WDBX Opera Overnight – Wagner’s Der Ring Des Nibelungen, Day 1; Puccini, Britten, Barber

The giants seize Freya. One of Arthur Rackham'...

The giants seize Freya. One of Arthur Rackham’s illustrations from 1910 to Wagner’s Das Rheingold. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tonight we shall be starting a series that I’ve been wanting to do for a very long time – perhaps as long as 17 years, the length of time that I’ve been hosting radio programming here at WDBX.  For the first time since I’ve been here, we are going to do a Ring Cycle.  The Ring Cycle, of course, refers to Richard Wagner’s epic four-opera cycle, Der Ring des Nibelungen, The Ring of the Nibelung.  Wagner considered it as a trilogy with an Vorabend (“ante-evening”, or a preliminary evening), and he intended the cycle to be performed on consecutive nights.  The effort required of the singers is immense, without match in the operatic world, and the singers who are able to withstand the demands of a full cycle are a rare breed, and often become specialists in the music of Wagner.  This is not just because of the length of the four operas, but also because of the difficulty of the parts, which require voices of unusual range and strength.  Wagner wrote the music for the cycle over the course of 26 years, starting in 1848 and completing the cycle in 1874.  Eventually he had a theater built specifically to house productions of the cycle, and the Bayreuth Festspielhaus remains a mecca for opera lovers with its annual productions of the Ring Cycle.


A page from Wagner's autograph score of Das Rh...

A page from Wagner’s autograph score of Das Rheingold (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There are numerous difficult choices to make when choosing a Ring Cycle set for our show.  There are numerous recordings of the complete cycle, and there are also numerous recordings of the individual parts.  For our first Ring Cycle, I’ve acquired a set of live recordings of Bayreuth’s 1966 cycle, considered by many to be among the best recorded representations of the cycle, and which gives excellent sound quality.  So, we start with Wagner’s “vorabend”, Das RheingoldAlthough this was written as a prelude, it was actually the last of the four operas that Wagner conceived, as he planned the opera backwards, starting with the eventual death of the hero and then working back to include the hero’s youth, and the backstory of the heroine Brünnhilde.  At one point in 1851 Wagner was planning for the Cycle to be a trilogy, but by December of that year he decided that a prelude was needed.  Wagner completed the libretto by December of 1852, and a fair copy of the opera was completed on September 26, 1854.  It was premiered in Munich on September 22, 1869, and it was first performed as part of the Cycle on August 13, 1876.


Richard Wagner Festspielhaus am Grünen Hügel i...

Richard Wagner Festspielhaus am Grünen Hügel in Bayreuth (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As I said, tonight’s recording comes from the 1966 Bayreuth Festival, considered by many to rank among the better full-Cycle recordings.  The cast consists of Theo Adam, Gustav Neidlinger, Wolfgang WindgassenAnja Silja, Martti Talvela, Annelies Burmeister, Kurt Böhme, Gerd Nienstedt, Hermin Esser, Věra Soukupová, and Erwin Wohlfahrt.  Karl Böhm directs the Bayreuth Festival Orchestra, as he did for all four operas in the cycle that we shall be hearing over the course of the next four weeks.


Italiano: Frontespizio del libretto d'opera &q...

Italiano: Frontespizio del libretto d’opera “Turandot” di G. Adami e R. Simoni musica di Giacomo Puccini – edizioni G. Ricordi & C. Milano – Prima rappresentazione alla Scala di Milano 25 aprile 1926 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For our second opera this evening, we’re going to hear the last composition by Giacomo Puccini, Turandot.  Puccini began composition in January of 1921, using a libretto by Giuseppe Adami and Renato Simoni.  He had completed all but a final duet by March of 1924, but was dissatisfied with the text for the duet.   He finally received a version of the text that he found satisfactory on October 8th, but two days later was diagnosed with throat cancer.  He continued writing while undergoing what was then an experimental radiation treatment, but died of a heart attack on November 29th, 1924.  He left 36 pages of sketches, along with instructions for how it was to be completed and whom should complete it – the last part of which Puccini’s son objected to.  The job was eventually handed to Franco Alfano, whose contributions were edited by conductor Arturo Toscanini, who had worked extensively with Puccini in the past, and who conducted the premiere.  Although there have been a number of recent attempts at revising this last portion, none have managed to stick, and the edition with Alfano’s contribution is the version that is usually heard.


