Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Bach Cantatas (5): Sunday after Christmas

Not every year has a Sunday after Christmas. When it occurs, it falls between Dec 28 and Dec 31. Also called "Christmas Sunday."

There are three cantatas for this Sunday.

Readings for the Sunday after Christmas:
Galatians 4:1–7, Through Christ we are free from the law
Luke 2:33–40, Simeon and Anna with Mary in the temple

Cantata Studies:
Bach Cantatas Website | Simon Crouch | Emmanuel Music | Julian Mincham | Wikipedia | Eduard van Hengel (in Dutch) | Bach Companion (Oxford U.P.) | Bach: The Learned Musician (Wolff) | Music in the Castle of Heaven (Gardiner)

[The Nativity of Christ (Byzantine icon)]

  • Tritt auf die Glaubensbahn, BWV 152, 30 December 1714
    Aria (bass): Tritt auf die Glaubensbahn
    Recitative (bass): Der Heiland ist gesetzt
    Aria (soprano): Stein, der über alle Schätze
    Recitative (bass): Es ärgre sich die kluge Welt
    Duet (soprano, bass): Wie soll ich dich, Liebster der Seelen, umfassen?

    ("Step upon the path of faith") Dialogue cantata composed in Weimar in 1714 on a text by Salomo Franck. It is one of Bach's early cantatas; Bach was employed at the Weimar Court from 1707 to 1717 and in 1714 he had been promoted from violinist to concertmaster, with the obligation to compose a cantata on a monthly basis. The chamber work features an exotic orchestration, including viola d’amore (an instrument with sympathetically resonating strings), viola da gamba, recorder and oboe d’amore. The gospel text for this Sunday is about the Presentation in the Temple (which is also central to the feast of Mary Purification on February 2), but Franck was inspired by other passages in the Bible that characterize the Messiah as a stone spurned by the builders; God, however, makes it into the corner stone. While playing with the symbolism that God laid "the stone of foundation" and that Jesus is a "stone beyond all gems," the text is an allegorical dialogue between Jesus and the Soul about faith as the Rock of the Ages which never fails, and concludes with a rejection of the world. The cantata starts with an attractive sinfonia which has some resemblance to Bach's Prelude and Fugue in A Major for organ. The first aria is for the bass as Vox Christi, who invites the Soul to "step upon the path of faith," accompanied by purposeful music. In the ensuing recitative the bass introduces the symbol of the corner stone, which is taken up in the soprano aria, featuring an elegant accompaniment from the recorder and viola d'amore. The final duet (there is no chorale) unites Jesus and the Soul (and the upper instruments in unisono). This cantata is the earliest extant example of a dialogue. Bach chose not to re-use this cantata in Leizig, perhaps because it was too much a chamber work and difficult to alter considering its instrumentation.

    Rating: A
    Video: -

  • Das neugeborne Kindelein, BWV 122, 31 December 1724
    Chorale: Das neugeborne Kindelein
    Aria (bass): O Menschen, die ihr täglich sündigt
    Recitative (soprano): Die Engel, welche sich zuvor
    Aria (soprano, alto, tenor): Ist Gott versöhnt und unser Freund
    Recitative (bass): Dies ist ein Tag, den selbst der Herr gemacht
    Chorale: Es bringt das rechte Jubeljahr

    ("The new-born infant child") Chorale cantata from Bach's second Leipzig year, based on a hymn by Cyriakus Schneegass (1597) which celebrates the newborn Jesus (In the Middle Ages, the birth of Jesus was also seen as the beginning of the new year). The opening chorus is a chorale fantasia with a long opening and closing ritornello enclosing a chorale theme with four entries and lengthy interspersed episodes. It is, however, rather muted and the long and chromatic bass aria which follows mostly dwells on "men who daily sin" and therefore face damnation. The vocal line here has been called "tortuous and chromatically convoluted." Apparently, it is time again for Lutheran fire and brimstone! Only accompanied by the continuo, this is the longest movement of the cantata. In the next recitative the chorale melody is played by three recorders, and in the trio for soprano, alto and tenor, it is sung by the alto as cantus firmus. After a bass recitative which dwells on the joyful message of Christmas, the cantata closes with the usual plain harmonization of the chorale.

    Rating: B
    Video: Julian Wachner

  • Gottlob! nun geht das Jahr zu Ende, BWV 28, 30 December 1725
    Aria (soprano): Gottlob! nun geht das Jahr zu Ende
    Chorale: Nun lob, mein Seel, den Herren
    Recitative and arioso (bass): So spricht der Herr
    Recitative (tenor): Gott ist ein Quell
    Duet aria (alto and tenor): Gott hat uns im heurigen Jahre gesegnet
    Chorale: All solch dein Güt wir preisen

    ("Praise God! The year now draws to a close") Part of Bach's third Leipzig cycle. The Sunday after Christmas is the last Sunday of the year and the principal topic of this cantata is the passing of the old year and coming of the new year, without referring to the readings for the day. The cantata text is by Erdmann Neumeister. The virtuosic and melismatic opening soprano aria exhorts us to recall God's gifts in the previous year and bring thanks. That thanks is then represented (and expanded from the individual to the collective) by Johann Gramann's hymn "Nun lob, mein Seel, den Herren," here in rare second position for a chorale. This movement (in its combined sobriety and complexity the most interesting part of this short cantata) is in motet style; motets were traditionally part of Christmas music in Germany. The theme of God's generosity is continued in the arioso for bass (quoting Jeremiah 32:41) and the tenor recitative. The duet for alto and tenor then sums up the themes of gratitude. The cantata ends with a straightforward chorale harmonization, "Helft mir Gotts Güte preisen," of unknown authorship.

    Rating: C+
    Video: -

Bach Cantata Index

Monday, December 28, 2015

Bach Cantatas (4): Third Day of Christmas / St John's Day (Dec 27)

The Third Day of Christmas (December 27) is in the Lutheran, Anglican and Catholic calendars the Feast of St. John the Evangelist (St. John's Day), one of the first disciples and later one of the "pillars" of the Jerusalem church. He is traditionally considered the author of the Gospel of John, the Epistles of John and possibly also the Book of Revelation and lived to a high age. Most modern scholars, however, doubt these ascriptions and even consider him as a composite of several persons.

[St John by Rubens, 1611 - Wikipedia - Public Domain]

As he was traditionally identified with "the beloved apostle," John played a prominent role in art. In the Western tradition, he is often depicted as a beardless youth, as it was believed he became an apostle at a youthful age (he is sometimes even depicted as androgynous). One of John's familiar attributes is the chalice or wine cup. This goes back to a legend from the (apocryphal) Acts of John, in which John was challenged to drink a cup of poisoned wine to demonstrate the power of his faith. As he had blessed the wine before he drank, he suffered no harm. (Other common attributes include a book, symbolizing the writings attributed to him, and an eagle, which is meant to express the high-soaring, inspirational quality of his thought.)

There are four cantatas for this day: three from 1723-25, plus the third cantata of the Christmas Oratorio. Different from St Stephen's Day, the present cantatas don't refer to the story of John, but are rather based on text from the gospel of John.

Readings for the Third Day of Christmas:
Hebrews 1:1–14, Christ is higher than the angels, or
Eccles. 15:1-8, Wisdom embraces those that fear the Lord;
John 1:1–14, Prologue, also called Hymn to the Word, or
John 21:15-24, Jesus commands Peter to feed his lambs.

Cantata Studies:
Bach Cantatas Website | Simon Crouch | Emmanuel Music | Julian Mincham | Wikipedia | Eduard van Hengel (in Dutch) | Bach Companion (Oxford U.P.) | Bach: The Learned Musician (Wolff) | Music in the Castle of Heaven (Gardiner)

[Adoration of the Shepherds, Giorgione, 1500-10]

  • Sehet, welch eine Liebe hat uns der Vater erzeiget, BWV 64, 27 December 1723
    Chorus: Sehet, welch eine Liebe hat uns der Vater erzeiget
    Chorale: Das hat er alles uns getan
    Recitative (alto): Geh, Welt, behalte nur das Deine
    Chorale: Was frag ich nach der Welt
    Aria (soprano): Was die Welt in sich hält
    Recitative (bass): Der Himmel bleibet mir gewiß
    Aria (alto): Von der Welt verlang ich nichts
    Chorale: Gute Nacht, o Wesen

    "Behold, what a love has the Father shown to us"
    Text: J.O. Knauer

    The text of this cantata of the first Leipzig cycle is a revised version of a libretto by J.O. Knauer published in 1720. The aphorism underlying the first movement (and theologically, the whole cantata) was taken from I John 3. Bach stresses that the believer does not have to be concerned about the "world" any more when loved by God in the way which Christmas shows. The opening chorus is set in fugal motet style; an archaic-sounding choir of trombones doubles the voices. "Sehet" is set as a block homophonic exclamation by all four voices before starting various imitative entrances. Besides this chorus, the cantata contains three chorales in plain four-part harmonizations, all of them familiar to Bach's Leipzig community. The first one (strophe 7 of Luther's hymn Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ) is a hymn of gratitude for what God has done. It is followed by an alto recitative, addressing the flimsiness of earthly riches, accompanied by scales in the continuo "rising to heaven." The second chorale (strophe 1 of the hymn Was frag ich nach der Welt by G.M. Pfefferkorn) questions worldly values and is followed by a soprano aria on the same theme, in the style of a gavotte, in which a virtuoso solo violin represents the "worldly things" which must dissipate like smoke. The bass recitative makes a firm statement about the sureness of heaven, after which the alto aria, accompanied by the oboe d'amore, stresses that the believer "desires nothing from the world" (but the complex rhythm of the aria may convey "the difficulty of staying on the path to heaven"). The cantata closes with the third and final chorale, a setting of the fifth verse of Johann Frank's "Jesu, meine Freude," which says farewell to all things material and thus neatly sums up the whole cantata. All in all, a huge contrast with the materialistic frenzy of contemporary Christmas...

