Quodlibet

Quodlibet

BWV 524 performed by the Netherlands Bach Society
conducted by Shunske Sato
TivoliVredenburg, Utrecht

Behind the music

Story
Story
Texts
Texts
Credits
Credits

Sway along to the tune

A fascinating puzzle behind the scenes of the Bach family.

Parties chez Bach were legendary occasions. Whether big or small, anyone who could even hold an instrument or sing more or less in key took part – and there were a great many Bachs. The happenings always began – just like Thomas Höft’s staging of the concert at which this recording was made – with a chorale, before the throng could indulge in songs that gradually became less and less demure. One special genre was the quodlibet, translated as ‘as you like it’, which surfaced in many different guises all over Europe, from the late Middle Ages. The early Baroque German variety combines smart humour with elements of a party game, by mixing up various melodies and their texts, often purely völkisch, but sometimes also with chorale melodies. The most famous example for us is undoubtedly Bach’s thirtieth Goldberg Variation, in which several German folk tunes must have been instantly recognisable to listeners of the day, even without the text. As the end of Bach’s Quodlibet is missing, Shunske Sato uses this variation as a finale.

Although the Quodlibet, BWV 524, does have text, even if we had all the music (it is a fragment of one of the rare early Bach autograph works), it would still be difficult for us to make sense of it. Bach wrote the crazy little piece in 1707, maybe for his own wedding to his first wife Maria Barbara Bach. We hear about ‘Salome’ and ‘Dominus Johannes’, which may refer to Bach’s sister and the preacher Johann Lorenz Stauber, respectively, and about the Güldene Krone in Arnstadt, a respectable house where Bach probably lived for a while before moving to Mühlhausen. But whatever the reason behind it, this little work has everything you might expect of the oh-so-serious Bach: refined counterpoint, a chaconne, an ironic psalmody and a resolute fugue about a kneading trough. It’s anybody’s guess!

BWV
524
Title
Quodlibet
Genre
songs and arias
Year
1707?
City
Mühlhausen
Occasion
a wedding (Bach‘s own?)
Special notes
this Quodlibet has not survived intact.

Extra videos

Vocal texs

Original

Was seind das vor große Schlösser,
die dort schwimmen auf der See
und erscheinen immer größer,
weil sie näher kommen her.
Ist es Freund oder Feind,
oder wie ist es gemeint?
Was muss ich von fern erblicken,
sagt mir, wer reit’ dort herein?
Trägt ein großes Rad am Rücken,
der Henker muss gestorben sein!
Ei, wie reit’ der Kerl so dumm,
hat einen Trauermantel um.

Ergo tanto instantius debemus
fugere terrena,
quanto velocius aufugiunt
caduca et vana.

Wer in Indien schiffen will,
find’ bei mir der Schiffe viel,
ich bin eben kein Schiffersflegel,
brauche weder Mast noch Segel,
wie man in dem Texel tut,
denn ein Backtrog ist ebensogut.
Notabene Knisterbart,
was macht der Meister Schneider?
Mir plezt er meine Hosen,
mir flickt er meine Kleider.
Braucht man den Backtrog vor den Kahn,
ei, so kommt man übel an;
dann man plumpt in den Teich so frisch
und schwimmt darin wie ein Stockfisch.
Probatum est.

O ihr Gedanken,
warum quälet ihr meinen Geist?
- Backtrog! -
warum wollet ihr wanken,
da mich die Hoffnung feste stehen heißt.
Ei, wie sieht die Salome
so sauer um den Schnabel,
darum, weil der Pferdeknecht
sie kitzelt mit der Gabel.
Ei, wie frisst das Hausgesind‘
so gar viel Käs‘ und Butter,
wären sie Kälber gleich wie du,
so fräßen sie das Futter.
Wenn man mit dem Spinnrad sitzt
auf einem großen Schimmel,
reißen ihre Goschen auf
fast alle Bauerlümmel.
Wenn man mit dem Spinnrad sitzt
auf einem großen Fuchsen,
kriegen vor Gelächter
die Leute fast den Schlucksen.
Wenn man mit dem Spinnrad sitzt
auf einem großen Rappen,
ei, da will der Trauermantel
gar nicht dazu klappen.
Wenn man statt des Orlogsschiffs
den Backtrog will gebrauchen,
ach, da wird man alsobald in das Wasser
wie die Plumphecht tauchen.


Große Hochzeit, große Freuden,
große Degen große Scheiden;
große Richter, große Büttel,
große Hunde, große Knittel;
große Väter, große Söhne,
große Goschen, große Zähne;
große Pfeile, große Köcher,
große Nasen, große Löcher;
große Herren, große Wappen,
große Fässer, große Zappen;
große Gerste, große Körner,
große Köpfe, große Hörner;
großer Hafer, große Trespen,
große Pferde, große Wespen;
große Weinberg, große Trauben,
große Weiber, große Hauben;
große Kugeln, große Kegel,
große Bauern, große Flegel;
große Jungfern, große Kränze,
große Esel, große Schwänze;
großes Lachen, groß Gepatsche,
große Frauen, groß Geklatsche;
große Klöppel, große Trummel,
große Wespen, große Hummel;
große Leinwand, große Bleiche,
große Backtrög‘, große Teiche.

