American Bach Society--Biennial Meeting

University of Houston/Rice University, April 26-28, 2002




Renate Steiger (Heidelberg): Dialogue structures in Bach's cantatas


According to Luther, in a house of worship nothing else takes place "than that our dear Lord Himself speaks to us through His Holy Word and that we, in turn, speak with Him in prayer and songs of praise” (WA 49, 588). The basic form of Christian worship is described here as a dialogical occurrence. In the conversation between God and His congregation which occurs in every worship service, the cantata is part of the answer, forming a dialogical pair with the sermon which proclaims God’s Word. Within the cantata itself, however, a dialogue of its own also takes place.


Different text layers are the medium of communication to which individual structural patterns musically correspond. As a human answer, all other poetical forms contrast with Biblical dictum: not only the hymn, but also recitative and aria, the forms of more subjective free verse. On a further level of differentiation, the twofold character of the chorale can represent the congregation's voice, or--when speaking in first-person singular--the voice of the individual believer. In a different constellation, it can also take on the function of verbum externum formulating traditional beliefs in a dialogue with a subject speaking in emotionally-oriented, “modern” forms.


Examples of different dialogue types in Bach’s cantatas shall be treated, representing three basic forms: 1. Cantata with dictum (example: BWV 25/1); 2. Cantata with chorale arrangement. a. The chorale trope. (example: BWV 73/1), b.  Aria with chorale (examples: BWV 101/4 and 6); 3. Cantata with dialogue movements (example: BWV 49).



Mark Peters (University of Pittsburgh): Settings of the Vox Christi in Johann Sebastian Bach's cantatas to texts by Christiane Mariane von Ziegler


While settings of the Vox Christi--the direct words of Jesus in Biblical quotation--did not hold a place of prominence in Bach's Weimar cantatas (there are only three such movements), they became significant for Bach's cantatas in Leipzig, where he set a total of 32 Vox Christi movements. Vox Christi settings are particularly significant in Bach's cantatas to texts by the Leipzig poet Christiane Mariane von Ziegler, the nine cantatas that come at the end of Bach's second Leipzig Jahrgang.


Bach uses a variety of movement forms, voicings, instrumentations, and musical styles to express the individual import of each Vox Christi passage. Bach's approach to the Vox Christi in the Ziegler cantatas contrasts particularly to that in the newly-composed cantatas at the end of his first Leipzig Jahrgang.


The Vox Christi is particularly important in Ziegler's complete cantata Jahrgang, which includes the nine cantatas set by Bach in 1725 as well as 63 cantata texts that were published in 1729. In these texts, one can observe not only the prominence given in general to Bible verses (179 verses), but also in particular to the Vox Christi (50 of these 179). Ziegler's choice and placement of the Vox Christi texts demonstrate her understanding of the gospel texts, her concern for communicating the story of each gospel, and her sense for textual unity based on the flow of the gospel.



Mary Greer (New York, N.Y.): Embracing faith: the message of the medium in selected sacred cantatas by J. S. Bach


                Bach’s decision to employ duet format in numerous sacred cantatas may have been prompted, at least in part, by a desire to project the abstract concept of faith through concrete musical means. The close association of the notion of the mystical union of the believer with Jesus (“unio mystica”) as a metaphor for faith and dialogues between the Soul and Jesus in Bach’s cantatas is well established. In Cantatas 21, 32, 49, 140, 145, 152, and 172, singers representing the Soul and an idealized Jesus employ the language of lovers to express their longing for each other or their joy at being united to connote different stages in the believer’s quest for faith. The presence of a duet in numerous cantatas that contain allusions to faith couched in the language of lovers--“embrace with the arm of faith,” “united with Jesus in faith,” “if I am yours, and you are mine,” or wedding or bride imagery--strongly suggests that Bach’s use of two-voice format as a musical metaphor for faith was not limited to settings of dialogues between the Soul and Jesus, but also played a role in single-text duets.


                I present several case studies that support this hypothesis and cite five movements where the distinctions between dialogues and duets are blurred, and hope to demonstrate that, in many duets, the two-voice vocal texture embodies the movement’s underlying theological and psychological message that is most often hinted at in a different movement.



