters and brothers with the love of God and that to ignore the sufferings of brothers and sisters is to ignore God. That deeds always speak louder than words.

    While 75 was written and revised into final form in Cöthen, the working score of 76 was written in Leipzig and shows what Gardiner terms “clear signs of haste.” Gardiner also feels that Bach may have been conveying a personal message to the congregation by using 14 movements in each cantata since Bach’s cousin, Johann Gottfried Walther, wrote that Bach frequently encrypted his name in his music by using the B-flat of the soft hexachord or B-rotunda (B) followed by A, C and B-natural of the hard hexachord (H) to spell out BACH (he does this, in fact, in the 2nd Brandenburg Concerto by having the bass line spell this out in four successive measures). Since B=2, A=1, C=3 and H=8, then 2+1+3+8=14.

    Bach’s message appears to be a familiar one which we also encountered in the Brandenburgs—earthly wealth and riches are temporary but the love of Christ is the key to heaven. So do not despair but live a good, moral life. Even the lowest of the low on earth can participate in heaven and be redeemed in the eyes of God. In heaven, all are equal because there are no earthly riches that lead to inequality and misery but only the spiritual riches of heaven that Jesus has given us through his love. Cantata 75 and 76 did not replicate the same message but delivered it in two parts: one should give food to the poor (75) and, in return, will share at the great banquet in heaven (76).



    "God," asked Adam, "why did you make Eve so beautiful?"
    And He replied, "So that you could love her."
    "But God," asked Adam, "why did you make her so stupid?"
    And He replied, "So that she could love you."

  4. #64
    Senior Member Victor Redseal's Avatar
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    Cantatas

    Since medieval times, vocal music was seen as conducive to praising God as opposed to instrumental music because the voice was a natural, divinely-made instrument and therefore the only one considered fit to be sounded in praise of God (hence “a capella” singing or unaccompanied singing as done in the chapel). The word cantata means “sung” as past tense of the feminine participle cantare or “to sing.” The cantata has its roots in the secular, vocal madrigals of the 17th century. Early cantatas were sung a capella but, as instruments became more accepted in the performance of church music, cantatas began using musical accompaniment.

    Bach usually employed a four-part choir as well as solo singers not to mention string and oboe sections along with a basso continuo. On particularly ambitious works, he would add in brass and timpani. These ambitious cantatas were usually composed for holidays as Christmas and Easter and would be called oratorios but they are really complex cantatas. Over 200 of Bach’s cantatas survive. His earliest surviving cantata was written in 1707 in Mühlhausen but most of them were written in Leipzig as he was required as cantor to write one for each Sunday and holiday. His last was composed about 1745.

    Bach wrote both secular and church cantatas although any of them could have been played in church. The cantatas may be the most important of Bach’s works. There is a tremendous amount of sheer brilliance within them. What the cantatas tell us about Bach musically is that he is unsurpassed not only in harmony and counterpoint but also as a melodist. Many composers have excelled in counterpoint, for example, and written amazing works to prove it. But there is little afterward that can be hummed or whistled. Bach is different. In fact, the greatest composers were all terrific melodists. Nobody can deny Mozart or Beethoven were not great melodists. This plays a huge role in why they are so remembered. Their melodies stick in our heads.

    In Bach, we find some remarkable things he does with the chorales within the cantatas, for example. In BWV 147, Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben (Heart and Mouth and Deed and Life), published in 1723, we find the famous chorale known as Wohl mir, das ich Jesum habe (Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring). It’s a hymn written in 1642 by Johann Schop called Werde munter, mein Gemüte (Become cheerful, my mind) but the original lyrics by Johann Rist were replaced by two stanzas from Martin Jahn’s 1665(?) hymn, Jesu, meiner Seelen Wonne (Jesus, Delight of My Soul).



    Bach writes his own melody around the hymn—a very famous one. Trying to write a tune around one already written is far harder than one might think. It is very difficult to devise something that complements the tune without overshadowing it or being so understated that it really adds nothing to the piece. Bach’s melody, however, is pure genius and highly memorable. Bach’s melody follows the hymn—rises when the hymn rises, falls when the hymn falls, etc. But, at the same time, he has given himself a surprising amount of latitude to play with the hymn. He often touches on notes from the hymn twice where they only appear once in the hymn itself and he departs from the hymn in the upper register with a note, G, that does not appear at all in the hymn. Bach lets his melody and the hymn each play on its own but also lays his melody over the hymn so one can hear how they mesh measure for measure. It is like a beautiful set of clothes that hug the body where they should but, at times, flare out and away to add regal luxuriance but being careful never to get too extravagant as to hide the body altogether. While this wasn’t something that typified Bach’s work with chorales it certainly left its mark behind for posterity. So, this experiment can be declared a tremendous success.

    About eight years later, 1731, Bach wrote his seven-movement cantata, Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme (Awake, Calls the Voice to Us), BWV 140 a.k.a. “Sleepers Wake.” The original hymn that Bach wrote his melody around is of the same name by Philipp Nicolai written in 1599. The four-part chorale occurs in the third stanza. In the chorale, Bach does the opposite of what he did in “Joy.” Instead of following the original hymn and hugging its contours and having the same duration, Bach instead wrote a melody that not only deviated from the hymn in contour but in duration as well! It’s as though the melody doesn’t give a damn what the hymn is doing. Before the hymn is completed once, Bach has repeated his melody a number of times. There are no parallels between the melody and the hymn and yet they go together in a completely odd but lovely way. The chorale begins at 14:39:



    Notice that Bach has his melody play first in its entirety, although it is rather short—mind-boggling in its beauty but short. Then the singer comes in singing Nicolai’s hymn. First, where the singer comes in, several notes after the melody starts to repeat, seems almost to be a mistake! The singer’s entrance is not precise and on-beat but sort of off a bit—as though he stumbled out on stage still tugging his costume on just barely getting out there on time. Then notice what Bach does! He reverses two lines of his melody from the initial playing! Bach’s melody is exceedingly odd. It sounds nothing like a chorale. Moreover, it seems to be composed of a series of appoggiaturas! In fact, there are parts that have appoggiaturas within appoggiaturas like a set of Russian dolls!



    These appoggiaturas sometimes seem ornamental but he also uses them in the higher register as though appealing or yearning to the heavens. Then he tags his melody at the end with a completely unexpected plagal cadence that rises suddenly of the melody but seems to come out of nowhere. One is tempted to wonder if Bach independently came up with it and then decided to use it for the chorale and felt free to mutate it as much as he wanted to get it to fit without changing the melody itself. But then you have to wonder why he would do that.

    As if that isn’t enough, after Bach reshuffles the lines of his melody, he goes back to the first line again and plays it as he originally did but shuts off the hymn entirely! He just stops the hymn for several bars—not a peep of it is to be heard. Then as he begins to repeat the first line of the melody, the voice once again joins in several notes late! If Bach came up with this melody specifically to accompany Nicolai’s hymn, what was he smoking? This has been a very enduring piece by Bach due to its unsurpassed beauty, loved down through the centuries, but I don’t think most people realize just how completely odd it is!
    "God," asked Adam, "why did you make Eve so beautiful?"
    And He replied, "So that you could love her."
    "But God," asked Adam, "why did you make her so stupid?"
    And He replied, "So that she could love you."

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