Chapter 93 BWV 207a Auf, schmetternde Töne der muntern Trompeten
Arise resounding notes of cheerful trumpets.
Chorus–recit (tenor)–aria (tenor)–recit (bass/sop)–duet (sop/bass)–recit (alto)–aria (alto)–recit (SATB)–chorus.
A cantata of homage.
NB This essay should be read in conjunction with that of C 207, chapter 92.
In one sense this cantata scarcely merits an essay of its own. All of the major movements have been adopted, with the minimum of revisions, from C 207 composed nine years previously. Readers should refer to that essay for detailed comments on the arias and choruses. Bach did, however, replace three of the four recitatives and they are discussed below.
This cantata was presented to celebrate the name day of the Elector of Saxony and King of Poland and Dürr suggests it was performed in 1735 (p 841). The scrupulousness with which Bach chose the particular movement of this Brandenburg Concerto has been discussed in the previous chapter and, although the specific point about the ‘discord of changing strings’ does not fully apply in this later version, nevertheless the lyricist, presumably prompted by Bach, does make specific mention of trumpets, drums, strings and flutes. This is a fairly comprehensive description of the instrumentation of the piece in which the chorus calls upon the need for beautiful sounds to suffuse the surroundings.
In the three added recitatives Bach retains the same voices as in the original cantata, a fact that would imply that once again they have either allegorical or mythical attributes. One of the clear themes of the work is that of pastoral tranquillity in a golden age where the esteemed monarch protects the nation from want and the horrors of war.
The recitative for tenor is secco although the continuo line virtually provides an obbligato melody. The metaphor the lyricist has used is based upon the peaceful river Pleisse which, like the monarch, is the haven and generator of all good things—-flowers, trees and an ideal environment for the flourishing of pleasurable activities—-even the nymphs covert this blessed land! The gentle flowing of the river is represented by an almost continuous, sinuous, flowing bass line but it pauses, on occasions, in order to allow key words or phrases to be clearly heard.
To the strings of the tenor aria Bach has added an oboe d’amore doubling the first violins. The movement loses nothing of its manic energy which, in the original work, was both a praising and an example of diligence. Now the vigour becomes an enthusiastic affirmation of the monarch’s visage and its penetrating shafts of all-protecting illumination. Some may find the unity of music with this later text less convincing.
The second new recitative is a discourse between the soprano and bass, alternating in their avowal of the value the community derives from the monarch and his protection of the countryside, trade and, indeed, from war. At the end, the voices combine with a blatant hyperbole, typical of the period—-even the linden trees bloom more beautifully than usual on this great name day.
The movement is characterized by little flurries of continuo triplets that end each of the singer’s statements. In one sense this may simply be a musical grammatical device, a sort of comma or full stop, giving an additional moment of time for each assertion to permeate the audience’s thinking. It may also serve the purpose of reminding us of the metaphor of the flowing watercourse; indeed, mention is made of a second river, the Elbe, which facilitates the development of trade.
These figures have not, however, been added without considerable attention to detail. The first two settle on raised notes (g# and a#) that require the harmonic progression to grow and expand like the prince’s influence; thereafter they become more stable. In the final bars they underpin the singers, apparently joining the celebrations in which even the trees bloom afresh.
In the following duet from C 207, Honour and Fortune had originally told of the laurels of achievement and the fruits of blessing that awaited the diligent. This later text continues the new theme of peace and contentment in the blessed land, and the music remains virtually unchanged. This is also true of the elegant gavotte which follows, perhaps, in the new context of pastoral romanticism, even more appropriately suggesting a vigorous, rustic dance of elation.
The third added recitative is for alto and it is the only one as bare and unadorned as that which it replaced in the original work. It describes Augustus, still protecting the woods and fields, and how the yokel accepts his good fortune that stems from the monarch’s governance. It is a workmanlike type of writing that tells the narrative directly, without painting individual elements of the picture. Nevertheless, it moves from the F#m to the warmth of G major, not only in preparation for the duet, but also to suggest the happy pastoral glow of the prince’s influence throughout the countryside.
The alto aria is not as closely allied to the text as in the earlier version where the carving of the stone was suggested by the dotted string rhythms. Now the text does little more than reiterate what had already been said—-the future shall praise the monarch’s good fortune and deduce from the state’s wellbeing what sort of person he was. Perhaps Bach was happy to let the strings suggest some sort of imperial fanfare figure that heralded the royal name. It may even be that he cared little that the original image no longer applied.
And yet, there may still be something that we have missed. Both verses talk of the passing of time, with memory and reputation continuing indefinitely. Perhaps there was something in those string rhythms that, to Bach, indicated the passing of time and the tenacity of memory. This seems to be the only significant image that unites the texts.
It is odd that Bach adopted the fourth recitative almost without alteration for the revised cantata, with the same use of the four voices, and in the original order. This would clearly imply that the new text was written to the exiting music and not vice versa. It would also confirm that the voices were allegorical, being once again required to play their parts in the final ‘summing up’. That can hardly be because of the substance of the message however, since it simply, and rather weakly, continues the much repeated plaudits to the monarch and his wise, loving and powerful ruling of a happy kingdom.
The final chorus is as well wedded to the words as in the original cantata—-Long live Kortte whose reputation continues to grow—-becomes—-Long live Augustus that our country continues to thrive. The processional march, certain to have been appended at the end of this work if not the model, scarcely detracts from the energy of this ebullient chorus.
This cantata may be performed in either version since both retain all the major movements, as well as some sense of individuality derived from the contrasting recitatives. The advantage of the later one lies in these marginally more interesting movements. The merit of the original is that we have a clearer idea of what the allegorical figures represented.
Copyright: J Mincham 2010. Revised 2012, 2014, 2017.