Michael Marissen (Swarthmore College): Bach and Josephus on the destruction of Jerusalem


In Bach's day the Lutheran liturgy for the 10th Sunday after Trinity centered on the subject of God's harsh judgment of sinners, employing as a cautionary tale the destruction of Jerusalem in its revolt against Rome in the years 66-70. Together with the day's established biblical portions, "The Story of the Destruction of the City of Jerusalem," a prolonged account with many gruesome details from Flavius Josephus's 1st-century narrative "The Jewish War," was read as a stern warning to the Leipzig congregations to turn from their sin to a proper knowledge of Jesus as Christ and as God's eternal Word. In like manner, a liturgical prayer for the day unfolded with the words, "Merciful God, heavenly Father, we ask you fervently that ... you may render our hard hearts penitent, so that we do not - like the obstinate Jews - miss the acceptable time [2 Cor 6; Ps 69] of your visitation of grace, and through our impenitence be consigned to temporal and eternal punishment."


Substantially conforming to the teachings of this liturgical tradition, Bach's "Schauet doch und sehet" (BWV 46), the cantata written for the 10th Sunday after Trinity in his first year in Leipzig, may also be understood to project a resolute theological anti-Judaism. The work features a number of close correspondences not only with the religious literature known to have been in Bach's personal library, but also with several artworks in the Leipzig churches, as well as with several church and home prayers.


Even though the ultimate point of Bach's Cantata 46 surely is to call Christians to turn away from their own sin, it appears that such anti-Judaism as there is within the cantata must be considered fundamental to the work's messages. Depending, too, in critical part on the abilities and predilections of its modern performers, this piece may well represent Bach's art at its musically and theologically grimmest.



Lynn Edwards (Northampton, Mass.): “A really large and really beautiful organ”: Johann Christoph Bach’s new organ for St. George's Church in Eisenach


In November, 2000, a series of recitals marked the completion of the new Bach organ for St. Thomas's Church in Leipzig. The disposition of the Woehl organ is based almost entirely on the plans drawn up around 1700 by Johann Christoph Bach, cousin to Sebastian Bach’s father and organist at St. George's Church in Eisenach. Built by Georg Christoph Stertzing in the years 1696–1707, the organ conceived by Christoph Bach was to be a "beautiful organ that will bring fame and glory to Eisenach from far and wide, especially among connoisseurs of the organ and its music."


Organ building in Thuringia changed dramatically when a new sound ideal took hold during the first decades of the eighteenth century. The Eisenach organ was the first large instrument to reflect this new style, and it has been proposed that Johann Sebastian Bach was influenced by the Eisenach organ. Christoph Bach oversaw the project down to the smallest detail. It is interesting that neither Johann Sebastian Bach nor Johann Christoph Bach, the composer he admired so much, had “a really large and really beautiful organ at his constant disposal.”


Memoranda written by Johann Christoph Bach now located in the church archives in Eisenach detail how the project evolved from a modest rebuild of the existing Renaissance instrument into a completely new, large organ representing the newest ideas in organ building. The account is significant not only because it documents how Renaissance organs were updated in the Baroque period, but more importantly because it reveals Christoph Bach’s conception of a large and beautiful organ.


George Ritchie (University of Nebraska-Lincoln): The recently restored Naumburg organ: a direct link to J. S. Bach


The 1746 Hildebrandt organ in the Wenzelskirche in Naumburg, Germany, which J.S. Bach played and probably helped design, has just been restored to its original state. The organ, a large instrument of 53 stops in a splendid acoustical environment, is the finest surviving instrument to come from the workshop of Zacharias Hildebrandt, Gottfried Silbermann's most talented apprentice and one of the foremost organ builders of the 18th century. Enough of its original substance was preserved to allow an exceedingly successful restoration, faithful in every detail to the original instrument. This restoration has made it arguably the most significant existing organ for the performance of Bach's organ works.


Johann Sebastian Bach had an intimate and profound connection with this organ. Bach and Hildebrandt enjoyed a long friendship, beginning in 1723. The Naumburg city council requested and received advice from Bach as it contemplated commissioning a new instrument. Bach seems to have recommended that Hildebrandt be given the contract, and it is likely that Bach had a hand in designing the organ. Bach and Gottfried Silbermann together examined the newly completed instrument and found it to be an outstanding work.


In order to be considered an ideal "Bach organ," an instrument would have to fulfill three criteria: 1. It would have to bear Bach's personal seal of approval. 2. It would have to be large enough to permit performance of Bach's most ambitious organ works. 3. It would have to exist today in a condition as close as possible to when Bach knew and admired it. The Hildebrandt organ in the Wenzelskirche fulfills these three criteria to a degree unparalleled by any other instrument.


