1 LP - SAWT 9539-B - (p) 1969
1 CD - 0630-12321-2 - (c) 1996
2 CD - 8.35284 ZL - (c) 1987
2 CD - 8.35363 ZL - (c) 1989

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

Kantate "Nun ist das Heil und die Kraft", BWV 50
3' 37" A1
für Doppelchor (8stg.); Oboe I/II/III; Trompete I/II/III; Pauken; Violine I/II//Viola; Orgel; Continuo (Violoncello, Violone)

Kantate "Erfreute Zeit im neuen Bunde", BWV 83

19' 45" A2
für Soli: Alt, Tenor, Baß; Chor; Oboe I/II; Horn I/II; Violine Solo; Violine I/II; Viola; Continuo (Violoncello, Violone und Orgel)

Kantate "Gott ist unsre Zuversicht", BWV 197

28' 20" B1
für Soli: Sopran, Alt, Baß; Chor; Oboe d'amore I/II; Oboe I/II; Fagott obligato; Tromba I/II/III; Pauken; Violine I/II; Viola; Continuo (Violoncello, Violone und Orgel)

Solisten der Wiener Sängerknaben, Sopran und Alt

Kurt Equiluz, Tenor

Max van Egmond, Baß

Wiener Sängerknaben - Chorus Viennensis / Hans Gillesberger, Leitung

Concentus Musicus Wien

- Jürg Schaeftlein, Barockoboe, Barockoboe d'amore - Alice Harnoncourt, Solovioline
- Karl Gruber, Barockoboe, Barockoboe d'amore - Walter Pfeiffer, Violine
- Bernhard Klebel, Barockoboe, Barockoboe d'amore - Peter Schoberwalter, Violine
- Otto Fleischmann, Barockfagott - Stefan Plott, Violine
- Ernst Mühlbacher, Naturhorn - Josef de Sordi, Violine
- Hermann Rohrer, Naturhorn - Kurt Theiner, Tenorbratsche
- Josef Spindler, Clarintrompete - Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Violoncello
- Richard Rudolf, Clarintrompete - Eduard Hruza, Violone
- Hermann Schober, Clarintrompete - Herbert Tachezi, Orgel
- Kurt Hammer, Barockpauken

Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Leitung

Luogo e data di registrazione
Vienna (Austria) - settembre 1967
Registrazione live / studio
Producer / Engineer
Wolf Erichson
Prima Edizione CD
- Teldec "Das Alte Werk" - 0630-12321-2 - (1 cd) - 72' 51" - (c) 1996 - ADD - (BWV 197)
- Teldec "Das Alte Werk" - Kantatenwerk Vol. 13 - (2 cd) - 38' 30" + 29' 11" - (c) 1987 - AAD - (BWV 50)
- Teldec "Das Alte Werk" - Kantatenwerk Vol. 21 - (2 cd) - 39' 06" + 41' 10" - (c) 1989 - ADD - (BWV 83)
Prima Edizione LP
Telefunken "Das Alte Werk" - SAWT 9539-B - (1 lp) - 41' 42" - (p) 1969

