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Gleichwie der Regen und Schnee vom Himmel fällt, BWV 18

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Gleichwie der Regen und Schnee vom Himmel fällt
BWV 18
Church cantata by J. S. Bach
Schlosskirche Weimar 1660.jpg
Occasion Sexagesima
Performed
  • 1713? (1713?): Weimar
  • 13 February 1724 (1724-02-13): Leipzig
Movements 5
Cantata text Erdmann Neumeister
Bible text Isaiah 55:10–11
Chorale "Durch Adams Fall ist ganz verderbt"
by Lazarus Spengler
Vocal
  • solo: soprano, tenor and bass
  • SATB choir
Instrumental
  • 4 violas
  • cello
  • bassoon
  • continuo

Gleichwie der Regen und Schnee vom Himmel fällt (Just as the rain and snow fall from heaven),[1] BWV 18,[a] is an early church cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach. He composed it in Weimar for the Sunday Sexagesimae, the second Sunday before Lent, likely by 1713.

The cantata is based on a text by Erdmann Neumeister published in 1711. It is one of Bach cantata texts of the Weimar period not written by the court poet Salomon Franck. The text cites Isaiah, related to the gospel, the parable of the Sower. The third movement is in the style of a sermon, combined with a litany by Martin Luther. The closing chorale is the eighth stanza of Lazarus Spengler's hymn "Durch Adams Fall ist ganz verderbt".

The cantata falls relatively early in Bach's chronology of cantata compositions. It was possibly composed for 24 February 1715, but more likely a year or even two earlier. Bach structured the work in five movements, a sinfonia, a recitative, a recitative with chorale, an aria and a closing chorale. He scored it for three vocal soloists, a four-partchoir only in the chorale, and an unusual Baroque instrumental ensemble of four violas, cello, bassoon and basso continuo. When he performed the work again as Thomaskantor in Leipzig, he added two recorders to double viola I and II an octave higher.

History and words[edit]

Bach worked for the court in Weimar from 1708. On 2 March 1714 Bach was appointed concertmaster of the Weimar court capelle of the co-reigning dukes Wilhelm Ernst and Ernst August of Saxe-Weimar. As concertmaster, he assumed the principal responsibility for composing new works, specifically cantatas for the Schlosskirche (palace church), on a monthly schedule.[2] Bach composed this cantata for the second Sunday before Ash Wednesday, called Sexagesima. The prescribed readings for the Sunday were taken from the Second Epistle to the Corinthians, "God's power is mighty in the weak" (2 Corinthians 11:19–12:9), and from the Gospel of Luke, the parable of the Sower (Luke 8:4–15).[3]

The cantata is based on a text by Erdmann Neumeister written for the Eisenach court and published in Gotha in 1711 in the collection Geistliches Singen und Spielen (Sacred singing and playing),[4] which had been set to music by Georg Philipp Telemann.[3] It is one of few texts set to music in Weimar which were not written not by the court poet Salomon Franck.[5] The text cites Isaiah in the second movement, "For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, … So shall my word be ..." (Isaiah 55:10–11), related to the Gospel about God's word compared to seed.[6] In the third movement, the poet combines warnings of the dangers to God's word in the style of a sermon with four lines of prayer from a litany by Martin Luther. The closing chorale is the eighth stanza of Lazarus Spengler's hymn "Durch Adams Fall ist ganz verderbt" (1524).[3][7]

The cantata falls relatively early in Bach's chronology of cantata compositions. It was possibly composed for 24 February 1715, but more likely a year or two earlier.[3] The Bach scholar Christoph Wolff states: "The original performing material has survived and allows us to date the work to 1713".[4] Bach performed the cantata again when he was Thomaskantor in Leipzig in 1724, with an expanded scoring in a different key.[3] It was then probably performed in the same service as the newly composed Leichtgesinnte Flattergeister, BWV 181.[8]

Scoring and structure[edit]

Bach structured the cantata in five movements, an instrumental sinfonia, a recitative, a recitative with chorale, an aria and a closing chorale. He scored the work, like other cantatas written in Weimar, for a small ensemble of three vocal soloists (soprano (S), tenor (T), bass (B)), a four-part choir only in the chorales, and a Baroque instrumental ensemble of four violas (Va), cello (Vc), bassoon (Fg) and basso continuo.[6][9] The setting for four violas is unusual.[6] In a similar orchestration, the Brandenburg Concerto No. 6 also omits violins.

