All of Bach: a project by the Netherlands Bach Society

Schwingt freudig euch empor

BWV 36 performed by the Netherlands Bach Society conducted by Jos van Veldhoven.

"One of those Bach miracles" - Jos van Veldhoven guides us through the cantata and is amazed by the last aria.

See how organist Leo van Doeselaar stays in touch with the musicians way down below.

"There are few pieces as difficult as this one" - organist Pieter-Jan Belder and harpsichordist Siebe Henstra rack their brains over the continuo part in this cantata.

From a Birthday to Advent

The two familiar chorales make it immediately clear what it is about: Advent.

When sitting in church on 2 December 1731, one of the teachers at the St Thomas School would have looked up in surprise. He would suddenly have heard the music that Bach wrote for his birthday six years earlier. The opening chorus was followed by a second surprise. Bach had replaced the recitatives with new chorale arrangements, based on the Advent chorales ‘Nun komm, der heiden Heiland’ and ‘Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern’. This was a smart move, as it made it immediately clear that it was an Advent cantata. Everyone knew these familiar and popular church songs, so the tone of this Sunday - looking forward to Christmas - was set straight away.

The secular, festive origins of the music can be heard clearly. The two oboe d’amores are very prominent. In the first aria, about the bride that welcome Jesus as the bridegroom, the oboe is literally used as an instrument of love. In the second part, which was performed after the sermon, the strings are also given an important role in the arias. In the first aria, Jesus is welcomed by the bass as a treasure. All the strings come together in an elegant, festive accompaniment, in which the triplets of the opening section return. In the second aria, in contrast to this tutti accompaniment, there is just one solo violin, which plays con sordine (with mutes). It is a perfect illustration of the words, as the soprano sings: ‘Even with subdued, weak voices God’s majesty is revered’. In between the two arias is a repeat of the melody of the Advent chorale ‘Nun komm der heiden Heiland’, this time with no ornamentation and with long notes in the tenor part, supported by a strict canon from the oboe d’amores. The cantata ends with the same chorale, set for four voices and accompanied by the whole ensemble.

As several versions of this cantata have survived, we are given a glimpse behind the scenes of Bach’s process of composition. In 1725, the piece originated as a secular cantata, written for the birthday of a teacher at the St Thomas School, who has not yet been identified with certainty. In 1726, Bach used the piece again for the birthday of Charlotte Friederike Wilhelmine, princess of Köthen. Later, he brought out the score again and used the music - with new words in the recitatives - as a birthday offering to someone from the Rivinus family of lawyers. Somewhere between 1725 and 1730, he also transformed the secular cantata into church music. In this first sacred version, he used only the arias, and added a final chorale. It was only in 1731 that he composed the chorale arrangements that appear instead of the recitatives from the original birthday cantata. In all these adaptations, Bach was not concerned with improving the piece or with making the ultimate version. If you compare all the versions, you see that it was more a case of him thinking practically and continually adapting his music to the occasion and the circumstances


BWV
36

title
Schwingt freudig euch empor

Genre
cantata

year
1731 (earlier versions ca. 1725-30)

city
Leipzig

Lyricist
unknown (Picander wrote the words to the original secular cantata)

Occasion
first Sunday of Advent

First performance
2 December 1731

Reuse
Originally a secular cantata from 1725. Various secular versions and one earlier sacred version between 1725 and 1730.

Cast & Crew

release date 13 June 2014
recording date 30 November 2013
Location Walloon Church, Amsterdam
Conductor Jos van Veldhoven
soprano Zsuzsi Tóth
alto Barnabás Hegyi
tenor Nicholas Mulroy
bass Peter Harvey
ripieno soprano Lauren Armishaw, Annelies Brants
ripieno alto Victoria Cassano McDonald, Elsbeth Gerritsen
ripieno tenor Robert Buckland, João Moreira
ripieno bass Jelle Draijer, Lionel Meunier
violin 1 Shunske Sato, Anneke van Haaften, Annelies van der Vegt
violin 2 Sayuri Yamagata, Paulien Kostense, Lidewij van der Voort
viola Staas Swierstra, Esther van der Eijk
cello Lucia Swarts, Richte van der Meer
double bass Maggie Urquhart
oboe Frank de Bruine, Peter Frankenberg
bassoon Benny Aghassi
harpsichord Siebe Henstra
positive organ Pieter-Jan Belder
church organ Leo van Doeselaar
organ registration Paul Meerwijk
concert Production Marco Meijdam, Imke Deters
PRODUCER Frank van der Weij
FILM DIRECTOR Lucas van Woerkum
DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY Sal Kroonenberg
CAMERA Sal Kroonenberg, Jorrit Garretsen, Robert Berger, Benjamin Sparschuh
FILM EDITOR Lucas van Woerkum, Frank van der Weij
MUSIC RECORDING PRODUCER Leo de Klerk
GAFFER Alban Riphagen
PRODUCTION ASSISTANT Zoë de Wilde
Score reader Jan Van den Bossche
MAKE UP Marloes Bovenlander, Jamila el Bouch
CAMERA ASSISTaNT Chris Tjong Ayong
MUSIC PRODUCER'S ASSISTANT Menno van Delft
MUSIC RECORDING ASSISTANTS Jaap van Stenis, Jaap Firet, Bobby Verbakel, Luuk Hoogstraten
MUSIC EDIT & MIX Leo de Klerk, Frank van der Weij
MUSIC EDIT ASSSISTANT Martijn Snoeren
Colorist Petro van Leeuwen
interviews Onno van Ameijde
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Nienke Meuleman