    Rating: A
    Video: Concerto Copenhagen

  • Ich freue mich in dir, BWV 133, 27 December 1724
    Chorus: Ich freue mich in dir
    Aria (alto): Getrost! es faßt ein heil'ger Leib
    Recitative (tenor): Ein Adam mag sich voller Schrecken
    Aria (soprano): Wie lieblich klingt es in den Ohren
    Recitative (bass): Wohlan, des Todes Furcht und Schmerz
    Chorale: Wohlan, so will ich mich

    "I rejoice in you"
    Text: chorale by Caspar Ziegler

    Chorale cantata from the second Leipzig cycle 1724-25, based on the chorale in four stanzas "Ich freue mich in dir" (1697) by Caspar Ziegler. The text only makes passing reference to the readings for this Sunday (John 1:1–14); instead of occupying itself with the feast of John the Evangelist, it is a celebration of the Christmas story at the level of the individual believer. The cantata starts with a concerto-like movement of great rhythmic vitality, in which the eight lines of Ziegler's hymn have been interpolated between attractive orchestral interludes and oboe d'amore melismas. The alto aria is again accompanied by oboes d'amore, here used almost like trumpets, singing about the happiness of having seen God face to face. It's central textual motif is contained in the word "Getrost", "be confident." The tenor recitative ends in arioso-style by quoting from the chorale in both words and music "Wird er ein kleines Kind und heißt mein Jesulein." The soprano da capo aria has a fine string accompaniment and a gentle lilt, like a lullaby, and continues expressing joy in the same vein, only more gentle. This aria is the tender heart of the whole cantata. The cantata is closed by a four-part setting of the last chorale stanza, which could almost have been a Christmas carol.

    Rating: B
    Video: Concerto Copenhagen

  • Süßer Trost, mein Jesus kömmt, BWV 151, 27 December 1725
    Aria (soprano): Süßer Trost, mein Jesus kömmt
    Recitative (bass): Erfreue dich, mein Herz
    Aria (alto): In Jesu Demut kann ich Trost
    Recitative (tenor): Du teurer Gottessohn
    Chorale: Heut schleußt er wieder auf die Tür

    "Sweet comfort, my Jesus comes"
    Text: Georg Christian Lehms

    Miniature cantata without opening chorus from 1725. Bach chose a text by the Darmstadt poet and court librarian Georg Christian Lehms (1684-1717), who was inspired by the Christmas Epistle (Hebrews I:1-14), "Christ is higher than the angels." There is no opening chorus. The mellifluous opening aria for soprano features the traverse flute. It is a gently swaying lullaby expressing joy at the birth of Jesus; the flute part is highly embellished, weaving playful arabesques around the lyrical vocal cantilena - it is almost like the flute concert Bach never wrote! This is truly angelic music, one of Bach's most sublime creations for the solo voice. The bass recitative moves from celebration to a recognition of Jesus' meekness and humility. The melancholic, chromatic alto aria (finding comfort in Jesus' humbleness) with prominent oboe d'amore expands this idea. In contrast to the bass, the tenor recitative again moves back from humility to celebration. The final movement is a setting of the final stanza of "Lobt Gott, ihr Christen alle gleich", a chorale with words and melody by Nikolaus Herman published in 1560.

    Rating: B+
    Video: Netherlands Bach Society / Bach-Stiftung

  • Herrscher des Himmels, erhöre das Lallen 27 December 1734 (Christmas Oratorio Part III) BWV 248/3
    Chorus "Herrscher des Himmels, erhöre das Lallen"
    Recitative (Evangelist, tenor) "Und da die Engel von ihnen gen Himmel fuhren"
    Chorus "Lasset uns nun gehen gen Bethlehem"
    Recitative (bass) "Er hat sein Volk getröst't"
    Chorale "Dies hat er alles uns getan"
    Duet (soprano, bass) "Herr, dein Mitleid, dein Erbarmen"
    Recitative (Evangelist, tenor) "Und sie kamen eilend"
    Aria (alto) "Schließe, mein Herze, dies selige Wunder"
    Recitative (alto) "Ja, ja! mein Herz soll es bewahren"
    Chorale "Ich will dich mit Fleiß bewahren"
    Recitative (Evangelist, tenor) "Und die Hirten kehrten wieder um"
    Chorale "Seid froh, dieweil"
    Chorus "Herrscher des Himmels, erhöre das Lallen"

    "Ruler of Heaven, hear our babbling"
    Text: Picander (?)

    The third part of the Christmas Oratorio sees the shepherds eventually arriving in Bethlehem. It starts with a fine, glorious chorus, borrowed from BWV 214/9, with trumpets and drums. The first recitative by the Evangelist sets the scene and this is followed by a lively chorus "Let us now go towards Bethlehem." A further recitative is followed by a contemplative chorale and then a gentle duet (taken from BWV 213/11) for soprano and bass accompanied beautifully by a pair of oboe's d'amore. The evangelist continues telling of the shepherds finding the child and spreading the news. The alto then sings "Mary's aria" (the only original aria in the Christmas Oratorio), a gentle reflection on the miracle that has just taken place, accompanied by solo violin. The cantata then draws to a close with the pattern recitative-chorale-recitative-chorale, after which the opening chorus is repeated.

    Rating: A+
    Video: Bach-Stiftung / Rene Jacobs / Harnoncourt

Bach Cantata Index

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Bach Cantatas (3): Second day of Christmas / St Stephen's Day (Dec 26)

On Second Christmas Day Day Leipzig celebrated both Christmas and St. Stephen's Day. St. Stephen has nothing to do with the Christmas story, he was a deacon in the early church at Jerusalem who aroused the enmity of members of various synagogues by his teachings and who was according to the Acts stoned to death (somewhere in or around the year 34), making him the first martyr of the church. St. Stephen's Day is a public holiday in many nations that were historically Catholic, Anglican or Lutheran. St. Stephan is symbolic for all who suffer for their faith.

[Saint Stephen, by Carlo Crivelli, 1476,
with three stones (used to kill him) and the martyrs' palm]

Thus the second day of Christmas has two different readings: the shepherds coming to Bethlehem from the Christmas story and Jesus' description of the persecution of the prophets by Jerusalem, seen in the light of the story of the stoning of St. Stephen from the Acts. Of the four Bach cantatas for this day, only the second part of the Christmas Oratorio deals exclusively with the Christmas story (about the shepherds), all of the other cantatas (dating from 1723 to 1725) concentrate on the persecution trauma inherent in the St. Stephen story.

Readings for Second Day of Christmas and St. Stephen's Day:

Titus 3:4–7, God's mercy appeared in Christ
Luke 2:15–20, The shepherds at the manger

(St. Stephen's Day)
Acts 6:8–15 and 7:55–60, Martyrdom of Stephen
Matthew 23:35–39, Jerusalem killing her prophets

Cantata Studies:
Bach Cantatas Website | Simon Crouch | Emmanuel Music | Julian Mincham | Wikipedia | Eduard van Hengel (in Dutch) | Bach Companion (Oxford U.P.) | Bach: The Learned Musician (Wolff) | Music in the Castle of Heaven (Gardiner)

[Medieval miniature painting of the Nativity by the Master of Vyšší Brod, c. 1350]

  • Darzu ist erschienen der Sohn Gottes, BWV 40, 26 December 1723

    Chorus: Darzu ist erschienen der Sohn Gottes
    Recitative (tenor): Das Wort ward Fleisch
    Chorale: Die Sünd macht Leid
    Aria (bass): Höllische Schlange, wird dir nicht bange?
    Recitative (alto): Die Schlange, so im Paradies
    Chorale: Schüttle deinen Kopf und sprich
    Aria (tenor): Christenkinder, freuet euch!
    Chorale: Jesu, nimm dich deiner Glieder

    "For this the Son of God appeared"
    Text: anonymous; Kaspar Füger, Paul Gerhardt, Christian Keymann

    This cantata contains in only fifteen minutes three beautiful chorale settings, two attractive arias, two recitatives and an upbeat opening chorus. The text combines the Christmas story with the Stoning of St. Stephan, by introducing Jesus as coming down to earth to destroy the works of the devil. The cantata therefore finds Bach in a militaristic mood and is full of battle cries. That starts with the opening music, which with its blaring horns is a great example of Bachian military music. The tenor recitative exhorts the faithful to contemplate the implications of the incarnation in the expression "the Word became flesh." The bass aria with highly rhythmic accompaniment develops the theme of Satan's destruction in the form of an operatic "rage aria," addressing the Evil One as a slithering snake. The "twisting whiplashes of the violins" are thought to portray the "serpent's tail." After the alto recitative (reminding us that this is the very same serpent that seduced Adam and Eve), the tenor interestingly compares Jesus to a hen protecting her chicks (an image based on the Readings for this Sunday). The horns and oboes here are not used for military music, but for a joyful tune, playing a fine fanfare. The internal chorales which separate these arias are folksy in style and content. In contrast, the final chorale "Freuet euch ihr Christen alle" forms a surprisingly restrained closure after the bravura of the tenor aria.

