Bach Cantata No.191 Gloria

Much of Bach’s prodigious output consists of re-workings of previous compositions.

This is true of Cantata 191. It is described by Bach as a Christmas Cantata, and it is entirely a reworking of parts of the Gloria from his Mass in B minor. For the first movement he has used the chorus Gloria in excelsis – et in terra pax from the Mass unchanged, and the following duet is the Domine Deus from the Mass sung to the words ‘Gloria Patri et Filio et Spiritui sancto’. The cantata concludes with the chorus Sicut erat in principio.The music for this is the chorus Cum sancto spiritu which concludes the Gloria in the Mass. The words Sicut erat don’t fit the original, so he has modified the beginning so that they do.

So we get a small insight into the way Bach worked. There are many more examples of reworkings to hand, since all the Mass in B minor apart from the Kyrie and the Gloria consists of reworkings of previous cantatas.

St.Thomas’s new Kantor

When Kuhnau died in June 1722 the Leipzig authorities needed to find a new Kantor for the Thomaschule. This was a prestigious post and there were six applicants. The obvious front-runner was Georg Philip Telemann,

G. F. Telemann

who was very highly regarded and already had connections with St. Thomas’s. He showed definite signs of accepting the post, but the Hamburg Senate tried to block his acceptance. Telemann argued that if they wanted him to remain in Hamburg they should raise his salary. This they duly did, and he duly stayed.

J.C.Graupner

So Leipzig looked to their
2nd choice, Christoph Graupner, who was Kappelmeister in Darmstadt and one of Kuhnau’s distinguished pupils. Graupner was keen to accept, until Darmstadt offered to increase his salary and improve his status – an offer he could not refuse.

This left them with the 3rd choice.

Councillor Platz observed, ‘As the best man cannot be got, we must make do with the mediocre’ – namely one J.S.Bach!

One of the duties of the position was that they should teach the boys Latin. All of the applicants refused to accept this, but the upshot was that Bach, as successful applicant, had to employ a Latin teacher and pay him out of his own salary.

Click here to go back to Johann Kuhnau.

Johann Kuhnau (1660 – 1722)

Johann Kuhnau (1660 – 1722) was Bach’s predecessor as Kantor at the Thomaskirche in Leipzig, something of a renaissance man, and at the time considered to be the equal of Handel and Telemann, – certainly superior to J.S.Bach. He published an important body of keyboard music (including the first keyboard sonata published by a German composer); but his cantatas were not published and are mostly lost – just a few have been found amongst Bach’s huge collection of cantatas. Uns ist ein Kind geboren is one such. It was indeed assumed in the 19th century to be by Bach himself – Cantata 142, but Bach scholars have long been questioning this.

He was born Johann Kuhn in 1660. His parents were Czech, but being protestants, they had fled to the mountains on the border of Germany to avoid the scourge of the Counter-Reformation.

At the age of 10 Johann went to Dresden to be educated, since he was an exceptionally clever child; he also had a fine voice. Dresden was the home of the court of the Elector of Saxony, Johann Georg II. In 1667, the Elector was offered the presidency of the Fruitbearing Society, which he accepted. The Fruitbearing Society’s main aim was to establish German as the official court language throughout the Holy Roman Empire (rather than French). The Elector also strove to make Dresden a major cultural centre & to this end brought distinguished artists, writers and musicians into his court. His activities as a patron left considerable debts for his descendants to deal with, but it was an environment greatly conducive to the education of young Johann Kuhn. In Dresden he received an education that included French and Italian, the languages of the court; and he sang, learned the organ and composed music much appreciated by the court Kantor, Vincenzo Albrici.

But in 1680 plague came to Dresden. Johann went home, but was soon back at school, this time in Zittau. He was head chorister in the choir of the Johanniskirche. Shortly after this, both the organist and Kantor of the church died, so at the age of 20 Johann Kuhn was asked to act in their stead for a year as organist, choir director and composer.

Two years later Johann became a Law student at Leipzig University. But he impressed the City Council with his musical talent and he became very active as a performer (presumably as a singer and organist?) and as a composer. Rather fashionably, he had at this time italianised his name to Cuno, but it was not long before that turned back into the German-sounding Kuhnau. At the age of 24 he was appointed organist at the Thomaskirche.

Alongside his musical employment, he studied law. By the time he was 29 he had married, was practising law, and was still organist at the Thomaskirche. During the next 10 years over and above his fame as an organist, he became proficient in Maths, Greek and Hebrew, translated French and Italian books into German, wrote a satiric novel, published his substantial and significant body of keyboard music and composed music for the church. In addition he had 8 children and a thriving legal practise.

When he was 41 he was unanimously appointed Kantor at the Thomaskirche, but that was when things started to go downhill. One Georg Telemann enroled at the university, also to study Law, but he, like Kuhnau before him, became very active musically. He established a collegium musicum which was a rival to Kuhnau’s establishment and attracted Kuhnau’s musicians and some of his pupils. He even approached the mayor for permission to compose music for the Thomaskirche, utterly undermining Kuhnau. To rub in salt yet further, in 1703, when Kuhnau was suffering one of several periods of illness, the council asked Telemann to succeed him, should he die.

