2 LP - 6.35470 EK - (p) 1980
1 CD - 8.42663 ZK - (c) 1984

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)


- Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied, BWV 225 12' 40"
- Der Geist hilft unser Schwachheit auf, BWV 226 7' 40"
- Komm, Jesu, komm, BWV 229 7' 45"
- Jesu, meine Freude, BWV 227 20' 00"
- Fürchte dich nicht, ich bin bei dir, BWV 228
8' 00"
- Lobet den Herren, alle Heiden, BWV 230
5' 42"


BACHCHOR STOCKHOLM / Anders Öhrwall, Leitung

CONCENTUS MUSICUS WIEN (mit Originalinstrumenten)

- Jürg Schaeftlein, Oboe, Oboe d'amore
- Anita Mitterer, Violine
- David Reichenberg, Oboe, Oboe d'amore - Wilhelm Mergl, Violine
- Paul Hailperin, Oboe da caccia - Josef de Sordi, Viola
- Milan Turkovic, Fagott - Kurt Theiner, Viola
- Alice Harnoncourt, Violine - Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Violoncello
- Walter Pfeiffer, Violine - Eduard Hruza, Violone
- Peter Schoberwalter, Violine - Herbert Tachezi, Orgel

Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Gesamtleitung
Luogo e data di registrazione
St. John, Stockholm (Svezia) - 29 novembre / 1 dicembre 1979
Registrazione live / studio
Producer / Engineer
Heinrich Weritz
Prima Edizione CD
Teldec "Das Alte Werk" - 8.42663 ZK - (1 cd) - 60' 12" - (c) 1984 - DDD
Prima Edizione LP
Telefunken "Das Alte Werk" - 6.35470 EK - (2 lp) - 28' 05" + 33' 42" - (p) 1980 - Digital

The Motets of Bach
One of Bach's duries as Cantor of St. Thomas's in Leipzig was to provide music for the services in St. Thomas's and St. Nicholas's Sundays and holy days. In addition, he and the choristers of St. Thomas's had to sing at funerals. According to the Leipzig school regulations of 1723, pupils and staff were expected to assemble in from of the house of the deceased a quarter of an hour before the commencement of the memorial service, and to start singing immediately. The selection of the hymns and motets for funerals was in the hands of the Cantor. In most cases Bach would, in accordance with tradition, have chosen settings from the "Florilegium portense", a printed collection of rnotets. If, however, specific biblical texts were requested, and he was commissioned by the bereaved family, he had both to compose and to rehearse a new motet in a comparatively short time. Five of the six extant motets by Bach were commissioned: "Der Geist hilft unser Schwachheit auf" ("Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities"); "Jesu meine Freude" ("Jesu, my joy"); "rchte dich nicht": ("Fear not"); "Komm, Jesu, komm" ("Come, jesu, come"); and "Lobet den Herrn, alle Heiden".("Praise the Lord, all ye nations"). The scope and scoring of these works reflected the fees that he received for them. Only the psalm motet "Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied" ("Sing unto the Lord a new song") appears to have been written for a different occasion.
In composing new funeral motets Bach reverted to a type of music which flourished in the middle of the 17th century (Schein, Schütz), although a number of cantors in Thuringia and Saxony still employed it in the 18th century. A feature of the "Cantor's motet" of the period was the division into a four-part movement for the biblical text and a contrapuntal movement containing the chorale tune, usually in the soprano line, of varying degrees of elaboration. The stylistic contrast between the bible quotation and the chorale text, in other words, between the message and the exegesis, is also the basis of Bach’s motets; but he far surpasses the small-scale form of his contemporaries, By combining all manner of compositional techniques (strict counterpoint, free treatment of the chorales, instrumental concerto etc.) for the purpose of representing by musical means both message and exegesis, he achieved an overall concept of both music and content unequalled in the more recent history of the motet.
The motet in three movements for double choir "Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied" (BWV 225), written no earlier than 1726, is of the same genus as the funeral motets, but was probably intended for the New Year. The first movement, a song of thanksgiving based on Psalm 149, vv.1-3, consists of a section in free style followed by a fugue, constituing a motet within the work as a whole. In the free section ("Singet dem Herrn") the two choirs conduct a dialogue: the second choir starts off by exhorting, with monosyllabic exclamations, the first choir to sing; the first choir accedes to this request with a kind of melismatic rejoicing These exhortatioris continue into the opening of the fugue subject, "Die Kinder Zion" ("Let the children of Zion"), sung by the first choir. The second movement is also cast in the form of a dialogue; the chorale "Wie sich ein Vater erbarmet" ("As a father is merciful") sung by the second choir, is interrupted by the interpolations of the first choir set to the words "Gott, nimm dich ferner unser an" ("Oh Lord, continue to care for us"). The third movement, based on Psalm 150, v..2 "Lobet den Herrn" ("Praise the Lord") leads to a fugue in which the two choirs combine into four parts to sing the Lord's praises ("Alles was Odem hat" ["Let everything that hath breath"]).
According to Bach's autograph, the motet "Der Geist hilft unset Schwachheit auf" (BWV 226), again for double choir, was performed in the University Church of St. Paul’s (Paulinerkirche) on 20th October 1729, for the funeral of Johann Heinrich Ernesti, the Rector of St. Thomas's School. Like BWV 225, it consists of three selfcontained movements. The opening movement, a setting of vv.26 and 27 of Romans 8, is constructed like a medieval "Bar": the first "Stollen", made up of two parts ("Der Geist hilft unser Schwachheit auf" and "denn wir wissen nicht, was wir beten sollen" ["for we know not what we should pray for"]) is followed by another Stollen which is a reworking of the previous one, and finally by an "Abgesang", a fugue on the words "Sondern der Geist" ("But the Spirit itself"). The second movement is a four-part double fugue, the two subjects of which (lst subject "Der aber die Herzen forschet" ["And he that searcheth the hearts"], 2nd subject "Denn et vertritt die Heiligen" ["Because he maketh intercession for the saints"]) are organically linked at the end. The motet closes with a simple figured chorale on the words of the third stanza of the Whitsun hymn "Komm, heiligcr Geist".
The five-part motet "Jesu, meine Freude" (BWV 227) was probably sung for the first time on 18th july 1723, only a few weeks after Bach had taken up his appointment as Cantor of St. Thomas's, on the occasion of the funeral of the widow of a head postmaster. The work differs primarily from the motets for double choir in respect of its formal structure. Bach combined the verses of Romans 8, on which the funeral sermon was based, with the words of a well-known hymn by Johann Franck, "Jesu, meine Freude", by alternating the chorale stanzas with biblical texts. The key statement of the third biblical quotation "But ye are not in the flesh, but in the spirit" is placed in the very centre of the motet, and becomes a focal point around which the other movements ate grouped. As will be seen from me diagram below, this aymmetrical arrangement can not only be accurately executed, but can also be appreciated without difficulty by the listener, beause the flrst two movements are repeated at the end in reverse order.