    Rating: A
    Video: Netherlands Bach Society / Herreweghe

[Nativity of Jesus by Botticelli, 1473-75]

  • Christum wir sollen loben schon, BWV 121, 26 December 1724

    Chorus: Christum wir sollen loben schon
    Aria (tenor): O du von Gott erhöhte Kreatur
    Recitative (alto): Der Gnade unermesslich's Wesen
    Aria (bass): Johannis freudenvolles Springen
    Recitative (soprano): Doch wie erblickt es dich in deiner Krippe
    Chorale: Lob, Ehr und Dank sei dir gesagt

    "We should already be praising Christ"
    Text: Chorale "Christum wir sollen loben schon" by Martin Luther

    Chorale cantata based on the Luther chorale motet "Christum wir sollen loben schon” (itself derived from the famous 5th c. Latin hymn A solis ortus cardine, and used for the Lauds during the Christmas season), treated in an archaic manner in the opening chorale fantasia. With its primitive root, this is the oldest-feeling of all Bach's cantatas. Bach sets the opening verse in motet-style, the voices doubled by a cornet and three trombones besides the usual strings and oboes. This tune which starts in Dorian but ends in the Phrygian mode has a wonderful mystical quality. The text dwells on the wonder of the Incarnation, with only a vague relationship to the readings of the day, but the archaic music is perfectly attuned to that content. The first tenor aria, accompanied by a delightful obbligato oboe d'amore, develops the theme. It has been called "off-kilter," expressing confusion and wonder. After a recitative, the bass aria with string accompaniment celebrates Jesus' coming. Text and music apparently reflect "John the Baptist's jumping in his mother's womb during the Visitation of Mary" (Mary visits her relative Elizabeth, at the time they are both pregnant: Mary is pregnant with Jesus and Elizabeth is pregnant with John the Baptist). I can't help it, but two babies jumping up and down in the swollen bellies of their proud mothers, strikes me somehow as farcical, like a Japanese manga... This is followed by an arioso recitative, with an almost impossible extended range for a boy soprano. The work closes with a beautiful chorale.

    Rating: A
    Video: Bach-Stiftung

["Visitation", from Altarpiece of the Virgin by Jacques Daret, c. 1435]

  • Selig ist der Mann, BWV 57, 26 December 1725

    Aria (bass): Selig ist der Mann
    Recitative (soprano): Ach! dieser süße Trost
    Aria (soprano): Ich wünschte mir den Tod, den Tod
    Recitative (soprano, bass): Ich reiche dir die Hand
    Aria (bass): Ja, ja, ich kann die Feinde schlagen
    Recitative (soprano, bass): In meinem Schoß liegt Ruh und Leben
    Aria (soprano): Ich ende behende mein irdisches Leben
    Chorale: Richte dich, Liebste, nach meinem Gefallen und gläube

    "Blessed is the man"
    Text: Georg Christian Lehms

    This cantata (called ‘Concerto in dialogo’ by Bach) has nothing of the Christmas spirit but is a rather severe dialogue between Christ (bass) and the Soul (soprano) inspired by the story of the Stoning of St Stephen. As in operas of the period, the discourse is carried forward in recitative while the arias expand on the thoughts and feelings of the protagonists. The first bass aria is dominated by long vocal phrases - in fact, it is more like an arioso. In the first soprano aria the longing for death is expressed by an upwards line followed by a wide interval down. Here the Soul sings of the torments to be endured without Christ's love. It is a tragic dance, a dance of death, and at the same times one of the warmest, most moving, most mystical pieces of music that Bach wrote. The central recitative duet, though very short, provides a "pivot point" (Jesus promises to support the soul and destroy its enemies) after which the music becomes slightly more upbeat. The third aria shows Jesus as the victor by fanfare-like broken triads, calling on the Soul to cease its weeping. Where in its first aria the Soul wanted to die because it lacked Jesus' love, in its second aria it wants to enter the grave to be with Jesus... This is again a striking instance of the Lutheran "longing for death" in order to be in Heaven. It has been said that in the last aria the florid line of the solo violin can be interpreted as "the passionate movement of the Soul into the arms of Jesus." The aria ends on the question "was schenkest du mir?" which is answered by the final four-part chorale on the tune of "Lobe den Herren, den mächtigen König der Ehren."

    Rating: B+
    Video: Dutch Bach Society / Bach-Stiftung

  • Und es waren Hirten in derselben Gegend, 26 December 1734 (Christmas Oratorio Part II) BWV 248/2

    Recitative (Evangelist, tenor) "Und es waren Hirten in derselben Gegend"
    Chorale "Brich an, o schönes Morgenlicht"
    Recitative (Evangelist, tenor; Angel, soprano) "Und der Engel sprach zu ihnen"
    Recitative (bass) "Was Gott dem Abraham verheißen"
    Aria (tenor) "Frohe Hirten, eilt, ach eilet"
    Recitative (Evangelist, tenor) "Und das habt zum Zeichen"
    Chorale "Schaut hin! dort liegt im finstern Stall"
    Recitative (bass) "So geht denn hin!"
    Aria (alto) "Schlafe, mein Liebster, genieße der Ruh'"
    Recitative (Evangelist, tenor) "Und also bald war da bei dem Engel"
    Chorus "Ehre sei Gott in der Höhe"
    Recitative (bass) "So recht, ihr Engel, jauchzt und singet"
    Chorale "Wir singen dir in deinem Heer"

    "And there were shepherds in the same country"
    Text: Picander (?)

    The second cantata of the Christmas Oratorio cycle opens with a beautiful pastoral sinfonia. The evangelist relates the story of the shepherds which is followed by the lovely chorale "Brich an, o schönes Morgenlicht." The Evangelist then describes the infant Jesus in the manger and tells the shepherds to have no fear. The bass states that this is the fulfillment of the old testament promise. In a gentle aria the tenor urges the shepherds to seek the child. This urging is repeated by the evangelist, after which follows the chorale tune "Vom Himmel hoch." Next comes a gorgeous berceuse for alto, flute, and strings, the center piece of this cantata. Parodied from BWV 213/3, it is transformed into a beautiful and gentle lullaby to the child in the manger. After the evangelist has filled in one more biblical text, the chorus sings the energetic "Ehre sei Gott in der Höhe," an original composition for this cantata. The work ends with a straightforward setting of the final chorale, accompanied by motives from the opening sinfonia.

    Rating: A+
    Video: Bach-Stiftung / Rene Jacobs /
    Harnoncourt (Christmas Oratorio complete)

Bach Cantata Index

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Bach Cantatas (2): Christmas Day (Dec 25)

The Christmas season in Leipzig was celebrated for 12 days from Christmas Day through Epiphany. Christmas (Weinachtstag) itself was observed on three consecutive days, not two, with a Christmas cantata performed every day. Although also containing some exuberant music, in Bach's day Christmas was not as "oppressively cheery" (let alone commercialized) as it is today - in fact, much of the music written by Bach for Advent and Christmas looks profoundly inward.

In fact, there is no reliable historical information about Jesus and the date of his birth is unknown. By the early-to-mid fourth century this event was arbitrarily placed by the church on December 25, a date marked by the Romans as the winter solstice, the shortest and darkest day of the year (and therefore also the time from which the days would again begin to get longer, symbolized by Jesus as the Light of the World) as well as the date exactly nine months following Annunciation, when the conception of Jesus was celebrated.

[Gerard van Honthorst, Adoration of the Shepherds, 1622]

For the Christmas season of 1734 Bach composed the Christmas Oratorio in six parts, to be performed consecutively on the three days of Christmas, on New Year, the Sunday after New Year and on Epiphany. We will discuss the six parts on their respective days.

There are three extant cantatas for Christmas Day, plus the first part of the Christmas Oratorio. One more cantata, BWV 197a from 1728, is lost apart from the text by Picander; although the music of some of its movements can be reconstructed as it was parodied in BWV 197. BWV 191, finally, is a Latin cantata written to celebrate the Peace of Dresden (which ended the 2nd Silesian war) and which was performed on Christmas day, 1745. The music of its three movements has been copied by Bach from the great B Minor Mass.

The readings for Christmas Day:
Titus 2:11–14, God's mercy appeared (or Isaiah 9:2–7, Unto us a child is born)
Luke 2:1–14, Nativity, Annunciation to the shepherds and the angels' song

Cantata Studies:
Bach Cantatas Website | Simon Crouch | Emmanuel Music | Julian Mincham | Wikipedia | Eduard van Hengel (in Dutch) | Bach Companion (Oxford U.P.) | Bach: The Learned Musician (Wolff) | Music in the Castle of Heaven (Gardiner)

  • Christen, ätzet diesen Tag, BWV 63, 1714 or 1715

    Chorus: Christen, ätzet diesen Tag
    Recitative (alto): Oh, selger Tag! o ungemeines Heute
    Aria (soprano, bass): Gott, du hast es wohl gefüget
    Recitative (tenor): So kehret sich nun heut
    Aria (alto, tenor): Ruft und fleht den Himmel an
    Recitative (bass): Verdoppelt euch demnach
    Chorus: Höchster, schau in Gnaden an

    "Christians, engrave this day"
    Text: Johann Michael Heineccius?

