BWV 225

All of Bach: a project by the Netherlands Bach Society

Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied

BWV 225 performed by the Netherlands Bach Society conducted by Stephan MacLeod
Grote Kerk, Naarden

"For a singer, once you know the motets of Bach, it is like going to the gym and doing your favourite exercises."

Chameleonic

Mozart was able to learn something from this.

“A complete orchestra should be added to this”, wrote Mozart on his copy of Bach’s motet Singet dem Herrn. He was very enthusiastic about the piece, which was performed as a surprise when he visited the Thomasschule in Leipzig, in 1789. At his request, Mozart was given a copy of it. In his account of the event ten years later, Johann Friedrich Rochlitz says that Mozart even shouted “Now there’s something you can learn from!”

In the three movements of the motet in the form of a concerto, the two choirs are used in an exceptionally inventive way. Following an exuberant wholesale ping-ponging of the word ‘Singet!’, both choirs plunge initially into a complicated fugue. The slow movement is a chorale sung solemnly by choir II, while choir I interweaves an ingenious ‘aria’ through it. At the end, everything is repeated, except that the roles of the two choirs are reversed, with choir II singing the ‘aria’ and choir I the chorale. The ending is a sort of dancy question and answer game, which is closed by a jointly performed four-part fugue.

The chameleonic character of this motet makes it difficult to decide what its occasion might have been. Neither of the two possibilities often put forward seem to be a perfect solution. It is probably a little too cheerful for a memorial service for the Queen of Poland, yet a little too solemn for the birthday music for King August, who had just recovered from a serious illness.

Whether Mozart needed this copy in order to write his requiem, as has been suggested, seems very far-fetched. In any case, he never started on orchestrating Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied. And that’s probably a good thing too.

Motets, BWV 225-231, 118 and Anh159

Cantatas were Bach’s daily bread and a regular part of his weekly tasks as Cantor of St Thomas’s. His motets were a different case entirely. Apart from the cantata, hardly any new music was played in Leipzig (music was selected instead from the motet collection Florilegium Portense). This gave Bach scope for writing commissioned works for private occasions, often funerals. Unfortunately, probably dozens of these works have been lost. The pieces that did survive have stayed on the repertoire since their composition, unlike Bach’s other vocal works.

The surviving authentic motets – nine works, although research continues – build on a genre with an impressive pedigree. Against the background of strict Renaissance polyphony, the generation of Schütz (1585-1672) borrowed elements from the opulent, polychoral works of Giovanni Gabrieli and gave them a Central-German, Lutheran twist. In Bach’s case, too, the content focused on chorales and biblical passages, whereby worldly madrigalism (or put simply: portraying the words) served only to reinforce the expression of the religious genre.


BWV
225

Title
Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied

Genre
Motet

Year
Between June 1726 and April 1727

City
Leipzig

Lyricist
Unknown lyricist. Composed of Psalm 149:1-3, Psalm 150:2, 6 and verse 3 and 4 from Nun lob, mein Seel, den Herren from Johann Gramann

Occasion
Unknown

First Performance
Unknown

Cast & Crew

Recording Date 14 May 2016
Release Date 1 January 2017
Location Grote Kerk, Naarden
Conductor Stephan MacLeod
Soprano Orlanda Velez Isidro, Klaartje van Veldhoven, Griet de Geyter, Aleksandra Lewandowska, Marjon Strijk, Hilde van Ruymbeke, Stephanie Pfeffer, Marta Paklar
Alto Barabás Hegyi, Gemma Jansen, Elena Pozhidaeva, Bernadett Nagy, Marine Fribourg, Victoria Cassano McDonald
Tenor Adriaan de Koster, Wolfgang Frisch, Guy Cutting, Diederik Rooker, Immo Schröder, Ronald Threels
Bass Matthew Baker, Sebastian Myrus, Pierre-Guy Le Gall White, Martijn de Graaf Bierbrauwer, Michiel Meijer, Jelle Draijer
Violin Shunske Sato, Sayuri Yamagata
Viola Staas Swierstra
Cello Lucia Swarts
Violone Robert Franenberg
Oboe 1 Martin Stadler
Oboe 2 Peter Frankenberg
Taille Yongcheon Shin
Bassoon Benny Aghassi
Theorbe Fred Jacobs
Organ Pieter-Jan Belder
Harpsichord Siebe Henstra
Director Simon Aarden
Assistant director Ferenc Soetman
Music recording Guido Tichelman, Bastiaan Kuijt, Micha de Kanter
Music edit and mix Guido Tichelman
Camera Bart ten Harkel, Merijn Vrieling, Merlijn Dielemans, Chris Reichgelt, Martijn Struijf
Lights Zen Bloot
Lighting assistant Patrick Galvin
Video engeneer Niels Cnossen
Set technique Marco Korzelius
Data handling Jesper Blok
project manager NEP Peter Ribbens
Producer Marco Meijdam

