"Art makes life, makes interest, makes importance"

June 10, 2012

Bach Cantatas (32): Trinity I

After Trinity Sunday, all other Sundays until Advent are simply counted from Trinity as Trinity I, Trinity II, and so on.  The number of Sundays is variable as it depends on how early Easter was. The maximum is 27 (there are 25 Trinity Sundays in 2012).

There are no major church feasts in this second part of the church year. Instead, issues of faith and doctrine are explored.

Readings:
1 John 4:16–21, "God is Love"
Luke 16:19–31, The parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus

References:
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Cantatas:
  • Die Elenden sollen essen, BWV 75, 30 May 1723

    Part I
    1. Coro: Die Elenden sollen essen
    2. Recitativo (bass): Was hilft des Purpurs Majestät
    3. Aria (tenor): Mein Jesus soll mein alles sein
    4. Recitativo (tenor): Gott stürzet und erhöhet
    5. Aria (soprano): Ich nehme mein Leiden mit Freuden auf mich
    6. Recitativo (soprano): Indes schenkt Gott ein gut Gewissen
    7. Chorale: Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan
    Part II
    8. Sinfonia
    9. Recitativo (alto): Nur eines kränkt
    10. Aria (alto): Jesus macht mich geistlich reich
    11. Recitativo (bass): Wer nur in Jesu bleibt
    12. Aria (bass): Mein Herze glaubt und liebt
    13. Recitativo (tenor): O Armut, der kein Reichtum gleicht!
    14. Chorale: Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan

    ("The wretched shall eat that they become satisfied") Bach's first full-fledged Leipzig cantata. The text embroiders on motifs from the story of Lazarus. The music is in the style of a French overture with dance movements. The first part of this cantata opens with a dramatic chorus plus fugue and plaintive oboes ("Those who suffer in this life, will one day be satisfied"). The bass recitative tells us that wordly pleasures are transitory and the tenor aria sings that Jesus is the greatest good. Those who overcome hell in this world will find joy in the next, tells the tenor recitative. The soprano aria refers directly to Lazarus, whose patient endurance of tribulations resulted in divine favor. The first part concludes with the choral "What God does is well done." The second part of the cantata (meant to be played after the sermon) starts in an interesting way: a very effective instrumental version of the chorale, with the melody in the trumpet. The bass recitative tells us that self-denial leads a person to find both himself and God. And, as he sings in his aria (with trumpet, the best of the whole cantata), the key to such a life is unreserved devotion to Jesus. This long cantata reaches a cumulative dramatic effect, without having any particularly outstanding individual pieces. It seems Bach at this first Leipzig performance wanted to be friends with everyone and divided the music evenly over all soloists. The number of movements, fourteen, is the sum of the letters for BACH in the numerical alphabet and the composer's symbolic "signature." (***)

  • O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort, BWV 20, 11 June 1724

    Part one
    Coro: "O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort" for choir, tromba da tirarsi col Soprano, tutti.
    Recitativo: "Kein Unglück ist in aller Welt zu finden" for tenor and continuo.
    Aria: "Ewigkeit, du machst mir bange" for tenor, strings, and continuo.
    Recitativo: "Gesetzt, es dau'rte der Verdammten Qual" for bass and continuo.
    Aria: "Gott ist gerecht in seinen Werken" for bass, oboes, and continuo.
    Aria: "O Mensch, errette deine Seele" for altus, strings, and continuo.
    Chorale: "So lang ein Gott im Himmel lebt" for choir, tromba da tirarsi, oboes I/II, and violin I col Soprano, oboe III & violin II coll'Alto, viola col Tenore, and continuo.
    Part two
    Aria: "Wacht auf, wacht auf, verlornen Schafe" for bass and tutti.
    Recitativo: "Verlass, o Mensch, die Wollust dieser Welt" for alto and continuo.
    Aria (Duetto): "O Menschenkind" for altus, tenor, and continuo.
    Chorale: "O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort" for choir, tromba da tirarsi, oboes I/II, and violin I col Soprano, oboe III & violin II coll'Alto, viola col Tenore, and continuo.


    ("O Eternity, O Word of Thunder") The first choral cantata of Bach's second year in Leipzig. Textually, this cantata is based on a long and rather grim hymn, "A serious Consideration of Endless Eternity," loosely inspired by the Lazarus story. The text speaks at length about the fate of the sinner - it is nothing but wailing and gnashing of teeth of the damned, with an emphasis on the eternal character of that unpleasant situation; and also stressing the justice of God. The opening chorus is in the form of a solemn French Overture, symbolizing the endless march of time. The tenor aria dwells on the fear of damnation, with some exquisite word painting in the accompaniment (semiquaver melismas for the burning flames). The bass aria exhorts the listener to save his soul. Part 2 of the cantata concentrates on the need to renounce sin and undertake action for the amendment of life. The bass aria here is quite lively. The duet for alto and tenor also exhorts mankind to leave its sinful ways. As this is again a very long cantata with 11 parts, the arias and recitatives are all relatively short. The two chorales are straight harmonizations. (**)

  • Brich dem Hungrigen dein Brot, BWV 39, 23 June 1726

    Coro: Brich dem Hungrigen dein Brot
    Recitativo (bass): Der reiche Gott
    Aria (alto, violin and oboe obbligato): Seinem Schöpfer noch auf Erden
    (bass): Wohlzutun und mitzuteilen vergesset nicht
    Aria (soprano, recorders): Höchster, was ich habe
    Recitativo (alto, strings): Wie soll ich dir, o Herr
    Chorale: Selig sind, die aus Erbarmen


    ("Deal thy bread to the hungry") A cantata on the theme of generously helping the poor. The extended opening chorus has an orchestral introduction and fugal end and dominates the whole cantata. Do the short notes in the accompaniment represent the breaking of bread or the tears of the needy? The chorus is followed by a bass recitative and three delightful arias. As the cantata is formally in two parts, there is a break after the alto aria and before the bass aria. The alto aria has nice lines for oboe and violins. The bass aria (Vox Christi), in contrast, while forming the center around which the cantata is symmetrically organized, is stern and preachy. The soprano aria is almost childlike in its sweetness and features a nice pair of recorders. (***)