Ach, wie hat mich so betrogen
der sehr schlaue Cypripor.
Urschel, brenne mir ein Licht an,
dass ich dabei sehen kann!
Willst du mir kein Licht anzünden,
will ich dich wohl im Finstern finden.
Ist gleich schlimm das Frauenzimmer,
ist doch der Backtrog noch viel schlimmer!
Pantagruel war ein sehr lustiger Mann,
und mancher Hofbedienter
trägt blaue Strümpfe an,
und streifte man denen Füchsen
die Häutlein aus,
so gäb’s viel nackigter Leute
auf manchem Fürstenhaus.
Wären denen Dukaten
die großen Krätzen gleich,
so wäre unser Nachbar
viel Millionen reich.

Mein Rücken ist noch stark,
ich darf mich gar nicht klagen,
du könntest, wie mich dünkt,
wohl zwanzig Säcke tragen.
Das muss ein dummer Esel sein,
der lieber Koffent säuft als Wein
und in der kalten Stube schwitzt
und statt des Schiffs im Backtrog sitzt!
Punctum.

Dominus Johannes citatur
ad rectorem magnificum
hora pomeridiana secunda
propter ancillam in corona aurea.
Studenten sind sehr fröhlich,
wie ihr alle wisst,
solang ein blutiger Heller
im Beutel übrig ist.
Wär der Galgen Magnet
und der Schneider Eisen,
wie mancher würde noch heute
an den Galgen reisen!
Wär ich König in Portugal,
was fragt ich darnach,
ein andrer möchte kippen
mit dem Backtrog in Bach.
Bona dies, Meister Kürschner,
habt ihr keine Füchse mehr?
Ich verkauf sie alle nach Hofe,
mein hochgeehrter Herr.
Ich sahe eine Jungfer,
die hat sehr stolz getan
und hat doch wohl bei Urbens
kein ganzes Hemde an!
Mancher stellt sich freundlich
mit feiner Zung
und denkt doch in dem Herzen
wie Goldschmieds Jung.
In diesem Jahre haben wir
zwei Sonnenfinsternissen,
und zu Breslau auf dem Keller
schenkt man guten Scheps,
und in meinem Beutel
regiert der fressende Krebs.
Hört ihr Herren allzugleich,
was da geschehen in Österreich,
hört ihr Herren allerhand,
was da geschehen in Brabant,
da hat geboren eine alte Frau
eine junge Sau!
Seid freundlich eingeladen
zum Topfbraten!
Ei, was ist das vor eine schöne Fuge!

Ich bin so lang nicht bei dir g’west,
ruck her.
Kraut und Rüben haben mich vertrieben
hätt’ meine Mutter Fleisch gekocht
wär’ ich länger blieben.
Mein junges Leben hat ein End’.
Was für Blödsinn ist dieses Schluβstück,
Unsinn, Schwachsinn, Schmarrn, Schrott,
Müll und Spinnerei, hört auf!
Pfui!

Translation

What are those big castles
swimming on the sea?
and they’re looking bigger and bigger
as they come closer?
Friend or foe?
Or how should I take this?
But what do I see off in the distance?
Tell me, who is riding into town?
He’s carrying a big wheel on his back.
This must be a sign that the executioner has died.
He’s riding that horse rather stupidly
and he’s wearing a coat of mourning as well.

The faster earthly impressions pale
due to their invalidity and futility/vanity,
the more urgently
we will need to flee from them.

Whoever wants to do some shipping in India
will find that I have a lot of ships here.
I am certainly not simply a shipping lout.
I don’t need masts or sails,
the way they do on the Texel,
for a baking trough will do just as well.
Take note, you gnarly individual you,
what is the master tailor up to now?
He’s sewing patches on my pants,
and repairing my clothes.
If you need to use a baking trough as a row boat
oh, then you will arrive in a terrible state,
because you will fall into the pond, which is so cold
and you will keep swimming in it like a dried cod.
This is a proven fact.

O you thoughts,
why are you torturing my spirit so?
- Baking trough! -
Why do you want to waver
when/since Hope is telling me to remain steadfast?
O, just look at the sour expression
on Salome’s face
That’s all because the groom
is tickling her with the (pitch)fork.
O, just look at how the house servants are eating up
so much cheese and butter!
If they were calves just like you,
they would eat this fodder.
If you sit on a white horse
with a spinning wheel
almost all the country hicks
would open wide their gaping mouth.
If you sit on a large fox
with a spinning wheel,
people would practically die of laughter
as they sobbed so much;
If you sit on a large black horse
with a spinning wheel,
O, in this situation the mourning coat
won’t even be fitting.
If you want to use the ‘Backtrog’ [baking trough/vat]
as a boat instead of a warship,
well, then you will soon be immersed into the water
just the same way that the clumsy pike dive into the water.