Andrew Talle (Harvard University): Music "zur Gemüths Ergötzung," 1660-1760


My paper will document and analyze the development between 1660 and 1760 of a market for printed music for use in the home.  A database I have recently compiled of all documented musical publications printed in German-speaking countries during this period (from book fair catalogs, publishers catalogs, contemporary advertisements, and RISM) clearly reveals a decisive move around 1700 away from sacred and occasional music for large vocal/instrumental forces and a dramatic increase thereafter in publications requiring smaller forces, most for solo keyboard or for a single voice, flute or violin with continuo accompaniment.  This change was driven by a tremendous surge in wealth of the German bourgeoisie between 1680 and 1730--particularly in trade cities such as Leipzig and Hamburg--resulting in the increased cultivation of leisure-time activities such as letter writing, dancing, and music making.  My paper seeks to illuminate in socio-economic terms the goals of non-professional musicians who purchased J. S. Bach's Clavier-Übung Erster Theil (published and sold at book fairs all across Germany 1726-31) and similar publications by Graupner, Mattheson, Handel, Hurlebusch, Gräfe, and Sperontes.


Julia Severus (Technische Universität Berlin): Staccato wider die Wollust: The relationship between text and notated articulation in the instrumental parts of Bach’s concerted vocal works


In the past three decades a great deal of research has been done on articulation marks in the works of J. S. Bach . Much work has been done on the figurae, musical rhetorical ‘figures’ in his works. Less attention, however, has been drawn so far to the relationship between articulation and the meaning/Affekt suggested by the textual underlay.


My approach to this analysis has been focused on one particular aspect: the comparison of passages of identical--or very similar--musical text, but with a different textual underlay. The purpose is to see if their markings differ because of a different meaning/Affekt of that textual underlay.


The result of this study demonstrate the crucial role articulation can play when identical musical text overlays receive a very different, even a contrary, meaning due to different articulation; and that Bach used the limited repertoire of articulation marks in a versatile and highly refined way to transport a certain meaning/ Affekt suggested by the textual underlay.


The examples that illustrate Bach’s idiom of articulation include comparison of originals and their parodies, comparison of similar or identical motifs within the same work, and comparison of similar or identical motifs of symbolic articulation within the same work.


Raymond Erickson (Queens College and the Graduate School, CUNY): Bach's "Ciaccona" for Solo Violin: Challenging the modern performance tradition


The final movement ("Ciaccona") of the Partita in D minor for solo  violin, BWV 1004, is one of the most famous and most recorded of  Bach's works. It is also a work encrusted with a performing tradition  that has little connection to the baroque.  The dozens of recordings  of the "Ciaccona" include many by artists playing on baroque violin,  yet even these seem to have had difficulty shuffling off the coil of  twentieth-century performance traditions, through the prism of which  the work comes across as a monument of profoundly serious yet  abstract character, rather than as an essentially Italianate set of  variations poured into the mold of a French dance of moderately fast  (certainly not slow) tempo, the passacaille.


                This lecture-demonstration will argue that 1) Bach's "ciaccona" is  better understood as a passacaille in form and tempo and 2) a  conception of the work along such lines can be stylishly realized  with modern violin and bow.  Therefore, there is no reason that  players of modern instruments cannot directly utilize much of what  recent scholarship has revealed about musical style and performing  techniques in Bach's time.


                The core of the presentation will be a baroque-style performance of  the "Ciaccona" using modern violin and bow.  This will be preceded  by an introduction grounded in recent music and dance scholarship  (with passing mention of theological/numerical interpretations of  it)  as well as in a study of numerous twentieth-century recordings on  both modern and baroque violin.


Evan Scooler (Brandeis University): Uncovering the function of Bach’s “Great Eighteen” Chorales: an Advent organ hymnal


                Bach’s reasons for assembling the “Great Eighteen” chorales (BWV 651–668) remain a mystery, as fundamental questions about the function of these pieces and the peculiar layout of the manuscript elude satisfactory answers.  It is little wonder that a search for an overarching conception tying these works together has also defied exegesis, a frustrating circumstance unique among Bach’s major collections.


Contrary to the scholarly consensus, the “Great Eighteen” exhibit a remarkable synthesis of theological and musical designs.  Because the chorales in the collection have associations with various church seasons, the possibility that these pieces might all be centered around one church service—or church season—has not been entertained.  Overlooked is the fact that usually only a few chorales in a given service are associated with the particular festival at hand.


A comparison of the “Great Eighteen” with contemporaneous Advent church services (including the only service order we have in Bach’s hand) reveals extraordinary similarities. This collection of long chorales (with interludes between chorale phrases) provides music for the Advent season, thereby complementing the Orgelbüchlein, which supplies an organist with short chorales for the rest of the church year.  An examination of the corresponding texts confirms the notion that these are Advent works, as a unified theme emerges: the preparation for Christ.  This message is emphasized through the design of the collection, with three strategically-placed invitational hymns summoning the Lord and culminating in the Canonic Variations on a Christmas hymn, depicting the arrival of Christ—the answer to Advent prayer.