An Introduction by Christoph-Hellmut Mahling
The isolated, powerful and broadly conceived cantata movement for double choir and instruments “Nun ist das Heil und die Kraft..." ("Now is come salvation and strength.. .") cannot yet be placed by musicologists with certainty in any particular period of Bach’s creative activity. Equally undecided is the question of its original purpose. Since its text is taken from the epistle reading for St. Michael’s Day (Revelation 12, 10), it would seem right to assume that we are dealing with a choral movement originally intended as part of a cantate for this festival. The question of its time of composition is likewise impossible to answer with certainty. Even though a number of criteria hitherto seemed to suggest the time around 1740, the most recent investigations make it appear quite conceivable that it belongs to the year’s cycle of cantatas for 1723/24, or even to a later, fifth year’s cycle.
Irrespective of these historically important and interesting questions, the fact still remains that this choral piece must be counted among the most mighty of Bach’s entire oeuvre. Its theme, representing in its firmness and concentration the final victory of God over evil, symbolizing strength through the interval steps rising through the third, fourth and fifth to the octave, seems omnipresent, as the one dominating principal idea. It is joined contrapuntally by an agitated quaver-semiquaver motif which, through its sequential downward movement over the word "verworfen" ("cast down"), lets this overthrown condition be made vividly clear, especially in contrast to the rising theme heard at the same time. The figure consisting of a quaver and two semiquavers in fanfare character, providing the dominant rhythmic and motoric element in the piece, represents the victorious conclusion of the struggle. The indictment of the evil enemy is given particular prominence through a rising chord of the seventh. After the theme has been presented in all four voices of the first choir, the second choir enters, now presenting the theme in inversion, in "block" fashion as it were, against the agitated sections of the first choir. At the same time the theme shines forth in its original form in the first trumpet. A similarly assertive presentation of the theme is to be found a few bars later. After the cause of rejoicing has again become clear in the calling out of the two choirs to one another, the first of the two sections into which this piece is exactly divided (68 bars each) comes to an end. The second section, a “repetition” of the first with intensified expression, presents the theme first of all split up between the first and second choirs, in order to let it reappear again radiantly in a double fugue exposition - the original form and the inversion of the theme being heard together. The fanfare motif of the oboes is here heard for the first time in the trumpets. The further course of the writing corresponds to that of the first section, though in considerably denser form and intensified in its expression. This so unique and impressive cantata movement then comes to a close in a radiant D major chord.
The cantata “Erfreute Zeit im neuen Bunde” was first performed on the 2nd February 1724 in Leipzig, and thus belongs to the first complete yearly cycle of cantatas. It is further assumed (though exact clarification is still necessary) that it was also heard again in 1727. It is uncertain who wrote the text, though Picander’s authorship cannot be altogether dismissed. The cantata’s content consists of a favourite motif of the period in general and of Bach’s in particular: longing for death, and the certainty that it cannot harm the believer but is only to be regarded as a "state of transition,” as it were, to a new life full of peace and rest. In accordance with this, Simeon’s song of praise (Luke 2, 29-32) - in the Leipzig liturgy usually sung as a versicle by the choir before the collect - occupies the central place in the work: "Intonazione (Nunc dimittis) e Recitativo,” i. e. bible text and commentary are linked to one another, or rather alternate with each other. In skillfully contrapuntal, agitated two-part writing the instruments "accompany" the simple, "liturgical" melody of the Intonation. It is this above all that lets it stand out so palpably in its calmness and clarity against the recitative sections, in which it is urgenty reminded that fear of death is completely without cause. This "core" of the cantata is enclosed by two arias accompanied by solo violin for alto and tenor respectively. In their joyful agitation they are meant to let us feel the impatience - expressed through continuous semiquaver figures in the first aria and likewise consistently maintained triplets in the second - of the believer in his yearning for death. The recitative following the tenor aria also promises a blessed death to him who might still feel uncertainty in his belief in Christ. The fourth verse of the chorale usually sung in the
vesper service of this festival, "Mit Fried’ und Freud’ ich fahr dahin," forms the conclusion. Whether the assumption is correct that Bach has based the first three movements of the cantata, which form a powerful musical unit, on the Italian concerto form - as their key sequence might also suggest - and merely added the last recitative and the chorale for the sake of completeness as it were, cannot be decided here. Such an intention on Bach’s part cannot, however, be excluded as a possibility.
The relatively lavish orchestral forces of the wedding cantata "Gott ist unsre Zuversicht" are enough in themselves to let us suppose it was heard during the wedding ceremony of a notable personality. Divided into two sections, one of which was performed before the wedding and the other after it, it really amounts to two separate cantatas linked together by the same main idea. The two arias of the second part have been adapted from an incomplete cantata for Christmas Day "Ehre sei Gott in der Hohe." Furthermore, it would not seem impossible that the first part is also based on borrowings from other cantatas. The time of its composition is uncertain. According to most recent research, however, the years 1736/40 can be assumed with the greatest probability to be correct. Only the two arias mentioned above might well have been written already in the years 1727/29.