Tonight’s performance is a 1966 recording that features top vocalists Birgit Nilsson (whom we’ll be hearing a lot from over the next few weeks, as she is prominent in our Ring Cycle, just not tonight’s recording) and Franco Corelli, two of the greatest voices of their era, along with Bonaldo Giaiotti, Renata Scotto, Angelo Mercuriali, and the Rome Opera House Orchestra & Chorus under the baton of Franco Molinari-Pradelli.


Our next piece is a short song cycle by Benjamin Britten, written for what he described as “high voice and orchestra”.  Our Hunting Fathers, Op. 8, was based on a paper Britten wrote as a schoolboy, titled  “Animals”.   The paper was so controversial in its pacifism that it got Britten expelled from school, but pacifism remained a life-long passion for Britten, and he held the work in such high regard that he often referred to it as his “Opus 1”.  He wrote it for orchestra, even though he had never had done such a composition before, and the work demonstrates a great degree of skill for such arrangements.  Tonight’s recording features Phyllis Bryn-Julson with the English Chamber Orchestra.


English: Leontyne Price (b&w) by Jack Mitchell

Leontyne Price, photographed by Jack Mitchell (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Our last work of the evening is another short song cycle, this time by Samuel Barber.  Despite and Still, Op. 41, was one of Barber’s last compositions, and was written for and dedicated to Leontyne Price, who had originated a number of Barber’s works.  Price premiered the piece in 1969, and she also sang the piece at Barber’s memorial service in 1981.  Tonight’s recording is by Thomas Hampson, with John Browning accompanying on piano.



The Galaxy – Remembering two great musical personalities

English: Bassist Chi Cheng of Deftones perform...

Bassist Chi Cheng of Deftones performing at the Hultsfred Festival in Sweden. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We here at the Galaxy are saddened to hear of the passing yesterday of the fine bassist for the Deftones, Chi Cheng.  As a long-time fan of the Deftones, I watched the band’s growth, and the development of their songcraft.  But Chi always came up with some superlative bass lines, going back to their first album, Adrenaline.  But they have never been ones to coast on talent, and each new album has come with glorious performances on the parts of the instrumentalists.  I’ve always found Chi’s parts to be especially interesting.  So tonight we took a few minutes to hear a few of these special performances.

  • Korea – from White Pony
  • Minerva  – from the self-titled album, Deftones
  • Rickets – from Around the Fur
  • My Own Summer (Shove It) – also from Around the Fur
  • Feiticeira –
  • When Girls Telephone Boys
  • Digital Bath
  • Good Morning Beautiful
  • Change (In The House of Flies
Maria Tallchief (January 24, 1925 – April 11, 2013)

Maria Tallchief (January 24, 1925 – April 11, 2013)

We also took a few moments to pay homage to the great ballerina Maria Tallchief.  She is considered by many to have been America’s first major prima ballerina, and she was also the first Native American to hold such a position.  She was associated with the great choreographer George Ballanchine for many years (and was married to him at one point), and was the first principal dancer for the then-newly formed New York City Ballet.  She was the first American to appear at the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow, and her performances of the Sugar Plum Fairy role in Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker is credited with popularizing the piece in the US during the latter half of the 20th century.  At one point in the mid-’50s, her salary was said to be the highest ever paid to a ballerina at that time.  After her retirement in 1966, she served as the director of ballet for Lyric Opera of Chicago, and founded the Chicago City Ballet in 1981.  She received many honors, including a Kennedy Center Honors in 1996.  In addition to her ballet work, she was also an advocate for various Native American issues, and was closely tied to her Osage tribal organization.

Naturally, it is difficult for a radio program to do a proper homage to a ballerina, given the visual nature of dance.  However, we can hear a piece that was frequently associated with her.  Balanchine choreographed Igor Stravinski’s The Firebird for her in 1949, and it is considered to be one of the roles that thrust her into such a high degree of prominence.  A New York Times reviewer said that she was asked “to do everything except spin on her head, and she does it with complete and incomparable brilliance.”

Maria Tallchief performs the lead role in The Firebird

Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus

Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now, today is the anniversary of the birthday of the great jazz composer Charles Mingus.  Normally I would have dedicated the entirety of the show to such an auspicious occasion, but given the other things that I feel compelled to do, this year’s observance is necessarily abbreviated.  But that doesn’t mean that we are prevented from plugging in some of his exquisite music.  We heard:

  • Gunslinging Bird – from Mingus Dynasty, his brilliant album from ’59 that features some of his more daring compositions; the song is one of his numerous pieces to which he gave a more elaborate title, “If Bird were a Gunslinger, There Would Be A Whole Bunch of Dead Copycats”
  • Better Get Hit In Your Soul – one of a number of songs that openly display the gospel background that cropped up from time to time in Mingus’s music.  This was a concert staple of his for a time in the early ’60s.
  • Freedom – from Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus, this song features a sung chorus at the start and end, with some strong, interesting music in the middle.  It was one of a number of his songs that were inspired by the Civil Rights movement – Mingus was not shy about making his feelings known.