Jeanne Swack (University of Wisconsin-Madison): the French ouverture as theological signifier in Telemann’s “Jesus sei mein erstes Wort” and “Christ ist erstanden von der Marter alle”


By the early eighteenth century, the French ouverture was well-established in German music as a signifier of both beginnings and of royalty.  Both meanings stemmed from its origin as the opening movement of the Lullian tragédie lyrique and ballet, and both translated well into the newly-established genre of the madrigalian cantata, where an opening French ouverture could serve to symbolize beginnings, such as the beginning of the Church year in settings of Neumeister’s “Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland” by both Bach, as well as the Kingship of God.


Telemann, however, goes beyond Bach’s use of the French ouverture by sometimes composing French ouvertures in unusual positions within his cantatas, and at times juxtaposing chorale tunes onto the French ouverture structure in different ways than Bach does.  In this paper, I will treat French ouverture movements from two cantatas by Telemann from his 1715 Neumeister cycle:  “Jesus sey mein erstes Wort” ( 5th Sunday after Trinity), a cantata which concludes with a French ouverture as the last of ten movements;  and “Christ ist erstanden von der Marter alle” (Easter), a cantata which begins somewhat more expectedly as a French ouverture, but which juxtaposes its archaic chorale tune with the French ouverture structure in an unusual fashion.  The overriding consideration in Telemann’s unusual treatment of the French ouverture  in each of these cases is his concern with the text, and especially in the case of “Jesus sey mein erstes Wort”, with employing the connotations of the French ouverture as a kind of theological exegesis of the cantata text.


Ulrich Leisinger (Bach-Archiv Leipzig): Searching for an alternative to the “Wicked German church texts”: the role of the Latin church music in Bach reception


The radical shift in Protestant theology hindered the liturgical use of Johann Sebastian Bach’s church cantatas from 1750 far beyond the obvious change of musical taste. The gap between “baroque” and “modern” theological thinking has most drastically been described by Carl Friedrich Zelter in a famous letter to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe where he named the “verruchte deutschen Kirchentexte” as the most serious obstacle of performances of Bach’s church music in his days.


It was Bach’s Latin church music that stimulated a new and more general interest in his vocal compositions. It is significant that several of Bach’s Latin church compositions had been published and well received before any of his cantatas or passions with German texts appeared in print. The majority of these editions was released on the initiative of Georg Poelchau by publishers in Roman Catholic parts of Germany.


Even more astonishing is the hitherto neglected fact that there exists a remarkable and continuous reception of Bach’s Latin church music in Vienna. A seminal role was played by the copy of the B Minor mass documented in Joseph Haydns’s estate, hitherto unavailable. The manuscript is of Berlin origin and can be dated before 1783; it is therefore likely that it originally belonged to the collection of Gottfried van Swieten. Further sources of Latin Church compositions from van Swieten’s estate are documented in the Traeg catalog of 1804. Copies of other works were prepared apparently for performance purpose in the first decades of the 19th century.


In this light the use of Bachian works with parodied Latin texts should not be regarded as a mere curious facet of Bach reception, but as a strong indicator that searching for alternatives for the “wicked German Church texts” was a pre-requisite for the appreciation of Bach’s vocal music.


 Robin Leaver (Westminster Choir College): Introit, hymn or motet? Liturgical practice in Leipzig during Bach’s cantorate


A cursory reading of the appropriate sources seems to suggest that the Hauptgottesdienst in Leipzig in the first half of the 18th century began with either a Latin hymn or a motet, or perhaps the appropriate Introit, though some have suggested that liturgical Introits were no longer in use in Bach’s day. This paper investigates the various sources to demonstrate that on some Sundays and celebrations the appropriate Introit continued to be sung to its traditional chant form, though it could be replaced by a Latin hymn or motet.


The Sundays and celebrations on which the Introit was sung are identified, as well as the seasons when it was customary to sing a Latin hymn. Latin Motets were also sung from time to time at the beginning of the Hauptgottesdienst, from the part books of either Bodenschatz or Vulpius. The identity of these motets, their composers, and the occasions on which they were sung will be investigated. Thus the paper attempts to outline the context of chant, hymnody, and compositions in the stile antico that customarily preceded the performance of Bach’s cantatas.