    Bach's earliest extant cantata for Christmas, of somewhat mysterious origin. It may have been composed as early as 1713-1716 when Bach worked in Weimar; but it was certainly not composed for the Weimar Schlosskirche (castle chapel) "Himmelsburg" as the organ balcony high in that church was so small it could only accommodate chamber music forces, while this cantata uses unusually lavish forces. Another fact is that this cantata - although it has a suitably festive character - lacks the usual nativity themes such as a cradle song, shepherds music or Christmas chorales. It is therefore surmised that Bach wrote the cantata for the Liebfrauenkirche in Halle, where in 1713 he applied to be organist of this church, or in 1716, when he was involved in rebuilding its organ. The text is then possibly by that church's 'Pastor primarius' Johann Michael Heineccius, who also wrote the libretti for other Bach cantatas. This despite the fact that the minting metaphor in the opening chorus ("Engrave this day in metal and marble") might lead us to believe that this is another text by Weimar Mint Director Salomo Franck. That possibility cannot be excluded, as this cantata could also have been performed in the larger church of St. Peter und Paul in Weimar by combined forces of the ducal chapel and town musicians. Finally, some musicologists are of the opinion that Bach actually wrote this cantata for Leipzig in 1723 as that was his first Christmas in the new town, something he wanted to celebrate with extra festive music. The cantata doesn't contain the usual sermon or severe words, it is one long song of praise and thanksgiving for the blessings of Christmas, which is presented as the long-awaited fulfillment of God's promise. The cantata starts in an energetic mode with a festive chorus, accompanied by a large orchestra with four trumpets and timpani. The accompanied alto recitative is more inward looking than the exuberant opening chorus. There are some tortuous passages when the voice struggles to free itself from "Satan's slavish chains." Next we find two duets separated by another recitative. The first - austere - duet is for soprano and bass with oboe obbligato, the second - dancing, a menuet - one of for alto and tenor. This is a rare cantata containing no solo arias, but duets instead. A bravura bass recitative with brass and winds introduces the glorious final C-Major chorus (not a chorale), which starts full of energy with a double fugue. The central recitative, by the way (movement four) contains in midpoint the word "Gnaden," "Grace;" Bach consciously made this concept the pivot on which the whole cantata turns. Bach performed this cantata for his first Christmas as Thomaskantor in Leipzig, on 25 December 1723. Bach performed the cantata in Leipzig at least one more time, possibly in 1729.

    Rating: A
    Video: Netherlands Bach Sociery / Bach-Stiftung / Herreweghe

[Bernardo Daddi 1325-50]

  • Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ, BWV 91, 25 December 1724

    Chorale: Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ
    Recitative (and chorale, soprano): Der Glanz der höchsten Herrlichkeit
    Aria (tenor): Gott, dem der Erden Kreis zu klein
    Recitative (bass): O Christenheit! Wohlan
    Aria (soprano, alto): Die Armut, so Gott auf sich nimmt
    Chorale: Das hat er alles uns getan

    "Praise be to you, Jesus Christ"
    Text: "Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ" by Martin Luther

    Chorale cantata from Bach's second Leipzig year, based on the famous Christmas hymn "Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ" (1524) by Martin Luther (and going back at least to the tenth century sequence Grates omnes reddamus). The text emphasizes the contrast between the majesty of Christ's heavenly state and the lowliness of his birth for the salvation of mankind. The hymn tune is brilliantly set for horns, tympani, three oboes, and strings with the sopranos singing the melody in long tones against jubilant counterpoint. As John Eliot Gardiner says in Music in the Castle of Heaven (p. 326), "the opening ritornello has the special sense of expectation that is the hallmark of Bach in Christmas mode: fanfares for the horns and running G major scales in the oboes that suggest the dancing of angels." The ensuing soprano recitative is contrasted with chorale phrases from the second verse of the hymn. The expressive tenor aria starts with a wailing chorus of three oboes. It has an interesting dotted rhythm, which was the normal symbolic representation in French Baroque music of kingly majesty. After the slow, chromatic accompagnato bass recitative has addressed the topic of "this vale of tears" (Bach wouldn't be Bach without at least a refenrence to such a topic!), the last aria, a duet between soprano and alto, sung in close imitation over a Corellian walking bass, concerns the poverty which God takes upon himself for the salvation of mankind. This is contrasted with the "brimming store of Heaven's treasures" he bestows on the believer. The horns and drums reenter for the closing chorale, restoring the jubilant tone of the opening chorus. This chorale cantata belonging to Bach second round of cantatas in Leipzig, was after 1724 again performed by Bach on at least five occasions in the 1730s and 1740s, so Bach himself must have been pleased with it.

    Rating: B
    Video: Bach-Stiftung / Herreweghe

  • Unser Mund sei voll Lachens, BWV 110, 25 December 1725
    (Text: Georg Christian Lehms, 1711)

    Unser Mund sei voll Lachens (Chorus)
    Ihr Gedanken und ihr Sinnen (Aria Tenor)
    Dir, Herr, ist niemand gleich (Recitative Bass)
    Ach Herr! was ist ein Menschenkind (Aria Alto)
    Ehre sei Gott in der Höhe (Duet Soprano and Tenor)
    Wacht auf, ihr Adern und ihr Glieder (Aria Bass)
    Alleluja! Gelobt sei Gott (Chorale)

    "May our mouth be full of laughter"
    Text: Georg Christian Lehms

    Festive Christmas cantata composed by Bach in his third year as Thomaskantor in Leipzig, on a text by Georg Christian Lehms. The text has not the usual recitatives alternating with arias, but instead features three sections with biblical quotations. The opening chorus is a very skillful arrangement of the Overture to the Fourth Orchestral Suite in D BWV 1069 - it fits so to speak "like a glove." Bach takes the slow-fast-slow structure of the French overture and uses the solemn outer sections to frame the fast fugal segment, with a four-part chorus worked into the instrumental fabric. This enormous movement is easily the center of gravity of the cantata. The "laughter" mentioned in the text is often graphically audible. The ensuing feathery tenor aria with two obbligato flutes is a musical jewel. The poet's invitation to his thoughts to leave earthly concerns and rise to the contemplation of higher things is depicted by rising flute figures. The second aria for alto benefits from the presence of an oboe d'amore, which graphically liberates itself from the vocalist who portrays the stubborn foolishness of mankind. The fifth movement is a duet for soprano and tenor who both play angels greeting the shepherds with the text “Glory to God in the highest.” The music is based on the "Virga Jesse floruit" from the Magnificat BWV 243A. It is an expression of goodwill towards mankind in pastoral style. Next comes a heroic bass aria, with trumpet and woodwind, a stirring call to wake up and join the praise of the angels. Note that, when the text refers to "devotional strings," the winds rest and the violins play long ornamental melismas. The final harmonized chorale, taken from Caspar Füger's "Wir Christenleut," is set in plain style.

    Rating: A+
    Video: Netherlands Bach Society / Bach-Stiftung

[Rose window of the cathedral of Strasbourg]

  • Jauchzet, frohlocket 25 December 1734 (Christmas Oratorio Part I) BWV 248/I

    Chorus "Jauchzet, frohlocket, auf, preiset die Tage"
    Recitative (tenor) "Es begab sich aber zu der Zeit"
    Recitative (alto) "Nun wird mein liebster Bräutigam"
    Aria (alto) "Bereite dich, Zion, mit zärtlichen Trieben"
    Chorale "Wie soll ich dich empfangen"
    Recitative (tenor) "Und sie gebar ihren ersten Sohn"
    Chorale (sopranos) & Recitative (bass) "Er ist auf Erden kommen arm" & "Wer will die Liebe recht erhöhn"
    Aria (bass) "Großer Herr und starker König"
    Chorale "Ach mein herzliebes Jesulein!"

    "Rejoice, exult, up, glorify the days"
    Text: Picander (?)

    The first part of Bach's Christmas Oratorio, which consists of six self-contained but linked cantatas meant for performance on different days. All include music that Bach had originally written for secular cantatas (the reuse of one's own music was a common practice in the Baroque period, especially since most music was not published). But while in cantata format, the Oratorio includes a tenor Evangelist who narrates the story in the form of a recitative, as in the Matthew and John Passions. The backbone of the text is provided by the biblical narrative, from the nativity up to the coming of the three wise men. Most texts are from St. Luke and St. Mathew and the emphasis is on narration and contemplation rather than dialogue or action. The first cantata opens in magnificent style, with trumpets and drums, adapted from BWV 214/1. It is a truly glorious piece of music. The first recitative introduces the well known narrative of Mary and Joseph going to Jerusalem for the census. This is interrupted by the alto, who after a recitative in which Christ is introduced as bridegroom (as in BWV 140), calls in a gentle aria, "Bereite dich, Zion," to prepare oneself. After a chorale the tenor continues his narration of the Christmas story. The ensuing bass recitative contemplating the meaning of it all is intertwined with the sopranos singing the chorale "Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ." This leads to the glorious bass aria "Großer Herr, o starker König," originally from a secular work in praise of the king, but with its trumpet fanfares wonderfully suited to the new text. A grand setting of the chorale "Vom Himmel hoch, da komm ich her," with trumpets, ends the cantata.