Vocal Texts

Original

1. Chor

Schwingt freudig euch empor
zu den erhabnen Sternen,
Ihr Zungen, die ihr itzt
in Zion fröhlich seid!
Doch haltet ein!
Der Schall darf sich nicht
weit entfernen,
es naht sich selbst zu euch
der Herr der Herrlichkeit.

2. Choral (Sopran, Alt)

Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland,
der Jungfrauen Kind erkannt,
des sich wundert alle Welt,
Gott solch Geburt ihm bestellt.

3. Arie (Tenor)

Die Liebe zieht mit sanften Schritten
sein Treugeliebtes allgemach.
Gleichwie es eine Braut entzücket,
wenn sie den Bräutigam erblicket,
so folgt ein Herz auch Jesu nach.

4. Choral

Zwingt die Saiten in Cythara
und lasst die süsse Musica
ganz freudenreich erschallen,
dass ich möge mit Jesulein,
dem wunderschönen Bräutgam mein,
in steter Liebe wallen!
Singet,

springet,

jubilieret, triumphieret,

dankt dem Herren!

Gross ist der König der Ehren.

5. Arie (Bass)

Willkommen, werter Schatz!
Die Lieb und Glaube
machet Platz
vor dich in meinem Herzen rein,
zieh bei mir ein!

6. Choral (Tenor)

Der du bist dem Vater gleich,
führ hinaus den Sieg
im Fleisch,
dass dein ewig Gott’sgewalt
in uns das krank Fleisch enthalt.

7. Arie (Sopran)

Auch mit gedämpften,
schwachen Stimmen
wird Gottes Majestät verehrt.
Denn schallet nur der Geist darbei,
so ist ihm solches ein Geschrei,
das er im Himmel selber hört.

8. Choral

Lob sei Gott, dem Vater, g’ton,
lob sei Gott, sein’m eingen Sohn,
lob sei Gott, dem Heilgen Geist,
immer und in Ewigkeit!

Translation

1.Chorus 

Soar joyfully aloft 
to the sublime stars, 
ye voices, who now 
gladly dwell in Zion! 
Yet, stop! 
The sound shall not have 
to travel far, 
the Lord of glory Himself 
approaches you. 

2.Chorale 

Come now, Saviour of the gentiles, 
recognised as the Virgin’s child, 
all the world stands amazed 
that God ordained Him such a birth. 

3.Aria 

Love now draws on with gentle tread 
its true beloved more and more. 
Just as the bride is enchanted 
to behold the bridegroom, 
even so the heart seeks Jesus. 

4.Chorale 

Play the strings in Cythera 
and let sweet Musica 
sound out with naught but joy, 
that I may with little Jesus, 
this exquisite groom of mine, 
pilgrimage in constant love! 
Sing, 
dance, 
rejoice, exult, 
thank the Lord! 
Great is the King of honour. 

5.Aria 

Welcome, precious treasure! 
Love and faith 
prepare a place 
for Thee in my pure heart, 
come dwell in me! 

6.Chorale 

Thou who art like the Father, 
bring about victory 
over the flesh, 
that Thy God’s eternal power 
may keep sick flesh away from us. 

7.Aria 

Even with subdued, 
weak voices 
God’s majesty is revered. 
For though our soul alone may sound, 
this to Him is a mighty shout 
that He in heaven itself doth hear. 

8.Chorale 

Praise be to God, the Father, 
praise be to God, His only son, 
praise be to God, the Holy Ghost, 
always and eternally!

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