“It’s Too Damn Early” moving times!

Starting Sunday, April 15th, you can hear experimental music, avant-garde works, and sound art from 5-6 p.m. at the new “It’s Too Damn Early” showtime. Since it’s no longer “too damn early,” we’ll have a new name to go along with the time switch– be sure to listen Sunday, when I reveal the new name!

For everyone with a sentimental side, join me one last time on April 21st, from 4-6:30 a.m., for the “farewell” broadcast of my overnight hijinks. I’ll play the music, and you can dance while the ship goes down.

The Galaxy – a Tribute to Gustav Leonhardt

Tonight we are going to take a few minutes and pay tribute to a great keyboardist, and a musicologist whose research has done much to impact our awareness of how beautiful early classical music truly is, or can be.

Gustav Leonhardt (30 May 1928 – 16 January 2012)

Gustav Leonhardt (30 May 1928 – 16 January 2012) - image obtained from musicianmilestones.blogspot.com

Gustav Leonhardt was born in Holland on May 30, 1928.  He studied harpsichord with Eduard Miller at Schola Cantorum Basiliensis, and made his debut as a harpsichordist in Vienna in 1950.  He worked as Professor of Harpsichord at the Academy of Music in Vienna from 1952 to 1955, and at the Amsterdam Conservatory from 1954 onward.  He began issuing major harpsichord recordings in 1953, with recordings of Bach’s Goldberg Variations and Art of Fugue (this being the first ever recording of that work).  Later on he worked with Nikolaus Harnoncourt to record the first ever complete set of Bach’s cantatas, an effort which took many years to accomplish.  Among his many awards, he was awarded the Medal of Honour for the Arts and Sciences from the Netherlands in 2009.

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We started the show with a 1973 pipe organ recording of a set of Partitas that Bach based on O Gott, du Frommer Gott (“O God, Thou Righteous God”), BWV 767.  The work is believed to be one of Bach’s early compositions, possibly dating back to 1700, and is an excellent example of Bach’s skill at creating a diverse set of variations upon a simple theme, a concept that Bach would return to repeatedly over the course of his life.  One cannot say that Leonhardt was more masterly at pipe organ or harpsichord – he demonstrated equally great skill on each.  So it is good that we can represent both his harpsichord and pipe organ work, as both were equally important.

Pastel of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach drawn by h...

Pastel of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach drawn by his godson Johann Philipp Bach, currently in the Staatsbibliothek, Berlin (Preußischer Kulturbesitz) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Leonhardt recorded a lot of Bach, and most of what I have available to me for tonight’s show consists of Bach.  But we do have some samplings of other composers, including one of the few occasions in which he ventured past the Baroque era in a recording.  Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (son of Johann), a key figure in the post Baroque era, wrote three keyboard concertos in D minor between 1745 and 1748.  Tonight we heard the third of these, Wq 23, in a 1987 recording with Leonhardt conducting an unnamed ensemble from the harpsichord.  The differences between C.P.E. Bach and his father are quite strikingly demonstrated here (J.S. Bach also wrote a keyboard concerto in D minor), yet at the same time the keyboard still rules the day.

Portrait of François Couperin "the Great&...

Portrait of François Couperin "the Great" (nephew of Louis Couperin) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Leonhardt put a great deal of effort into researching composers who may have slid into obscurity, and over time demonstrated that, with an effective performance, such obscurity was often undeserved.  One such composer that Leonhardt championed was François Couperin.  Couperin (b. 1668, d. 1753) was greatly admired in his day, and J.S. Bach even had copied one of Couperin’s rondeaus into the notebook that he was assembling for his young wife Anna Magdalena.  In addition to his harpsichord literature, he also wrote a book, L’art de toucher le clavecin (1716) that gives us fundamental information about keyboard performance practice of the day.  This book also contains eight preludes, which we heard in a 1987 recording by Leonhardt.  I am particularly struck by the tone that Leonhardt gets out of his instrument here, a particularly beautiful sound that really frames the music quite well.