    Rating: A+
    Video: Bach-Stiftung / Harnoncourt (Christmas Oratorio complete)

  • Ehre sei Gott in der Höhe, 25 December 1728, BWV 197a

    [Chorus: Ehre sei Gott in der Höhe]
    [Aria: Erzählet, ihr Himmel, die Ehre Gottes]
    [Recitative: O! Liebe, der kein Lieben gleich]
    Aria: O du angenehmer Schatz
    Recitative: Das Kind ist mein
    Aria: Ich lasse dich nicht
    Chorale: Wohlan! so will ich mich

    "Glory be to God in the Highest"
    Text: Picander

    Christmas Day cantata on a text by Picander and a chorale from the 1697 hymn "Ich freue mich in dir" by Caspar Ziegler. Bach later revised the cantata into "Gott ist unsre Zuversicht," BWV 197. The music of the original cantata was subsequently lost, but the last four movements could be reconstructed. Lost are the first three movements, a chorus, aria and recitative. The fourth movement is an alto aria, which speaks directly to the baby Jesus, a "beautiful treasure." This aria is scored for 2 flutes, obligato bass instrument (bassoon?) and continuo. After a secco bass recitative, follows a spirited bass aria scored for oboe d¹amore and continuo. It is a jaunty pastoral dance in 6/8 time. Only for this aria this cantata fragment should be performed more frequently!

    Rating: A
    Video: -

  • Gloria in excelsis Deo, December 25, 1745, BWV 191

    Coro: Gloria in excelsis Deo
    Duetto (soprano/tenor): Gloria Patri et Filio et Spiritui sancto
    Coro: Sicut erat in principio

    "Glory to God in the Highest"
    Text: Gloria, Doxology

    Bach's only church cantata set to a Latin text. Composed to celebrate the end of the Second Silesian War on Christmas Day 1745. The composition's three movements all derive from the Gloria of an earlier Missa (Kyrie and Gloria in B minor) written by Bach in 1733 for the Dresden court, which the composer would later use as the Gloria of his Mass in B minor. What we have here are two choruses enclosing a duet for soprano and tenor. It is festive music with trumpets and drums fitting the occasion, and also great music as the Mass in B minor is one of Bach's masterworks. But... is this really a cantata?

    Rating: A+
    Video: Netherlands Bach Society / Bach-Stiftung

Bach Cantata Index

Friday, December 25, 2015

Bach Cantatas (1): Advent I - IV (Nov 27 - Dec 24)

In Western Christendom the liturgical year (church calendar) is governed by the two feasts of Easter and Christmas. The first one is movable (being linked to the Jewish Passover which is determined by the lunar calendar), the other has since the 4th century been fixed on December 25. Christmas is preceded by the four week waiting period of Advent, a time of expectant preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Christ. Advent starts on the fourth Sunday before Christmas and ends on Christmas Eve. The first Advent Sunday always falls between November 27 and December 3. The observance of advent dates from the 5th century. The readings in the Lutheran church for Advent center on the Entry into Jerusalem (Jesus riding a donkey, a beast of peace in contrast to the warlike horse) and the activities of John the Baptist as the precursor of Jesus.

[Entry into Jerusalem by William Brassey Hole, 1900s]

The term "Advent" comes from the Latin "adventus" or "coming," which in its turn is based on the Greek word "parousia." This Greek term is also commonly used to refer to the Second Coming of Christ, thus giving an added eschatological meaning to Advent: not only the nativity, but also the coming of Christ at the end of time.

For Bach, the First Sunday in Advent was a "red letter day" which formed the beginning of the liturgical year, although Bach started his Leipzig cycle with the Trinity season, as he arrived in his new job in the summer of 1723.

In Leipzig this was the only Sunday in Advent when a cantata was performed, because "tempus clausum" (a quiet period or penitential season without music in church) was observed on the other three Sundays. Bach will have been happy about this, as it give him a break in which to prepare for the extra busy season of Christmas.

In Lutheranism in Bach's time, Advent was a season of reflection and penitence (after all, advent and nativity had been made necessary by the sinfulness of human beings). It was characterized by sobriety, as was Christmas.

Bach did write a few cantatas for the other Advent Sundays before he came to Leipzig, but as he could not perform these in their original form in Leipzig, he reused several of them on other occasions, with different texts. In those cases, the original cantatas have been lost. The situation is as follows: there are three Leipzig cantatas for the first Advent (of which one goes back to Weimar and a second one is a reworking of a secular cantata) and for the Fourth Advent one Weimar cantata has come down to us in its original state.

Advent I: Three cantatas, BWV 61, 62 and 36.
Advent II: BWV 70a "Wachet! betet! betet! wachet!" from 1716. This cantata was expanded in 1723 to BWV 170 for Trinity XXVI. The music in its original form was lost, so we will skip it here (it has been included in its final form under Trinity XXVI).
Advent III: BWV 186a "Ärgre dich, o Seele, nicht". This cantata was expanded in 1723 to BWV 186 for Trinity VII. The music in its original form was lost, so we will skip it here.
BWV 141 is sometimes mentioned here, but this is in fact not a work by Bach but by Telemann. The attribution to Bach is wrong.
Advent IV: BWV 147a "Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben". This cantata was expanded in 1723 to BWV 147 for Visitation. The music in its original form was lost, so we will skip it here.
BWV 132. This is the only other Advent cantata from Weimar that has been preserved in its original form and it will be discussed below.

Readings for Advent I:
Romans 13:11–14, Night is advanced, day will come
Matthew 21:1–9, The entry into Jerusalem

Readings for Advent II:
Romans 15:4–13, Call of the Gentiles
Luke 21:25–36, Coming of the Son of man]

Readings for Advent III:
1 Corinthians 4:1–5, The ministry of faithful apostles
Matthew 11:2–10, John the Baptist in prison]

Readings for Advent IV:
Philippians 4:4–7, Be joyful in the Lord
John 1:19–28, Testimony of John the Baptist

Cantata Studies:
Bach Cantatas Website | Simon Crouch | Emmanuel Music | Julian Mincham | Wikipedia | Eduard van Hengel (in Dutch) | Bach Companion (Oxford U.P.) | Bach: The Learned Musician (Wolff) | Music in the Castle of Heaven (Gardiner)

[Entry into jerusalem by Giotto, 14th c.

Cantatas for Advent I:
  • Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland (I), BWV 61, 2 December 1714 
    Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland (Chorale fantasia)
    Der Heiland ist gekommen (Recitative Tenor)
    Komm, Jesu, komm zu deiner Kirche (Aria Tenor)
    Siehe, ich stehe vor der Tür (Recitative Bass)

    Öffne dich, mein ganzes Herze (Aria Soprano)
    Amen, Amen, komm du schöne Freudenkrone (Chorale)

    "Now come, Savior of the gentiles"
    Text: Erdmann Neumeister

    Chamber cantata composed in Weimar at a time Bach was influenced by French and Italian musical styles. It is one of the best known of all Bach's cantatas. The libretto is by Erdmann Neumeister, pastor in Hamburg, who pioneered a new form of cantata incorporating simple recitative and da capo arias in Italian operatic style, a new cantata form which Bach made his own. The cantata addresses, as John Eliot Gardiner states in Music in the Castle of Heaven "the hopes and fears of the Christian community in the context of Jesus' birth as the beginning of God's plan for our salvation" (p. 286). The first movement, a chorale fantasia, is structurally based on a splendid French overture - after all, this Sunday formed the "overture" to the church year. But the use of a French overture may also point to the entry of Christ in Jerusalem, as it was under the majestic tones of such overtures that the French Sun King would make his triumphal entries into the opera house. The theme is that of Luther's hymn Nun Komm der Heiden Heiland (itself an arrangement of the Latin hymn “Veni redemptor gentium”) with a typical dotted rhythm accompaniment. This is followed by a fugue (the fast part of the overture). The tenor recitative outlining the significance of the incarnation, begins secco, but continues with an arioso, as in Italian opera. The ensuing aria, also in Italian style, is quite lovely, with a lush string accompaniment. It is in the rhythm of a gigue. The request is made to Jesus to come to his Church in the new year (meant is the new church year that started this day) and this is answered in the next recitative for bass as vox Christi, which also has some nice word-painting: the text (from Revelations 3:20) "Behold, I stand at the door and knock" is interestingly accompanied by "knocking" pizzicato strings. The final aria is for soprano, in Bach's time a boy soprano, whose childlike voice fits well to the delicate melody. As in other Bach cantatas, the soprano voice represents the individual soul as "ideal believer" and it responds to the invitation by the bass with the words "Öffne dich, mein ganzes Herze" (Open, my whole heart). A lovely and delicate aria. The cantata closes with a grand harmonization of the last half of the chorale, "Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern," which ends all too soon. This Weimar cantata was also played in Leipzig during Bach's first cycle in 1723, on November 28, and probably in other years.

    Rating: A
    Video: Netherlands Bach Society / Bach-Stiftung / Negri

  • Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland (II), BWV 62, 3 December 1724
    Chorale: Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland
    Aria (tenor): Bewundert, o Menschen, dies große Geheimnis
    Recitative (bass): So geht aus Gottes Herrlichkeit und Thron
    Aria: Streite, siege, starker Held!
    Recitative (soprano, alto): Wir ehren diese Herrlichkeit
    Chorale: Lob sei Gott dem Vater ton

    "Now come, Savior of the gentiles"
    Text: "Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland" by Martin Luther

    Bach's second chorale cantata based on Luther's Advent hymn follows - in contrast to BWV 61 - all eight verses of the chorale. That is to say, as was usual procedure in Bach's chorale cantatas of his second Leipzig year, Bach literally includes the first and last couplets of the chorale, and has the verses in-between reworked by a librettist into arias and recitatives. An orchestral introduction leads into the opening chorale, which is in a lively and festive mood (but without trumpets as a sign of the sobriety of Advent). The long and joyful tenor da capo aria celebrating the mystery of the coming of Christ "as the Supreme Ruler whose purity will be entirely unblemished" is in siciliano rhythm with string accompaniment. After a recitative, the bass sings a pompous battle aria accompanied by all the string instruments in octaves, a virtuoso show piece about the "conquering hero." This militaristic effusion is followed by a strongly contrasting duet for soprano and alto expressing thanks (this is officially a "recitative," but in fact more like an "arioso duet") and the cantata closes with a simple chorale harmonization, praising the holy trinity. This cantata belongs to Bach's second Leipzig edition and was first performed on December 3, 1724; Bach repeated it in the period 1732-35.