(1) Chorale stanza: "Jesu, meine Freude"; (4-part cantional setting)
(2) Biblical text, Romans 8, v. l: "Es ist nun nichts"; (5-part chorus)
(3) Chorale stanza: "Unter deinem Schirmem"; (5-part chorale, florid setting)
(4) Biblical text, Romans 8, v.2: "Denn das Gesetz"; (3-part setting in the manner of a Trio Sonata)
(5) Chorale stanza: "Trotz dem alten Drachen"; (5-part adaptation of the chorale)
(6) Biblical text, Romans 8, v.9; "Ihr aber seid nicht fleischlich, sondern gerstlich"; (5-part double fugue)
(7) Chorale stanza: "Weg mit allen Schätzen"; (4-part chorale, florid setting)
(8) Biblical tcxt, Romans 8, v.10: "So aber Chistus in uns ist"; (3-patr setting in the manner of a Trio Sonara)
(9) Chorale stanza: "Gute Nacht, o Wesen"; (4-part adaptation of the chorale with the cantus firmus in the Alto)
(10) Biblical text, Romans 8, v.ll: "So nun der Geist"; (5-part chorus, as in No. 2)
(11) Chorale stanza: "Weicht, ihr Trauergeister" with final line "Jesu, meine Freude" (4-part cantional setting, as in No. 1)