Gustav Leonhardt in 1972

Gustav Leonhardt in 1972

Not only was Leonhardt a keyboardist, but from time to time he also conducted, often from his keyboard.  Conducting was not his preferred activity, but there are a number of available recordings that Leonhardt conducted (which includes the C.P.E. Bach we’ve already heard).  In the case of the complete Bach cantata set, conducting was probably a creature of necessity, given the amount of time that was required to record the huge number of cantatas that Bach wrote (at one point Bach was writing a cantata each week, which he did for a total of four year-long cycles that were based on the Lutheran religious calendar).  It is notable that Leonhardt did this in cooperation with Nikolaus Harnoncourt, who Leonhardt is known to have thought to play too much to popular sentiment – this probably reflects the challenge involved with performing the huge volume of music involved.  Tonight we heard one of those recordings, Süßer Trost, mein Jesus kömmt (“Sweet comfort, my Jesus comes”), BWV 151, in a 1985 recording that sees Leonhardt leading his own Leonhardt Consort.  BWV 151 is actually a Christmas cantata, written for the third day of Christmas, and uses a libretto by Georg Christian Lehms.  So, yes, we may hear this one again come Christmas time.

Frontispiece of Bach's Clavier-Büchlein vor An...

Frontispiece of Bach's Clavier-Büchlein vor Anna Magdalena Bach, composed in 1722 for his second wife (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In preparing tonight’s show, I stumbled upon a recording of the Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach.  I find this quite startling, as I’ve long wanted to see such a recording, dating back to my teenage years.  This “notebook” was a piano exercise book that J.S. Bach prepared for his young second wife Anna Magdalena, whom he had married in the winter of 1721-22.  She was the daughter of a trumpet player in the Zerbst court, and had been active as a singer prior to her marriage to Bach.  There are two known such notebooks, one dated 1722, and a second that was dated 1725, with the title pages in Anna Magdalena’s hand.  The music was in a mixture of Bach’s and Anna’s handwriting, and include a number of his own works, as well as works by the aforementioned François Couperin and a few by son C.P.E Bach.  There are other works that may be from other writers (which may include Johann Adolph Hasse), but in many instances it is quite challenging to establish actual authorship, as Bach did not intend this for public consumption.  From this compilation, we heard a Polonaise in G minor (BWV anh 119), a March in E flat major (BWV Anh 127), a Menuet in G minor (BWV anh 114/115, which is believed to have been written by Christian Petzold), and “Willst du dein Herz mir schenken” (BWV 518), an aria.  Most of this is done solo by Leonhart, while Elly Ameling performed the aria to Leonhardt’s accompaniment.

Main organ of Saint Thomas Church (Strasbourg)...

Main organ of Saint Thomas Church (Strasbourg), by Johann Andreas Silbermann, 1741 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We closed the show with a 1973 recording of one of J.S. Bach’s more monumental works for pipe organ, his E minor Prelude and Fugue, BWV 548.  Believed to have been written after Bach’s 1723 move to Leipzig, the piece is a fine example of organwerke at its finest, both in terms of its composition and in terms of Leonhardt’s performance.  The composition of the work is interesting – while most preludes tend to be relatively free-wheeling while the fugue is locked into technical precision, BWV 548 is the opposite, with a rather strict prelude that then opens up into a fugue of three sections – an initial fugual section, a toccata-like middle, then a third section that includes a complete recapitulation of the first section.

Upcoming on the Galaxy!!!!! A tribute to a great master!

Gustav Leonhardt (Cité de la Musique, Paris)

Gustav Leonhardt (Cité de la Musique, Paris) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This coming Sunday night/Monday morning, we’re going to have a special edition of the Galaxy, as we’ll be paying tribute to the important musicologist and keyboardist Gustav Leonhardt, who passed away back in January 16th.  Leonhardt was a pioneer in the period instrument movement, as a soloist, ensemble member and as a conductor.  His  collaborations with Nicholas Harnoncourt, which include recording the complete set of Bach canatas (a process that took many years, and the first time that had ever been done), rank among some of the most prestigious achievements of the late 20th century.  He was a preeminent performer on the harpsichord and pipe organ, with numerous important recordings of many works of the baroque era and earlier.  He also was a noted instructor of keyboard technique, and his students include many of today’s most important keyboardists musicologists and conductors, including Christopher Hogwood, Alan Curtis, Richard Egarr, John Fesperman, Davitt Moroney, Martin Pearlman, Colin Tilney, Bob van Asperen, Philippe Herreweghe, Ton Koopman, among others, many of whom are regularly featured on this program.  His recordings and research constitute a primary influence on the direction of this show – even when I wasn’t playing his recordings (which I have on numerous occasions over the years), I have often used selection criteria that is influenced in part by the movement that he helped launch back in the 1950s.  He might not be as big a name as, say, Luciano Pavarotti, but his influence on performance and recording practices is probably much greater.

