About this Recording
8.557615 - BACH, J.S. / HOFFMANN / TELEMANN: Alto and Tenor Cantatas, BWV 35, 55, 160, 189

J. S. Bach (1685-1750) • G. P. Telemann (1681-1767) • M. Hoffmann (c. 1679-1715)
Sacred Cantatas for Alto and for Tenor


False attributions have not been unusual in the history of music. Some of these may be ascribed to the commercial sense of publishers, anxious to market their wares. This, however, is less likely to be the case in works of the late baroque period, where incorrect attributions may be put down to a general similarity of current musical language and practice, and, in the present case, to the fact that Bach, like others in his position, would copy out works that he admired or for which he had a use in the course of his employment. The present recording includes two solo sacred cantatas by Bach, one now correctly ascribed to his close contemporary Telemann, and another conjecturally to Melchior Hoffmann.

The career of Johann Sebastian Bach had not been exclusively in the service of the church, and after early employment as an organist he had spent a happy time at Cöthen from 1717 to 1723 as Court Kapellmeister to the young Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Cöthen. The prince's marriage to a woman who did not share his musical enthusiasm led Bach to seek a position elsewhere, and this he found in his appointment as Thomaskantor in Leipzig. There, as an employee of the city council, he had responsibility for the music of the principal churches of the city, coupled with teaching duties in the choir school where he and his family had their quarters. He retained his place in Leipzig for the rest of his life. By 1730 he had found an additional field of musical activity in his work with the semi-professional university collegium musicum, an ensemble that had weekly meetings and was called on to provide music for a variety of occasions. The first years in Leipzig, however, brought the need to provide a regular supply of music for the church, and this he met by the composition of five annual cycles of cantatas for every Sunday and feast day in the Lutheran church year. The quantity of such compositions may seem unusual, until compared with that of other composers under a similar obligation. There were musicians who were able to provide more than five cycles of such works, and Telemann himself, a prolific composer in many genres, wrote four cycles, in addition to other cantatas.

The cantata, an Italian title seldom used by Bach himself, had come to play an important part in services of Sundays and feast days, performed before the lengthy sermon and generally related to the gospel of the day in its text in a service that would normally last some four hours. The Cantata 'Geist und Seele wird verwirret', BWV 35, belongs to Bach's varied third annual cycle, provided for use first in 1726. The text is taken from the annual cycle of texts by Georg Christian Lehms, published in 1711 in his Gottgefälliges Kirchen-Opffer and the setting was written for the twelfth Sunday after Trinity in 1726. In the music Bach has recourse to an earlier Cöthen composition, an oboe concerto, now lost, to which he turned again later, when he was arranging harpsichord concertos from his earlier instrumental compositions. The oboe concerto has been reconstructed, its first and third movement drawn from the present work (Oboe Concerto in D minor, BWV 1059, Naxos 8.554602).

The first movement of the cantata, an instrumental Sinfonia, scored for two oboes, oboe da caccia, bassoon, strings, continuo and concertante organ, shows trace of its origins, although it is now virtually transformed into an organ concerto-movement. The second movement has an equally active organ part, an obbligato accompaniment to the da capo alto aria. The third movement, a recitative, leads to a livelier second aria, in F major and accompanied by the organ. The second part of the cantata opens with an instrumental movement, identified with the last movement of the lost oboe concerto, marked Presto and in 3/8. A recitative leads to a final aria in C major.

The Cantata 'Ich armer Mensch, ich Sündenknecht', BWV 55, was written for performance on the 22nd Sunday after Trinity in the same year. It is scored for a tenor, with flute, oboe d'amore, strings and continuo, with the choir employed in the final four-part chorale. The opening aria, in 6/8, leads to a dramatic recitative. The second aria, in D minor, has a flute obbligato, and the final recitative, a plea for divine mercy, leads to the closing chorale 'Bin ich gleich von dir gewichen' (Though now I have fallen away from thee).

As a boy Melchior Hoffmann had been a chorister in the Dresden Court Chapel, moving in 1702 to Leipzig to study law. In 1705 he succeeded Telemann as organist and director of music at the Leipzig Neukirche, taking over the latter's collegium musicum and taking a hand also in the then existing Leipzig opera. He competed with Bach and others for the position of organist at the Liebfrauenkirche in Halle, winning the position in 1714, but never taking it up. He died in Leipzig in the following year, his early death bringing to an end a career that had promised much. His surviving compositions include some works for the theatre, instrumental music and secular and sacred cantatas.

The Cantata 'Meine Seele rümt und preist' (My soul extols and praises God's grace) has been widely attributed to Hoffmann, although it was earlier thought to have been by Bach and given the Bach-Verzeichnis number BWV 189. It was included in the earlier Bach Gesellschaft edition, but found no place in the Bach-Neue-Ausgabe. The cantata was written for the Feast of the Visitation, with a text by an unknown writer. It is scored for tenor, recorder, oboe, violin and continuo. It opens with a da capo aria, the introduction and accompaniment, involving the three solo instruments, effectively deployed in the style familiar from the period. The first recitative leads to a more reflective second aria with continuo. A further recitative is followed by the cheerful final aria, establishing the confidence of the first.

Like the cantata now attributed to Hoffmann, Telemann's Cantata 'Ich weiß, daß mein Erlöser lebt' (I know that my redeemer liveth) was earlier ascribed to Bach and numbered BWV 160, being again among the works that Bach had copied out in connection with his employment in Leipzig. Georg Philipp Telemann had won a considerable reputation there, a rival to Bach in reputation, and the certain preference of the Leipzig authorities for the position of Cantor at the St Thomas Choir School, where Bach was eventually appointed in 1723. Telemann had, in 1721, taken the position of Cantor of the Johanneum in Hamburg, with musical responsibility for the five principal churches of the city. His negotiations with Leipzig a year later proved the means to secure better conditions in Hamburg, where he remained until his death in 1767. He was succeeded there by his godson Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, the second son of Johann Sebastian. As a composer Telemann was prolific, providing an enormous body of work, both sacred and secular. This included 1043 church cantatas and 46 settings of the Passions, one for each of the years he was in Hamburg. Four years Bach's senior, he outlived him by seventeen years, so that by the time of his death Haydn was 35 and Mozart was eleven. His musical style developed with the times, from the characteristically late Baroque to the new stile galant exemplified by his godson.

The Cantata 'Ich weiß, daß mein Erlöser lebt', with a text by Erdmann Neumeister, is scored for tenor, with violin, bassoon, strings and continuo. It was written for the first day of Easter, and is in accordance with the celebratory mood of the season. It opens with a lively da capo tenor aria. The following extended recitative has the poetic and dramatic intensity of a Passion Evangelist, tears of joy melismatically depicted. This leads to a second da capo aria of praise of God. A recitative casts fear aside in confidence of a resurrection, and the final aria, firmly in C major like the rest of the cantata, expresses further desire for a place in heaven.

Keith Anderson

Sung texts and translations are available online at http://www.naxos.com/libretti/cantatas7615.htm

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