In this piece the extent to which the musical style is determined by the underlying text is far greater than in the other motets. The word painting (e. g. the rests after "nichts" in the second movement, the semiquaver run [tirata] at "tobe", or the contrary motion [antitheton] of "tobe, Welt, und springe" and "in gar sich' rer Ruh" in the fifth movement) reveal Bach as a profound "musicus poeticus" who was attempting, in accordance with the old approach to music, to move, entertain and instmct his audience (movere, delectare, docere).
Probably the motet "Fürchte dich nicht" (BWV 228) was composed shortly before "Singet dem Herrn"; both works are for double choir, and the form of the first movement of BWV 225, i. e. a section in free style followed by a fugue, strongly resembles that of BWV 228. This motet consists of two parts of roughly equal length based on verses from Isaiah, which constituted the text of the funeral sermon preached in January 1726 for the late wife of a prominent Leipzig citizen, Stadthauptmann Winckler. The first section is written as a "variatio per choros", in other words antiphonally ("Fear not, for I am with thee", Isaiah 41, v.10); the second section is a three-part fugue on the subject "Denn ich habe dich erlöset" ("For I have redeemed thee") with a regular countersubject on "Ich habe dich bei deinem Namen gerugen" ("I have called thee by thy name"); both taken from Isaiah 45, v.1, with chorale quotations from stanzas 11 and 12 of Paul Gerhardt’s hymn "Warum sollt ich mich denn grämen?". At the very end Bach summarized the content and theology of the affirmation "Fear not", and in doing so, wrote his own name B A C H (in German B stands for B flat, H for B natural), albeit transposed, in the bass line.
The motet for double choir "Komm,]esu, komm" (BWV 229) dates from between 1723 and 1754. It is based on two stanzas of a funeral hymn originally written by Paul Thymich of Leipzig on the occasion of the death of a Rector of St. Thomas's. Bach took account of the syntax and content of the first stanza by writing it in "Bar" form: the madrigal-like first part corresponds to the first "Stollen" (A), the fugato second part ("ich sehne mich nach deinem Frieder ["I long for thy peace"]) to the second "Stollen" (A’), and the third part, which resembles a concertante minuet, ("Komm, komm, ich will mich dir ergeben" ["Come, come, I will yield myself to thee"] to the "Abgesang" (B). In complete contrast to this large-scale first stanza, the second, "Drum schliess ich mich in deine Hände" ("So I give myself into thy hands") is a simple four-part chorale without cantus firmus.
"Lobet den Herrn, alle Heiden" (BWV 230) occupies a special position among Bach's motets. There is some doubt as to its authenticity, not only on account of its late appearance - it was published for the first time in 1821, allegedly from a lost autograph of Bach - but also because of some stylistic features. It has only four parts; there is an obbligato organ accompaniment; it is written in one movement, without any chorale text or tunes; sequences abound, etc. The motet is in three sections, though not obviously so, section 1 ("Lobet den Herrn, alle Heiden") being based on the first verse, and sections 2 and 3 ("Denn seine Gnade und Wahrheit walter über uns" ["For his merciful kindness is great toward us"] and "Alleluiah") on the second verse of Psalm 117. It is not out of the question that this work was written by a composer of Bach’s circle, the more so since the style of the Allelujah fugue bears some uncharacteristic features including subject with an unusual compass.
In view of the exceptional scope and difficulty of performing these motets, the question arises of what resources Bach had at his disposal for these funeral works. It must be borne in mind that the number of choristers at St. Thomas's, who had to master them musically and vocally, was comparatively small. In his "statement on the requirements of a well-appointed church musical establishment" written in 1730, Bach declared that "any musical choir... requires at least 3 Trebles, 3 male Altos, 5 Tenors and as manyBasses, so that if someone is indisposed at least a double motet can be sung. "This can only mean that the various parts, especially of the motets for double choir, were normally performed by solo singers. Only on ideal occasions (and how often did they occur?) could each part be sung by two singers. In order to improve the sound of the choir, which was homogenous but weak, Bach strengthened the vocal bass line with an instrumental thorough bass, as was the current practice. lf the performance was given in a church, as was the case with "Der Geist hilft unser Schwachheit auf" for Rector Ernesti's memorial service in the University Church, each vocal part was doubled by an instrument. This practice of playing "colla parte" is confirmed by a "Historie der Kirchen-Ceremonien in Sachsen" (History of Church Ceremonial in Saxony) dated 1732, which stated that for funeral and memorial services the Cantor was to perform funeral music, particularly if the deceased were noble or important, with instruments playing softly now and then. As the present recording of Nikolaus Harnoncourr’s proves so conclusively, a performance of Bach’s motets which takes account of these historic guidelines can exploit these possibilities to the full.

Hans Joachim Marx
Translation: Lindsay Craig

Nikolaus Harnoncourt (1929-2016)
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