Vocal Texts

Original

Singet dem Herren ein neues Lied
die Gemeine der Heiligen
sollen ihn loben.
Israel freue sich des, der ihn gemacht hat.
Die Kinder Zion sei'n
fröhlich
über ihrem Könige,
sie sollen loben
seinen Namen im reihen;
mit Pauken und mit Harfen
sollen sie ihm spielen.

Wie sich ein Vater erbarmet
Gott, nimm dich ferner unser an,
über seine junge Kinderlein,
so tut der Herr uns allen,
so wir ihn kindlich fürchten rein.
Er kennt das arm Gemächte,
Gott weiss, wir sind nur Staub,
denn ohne dich ist nichts getan
mit allen unsern Sachen.
Gleichwie das Gras vom Rechen,
ein Blum und fallend Laub.
Der Wind nur drüber wehet,
so ist es nicht mehr da,
Drum sei du unser Schirm und Licht,
und trügt uns unsre Hoffnung nicht,
so wirst du's ferner machen.
Also der Mensch vergehet,
sein End, das ist ihm nah.
Wohl dem, der sich nur steif und fest
auf dich und deine Huld verlässt.

Nur Gottes Gnad’ alleine
Gott, nimm dich ferner unser an,
steht fest und bleibt in Ewigkeit,
bei seiner lieben G’meine,
die steht in seiner Furcht bereit,
die seinen Bund behalten.
Er herrscht im Himmelreich.
denn ohne dich ist nichts getan
mit allen unsern Sachen.
Ihr starken Engel, waltet
seins Lob’s und dient zugleich,
dem grossen Herrn zu ehren,
und treibt sein heiligs Wort;
Drum sei du unser Schirm und Licht,
und trügt uns unsre Hoffnung nicht,
so wirst du's ferner machen.
Mein Seel sollt auch vermehren
Sein Lob an allem Ort.
Wohl dem, der sich nur steif und fest
auf dich und deine Huld verlässt.

Lobet den Herrn in seinen Taten,
lobet ihn in seiner grossen Herrlichkeit!
Alles was Odem hat lobe den Herrn,
halleluja!

Translation

Sing unto the Lord a new song;
let the congregation of saints
praise Him.
Let Israel rejoice in Him that made him,
and let the children of Sion be
joyful
in their King.
Let them praise
His name in the dance;
let them sing praises unto Him
with the timbrel and harp.

Just as a father has mercy –
O God, continue to sustain us –
on his little children,
so the Lord does unto us all,
if we fear Him with pure childlike awe.
He knows this feeble race,
God knows we are but dust,
for without Thee nothing is achieved
with all our activity.
We are like grass from the rake,
a flower and falling leaves:
the wind has only to blow over it
and it is no longer there.
Therefore be our shield and light, 
and if our hope does not deceive us, 
Thou shalt continue to be so.
So man too passes,
his end is always near.
Happy is he who, steadfastly and firmly, relies on Thee
and on Thy benevolence.


God’s grace alone
God continues to take care of us,
is steadfast and lasts forever,
with his dear congregation,
that stands in fear of him
and keeps his Testament.
He reigns in the kingdom of heaven.
for without him
all human endeavour is nothing.
You mighty angels hold sway,
praise him and serve him,
honour the great God,
and obey his holy word.
Let him therefore be our shield and light, 
and if our hope does not deceive us, 
he shall continue to be so.
My soul shall also continue
to praise him everywhere.
Blessed is he who steadfastly
relies on thee and thy grace.

Praise the Lord in His mighty acts,
praise Him according to His excellent
greatness. Let everything that hath breath
praise the Lord.
Alleluia!

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