The big opening chorus, beginning with a fugato and written with a powerful simplicity, is laid out in the ‘da capo’ form usually reserved for arrias, through which its solemnity is yet further increased. The joyful certainty that God will lead everything to the best possible conclusion if we trust Him is recalled in the bass recitative that follows and the alto aria that is so beautiful in its sound, above all through its use of the oboe d’amore as a solo instrument, and radiates such pleasing calmness except for its more agitated middle section. The first part ends with the advice not to err from the path predetermined by God (bass recitative) and the prayer that God may, through His grace, grant awareness of and steadfastness in true love. In the second part, to be performed after the wedding ceremony, the bridal couple are personally addressed, so to speak, and assured of God’s providence. This is achieved to begin with in a bass aria full of tender agitation whose special character is further emphasized by its instrumentation; then, after a recitative of introductory character in a soprano aria in Siciliana rhythm with the character of a lullaby, accompanied by a solo violin and two oboes d’amore, in which restrained joy can be truly felt. After a bass recitative full of confidence, this part again closes with a chorale setting, probably one of the most beautiful that Bach ever wrote.
The cantata in the broadest sense of the word - whether as the church cantata or the patrician, academic or courtly work of musical homage and festivity - accompanied the Arnstadt and Mühlhausen organist, the Weimar chamber musician and court organist, the Köthen conductor and finally the Leipzig cantor of St. Thomas’-Bach-all through his creative life, although with fluctuating intensity, with interruptions and vacillations that still are problems to musicological research down to this very day. The earliest preserved cantata (“Denn du wirst meine Seele nicht in der Hölle lassen”) probably dates, if it really is by Bach, from the Arnstadt period (1704) and is still completely under the spell of North and Central German traditions. In the works of his Mühlhausen years (1707-08) - psalm cantatas, festive music for the changing of the council and a funeral work (the “Actus tragicus") - we sense for the first time something of what raises Bach as a cantata composer so much higher than all his contemporaries: the ability to analyse even the most feeble text with regard to its form and content, to grasp its theological significance and to interpret it out of its very spiritual centre in musical "speech" that is infinitely subtle and infinitely powerful in effect. In Weimar (1708-17) new duties pushed the cantata right into the background to begin with. It was not until the Duke commissioned him to write "new pieces monthly" for the court services that Bach once more turned to the cantata during the years 1714-16, on texts written by Erdmann Neumeister and Salomo Franck. Barely thirty cantatas can be ascribed to these two years with a reasonable degree of certainty. It is most remarkable that, on the other hand, no courtly funeral music has been preserved from the entire Weimar period, although there must have been a considerable demand for such works. It is conceivable that many a lost work, supplied with a new text by Bach himself, lives on among the Weimar church cantatas.
In the years Bach spent at Köthen (1717-23), on the other hand, it is the composition of works for courtly occasions of homage and festivity that come to the fore, entirely in keeping with Bach’s duties as Court Conductor. It is only during the last few months he spent at Köthen that we find him composing a series of church cantatas once again, and these were already intended for Leipzig. It was in Leipzig that the majority of the great church cantatas came into being, all of them - according to the most recent research - during his first few years of office at Leipzig and comprising between three and a maximum of five complete series for all the Sundays and feast days of the ecclesiastical year. But just as suddenly as it began, this amazing creative flow, in which this magnificent series of cantatas arose, appears to have ended again. It is possible that Bach’s regular composition of cantatas stopped as early as 1726; from 1729 at the latest it is evident that other tasks largely absorbed his creative energy, particularly the direction of the students’ Collegium Musicum with its perpetual demand for fashionable instrumental music. More than 50 cantatas for courtly and civic occasions have indeed been recorded from later years, but considered over a period of 24 years and compared with the productivity of his first years in Leipzig they do not amount to very much. We are left with the picture of an enigmatic silence in a sphere which has ever counted as the central category in Bach's creative output.
But we only need cast a superficial glance at the more than 200 of the master’s cantatas that have come down to us in order to see that this conception of their position in Bach’s total output is fully justified. Bach has investigated their texts with regard to both their meaning and their wording with incomparable penetration piercing intellect and unshakeable faith, whether they are passages from the Bible, hymns, sacred poems by his contemporaries or sacredly trimmed poetry for courtly occasions. He has transformed and interpreted these texts through his music with incomparable powers of invention and formation, he has revealed their essence and, at the same time translatted the imagery and emotional content of each of their ideas into musical images and emotions. The perfect blendin of eword and note, the combination of idea synthesis and depiction of each detail of the text, the joint effect of the baroque magnificence of the musical forms and the highly differentiated attention to detail, the skillful balance, between contrapuntal, melodic and harmonic means in the service of the word and, not least, the inexhaustible fertility and greatness of a musical imagination that is able to create from the most feeble ‘occasional’ text a world of musical characters - all this is what raises the cantata composer Bach so much higher than his own and every other age and their historically determined character, and imparts a lasting quality to his works. It is not their texts alone and not their music alone that makes them immortal - it is the combination of word and note into a hgher unit, into a new significance that first imparts to them the power of survival and makes them what they are above all else: perfect works of art.

Nikolaus Harnoncourt (1929-2016)
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