"Art makes life, makes interest, makes importance"

May 13, 2012

Bach cantatas (25): Fifth Sunday after Easter

The fifth Sunday after Easter is called Rogate ("Pray"). Often prayers for a good harvest are said on this Sunday. It is the last Sunday before Ascension Day. There are two cantatas for this Sunday. The text continues Jesus' farewell to his disciples of the previous week. Crucial passages are: “Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, He will give it you,” and “The time cometh when I shall no more speak unto you in parables.”

Readings:
James 1:22–27, "Doers of the word, not only listeners"
John 16:23–30, "Farewell discourse, prayers will be fulfilled"

References:
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Cantatas:
  • Wahrlich, wahrlich, ich sage euch, BWV 86, 14 May 1724

    Arioso (bass): Wahrlich, wahrlich, ich sage euch
    Aria (alto): Ich will doch wohl Rosen brechen
    Chorale (soprano): Und was der ewig gütig Gott
    Recitativo (tenor): Gott macht es nicht gleichwie die Welt
    Aria (tenor): Gott hilft gewiß
    Chorale: Die Hoffnung wart' der rechten Zeit


    ("Verily, verily, I say unto you") The text of this cantata considers how the promise "Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give you," can be understood in the reality of life - the promise will be kept but only God knows the right time. A triple fugue introduces a melodious bass aria (Vox Christi singing the above lines from the Gospel of John). This is followed by an alto aria "I will yet indeed pluck roses, even if they prick me with thorns," in which the frenetic figurations on the violin perhaps symbolize the thorns. After a choral verse sung by tenor and bass comes a tenor aria "God will surely help." It is rather sparse musically, as is the concluding choral - more declamatory than tuneful, as if preaching. (***)

  • Bisher habt ihr nichts gebeten, BWV 87, 6 May 1725

    Arioso B: Bisher habt ihr nichts gebeten in meinem Namen
    Rezitativ A: O Wort, das Geist und Seel erschreckt!
    Arie A: Vergib, o Vater, unsre Schuld
    Rezitativ T: Wenn unsre Schuld bis an den Himmel steigt
    Arioso B: In der Welt habt ihr Angst
    Arie T: Ich will leiden, ich will schweigen
    Choral: Muß ich sein betrübet


    ("Hitherto have you asked nothing in My Name") This cantata concentrates on darker aspects, namely the guilt and fear of mankind. The opening is an imitative arioso for bass, strings and oboe, as if to emphasize the duality of God and Son. The text " Hitherto have you asked nothing in My Name" sets off a warning to pray for forgiveness in the recitative and aria by alto. The strangely chromatic alto aria is accompanied by two oboes da caccia; the word "Vergib," "Forgive," is repeated countless times. Relief comes in the tenor recitative and basso arioso (again Vox Christi), and most of all in the beautiful siciliano aria for the tenor, which is the musical high-point of the cantata. The concluding choral is a harmonization of "Jesu meine Freude." (***)