Thursday, April 6, 2017

No Bach Without Luther

Last Sunday Red Baron listened to a concert at the nearby Christuskirche. This Lutheran church was built in the years 1889 to 1891 giving non-Catholics living in the Wiehre a home. The city of Freiburg donated the plot for the church under the condition that there shall be a tall steeple. This condition fulfilled Mayor Otto Winterer's maxim: A village has roofs, a town sports steeples.

Christ church and it's steeple
Following the interior the surroundings of the church were completely redecorated for the celebration of 500 years of Reformation.

Red Baron arrived early for the concert and participated in - as all the other listeners already present - rehearsing the chorals we were asked to sing together with the choir in concert.

The Bach cantata we listened to are called choral cantata. They are complex consisting of music pieces sung by a choir, arias performed by soloists, recitatives, and chorals. He wrote 224 of them, 200 with religious themes. Bach's most-know secular cantata is the Kaffeekantate (Coffee Cantata) BWV 211.

Once again I experienced that instruments are more transparent at a life performance then at any recording. I was mostly impressed by the temperamentvoll abwärtspolternden Läufe in der Bass-Arie „Stürze to Boden, schwülstige Stolze!" (the lively crashing flow of the bass aria "Hurl to the ground the pompous proud!"). As I read on the Internet: The aria is dramatic, especially in the restless continuo. John Eliot Gardiner quotes William G. Whittaker: Bach’s "righteous indignation at the enemies of his faith was never expressed more fiercely than in this aria".The Bach scholar Alfred Dürr describes the movement as an "aria of genuinely baroque dramatic force", expressing "Old Testament zeal".

It took me some time to find a recording that approximates more or less the life interpretation:

Stürze zu Boden, schwülstige Stolze!
Mache zunichte, was sie erdacht!
Laß sie den Abgrund plötzlich verschlingen,
Wehre dem Toben feindlicher Macht,
Laß ihr Verlangen nimmer gelingen!
Hurl to the ground the pompous proud!
Bring to nothing, what they intended!
Let the abyss suddenly swallow them up,
curb the raging of the enemy's power
May what they long for never come to pass!

The well-known Cantata BWV 80: Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott (A mighty fortress is our God) somehow the national anthem of the Lutheran church closed the concert. The choir introduces the cantata so the congregation has no chance of singing.

The chorus comes at the end with the words of the third verse:

Das Wort sie sollen lassen stahn
Und kein' Dank dazu haben.
Er ist bei uns wohl auf dem Plan
Mit seinem Geist und Gaben.
Nehmen sie uns den Leib,
Gut, Ehr, Kind und Weib,
Laß fahren dahin,
Sie habens kein' Gewinn;
Das Reich muß uns doch bleiben.

The Word they shall allow to stand,
and no thanks they'll get for it.
He's on the field out where we stand!
with all his gifts and Spirit.
Take they from us this life,
goods, name, child, and wife,
Let all these be gone,
they still have nothing won:
the Kingdom shall stay with us.!
It was a mighty sound with congregation and choir singing together:

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