Chapter 99 BWV 36b and BWV 36c.
These two works are paraphrases of C 36, the essay on which is to be found in vol 3, chapter 34. Due to the number of movements common to all three works and the particularly incomplete transmission of C 36b, they do not merit additional separate essays. Nevertheless, if this chapter is read in conjunction with that mentioned above, readers should gain a fairly clear picture. These are both cantatas of homage, C 36b on the occasion of an eminent lawyer’s appointment to the Rectorship of the university and C 36c, a birthday cantata, although it is not known for whom.
It should also be noted that there may have been five versions of this cantata (Dürr p 870) which is best performed today either as C 36 or C 36c.
BWV 36b Die Freude reget sich
Joy is stirring.
Chorus–recitative (tenor)–aria (tenor)–recitative (alto)–aria (alto)–recitative (sop)–aria (sop)–chorus/recitative.
The movements which can easily be reconstructed from C 36 are the opening chorus and the arias for tenor, alto and soprano. Keys and instrumentation remain unchanged. That for alto had originally been written for bass, but the different voice requires no transposition. The texts are so general as to be virtually multipurpose. Detailed comments on all four may be found in vol 3, chapter 34.
The bulk of the closing chorus can be reconstructed from C 36c (see below). The movements written to complete C 36b are secco recitatives for tenor and soprano, one for soprano with sustaining upper string chords and further sections for tenor, alto and soprano inserted into the final chorus. Each of these recitatives is devoted to the new Rector’s fame and good fortune, plus the recognition of the fact that it was brought about through his own industry and application.
There remain, in Cs 36 and 36a, two surviving versions of this cantata, one religious and one secular and consequently, there seems little point in putting together a performing score of C 36b. All the major movements may be heard in the context of the other versions and there is little that is particularly distinctive about the additional recitatives.
Both Cs 36 and 36c should both, however, be part of the repertoire. The former presents us with two excellent chorale-prelude type movements (nos 2 and 6) the latter with the charming, concluding chorus/gavotte.
BWV 36c Schwingt freudig euch empor
Soar up Joyfully.
Chorus–recitative (tenor)–aria (tenor)–recitative (bass)–aria (bass)–recitative (sop)–aria (sop)–recit (tenor)–chorus/recitative.
It is not known when, or for whom, this birthday cantata was first assembled and performed. It begins with a marginally less fully orchestrated version of the opening chorus (one, instead of two oboes), more detailed discussion of which may be found in vol 3, chapter 34). The first lines of the stanzas for both works are identical, thus ensuring the fitness of the paraphrase for an altered text—-rise up with elation, even as far as the stars.
The remaining four lines of text had, at some stage, to be altered because in C 36 (an Advent cantata) specific mention is made of the coming of the Lord. The cantata of homage makes reference to the gratitude and duty one should pay to one’s mentor. The one work looks towards Christ, the other to a more human, earthly personality.
The four recitatives.
The structure of the following six movements falls into a pattern of three paired recitative/arias, in the order tenor, bass and soprano. This, in itself, marks it out clearly from C 36 which, unusually, has four chorale movements but no recitatives. That for tenor is secco with no particularly outstanding features, the text speaking of the esteemed teacher whose fame, like a magnet, draws all before it. The aria, scored in both cantatas for tenor and oboe d’amore, brought together Christ and Soul in the church version, love and the teacher’s kindly heart in this.
The bass recitative is no less workmanlike and no more memorable than that for tenor—-thanks, reverence and distinction combine and demonstrate to acknowledge the great man. The bass aria opens part 2 of C 36, welcoming the divine spirit into the heart and, one can hardly fail to note, with considerable gusto. In C 36c the illustrious birthday of the professor is alluded to, leaving us in no doubt about the function of the cantata.
The hyperbolic nature of the text may be seen in the reference to the Old Testament—-it is as sacred as that day on which the Creator said, ‘let there be light!’ This comparison with the words and actions of God becomes all the more ironic when one discovers that the soprano is about to bemoan the inadequacy of the expressions of respect that mere students can muster!
The soprano recitative again betrays signs of rapid composition and it boasts one moment of obvious word painting, suggesting the action of rising or expanding—-steigt (bar 6). The conceit is based upon the concern that the proffered tribute may be inadequate for the occasion—-but if it is accepted, it will soar in significance from its humble starting place.
The soprano aria, in which the viola d’amore obbligato is elsewhere replaced by a violin, develops this theme—-weak voices can still sing a teacher’s praise sincerely, albeit imperfectly. Precisely the same theme of deficient articulation forms the basis of the church version, although there it is directed to God. There is little doubt that the rising and falling of the obbligato theme attempts to represent the frailty of human expression.
The final recitative, again for tenor, is only six bars long—-in joyful periods our only aim is to dedicate ourselves to your life.
All of the main movements alluded to are described in greater detail in the essay on C 36. The one important addition to the list is that which concludes C 36c, an odd amalgamation of chorus and recitative.
The chorus sections are in the form of a gavotte, beginning and ending the movement, as well as separating the three recitative insertions for tenor, bass and soprano (the same order as in the recitatives and arias).
Readers may wish to turn back to the essay on C 206 in chapter 97 where some consideration is given to Bach’s template for several of the final choruses of homage cantatas composed in the mid 1730s. Indeed, this may be a factor in dating this particular version of C 36c. The chorus bears all the hallmarks of having been pre-composed with the recitative sections latterly inserted; the choral sections are elegant and pertain to the sophisticated suite, the phrases are even and symmetrical and the whole effect is pleasantly undemanding. The recitatives inject a little more passion.
The broad macro structure is as follows:
A1 gavotte B1 tenor recit A2 gavotte B2 bass recit A3 gavotte B3 sop recit A4 gavotte.
The effect is one of a ponderous rondo.
Looking more closely at the individual sections, we discover that A1 has four alternating eight-bar sections of orchestra and chorus, A2 is eight bars of combined orchestra and chorus ending in Bm with A3 similarly structured but closing in F#m. A4 returns to the thirty-two bars of A1 but with the order of the orchestra and chorus sections reversed.
The first three of the A sections are set to different words—-just as the years renew, so too does your fame—-to disclose your full qualities is more than we can do—-the sacred building, which is your life, delights us. A4 reverts to the couplet of A1.
The three B sections add to the paean of homage—-your fame is international—-our hearts rather than our singing can show you what we feel—-but, nevertheless, we thank you as all see beyond the present to your future well-being and happiness.
These extravagant and pretentious words may have little attraction for contemporary audiences; nevertheless, it is interesting to see what a composer like Bach makes of them, and the music holds its appeal, even today.
Copyright: J Mincham 2010. Revised 2012, 2014, 2017.