"Art makes life, makes interest, makes importance"

March 17, 2013

Bach Cantatas (48): Trinity XV

The Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity introduces the theme to avoid worldly cares, but seek God's kingdom first, from the Sermon on the Mount. It deals with how birds and flowers don't work, but God takes care of them anyway: "Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these."
    There are three cantatas for this Sunday.

    Readings:
    Galatians 5:25–6:10, Admonition to "walk in the Spirit"
    Matthew 6:23–34, Sermon on the Mount: "Don't worry about material needs, but seek God's kingdom first."

    References:
    BCWBDECNLSGJNLVHWPText


    Cantatas:
    • Warum betrübst du dich, mein Herz, BWV 138, 5 September 1723

      Chorale and recitativo (alto): Warum betrübst du dich, mein Herz
      Recitativo (bass): Ich bin veracht''
      chorale + recitativo (soprano, alto): Er kann und will dich lassen nicht
      Recitativo (tenor): Ach süßer Trost
      Aria (bass): Auf Gott steht meine Zuversicht
      Recitativo (alto): Ei nun! So will ich auch recht sanfte ruhn
      Chorale: Weil du mein Gott und Vater bist


      ("Why do you trouble yourself, my heart") Experimental work in chorale cantata style, that precedes the weekly chorale cantata series. The overall theme concerns moving beyond temporal, earthly worries to trust in God. The hymn upon which this chorale cantata is based is conjectured to have been composed by Hans Sachs (of Meistersinger fame) and set to an anonymous melody. Stanzas 1 and 2 of the hymn are broken by the insertion of recitatives. Especially for an opening number this procedure is quite unusual. From the ritornello with oboes and then the entry of the chorus, this is very melancholy music, full of anxious questioning, oscillating between faith and fear. The highlight of the cantata is the splendid bass aria "Auf Gott steht meine Zuversicht," the only traditional aria in the cantata, where in the form of a joyful minuet sorrows are blown away - the turning point on the sorrow-joy axis of the cantata. Finally the chorale from the beginning returns, but now dressed for a dance and with spectacular accompaniment. (***)

    • Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan, BWV 99, 17 September 1724

      Coro: Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan
      Recitativo (bass): Sein Wort der Wahrheit stehet fest
      Aria (tenor): Erschüttre dich nur nicht, verzagte Seele
      Recitativo (alto): Nun, der von Ewigkeit geschloß'ne Bund.
      Aria (soprano, alto): Wenn des Kreuzes Bitterkeiten
      Chorale: Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan


      ("What God does is well done") This whole cantata is set in a warm and positive vein. It starts with a most beautiful concerto movement: flute, oboe d'amore and violin, joined by an overlay of the chorus with the soprano as cantus firmus. The deliciously lilting melody is based on the original chorale tune by Samuel Rodigast. The flute again plays an important role in the tenor aria. Virtuoso configurations and daring harmonies depict the shaking and torment of the soul from the text. Even better is the duet for soprano and alto, accompanied by (again) flute and oboe d'amore, a haunting theme with a light touch expressing the conflict between the spirit and the flesh. A warmly accompanied chorale wraps up the cantata. (***)

    • Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen, BWV 51, 17 September 1730

      Aria: Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen
      Recitativo: Wir beten zu dem Tempel an
      Aria: Höchster, mache deine Güte
      Chorale: Sei Lob und Preis mit Ehren
      Finale: Alleluja


      ("Exult in God in all lands") A brilliant and joyous exultation, starting with an aria in the form of an Italian concerto, accompanied by the trumpet. This is a rare and very virtuoso cantata for solo soprano. As in conservative Leipzig only boy soprano's were used in the church, and this music seems far above the abilities of any such performer, it may have originally been meant for another occasion - something also suggested by the fact that the cantata has no connection to the readings for this Sunday. The combination of soprano and trumpet leads to spectacular fireworks in the opening movement, making this one of Bach's most popular cantatas. The second aria is gentler, a gorgeous cantilena with expressive coloraturas. Next the soprano sings the wonderful chorale melody "Sei Lob und Preis mit Ehren" with florid orchestral accompaniment, and the cantata closes with a festive Alleluia. An exceptionally flamboyant and technically demanding cantata. (****)