    Rating: B+
    Video: Netherlands Bach Society / Herreweghe / Mailänder Kantorei

  • Schwingt freudig euch empor, BWV 36, 2 December 1731

    Part I

    Chorus: Schwingt freudig euch empor
    Choral (soprano, alto): Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland
    Aria (tenor): Die Liebe zieht mit sanften Schritten
    Chorale: Zwingt die Saiten in Cythara

    Part II
    Aria (bass): Willkommen, werter Schatz!
    Chorale (tenor): Der du bist dem Vater gleich
    Aria (soprano): Auch mit gedämpften, schwachen Stimmen
    Chorale: Lob sei Gott dem Vater ton

    "Soar Joyfully Upwards"
    Text: Picander

    This cantata draws on material from previous congratulatory secular cantatas, beginning with BWV 36c (1725). The text was probably written by Picander. The jubilant mood of the secular work clearly matched the atmosphere of the entry into Jerusalem, one of the readings for this Sunday. Instead of writing recitatives, Bach has interpolated four chorale movements from two important hymns for Advent, Luther's "Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland" and Nicolai's "Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern." The joyous opening chorus has a wonderful "leaping" quality. This is followed by the first setting of stanzas from Luther's chorale, an intimate duet for soprano and alto. The ensuing tenor aria is accompanied by an oboe d'amore and is a tender evocation of the entry into Jerusalem where Christ is personified as the bridegroom of the soul. The first half of the cantata then closes with a simple four-part version of Philip Nicolai's "Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern." The bass aria which opens the second part, recaptures the joyousness of the opening chorus by singing a welcome to Christ. This is followed by another hymn stanza where the tenor sings the chorale melody in long notes as a cantus firmus against a busy oboe d'amore. The final soprano aria, a berceuse, has a delicate, even haunting beauty. This simple expression of faith is accompanied by a muted violin obbligato. Another four-part setting of "Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland" ends the cantata. This sacred parody cantata was in its present form first performed on Advent Sunday, Dec. 2, 1731. It is in two parts, one half was played before the sermon, the other half after the sermon.

    Rating: B+
    Video: Bach-Stiftung

[Jesus enters Jerusalem and the crowds welcome him, by Pietro Lorenzetti, 1320]

Cantata for Advent IV:
  • Bereitet die Wege, bereitet die Bahn, BWV 132, 22 December 1715
    Bereitet die Wege, bereitet die Bahn (Aria Soprano)
    Willst du dich Gottes Kind und Christi Bruder nennen (Recitative Tenor)
    Wer bist du? Frage dein Gewissen (Aria Bass)
    Ich will, mein Gott, dir frei heraus bekennen (Recitative Alto)
    Christi Glieder, ach bedenket (Aria Alto)
    Ertöt uns durch deine Güte (Chorale)

    "Prepare the paths, prepare the road"
    Text: Salomo Franck

    Chamber cantata from Weimar. The libretto by court poet Salomo Franck is related to the day's prescribed reading, the testimony of John the Baptist. John the Baptist (1st c. CE) was an ascetic preacher, who used baptism as the central symbol of his messianic movement. He anticipated a messianic figure greater than himself, and therefore Christians commonly refer to John as the precursor of Jesus, since John announces Jesus' coming. The first movement of the cantata is an extended aria for soprano, with a nicely flowing melody, and accompanied by oboe d'amore. The text contains a call to "prepare the paths and road as Messiah approaches," something which undoubtedly is also meant figuratively as the path into the heart of the believer. The aria contains long melismas on the word "Bahn" (path) which are perhaps not only meant to represent the "long way," but also the flowing of baptismal water. After a rather didactic recitative, follows a severe bass aria with only continuo accompaniment, a reminder that Advent was a time of penitence in the Lutheran church (the text takes as point of departure the question "Who are you" addressed to John the Baptist, and is also meant as a question to the congregation: "Ask your conscience whether you are false or true"). The alto recitative continues the penitential mood ("I regret my infidelity"). This is however followed by a more optimistic alto aria in which the obbligato violin is thought to represent the cleansing effect of baptismal water ("Through the spring of blood and water your garments will become bright, which are stained from sin"). The cantata closes with a lovely setting of the chorale "Herr Christ, der einig Gottes Sohn." Cantata from Bach's Weimar period; in Leizig, the fourth Sunday of Advent was tempus clausum.

    Rating: B+
    Video: Bach-Stiftung

Bach Cantata Index

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Bach Cantatas (58): Trinity XXV-XXVII

The twenty-fifth to twenty-seventh Sunday after Trinity. As the Twenty-fifth Sunday has only two cantatas, and the Twenty-sixth and Twenty-seventh each only one (these Trinity days only occurred in rare years when Easter fell very early), we treat them together in one post.

Written for the end of the Trinity season, like those for the previous Sunday, these cantatas have a strong eschatological flavor, treating of the Last Judgement, Armageddon and the promised "abomination of desolation."

[The Siege and Destruction of Jerusalem, by David Roberts (1850)]

Readings for Trinity XXV:
1 Thessalonians 4:13–18, the coming of the Lord (a vision of paradise that comes to the blessed)
Matthew 24:25–28, the Tribulation (a period full of calamities at the end of time)

Readings for Trinity XXVI:
2 Peter 3:3–13, look for new heavens and a new earth
Matthew 25:31–46, the Second Coming of Christ

Readings for Trinity XXVII:
1 Thessalonians 5:1–11, be prepared for the day of the Lord
Matthew 25:1–13, parable of the Ten Virgins

Cantata Studies:
Bach Cantatas Website | Simon Crouch | Emmanuel Music | Julian Mincham | Wikipedia | Eduard van Hengel (in Dutch) | Bach Companion (Oxford U.P.) | Bach: The Learned Musician (Wolff) | Music in the Castle of Heaven (Gardiner)

[Francken, Hieronymus the Younger - Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins -
c. 1616]

Cantatas for Trinity XXV:

  • Es reißet euch ein schrecklich Ende, BWV 90, 14 November 1723
    Aria (tenor): Es reißet euch ein schrecklich Ende
    Recitative (alto): Des Höchsten Güte wird von Tag zu Tage neu
    Aria (bass): So löschet im Eifer der rächende Richter
    Recitative (tenor): Doch Gottes Auge sieht auf uns
    Chorale: Leit uns mit deiner rechten Hand

    ("A horrible end will carry you off") A short cantata consisting of two arias (separated by recitatives) topped off with a chorale. The text concentrates on the terrifying aspects of the second coming of Christ, painting a rather dismal picture to make the faithful tremble in their benches. The horror of the Last Judgement was after all a favorite theme among Baroque artists, something which fired the imagination of also Bach. With its running scales and hammering blows in the strings, the first aria for tenor is truly ferocious, emphasizing what a horrible end awaits sinners. The bass aria with virtuoso trumpet (the trumpet of the Last Judgement as mentioned in the epistle reading) spells more wrath and destruction, as God in furious anger will take vengeance on those who have thwarted him. A setting of "Vater unser im Himmelreich" concludes this cantata (with some venom in its chromatic tail). 

  • Du Friedefürst, Herr Jesu Christ, BWV 116, 26 November 1724
    Du Friedefürst, Herr Jesu Christ (Chorale fantasia)
    Ach, unaussprechlich ist die Not (Alto aria)
    Gedenke doch, o Jesu (Tenor recitative)
    Ach, wir bekennen unsre Schuld (Terzetto by Soprano, Tenor, Bass)
    Ach, laß uns durch die scharfen Ruten (Alto recitative)
    Erleucht auch unser Sinn und Herz (Chorale)

    ("You Prince of Peace, Lord Jesus Christ") Chorale cantata based on one of the readings for this "eschatological Sunday," Paul's letter to the Thessalonians, which contains a vision of paradise that comes to the blessed. This vision is expressed through the confident and optimistic chorale melodies in the first and last movements, while in between the mood is quite different, reflecting on the horrors of the Last Judgment and punishment of sinners. The opening movement is an elaborate chorale fantasia, beginning with an instrumental ritornello. The alto aria with its tortuous oboe d’amore obbligato expresses the soul's "unspeakable" terror imagining the final judgement. After the recitative, we get a trio (something rare in Bach) rich in harmonic and contrapuntal interest in which the three voices confess their guilt and ask for forgiveness. The recitative for alto, a prayer for lasting peace, is then followed by the final chorale, "Erleucht auch unser Sinn und Herz."

