Limina: A Journal of Historical and Cultural Studies

Johann Sebastian Bach’s Kreuzstab Cantata (BWV 56): Identifying the Emotional Content of the Libretto

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Georg Corall

The University of Western Australia 

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Johann Sebastian Bach’s Kreuzstab Cantata (BWV 56): Identifying the Emotional Content of the Libretto


Along with numerous other music theorists of the eighteenth century, Johann Joachim Quantz compares an expressive musical performance to the delivery of a persuasive speech by a distinguished orator. For a successful rhetorical delivery of the music of that period, however, today’s musicians not only need to study the score of a work, but they also need to analyse the words of the vocal parts. In the present case study, Johann Sebastian Bach’s cantata BWV 56, generally known as the Kreuzstab Cantata, will be investigated in view of its libretto’s emotional message, and how it should affect an audience. The secondary literature, which generally ties an understanding of suffering, cross-bearing and an almost suicidal component to the anonymous poet’s text, will be reviewed. In particular the term Kreuzstab, its meaning, and its emotional affiliation will be scrutinized. The Doctrine of the Affections (Affektenlehre) and the Doctrine of the Musical-Rhetorical Figures (Figurenlehre) both provide modern-day performers with the necessary tools for a historically informed performance of the music of Bach’s time and will help to identify the emotions of Bach’s work. Informed by these doctrines, as well as through the distinct definition of the term Kreuzstab, the new understanding of Bach’s Cantata BWV 56 will require modern-day performers to contemplate a new approach in their aim of a persuasive delivery in a performance. The analysis of the words of BWV 56 certainly allows for a hopeful and happy anticipation of the salvation rather than a suicidal ‘yearning for death’.

 

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Corall article [PDF, 897.2 KB]
Updated 20 Mar 2015


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Updated 20 Mar 2015


 

Limina: A Journal of Historical and Cultural Studies

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