A Tribute to Gustav Leonhardt – coming up Sunday night, March 25/26, on the Galaxy on WDBX.

The Galaxy – Demonstrating the art of the fugue

A portrait which may show Bach in 1750

Bach, possibly from c. 1750 (Image via Wikipedia)

I enjoy my annual celebration of Bach’s birthday (he would be 327 years old on March 21st), if for the simple reason that it gives me a convenient excuse to take a good, hard listen to any one of his numerous masterpieces.  The one risk that I run is the trap of unwittingly playing the same pieces every year.  That is hard to avoid, as Bach wrote some of the most easily appropriate music for the Easter religious holiday, which by happenstance usually falls near the 21st (this year’s observance is three weeks afterwards), and several of his works rank among the truly great musical compositions.  So, in the end, while I do strive for musical variety, I don’t worry about it.  If I choose one week out of the year to play some of the greatest music that the world has ever heard, the greatness of said music remains undiminished.

So it is with that very lack of reservation that I bring out Bach’s Art of Fugue for this year’s birthday show, even though I think I may have done the same last year.  The very brilliance of the work makes the suggestion hard to refuse.  A little background: Bach began the composition of the piece at some point during the early 1740s, although it could possibly have been earlier.  This was a period where Bach was writing pieces that encapsulated everything that he had done up to that point (i.e. The Musical Offering), or revising earlier pieces so that the craft would be to his satisfaction (the two Passion works, Wohltemperierte Clavier, B Minor Mass).  One might say that Bach saw himself as having reached the sunset of his life, and he wanted to have made a grand statement.  He was quite successful, as he was able to produce, either through revisions or through original composition, three truly epic masterpieces within the three years prior to his death: The B Minor Mass, St. Matthew’s Passion, and the Art of Fugue.

The basic subject of Bach's Art of Fugue

The basic subject of Bach's Art of Fugue

While each work has its own special qualities, the Art of Fugue is quite interesting, from a compositional standpoint.  Bach started with a simple musical phrase, seen above, which is stated unequivocally in the first section.  He then ran through all of the different potential ways that he could rephrase and reorganize the statement.  What he did (I use here Wikipedia’s excellent discussion of the compositional methods Bach used):

1. Contrapunctus I, and

2. Contrapunctus II: Simple monothematic 4-voice fugues on main theme, accompanied by a ‘French’ style dotted rhythm motif.

3. Contrapunctus III, and

4. Contrapunctus IV: Simple monothematic 4-voice fugues on inversion of main theme, i.e. the theme is “turned upside down”

Counter-fugues, in which a variation of the main subject is used in both regular and inverted form:

5. Contrapunctus V: Has many stretto entries, as do Contrapuncti VI and VII.

6. Contrapunctus VI, a 4 in Stylo Francese: This adds both forms of the theme in diminution (halving note lengths), with little rising and descending clusters of semiquavers in one voice answered or punctuated by similar groups in demisemiquavers in another, against sustained notes in the accompanying voices. The dotted rhythm, enhanced by these little rising and descending groups, suggests what is called “French style” in Bach’s day, hence the name Stylo Francese.

7. Contrapunctus VII, a 4 per Augmentationem et Diminutionem: Uses augmented (doubling all note lengths) and diminished versions of the main subject and its inversion.

Double and triple fugues, with two and three subjects respectively:

8. Contrapunctus VIII, a 3: Triple fugue.

9. Contrapunctus IX, a 4 alla Duodecima: Double fugue

Contrapunctus X, a 4 alla Decima: Double fugue.
11. Contrapunctus XI, a 4: Triple fugue.

Mirror fugues, in which the complete score can be inverted without loss of musicality:


Contrapunctus 12 (Image via Wikipedia)

12. Contrapunctus XII, a 4: The rectus (normal) and inversus (upside-down) versions are generally played back to back.

13. Contrapunctus XIII, a 3: The second mirror fuguein 3 voices, also a counter-fugue.

Canons, labeled by interval and technique:

14. Canon per Augmentationem in Contrario Motu: Augmented canon in inverted motion.

15. Canon alla Ottava: Canon at the Octave. The two imitating voices are separated by an octave.

16. Canon alla Decima in Contrapunto alla Terza: Canon at the tenth, counterpoint at the third.

17. Canon alla Duodecima in Contrapunto alla Quinta: Canon at the twelfth, counterpoint at the fifth.

An arrangement of Contrapunctus XIII, see below.