The second version of this cantata for a performance in Leipzig adds two recorders, which double viola I and II an octave higher. John Eliot Gardiner compares the effect to a four-foot stop on a pipe organ.[10] The cantata begins in G minor in the Weimar version, in A minor in the Leipzig version. In the following table of the movements, the scoring and keys follow the Neue Bach-Ausgabe for the Leipzig version. The time signatures are taken from the book on all cantatas by the Bach scholar Alfred Dürr, using the symbol for common time (4/4).[3] The continuo, played throughout, is not shown.

Movements of Gleichwie der Regen und Schnee vom Himmel fällt, BWV 18
No. Title Text Type Vocal Winds Strings Key Time
1 Sinfonia 2Fl Fg 4Va Vc 6/4
2 Gleichwie der Regen und Schnee vom Himmel fällt Isaiah 55:10–11 Recitative B Fg common time
3 Mein Gott, hier wird mein Herze sein – Du wollest deinen Geist und Kraft
  • Neumeister
  • Luther
Recitative e chorale T B SATB 2Fl Fg 4Va common time
4 Mein Seelenschatz ist Gottes Wort Neumeister Aria S 2Fl 4Va (unis.) common time
5 Ich bitt, o Herr, aus Herzensgrund Spengler Chorale SATB 2Fl Fg 4Va common time

Music[edit]

The keys in this section refer to the Weimar version, although the recording by Masaaki Suzuki, with commentary by Klaus Hofmann, uses the Leipzig keys. Hofmann notes the work's "Lutheran character", quoting Luther's litany inserted in the third movement, and sees it as a "recitative study", exploring the secco recitative of the Italian opera, introduced by Erdmann Neumeister, and also the accompagnato with rich instrumental accompaniment.[6] Gardiner finds all three cantatas for the occasion, dealing with God's word, "characterised by his vivid pictorial imagination, an arresting sense of drama, and by music of freshness and power that lodges in the memory".[10]

1[edit]

The cantata opens with a sinfonia in G minor, which illustrates falling rain and snow in descending phrases. In da capo form, is reminiscent both of a chaconne and a concerto. The four violas and continuo, with bassoon and cello parts specified, create an unusual sound,[6] termed "magically dark-hued sonority" by Gardiner.[10]

2[edit]

The quotation from Isaiah, "Gleichwie der Regen und Schnee vom Himmel fällt und nicht wieder dahin kommet" (ust as the rain and snow fall from heaven and do not return again to it),[1] is sung by the bass, the vox Christi (voice of Christ), in a secco recitative.[3] This is Bach's first adaptation of recitative in a church cantata, not following operatic patterns, but "a lucid presentation of the text in a dignified, highly personal style".[10]

3[edit]

The central movement, "Mein Gott, hier wird mein Herze sein" (My soul’s treasure is God’s word),[1] is unique in Bach's cantatas, the choir soprano interrupts the prayer of the male soloists four times, followed by a conclusion of the full choir "Erhör uns, lieber Herre Gott!" (Hear us, dear Lord God!).[1][3] The recitatives are marked adagio in E-flat major, while the interspersed litany is presented dramatically (allegro in C minor).[6] Gardiner compares the imagery of the recitatives: "all adds up to a vivid, Brueghel-like portrayal of rural society at work – the sower, the glutton, the lurking devil, as well as those pantomime villains, the Turks and the Papists. He compares the movement to Telemann's setting of the same text and states:

On the other hand here is Bach, seeming to relish the contrast between archaic litany and his new 'modern' recitative style in which he empowers his two male soloists to voice personal pleas for faith and resolution in the face of multiple provocation[s] and devilish guile, with increasingly virtuosic displays of coloratura, ever-wider modulations and extravagant word-painting on 'berauben' (to rob), 'Verfolgung' (persecution) and 'irregehen' (to wander off course).[10]

4[edit]

The only aria, "Mein Seelenschatz ist Gottes Wort" (My soul’s treasure is God’s word),[1] is set for soprano, accompanied by the four violas in unison.[6]

5[edit]

The cantata closes with a four-part setting of Spengler's hymn stanza,[11] "Ich bitt, o Herr, aus Herzens Grund" (I pray, o Lord, from the bottom of my heart),[1] It is Bach's first of many to come as the typical conclusion of his cantatas.[10]

Selected recordings[edit]

The selection is taken from the listing provided on the Bach-Cantatas website.[12] Choirs are roughly marked as large by red background to one voice per part (OVPP) by green background, orchestras from large (red) to period instruments in historically informed performances (green).