Cantata for Trinity XXVI:
  • Wachet! betet! betet! wachet! BWV 70, 21 November 1723
    Part I
    Chorus: Wachet! betet! betet! wachet!
    Recitative (bass): Erschrecket, ihr verstockten Sünder
    Aria (alto): 'Wenn kömmt der Tag, an dem wir ziehen 
    Recitative (tenor): Auch bei dem himmlischen Verlangen
    Aria (soprano): Laßt der Spötter Zungen schmähen 
    Recitative (tenor): Jedoch bei dem unartigen Geschlechte
    Chorale: Freu dich sehr, o meine Seele
    Part II
    Aria (tenor): Hebt euer Haupt empor 
    Recitative (bass): Ach, soll nicht dieser große Tag
    Aria (bass): Seligster Erquickungstag 
    Chorale: Nicht nach Welt, nach Himmel nicht 

    ("Watch! Pray! Pray! Watch!") Again a cantata about Christ's second coming and the Last Judgement, based on a now lost cantata originally composed in Bach's Weimar period. The cantata starts with a striking trumpet theme in fanfare style (repeated many times in the course of the movement), after which the unaccompanied chorus enters to give a rousing warning about the Last Judgement. The choir contrasts short calls "Wachet!" and long chords "betet!" The next bass recitative is accompanied by all instruments, illustrating the fright of the sinners and the fear of the ones called to be judged. The alto aria with its mournful cello obbligato is rather laid back, but the soprano aria with its catchy violin accompaniment again possesses more spirit. The first part of the cantata ends with the chorale "Freu dich sehr." The second half opens with a friendly tenor aria, as if the tide has turned, but the following ferocious bass recitative is again meant to shock with its eschatological chorale "Es ist gewisslich an der Zeit," played by the trumpet, returning us to the last judgment. This chorale had been used as kind of a Dies irae during the devastating Thirty Years' War. The following bass aria starts and ends with a gentle melody, but is interrupted by more last judgment music. A simple chorale setting rounds off the cantata.

Cantata for Trinity XXVII:
  • Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme, BWV 140, 25 November 1731
    Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme (Chorale fantasia)
    Er kommt (Tenor recitative)
    Wann kommst du, mein Heil? (Duet for Soprano and Bass)
    Zion hört die Wächter singen (Chorale Tenor)
    So geh herein zu mir Bass recitative)
    Mein Freund ist mein! (Duet for Soprano and Bass)
    Gloria sei dir gesungen (Chorale)

    ("Awake, calls the voice to us") This is one of the most beautiful of all Bach's cantatas, written for a Sunday that only occurs once in eleven years. It is based on the reading for the day, the well-known parable of the wise virgins, portraying the second coming of Christ as if he were a bridegroom who has arrived to claim his bride, the soul. The cantata is based on the Lutheran hymn "Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme" by Philipp Nicolai (1599), which appears unchanged in movements 1, 4 and 7. As love poetry, the other movements of the cantata were based on the Song of Songs - both the arias are dialogues, the soprano and bass soloists representing the bride and bridegroom respectively. In the opening chorale fantasia movement, the cantus firmus is placed in the soprano. The first duet is accompanied by an embellished siciliana line in the violin, perhaps inspired by the "flickering oil lamps" of the text. The two vocalists sing their own text here, but in the second duet they join in parallel lines, symbolizing their union, a technique common in contemporary operatic love duets. The second strophe of the chorale, at the center of the cantata, is sung by the tenor against a ritornello theme in the strings, which supposedly reflects the nightwatchmen's joy. Bach used this popular tune for his organ chorale BWV 645. Cantata BWV 140 is deservedly recognized as one of Bach's best known and loved pieces and surely stands among the greatest of his works. It was one of the first Bach cantatas to be printed in the 19th century. 

    Wednesday, December 23, 2015

    Bach Cantatas (57): Trinity XXIV

    The twenty-fourth Sunday after Trinity. There is a strong eschatological bent to the cantatas for this day, which rather than following the reading for this Sunday about the raising of the rich ruler Jairus' daughter, take their cue from the Leipzig hymn schedule which prescribed that hymns "on death and dying" should be used on this day. So here we have two cantatas with an acute sense of "last things."

    There are two cantatas for this Sunday, both among the best Bach has written.

    Colossians 1:9–14, prayer for the Colossians
    Matthew 9:18–26, the story of Jairus' daughter

    Cantata Studies:
    Bach Cantatas Website | Simon Crouch | Emmanuel Music | Julian Mincham | Wikipedia | Eduard van Hengel (in Dutch) | Bach Companion (Oxford U.P.) | Bach: The Learned Musician (Wolff) | Music in the Castle of Heaven (Gardiner)

    [Erweckung (Jairus' daughter) by Albert von Keller, 1886]


    • O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort, BWV 60, 7 November 1723
      Aria (alto and tenor): O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort - Herr, ich warte auf dein Heil
      Recitative (alto and tenor): O schwerer Gang zum letzten Kampf und Streite! - Mein Beistand ist schon da
      Aria (alto and tenor): Mein letztes Lager will mich schrecken - Mich wird des Heilands Hand bedecken
      Recitative (alto and bass): Der Tod bleibt doch der menschlichen Natur verhaßt - Selig sind die Toten
      Chorale: Es ist genung

      ("O eternity, you word of thunder") This cantata has been called a work about the fear of death, a "gripping dramatization of existential angst," and "one of the most intense and neurotic thirteen minutes of music ever written." The cantata is in an unusual way concentrated on two solo voices. In the first three movements it forms a dialogue between Fear (alto) and Hope (tenor), with only a slight link to the readings of the day. But Hope alone cannot overcome Fear; only faith can lead to salvation, is the Lutheran message. Thus they are answered by the bass as Vox Christi in the fourth movement. There is no opening chorus, the cantata starts immediately with the first duet. In that duet, a chorale fantasia full of tremolos in the strings, the alto (Fear) and the horn perform a chorale melody (likening eternity to a "thunderous word"), while the tenor (Hope) sings a contrasting line with a simple expression of trust. After a secco recitative, also in duet form, containing an agonizing melisma by the alto on the word "torture," follows another argument between alto and tenor accompanied by oboe d'amore (fear) and violin (hope). With its jagged rhythms, this is a rather unpleasant duet, but Hope has the last word. In the ensuing recitative/arioso Fear is met by consoling words from the Vox Christi, "Selig sind die Toten." The final chorale, "Es ist genung," starts with a remarkable harmonization (an unstable whole tone scale), although the words offer some comfort. Alban Berg used this chorale in the final movement of his beautiful violin concerto (1935). In fact, this cantata seems to have been a favorite among the fin de siècle intelligentsia in Vienna, as the final chorale also inspired Oskar Kokoshka to a series of drawings based upon the dialogue between Fear and Hope. 

    • Ach wie flüchtig, ach wie nichtig, BWV 26, 19 November 1724
      Ach wie flüchtig, ach wie nichtig (Chorale fantasia)
      So schnell ein rauschend Wasser schießt (Tenor aria)
      Die Freude wird zur Traurigkeit (Alto recitative)
      An irdische Schätze das Herze zu hängen (Bass aria)
      Die höchste Herrlichkeit und Pracht (Soprano recitative)
      Ach wie flüchtig, ach wie nichtig (Chorale)

      ("Ah, how fleeting, ah how insignificant") A short choral cantata from the second annual Leipzig cycle. The cantata stresses the futility of storing treasures on earth, starting with an athletic chorus accompanied by three oboes and concertante strings. The "boxy" but magnificent hymn melody (from 1652) is heard in the soprano vocal line, strengthened by a horn. This is followed by a virtuoso aria for tenor, "As quickly as rushing water," accompanied by an attractive solo flute and violin figures, while the cascading semiquavers in the instruments are copied by the voice to evoke the fleeting nature of mortal life as water running down a valley before disappearing. The alto recitative continues in this vein, by stressing the transience of all human aspirations, and the bass (with bassoon and three oboes) next comments upon the uselessness of earthly possessions. The rhythm is that of a  bourrée, a dance, but rather than merrymaking, this is a veritable Totentanz. The soprano next hammers down the fact that even the highest powers will not escape death. The cantata closes with a straightforward chorale harmonization of the hymn "Ach wie flüchtig, ach wie nichtig."

    Bach Cantata Index

    Tuesday, December 22, 2015

    Bach Cantatas (56): Trinity XXIII

    The twenty-third Sunday after Trinity. The cantatas for this day are based on the Pharisees' hypocritical questioning of Jesus as to the legitimacy of paying tribute to Caesar.

    There are three cantatas for this Sunday.

    Philippians 3:17–21, "our conversation is in heaven"
    Matthew 22:15–22, the question about paying taxes, answered by Render unto Caesar...

    Cantata Studies:
    Bach Cantatas Website | Simon Crouch | Emmanuel Music | Julian Mincham | Wikipedia | Eduard van Hengel (in Dutch) | Bach Companion (Oxford U.P.) | Bach: The Learned Musician (Wolff) | Music in the Castle of Heaven (Gardiner)

    [Titian, The Tribute Money, 1516-18]


    Nur jedem das Seine, BWV 163, 24 November 1715

    Aria for Tenor, Nur jedem das Seine!
    Recitative for Bass, Du bist, mein Gott, der Geber aller Gaben
    Aria for Bass, Laß mein Herz die Münze sein
    Duet (Arioso) for Soprano and Alro, Ich wollte dir, O Gott, das Herze gerne geben
    Duet (Aria) for Soprano and Alro, Nimm mich mir und gib mich dir!
    Chorale, Führ auch mein Herz und Sinn

    "To each his own!"
    Text: Salomon Franck

    This is one of the best cantatas written by Bach in Weimar, scored for a small Baroque chamber ensemble of two violins, viola, two cellos and continuo. The text is by Salomo Franck, the Weimar court poet who was also a numismatist in charge of the ducal coin collection and not surprisingly often writes about money. His libretto gives the answer to the question of the Pharisees: "The heart is the coin of tribute rightfully due to God, but often a false image is stamped upon it." The cantata opens with the tenor aria "To each his own" which can be seen as a paraphrase of the injunction to "render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's." 