18. Fuga a 2 (rectus), and Alio modo Fuga a 2 (inversus)

J.S. Bach's The Art of Fugue, breaks off abrup...

J. S. Bach: unfinished last fugue from "Kunst der Fuge", last page. Source: Deutsche Staatsbibliothek Berlin, Mus. ms. autogr. Bach P 200 (Image via Wikipedia)

Unfinished quadruple fugue:

19. Fuga a 3 Soggetti (Contrapunctus XIV): 4-voice triple, possibly quadruple, fugue, the third subject of which is based on the BACH motif, B♭ – A – C – B♮ (‘H’ in German letter notation).

The aforementioned unfinished quadruple fugue was quite the fitting capstone to the piece.  One must understand how interested Bach was in numerology and musical symbolism – there are a number of pieces where Bach spells out his name musically, such as he did here.  But this is just the beginning of how brilliant the fugue is.  A number of modern musicologists have suggested that Bach may have intended to use a restatement of the original theme as the fourth, missing section.  This may be, and is certainly logical, but we shall never know.

Further Reading

Tonight’s recording, made by Gustav Leonhardt in 1953, is also special in and of itself, as it is the first full recording of the piece on harpsichord.  When he made the recording, there was some argument as to whether it was actually written for harpsichord (the autograph score does not specify).  Now, there is little doubt, but this is probably in some part due to the work of performer/musicologists such as the eminent Leonhardt.  Leonhardt culminates the discussion thusly:

“The Art of Fugue has been written with an extraordinary knowledge of the technical possibilities of ten fingers on a keyboard.  The work does not only show Bach on his immense creative height, but also as the grandiose master of the keyboard.”

English: Gustav Leonhardt at the MAfestival in...

Gustav Leonhardt at the MAfestival in Bruges (Image via Wikipedia)

(postscript: I am utterly aghast to read, during the writing of this blog piece, of the passing of Gustav Leonhardt back in January.  The contribution that Mr. Leonhardt made to music in general, and to our understanding of the brilliance of Bach, cannot possibly be overestimated.  Leonhardt was brilliant on both organ and harpsichord, and he has been the subject of many Galaxy broadcasts over the course of the 16 years that I’ve been broadcasting.  He would have a place in musical history if just for this one recording that we’ve played tonight, but his career went far beyond this one recording.  Mr. Leonhardt, you will be missed.)

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For our second piece of the evening, we heard a cantata for solo voice, BWV 82, Ich Habe Genug (trans: “I have enough”).  The cantata was written for the Feast of the Purification of the Virgin Mary, and sung on the feast day, February 2, 1727.  This was during his Leipzig period, the height of his career, and came during an extended period of amazing output (at one point he was writing a cantata every week; in this manner he wrote three complete cycles of cantatas to cover the Lutheran calendar).  Tonight’s cantata is unusual, one of a select few that he wrote for solo voice, without other soloists or choir.  It was first written for solo bass (that version in C minor), but in later years Bach revised it for other voice types – for soprano in E minor in 1730-31, and for alto in C minor.  He also revisited the cantata at some point in the 1740s, bringing it close to the form of the original.

Lorraine Hunt Lieberson

Lorraine Hunt Lieberson (Image from http://www.bach-cantatas.com)

Tonight’s recording, from 2002, also features a special talent, Lorraine Hart Lieberson.  She passed away from cancer a few years later, but left behind some gorgeous samplings of her ability, of which this is one (and a particularly beautiful one at that).  I don’t know if the selection of the specific cantatas was purposeful, but the libretto makes quite a statement for someone experiencing such an illness:

Ich habe genug,
Ich habe den Heiland, das Hoffen der Frommen,
Auf meine begierigen Arme genommen;
Ich habe genug!
Ich hab ihn erblickt,
Mein Glaube hat Jesum ans Herze gedrückt;
Nun wünsch ich, noch heute mit Freuden
Von hinnen zu scheiden.

I have now enough,
I have now my Savior, the hope of the faithful
Within my desiring embrace now enfolded;
I have now enough!
On him have I gazed,
My faith now hath Jesus impressed on my heart;
I would now, today yet, with gladness
Make hence my departure.