1 LP - BG 550 - (p) 1954
1 LP - AVRS 6045 - (c) 19??
1 CD - 08 5069 71 - (c) 1994

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

Cantata No. 170, "Vergnügte Ruh', beliebte Seelenlust"

- Aria
6' 48" A1
- Recitative

1' 12" A2
- aria
8' 14" A3
- Recitative
1' 00" A4
- Aria
5' 54" A5
Agnus Dei, from Mass in B Minor
5' 29" B1
Cantata No. 54, "Widerstehe doch der Sünde"

- Aria
8' 59" B2
- Recitative
1' 08" B3
- Aria
3' 19" B4

Alfred Deller, counter-tenor
Leonhardt Baroque Ensemble / Gustav Leonhardt, organo and director

- Michel Piguet, oboe
- Eduard Melkus, baroque violin
- Marie Leonhardt, baroque violin
- Kurt Theiner, baroque viola
- Alice Hoffelner, baroque viola
- Nicolaus Harnoncourt, baroque 'cello
- Alfred Planiawsky, baroque double-bass
Luogo e data di registrazione
Franciskanerkirche, Vienna (Austria) - maggio 1954
Registrazione live / studio
Producer / Engineer
Seymour Solomon
Prima Edizione CD
Vanguard Classics "Edition Alfred Deller" - 08 5069 71 - (1 cd) - 59' 20" - (c) 1994 - ADD
Prima Edizione LP
- Vanguard "The Bach Guild" - BG 550 - (1 lp) - 42' 03" - (p) 1954
- Amadeo - AVRS 6045 - (1 lp) - 42' 03" - (c) 19??

Notes on the program
The two Bach solo cantatas on this record are given by Spitta to the period 1727-1734 in Leipzig, described by him as "the richest and most fruitful years of Bach's life." The small forces which Bach employs in these works do not make for any lessening of musical stature. They have a chamber quality, and like the chamber works of the great composers of a century later, they reveal the more deeply in strospective thinking of the composer.
The cantatas illustrate vividly two different sides of Bach's religious art; the close attention to details of the text, illustrating it woth musical phrases and effects that have an almost pictorial quality, which Albert Schweitzer has annotated so exhaustively; and the profound intellectual qualities, displayed in musical architecture, that Spitta so exalts in the master.
In the Cantata no. 170. "Vergnügte Ruh" the very opening, with its timbres of oboe and strings, and tenderly rocking rhythm, evoke a feeling of peace and contentment of spirit, while the entry of the voice adds a note of yearning, and the aria is a beautiful working out of this conflict. Of the following explosive recitative, while we must consider that its words were parte of the religious tradition of the time, it is hard not to find Bach also speaking his mind in anger against the pettiness and meanness which he found about him. With the second aria, there is a reversal of orchestral forces, with the strings dropping to the bass, and the organ, which had formerly played the continuo, now rising to a brilliant obbligato part. How effectively the organ phrases illustrate "Wie jammern," the clamor upon the sympathy of the good-hearted man by the perverse and misguided hearts! The aria proceeds as a clash between the solo singer and the obbligato organ, a remarkable psychological portrayal of unrest and resolution. The following recitative, which is accompanied, is more peaceful. And in the closing aria, Bach shows that having made his own rules, he can break them. The words at the opening tell of how painful life appears to him, but the music belies this, expressing a robust joy in life, a victory over depressing and tormenting thoughts. This music, like all great music employing words or story, while it embodies direct illustrative material, uses these only as elements in a musical structure, the importance of which is that it captures the deepest states of mind of the composer. This cantata is a moving a personal document as, in a different style and period, a great Beethoven piano sonata.
The score employed in this recording of the Cantata No. 54, "Widerstehe doch," is not that of the Bach-Gesellschaft, wich Friedrich Smend (Bach-Jahrbuch 1940-8) has shown to be based on a rather carelessly made copy, but on a later discovered manuscript in the Bibliotheque Royale at Brussels. Io opens with what Schweitzer describes as "an alarming chord of the seventh... the trembling of the basses and violas, and the sighs of the violins, between them give the movement a somewhat disturbing effect. It is meant to depict the horror of the curse upon sin that is threatened in the text." The music, as it proceeds, also portrays somewhat more tenderly, the anguish of the heart. Smend hasthrown additional light on this aria, proving that it had originally been written for the lost St. Mark's Passion, on the text "Falsche Welt, dein schmeichelnt Küssen... ." Thus the music that Bach had originally written on the theme of the kiss of Judas, now becomes a more general exhortation to withstand temptation and sin. The recitative that follows begins, in the words of arnold Schering, in "an almost impersonally calm, declamatory style," with a touch of the "visionary" entering as the instrumental accompaniment makes itself heard. In the instrumental beginning of the final aria, Schering finds that "the chromatically descending quarter notes represent sin... the sixteenth continually circling about a single note represent the devil, while the bass stamps down in restless quarter notes." With the entry of the singer a fugue begins its soaring flight, with searing dissonances, and with the appearance of the word "davongemacht," "the events develop at a breathless pace, and there is no end to the surprises, including overwhelmingly complicated canons, until the composition is at an end."
The Agnus Dei from the Mass in B minor, composed by Bach in 1733, was remodelled from the alto aria in the Ascension oratori, "Ach bleibe doch, mein liebstes Leben." As in the case of the adapted aria in Cantata No. 54, it fits perfectly the text of its new setting.
Notes and translation by S. W. Bennett