Kuhnau, in fact, lived for a further 21 years, and although he became very dissatisfied with conditions at the Thomaskirche, he attracted many students who would become distinguished musicians themselves, such was the esteem he was held in by his fellow musicians. He was the last of the Thomaskantors who had something of the ‘renaissance man’ about him. It is easy to see that, at the time, Bach was seen as a less distinguished man – indeed he was in broader terms – he just happened to be one of the greatest musicians ever.

Kuhnau died in June 1722.

Click here to find out about the next Kantor at the Thomaskirche.

Saul’s soloists

I would like to thank Vic Twyman for bringing together such an excellent group of soloists for the recent performance of Handel’s Saul. Apart from singing so beautifully, through their sensitive characterisation they made the piece work as a most moving piece of drama.

Congratulations to the choir, too, for their musical commitment; and also, in their role as the People of Israel, capturing convincingly the wildly fluctuating moods of the people.

 

Richard Emms
(Musical Director)

 

Tim Morgan

Born in Leicester, Tim received his formative musical education as a chorister at the Church of St James the Greater and as a choral scholar in Leicestershire Chorale. After completing the sixth form, Tim was a Choral Scholar at Norwich Cathedral, where he studied with tenor, Ben Johnson, and worked with pianist, Tom Primrose, with whom he continues to collaborate.

Now an undergraduate scholar at the Royal College of Music, Tim studies with Tim Evans-Jones and is coached by Andrew Robinson and Lawrence Zazzo. Whilst at RCM he has taken part in master classes with Lawrence Zazzo, Patricia Bardon and Masaaki Suzuki. During this time, he has worked with such preeminent early music figures as trumpeter David Blackadder, viola da gamba player Vittorio Ghielmi, flautist and conductor Ashley Solomon and countertenor, Michael Chance.

2014 marked an important point in Tim’s early career. Highlights include winning the Kathleen Ferrier Society Bursary for Young Singers, appearing on BBC3’s Music Matters performing a previously unrecorded aria from Gluck’s Opera, Artamene, performing Handel’s Messiah with The Hanover Band, and returning to Norwich Cathedral as a soloist Bach’s St Matthew Passion. He also had the pleasure of performing at the Brighton Early Music Festival and as a young artist at Southrepps Classical Music Festival.

2015 continues to prove fruitful with particular oratorio highlights of Bach’s St John Passion with players from RCM and Salzburg Mozarteum and Handel’s Dixit Dominus with Genesis Sixteen and Harry Christophers. This season, he understudied the role of ‘Apollo’ in Garsington Opera’s production of Britten’s Death in Venice and took part in British Youth Opera’s summer workshops.

Currently, Tim is studying on the Erasmus scheme at Koninklijk Conservatorium in Den Haag, where his teachers are Rita Dams and Michael Chance. Tim is the understudy for Michael Chance in the first production of Calliope Tsoupaki’s new opera, Mariken in de Tuin de Lusten with contemporary opera company, Opera2day, and the Dutch National Theatre.

Forthcoming highlights for 2015/16 include Handel’s Messiah with Norwich Cathedral Choir, a performance of Bach’s St John Passion with The Hanover Band, a recital at Raynham Hall with soprano, Rowan Pierce, understudying the role of Polinesso in Handel’s Ariodante with the RCM International Opera School, and his debut at the London Handel Festival as Arsace in Handel’s Berenice with La Nuova Musica.

Britten in America

In early 1939 England war was clearly brewing with rampant fascism across Europe, the UK included. As a homosexual Jewish pacifist with distinct leftist leanings, Britten had every reason to feel vulnerable. Also he was being pilloried by some critics – and he was always
hypersensitive to criticism.
He had also just met Peter Pears, who would become his life-time’s partner, and he had urgent need to disentangle himself from an assortment of ‘romantic attachments’. So in April Britten and Pears left for Canada.


They soon moved on to Woodstock where Aaron Copland was living, spending the summer there; but they settled more permanently at Pears’ friend Elizabeth Mayer’s house.

Mrs. Mayer became something of a mother to Britten, and he dedicated A Ceremony of Carols to her.

Towards the end of his time in USA,
Britten was planning to write a harp concerto. He had therefore been studying the instrument in depth and was now fully primed for composing A Ceremony of Carols. At this time he also composed A Hymn to St.Cecilia.

In March 1942 Britten and Pears set sail from New York, in the Swedish merchant ship Axel Johnson. Passing through emigration the officials confiscated the scores for the Harp Concerto and Hymn to St. Cecilia, thinking they contained subversive messages in code. On the first leg of the voyage, Britten rewrote Hymn to St. Cecilia.

Since America had joined the war after the attack on Pearl Harbour, the eastern seaboard of USA was heavily targeted by German U-boats and many allied vessels were torpedoed during the course of the war. They must have undertaken the crossing with much trepidation.

So the Axel Johnson sailed first to Halifax, Nova Scotia to join its convoy. While waiting in Halifax Britten found an anthology of medieval verse, The English Galaxy of Shorter Poems. During the Atlantic crossing he set 7 of these for boys’ voices and harp. These he expanded to give us ‘A Ceremony of Carols’, completed in 1943.