Recordings of Gleichwie der Regen und Schnee vom Himmel fällt, BWV 18
Title Conductor / Choir / Orchestra Soloists Label Year Choir type Orch. type
J. S. Bach: Das Kantatenwerk – Sacred Cantatas Vol. 1 Jürgens, JürgenJürgen Jürgens
Monteverdi-Chor
Leonhardt-Consort
Telefunken 1964 (1964) Boys
J. S. Bach: Kantaten Gleichwie der Regen und Schnee vom Himmel fällt BWV 18; Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland BWV 62 Mauersberger, ErhardErhard Mauersberger
Thomanerchor
Gewandhausorchester
Eterna 1967 (1967) Boys Symphony
J. S. Bach: Das Kantatenwerk – Complete Cantatas – Les Cantates, Vol. 5 Harnoncourt, NikolausNikolaus Harnoncourt
Concentus Musicus Wien
Teldec 1971 (1971) Boys Period
J. S. Bach: Complete Cantatas Vol. 2 Koopman, TonTon Koopman
Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra & Choir
Antoine Marchand 1995 (1995) Period
J. S. Bach: Cantatas Vol. 5 – BWV 18, 143, 152, 155, 161 Suzuki, MasaakiMasaaki Suzuki
Bach Collegium Japan
BIS 1997 (1997) Period
Bach Edition Vol. 5 – Cantatas Vol. 2 Leusink, Pieter JanPieter Jan Leusink
Holland Boys Choir
Netherlands Bach Collegium
Brilliant Classics 1999 (1999) Boys Period
J. S. Bach: Cantatas Vol. 20: Naarden / Southwell / For Septuagesima / For Sexagesima Gardiner, John EliotJohn Eliot Gardiner
Monteverdi Choir
English Baroque Soloists
Soli Deo Gloria 2000 (2000) Period
J. S. Bach: Cantatas for the Complete Liturgical Year Vol. 6 (Sexagesima and Estomihi Sundays) 13 Kuijken, SigiswaldSigiswald Kuijken
La Petite Bande
Accent 2007 (2007) OVPP Period
J. S. Bach: Kantate BWV 18 "Gleich wie der Regen" Lutz, RudolfRudolf Lutz
Schola Seconda Pratica
Gallus Media 2009 (2009) Period

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "BWV" is Bach-Werke-Verzeichnis, a thematic catalogue of Bach's works.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f Dellal, Pamela. "BWV 181 – Gleichwie der Regen und Schnee vom Himmel fällt". Emmanuel Music. Retrieved 2 February 2015. 
  2. ^ Koster, Jan. "Weimar 1708–1717". let.rug.nl. Retrieved 16 December 2011. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Dürr, Alfred (1981). Die Kantaten von Johann Sebastian Bach (in German). 1 (4 ed.). Deutscher Taschenbuchverlag. pp. 209–211. ISBN 3-423-04080-7. 
  4. ^ a b Wolff, Christoph (1997). "Gleichwie der Regen und Schnee vom Himmel fällt" BWV 18 (PDF). Bach-Cantatas. pp. 9, 10. Retrieved 29 January 2013. 
  5. ^ Dürr, Alfred; Jones, Richard D. P. (2006). The Cantatas of J. S. Bach: With Their Librettos in German-English Parallel Text. Oxford University Press. p. 16. ISBN 0-19-929776-2. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Hofmann, Klaus (2005). "BWV l8: Gleichwie der Regen und Schnee vom Himmel fällt (For as the rain and snow come down from heaven)" (PDF). Bach-Cantatas. pp. 5–6. Retrieved 30 January 2013. 
  7. ^ "Durch Adams Fall ist ganz verderbt / Text and Translation of Chorale". Bach-Cantatas. 2005. Retrieved 3 February 2011. 
  8. ^ Mincham, Julian (2010). "Chapter 43 BWV 18 Gleichwie der Regen und Schnee vom Himmel fällt / For as rain and snow descend from heaven.". jsbachcantatas.com. Retrieved 23 January 2013. 
  9. ^ Bischof, Walter F. "BWV 18 Gleichwie der Regen und Schnee vom Himmel fällt". University of Alberta. Retrieved 22 January 2016. 
  10. ^ a b c d e f Gardiner, John Eliot (2009). "Cantatas for Sexagesima / Southwell Minster" (PDF). Bach-Cantatas. pp. 8–11. Retrieved 30 January 2013. 
  11. ^ "Chorale Melodies used in Bach's Vocal Works / Durch Adams Fall ist ganz verderbt". Bach-Cantatas. 2005. Retrieved 3 February 2011. 
  12. ^ Oron, Aryeh (2015). "Cantata BWV 18 Gleichwie der Regen und Schnee vom Himmel fällt". Bach-Cantatas. Retrieved 22 January 2016. 

Sources[edit]