    After the bass has asked "Isn't that counterfeit?" the same vocalist continues with the aria "Let my heart be the coin," an aria uniquely accompanied by the deep sonority of two obbligato cellos. This is followed by a duet recitative and duet aria for soprano and alto. The aria is a "love duet" on the text "Take me from myself and give me to You!" characterized by commitment to God rather than carnal desire. The movement becomes more richly textured as it progresses, adding a chorale tune as well. Of the final movement, the usual chorale setting, only the continuo line is extant.

    Rating: B
    Video: Bach-Stiftung

    [The Baroque Schlosskirche (court chapel) in Weimar, built 1619 to 1630, 
    with the organ above the altar, by Christian Richter, c. 1660]

    Wohl dem, der sich auf seinen Gott, BWV 139, 12 November 1724
    Chorale: Wohl dem, der sich auf seinen Gott
    Aria (tenor): Gott ist mein Freund; was hilft das Toben
    Recitative (alto): Der Heiland sendet ja die Seinen
    Aria (bass): Das Unglück schlägt auf allen Seiten
    Recitative (soprano): Ja, trag ich gleich den größten Feind in mir
    Chorale: Dahero Trotz der Höllen Heer!

    "Fortunate the person who upon his God"
    Text: unknown; chorale by Johann Christoph Rube

    Rather than addressing the question about paying taxes, this cantata derives its inspiration from the rejection of earthly things for the world of heaven in the other reading for this Sunday from Philippians. The cantata is based on the hymn in five stanzas by Johann Christoph Rube (1692) and sung to the melody of Johann Hermann Schein "Machs mit mir, Gott, nach deiner Güt" (1628). It survives only from an incomplete set of parts in Leipzig. The opening chorus is a chorale fantasy. It has a complex structure: on the chorale melody song as cantus firmus by the sopranos, the other voices and instruments build several episodes of concertante character. In the following tenor aria the words of the first line, "Gott ist mein Freund" (God is my friend), appear again and again. The bass aria with solo violin and oboes d'amore in unisono is in rondo form and alternates in tempo between Andante and Vivace.

    Rating: B+
    Video: Bach-Stiftung

    Falsche Welt, dir trau ich nicht, BWV 52, 24 November 1726
    Recitative: Falsche Welt, dir trau ich nicht
    Aria: Immerhin, immerhin, wenn ich gleich verstoßen bin
    Recitative: Gott ist getreu
    Aria: Ich halt es mit dem lieben Gott
    Chorale: In dich hab ich gehoffet, Herr

    "False world, I don't trust you"
    Text: Christoph Birkmann

    Solo cantata for soprano (in Bach's time always sung by a child soprano). The unknown poet takes from the readings the idea that the world is false and that man should concentrate on God. The cantata uses the first movement of the 1st Brandenburg Concerto as its sinfonia (as more solo cantatas from this period recycle concerto movements). In the austere first aria (portraying the soul as beset by falsity and worldly hypocrisy) the soprano is accompanied by two violins, in the second aria of dance-like character (a polonaise), by three oboes. In this beautiful aria all is warmth and magnanimity - it is a response to the previous aria, now expressing confidence in Christ's benevolence. The final chorale, the first strophe of a hymn by Adam Reusner, In dich habe ich gehoffet, Herr (1933), brings back the brilliance of the two horns from the first movement to close the work.

    Rating: B

    Monday, December 21, 2015



    Soy sauce. しょうゆ、醤油。

    Soy sauce is the basic condiment in the Japanese kitchen and is used in all sorts of dishes, in marinades, dipping sauces and also at the table. Soy sauce is made from soy beans, roasted wheat, salt and koji. Soy sauce boasts a hearty aroma and contains 15% to 20% salt (there are also low-salt varieties).

    Although soy sauce has ancient roots (in the form of a fish sauce which is still used in S.E. Asia, a product called hishio or uoshi in Japan), it was only in the middle of the 17th c. developed in its present form. In fact, soy sauce started as a by-product of miso production, in towns like Yuasa, Tatsuno and on Shodo Island in Western Japan. In the 18th c., the soy makers in Noda and Choshi (Chiba Prefecture) also came up, as they were close to Edo. Different from miso, which can be made by small producers, or even in individual households, for soy production large industrial presses are necessary, which asks for a more large-scale, industrial approach.

    There are various types of soy sauce:
    • Tamari consists only of soybeans without wheat or with very little wheat. It is a thick, sweet sauce that is especially suitable as dipping sauce for sashimi, as the basis for teriyaki sauce, for tsukudani or for the coating of rice crackers. This is the original soy sauce until the mid-Edo period: as also the name indicates, it was the liquid that runs off miso as it matures, a byproduct from the fermentation of miso. It was originally obtained by pressing miso, but nowadays the production method is the same as for soy sauce, with as only difference that little or no wheat is used. Mainly produced in the Chubu region (around Nagoya).
    • Koikuchi shoyu (with an equal amount of soy beans and wheat) is dark in color and has a strong taste. This standard type is good for 82% of all soy sauce. As a true versatile all-purpose sauce it is also used at the table. Koikuchi shoyu was developed in the late 17th c. in the Kanto area by improving tamari by adding wheat to the production process (this was done in 1697 by Higeta from Choshi). Koikuchi shoyu is now produced in the whole country, but the production in the Kanto area is still the highest, with companies as Kikkoman (Noda), Yamasa and Higeta (both Choshi) - in the past, these companies could transport their products easily to Edo over the River Tone. Another production center is on Shodo Island in the Inland Sea, where the climate is very suitable (Marukin). 
    • Usukuchi shoyu is lighter in color but (against expectation) also 10% saltier. This type is mainly used in the kitchen and is good for 15% of all soy sauce. Usukuchi soy sauce is especially popular in Kyoto and the Kansai area, for example in clear soups, udon soup and in simmered dishes (nimono). As it is lighter in taste and color it doesn't clash with the light cuisine of Kyoto (where dashi is made only with kelp, without the addition of katsuobushi). The production process is slightly different, too: the wheat is lightly roasted; during fermentation, less koji and more brine is used; and at the end amazake or mizuame (glucose) is added. The fermentation is shorter than for koikuchi shoyu. An important producer of usukuchi shoyu is Higashimaru in Tatsuno (Hyogo Pref.).
    • Saishikomi shoyu or kanro shoyu is "twice-processed" or "sweet" soy sauce. Both flavor and color are very rich. The koji is mixed with koikuchi shoyu instead of brine. This type was developed in the town of Yanai in Yamaguchi Pref., and is now mainly produced in the Sanin area and Kyushu. It is used for sushi and sashimi. 
    • Shiro shoyu or "white soy sauce." Is lighter in color than usukuchi shoyu, obtained by mainly using wheat and very little soy beans (so the opposite of tamari). Is rather salty and also very sweet, Suitable for simmered dishes (nimono), suimono (clear soups) and chawanmushi. Developed in Hekinan in Aichi Pref.  
    • Genen shoyu and Usushio shoyu are soy sauces with "reduced salt," and "light salt." The first one usually has 9% salt (half of normal koikuchi soy sauce) and the second one 13%. 
    • Sashimi-joyu or Ponzu-joyu etc. These are not pure soy sauces, but sauces on the basis of soy sauce. In the case of the first one tamari, sake and mirin have been added to koikuchi shoyu to make a dip sauce for sushi. The second one is the same mix, but with the important addition of the juice of citrus fruits like yuzudaidai or sudachi. Ponzu is used as a dipping sauce for one-pot dishes. There are many varieties in Japanese supermarkets of such mixed sauces.
    The production process of koikuchi soy sauce is as follows:

    1. Equal parts of steamed soy beans and roasted and shredded wheat are mixed together.
    2. Koji spores (Aspergillus) are cultivated for 3 to 4 days on this mixture. Koji spores have a high proteolytic capacity, i.e. they break up proteins into amino acids, and produce all sorts of enzymes which are important later on in the process. Other microbes contained in this culture include yeast and lactic acid bacteria.
    3. Next brine is added to make moromi, the main mash, which is fermented and aged in large tanks. Instead of brine, also dry coarse salt can be used for dry fermentation. The enzymes in the koji now start working and transform the proteins in the soy beans into amino acids. They also change the starch in the soy beans and wheat into sugars. Lactic acid bacteria produce lactic acid and yeast makes ethanol.
    4. The moromi is aged for several months. Through aging and secondary fermentation numerous flavor compounds typical of soy sauce come into being.
    5. After it has been sufficiently aged, the moromi is pressed so that the pure soy sauce is separated from the lees.
    6. This soy sauce is next filtered and pasteurized.

    It is possible to cut corners in soy sauce production by chemical processes (using acid-hydrolyzed soy protein instead of the time-consuming fermentation process - this takes only 3 days), so select soy sauce that has been labeled "honjozo" or "100% genuine fermented." When using soy sauce for Japanese dishes, use only soy sauce produced by a Japanese maker.