A large wedding, great joy;
large swords, large sheaths;
great judges, strong bailiffs;
large dogs, large sticks;
tall fathers, tall sons;
big mouths, big teeth;
large arrows, large quivers;
large noses, large nostrils;
great noble gentlemen, large coats of arms;
large barrels, large taps;
large-sized barley, large kernels;
big heads, big horns;
large-sized oats, large weeds;
large horses, large wasps;
a large vineyard, large grapes;
large ponds, large hoods;
large metal balls, large bowling balls;
large farmers, large flails;
large virgins, large wreaths;
large asses, large tails;
big clapping and big laugh;
large women, a lot of gossip;
large bells, large clappers;
large wasps, large bumblebees;
a large canvas, a large area for bleaching;
large baking troughs, large ponds (to sink in.)

Oh, how I have been greatly deceived
by that very clever Professor Cyprian!
Dearest Ursula, light a candle for me
so that I can see what I am doing!
If you don’t want to light it for me,
I’ll certainly find you in the dark.
If you think a woman is bad,
a baking trough is really much worse.
Pantagruel was a very funny man,
and many a courtly servant
wears blue stockings,
and if you scraped away
the outer surface of a gold coin,
there would be a lot of naked (penniless) people
living in many a royal palace.
If their ducats were of the same value
as the large coins,
then our neighbor’s wealth
would be in the millions.

My back is still quite strong,
I really can not complain about my situation.
You could probably carry, I would think,
at least 20 sacks.
That must be a stupid ass
who would rather drink thin beer than wine
and sweat it out in a cold room
and be sitting in a 'Backtrog' rather than in a ship.
Period.

John is being asked
to appear before the superintendent
at 2 o’clock this afternoon on account of
the matter of the waitress at the Golden Crown Tavern.
Students are generally very happy-go-lucky,
as you all know,
as long as they still have a ‘bloody’/red cent left
in their wallet/purse.
If the gallows were a magnet
and the tailor were made of iron,
how many of them would make the trip
to the gallows even today yet!
If I were the King of Portugal,
why would I care about this?
Let someone else sitting
on the 'Backtrog' tip over into the brook.
Hello, hello, Mr. furrier,
don’t you have any foxes any more?
I am selling all of them at the court,
highly honored Sir.
I saw a young, unmarried woman
who acted very proudly,
but she did not even wear
a full shirt down town!
Some people pretend to be very friendly
with finely phrase words,
and yet at the same time they think/feel in their hearts:
the same way that the goldsmith’s boy does.
This year we will have 2 eclipses of the sun,
and in the Breslau Rathskeller
they serve a very good heavy and fattening beer,
and in my wallet/purse
there is a cancer which is eating up all my money.
Listen, gentlemen, all of you,
to the news of what has happened in Austria,
Listen, gentlemen, to all the things
that have happened in the Brabant region,
That’s where an old woman
gave birth to a young sow!
All of you are now cordially invited
to eat some pot roast now!
Oh, what a nice fugue this is!

I haven't been with you in so long,
come here.
The stew has driven me away,
If my mother had served me meat,
I would have stayed longer.
My young life is coming to an end.
What nonsense is this ending,
rubbish, folly, gossip, slapstick,
fiddlesticks, swagger, stop!
Bah!

translation © Thomas Braatz

Credits

  • Release date
    5 August 2021
  • Recording date
    10 October 2020
  • Location
    TivoliVredenburg, Utrecht
  • Violin and direction
    Shunske Sato
  • Sopran
    Griet de Geyter
  • Alto
    Yosemeh Adjei
  • Tenor
    Julian Habermann
  • Bass
    Dominik Wörner
  • Violin 2
    Lucia Giraudo
  • Viola
    Deirdre Dowling
  • Cello
    Lucia Swarts
  • Double bass
    Robert Franenberg
  • Harpsichord
    Siebe Henstra
  • Theorbo
    Fred Jacobs
  • Theatre concept, direction and design
    Thomas Höft
  • Film director and editor
    Bas Wielenga
  • Music recording
    Guido Tichelman, Bastiaan Kuijt, Pim van der Lee, Rob Strolenberg
  • Music edit and mix
    Guido Tichelman
  • Camera
    Wesley Schipper, Wouter Revier, Jochem Timmermans, Chiel Hooijman
  • Lights
    Zen Bloot
  • Assistant film director
    Ferenc Soeteman
  • Set technique
    Justin Mutsaerts
  • Project manager nep
    Ron Vermeulen
  • Assistant music recording
    Marloes Biermans
  • Producer concert
    Imke Deters
  • Producer film
    Jessie Verbrugh
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