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August 12, 2012

Bach Cantatas (43): Trinity X

All of Bach’s cantatas for the Tenth Sunday after Trinity are about the prediction of the destruction of Jerusalem, linked to the Lamentations of Jeremiah and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.

There are three cantatas for this Sunday.

Readings:
1 Corinthians 12:1–11, "different gifts, but one spirit"
Luke 19:41–48, Jesus announces the destruction of Jerusalem; Cleansing of the Temple

References:
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Cantatas:
  • Schauet doch und sehet, ob irgend ein Schmerz sei, BWV 46, 1 August 1723

    Coro: Schauet doch und sehet, ob irgend ein Schmerz sei
    Recitativo (tenor): So klage du, zerstörte Gottesstadt
    Aria (bass): Dein Wetter zog sich auf von weiten
    Recitativo (alto): Doch bildet euch, o Sünder, ja nicht ein
    Aria (alto): Doch Jesus will auch bei der Strafe
    Chorale: O großer Gott von Treu


    ("Behold and see, if there be any sorrow") The opening chorus brings an impressive lament of large proportions, based on the Lamentations of Jeremiah. Note the wailing recorders. Bach reworked this later as the Qui tollis of his Mass in B minor, so he must have been satisfied with it. After an interesting recitative, with as conclusion "You did not heed Jesus' tears, now heed the tidal wave of passion that you have built up over yourself," the bass aria pictures dramatically the outbreak of the thunderstorm of God's wrath, offering the trumpet a good opportunity to show off. "Excessive sins ignite the lightning of vengeance," and indeed, the cracks of lightning can be heard in the roaring orchestra. The alto recitative then personalizes the threat of destruction: "Do not imagine, o sinners, that Jerusalem alone is full of sin - you will all perish as dreadfully." This is followed by a tender aria in which the righteous are assured that they will be saved by the Shepherd Jesus (note the now pastoral recorder). The aria is scored without basso continuo. In the chorale “O großer Gott von Treu” the wailing recorders return to make the circle of lamentation complete. (***)

  • Nimm von uns, Herr, du treuer Gott, BWV 101, 13 August 1724

    Coro: Nimm von uns, Herr, du treuer Gott
    Aria (tenor): Handle nicht nach deinen Rechten
    Recitativo e chorale (soprano): Ach! Herr Gott, durch die Treue dein
    Aria (bass): Warum willst du so zornig sein?
    Recitativo e chorale (tenor): Die Sünd hat uns verderbet sehr
    Aria (soprano, alto): Gedenk an Jesu bittern Tod
    Chorale: Leit uns mit deiner rechten Hand


    ("Take away from us, Lord, faithful God") Chorale cantata sung on the melody of Martin Luther's Vater unser im Himmelreich - a melody present in all movements but the first aria. The text was adapted from a hymn by Martin Moller describing the horrors of the plague (1584), so obviously it is a rather somber piece. That being said, the opening chorus is one of the grandest of all of Bach’s choruses. It has something of an choral prelude for organ. There are many changes of texture, from a "marching theme" to a "sighing theme." The tenor aria is accompanied by a virtuoso flute (or violin). The recitative combines an embellished version of the chorale melody with secco recitative. The dramatic bass aria raises the question: "Why are you so incensed with us?" The next recitative mirrors the first and the final soprano/alto duet is a melancholy Siciliano with a gentle accompaniment from the flute and oboe da caccia: "Think on Jesus' bitter death." The cantata ends with a straightforward harmonization of the chorale. (***)

  • Herr, deine Augen sehen nach dem Glauben, BWV 102, 25 August 1726

    Chorus: Herr, deine Augen sehen nach dem Glauben
    Recitativo (bass): Wo ist das Ebenbild, das Gott uns eingepräget
    Aria (alto, oboe): Weh der Seele, die den Schaden nicht mehr kennt
    Arioso (bass): Verachtest du den Reichtum seiner Gnade
    Parte seconda
    Aria (tenor, flute or violin): Erschrecke doch, du allzu sichre Seele
    Recitativo (alto, oboes): Beim Warten ist Gefahr
    Chorale: Heut lebst du, heut bekehre dich


    ("Lord, Your eyes look for faith") The words of the cantata are only generally connected to the readings, asking "stubborn and unpenitent hearts" to "make repentance this instant before swift death overtakes one." The whole cantata is in this mood. The opening chorus is an intricate choral fugue, rigorous and austere, a good example of Bach's art at its most Lutheran. The alto aria with obbligato oboe is nicely dramatic; the arioso for bass with strings shows lots of energy. The tenor aria sports an interesting accompaniment by the violin piccolo. After that, an extended alto recitative brings on the final chorale "Vater unser im Himmelreich." (***)