About The Performance and Recording
Typical of the esteem in which Alfred Deller's artistry is held by British critics is the Birmingham Post's comment, "Mr. Deller, whose wondrous voice graced both Purcell and Danyel, is one of the supreme British singers of our generation." His voice, a counter-tenor, may be described as a male alto, but of exceptional purity, range and facility. It is the voice for which Purcell, himself a counter-tenor, wrote some of his finest airs, and is also the timbre for which Bach conceived the alto solos in his cantatas. The qualities which have given Mr. Deller so exalted a stature in musical circles in both Great Britain and on the continent, however, are not those of voice alone, but include a studied mastery of the phrasing of Renaissance and Baroque music, and the genuine, if unspectacular, virtuosity which the music of this age calls for. Born in 1912 at Margate, Kent, Alfred Deller made a reputation as a boy soprano in works such as Handel's Messiah, and during adolescence, found it natural and easy to sing in the alto register. His performances of music of the 16th through the 18th centuries, have been features of both numerous British festivals and continental recitals. An exclusive Vanguard-Bach Guild recording artist, his first Bach Guild recording was ELIZABETHAN AND JACOBEAN MUSIC (BG-539) devoted largely to John Dowland. Typical reviews were: "This disc is one of the best of its type to appear as yet on LP... the music is a sheer delight from start to finish. Bach Guild has recorded the recital in impeccable fashion," The New Records. "Offers music and performances that make it an outstanding record," B. H. Haggin, The Nation. This was followed by MUSIC OF PURCELL, JENKINS AND LOCKE (BG-547) and the present record of two Bach Cantatas.
The Leonhardt Baroque Ensemble is made up of outstanding performers in European symphony orchestras, who have taken up, as a labor of love, the Baroque counterparts of their present-day instruments. They are led by Gustav Leonhardt, the distinguished Dutch haspsichordist, Baroque scholar, and Professor at the Academy in Vienna.
The recording is VANGUARD QUALITY CONTROL, employing Ampex model 300 magnetic tape recorders in conjunction with the Altec and Siemens-AKG C-12 condenser microphones, producing masters which embody a frequency response covering the entire range of human hearing and embracing the full gamut of orchestral, organ and vocal sonorities. The location was the Franziskanerkirche in Vienna, the organ of which dates from 1642.

Nikolaus Harnoncourt (1929-2016)
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