Bach's Coffee Cantata


Cantata: Schweigt stille, plaudert nicht (“Coffee Cantata”), BWV 211

Coffee! In Arab culture, if men did not bring home enough coffee, their wives could legally divorce them. As a coffee lover, I read this a long time ago. Of course, coffee lovers know, of course, that marriages were ending, as it must have been quite expensive back then. Balzac also drank 50 cups of coffee a day. You heard right 50 🙂 Now I seem to hear from you as well, that you say I drink 4-5 glasses too.

Yes, let's talk about today's adventure of coffee with such legendary stories, its generations, how it feels, how it is brewed. 

Bach never composed an opera in his lifetime. Church music composers of the 18th century, including Johann Sebastian Bach, were criticized for using theatrical works in sacred texts. It was also stated in the content of the employment contract that Bach made as cantor in Leipzig that there should be no opera-like works. Church-going people were not supposed to be affected by the dramatic changes in mood in the music. 

Germany was going through the Baroque Age during the time of Johann Sebastian Bach. This was an age where all attention was paid to details and worked delicately. Artists were chasing their dreams and were starting to get rid of the influence of the church. The nobles formed their own orchestras and began to support the artists. If we enter the counterpoint technique and harmonic structure in music here, I will not go into it at all, since we will get very far from the subject. But the most important composer of the period, even Bach, who left historical traces on the development of music, still continues to take its place in thousands of documents.  

The family from which Johann Sebastian Bach came was both religious and profane. He was entrusted to his elder brother Christoph after his mother and father died at the age of 10, and he took the education of his brother Bach, who was an organist, very seriously and educated him very well. He studied night after night copying the notes in his brother's library. He did not sleep, copied, copied, wrote and wrote again…

Bach has been an organist, concertmaster, kappelmeister since the age of 14, but as I mentioned above, he never composed any opera. In addition to this, he composed 65 works during his lifetime (1128 years). He has 23 more lost or incomplete works. 

Among his best-known compositions are The Well-Tempered Clavier, Toccata and Fugue in D minor, Air on the G String, Goldberg Variations, Brandenburg Concertos and many more that I can't remember. It is an opinion in the sources that Bach listened to opera during his trips to Hamburg and Dresden and we see its effects in his works. Wachet! bet! bet! wachet! (BWV 70) We can feel the cantata and bach's dialogues in the Easter Oratorio, as well as the theatrical reflections in the coffee cantata. 

The most logical explanation for why Bach did not compose a stage work during his lifetime is thought to be that he never lived in a big city and was never in a courtroom or an opera house. Despite this, Bach was an extremely hardworking, prolific composer, relentlessly composing for churches and venues where he worked. 

What about Coffee Cantata? 

Coffee came to Germany for the first time in 1670 and in 1694 the first coffee place was opened in Leipzig. People, travelers and traders started to exchange ideas in these coffee-drinking places and it attracted a lot of attention. So much so that Bach composed secular music for these people.

In the light of all the information above, I wanted to write to you in this month's article about one of Bach's 1128 works, "The Coffee Cantata," which is one of my favorite works. Of course, this is also related to the fact that I am a coffee lover, too. This little funny operetta written by Bach for coffee addicts, we can call this Cantata, is actually a humorous and non-religious work, although Bach is a composer who writes sacred works. It shows that he has a creative personality that he can give. 

Schweigt stile, plaudert nicht' ('Calm down, stop babbling') was probably first performed in a coffeehouse in Leipzig. It was between 1732 and 1734 when the Coffee Cantata was performed for the first time. If today's musicologists or music lovers had listened then, they would have considered it as a mini opera similar to Opera Buffa.  

If you have not listened to it yet, I recommend you to listen to this delightful piece. I love to listen to this delightful piece from Emma Kirkby, Soprano Character and David Thomas as Bass Character, and Decca Record Company of 1987 with Rogers Covey voicing Tenor Character.

I wish everyone a healthy, pleasant day with the smell and taste of coffee, and happy reading.


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