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February 5, 2012

Bach Cantatas (9): Septuagesima Sunday (Feb. 5)

Septuagesima is the name given to the third Sunday before Lent in the Lutheran Church. The next two Sundays are labelled Sexagesima and Quinquagesima, the latter sometimes also called Shrove Sunday. The earliest date on which Septuagesima Sunday can occur is January 18 (Easter falling on March 22 in a nonleap year) and the latest is February 22 (Easter falling on April 25 in a leap year). In 2012 it falls on February 5 - first Easter Day will be April 8.

1 Corinthians 9:24–10:5, race for victory
Matthew 20:1–16, the parable of the Workers in the Vineyard: be content with your lot - the first will be the last.


  1. Nimm, was dein ist, und gehe hin, BWV 144, 6 February 1724

    Coro: Nimm, was dein ist, und gehe hin
    Aria (alto): Murre nicht, lieber Christ
    Chorale: Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan
    Recitativo (tenor): Wo die Genügsamkeit regiert
    Aria (soprano, oboe d'amore): Genügsamkeit ist ein Schatz in diesem Leben
    Chorale: Was mein Gott will, das g'scheh allzeit

    One of the shortest of Bach's cantatas, and one which was particularly well known after his death. The theme is contentment. The archaic opening chorus in strict fugal style (“take what is yours and depart”) is based on the reading for this Sunday - we should accept what we have and be satisfied, as in the famous Zen saying carved on a stone basin at the Ryoanji Temple in Kyoto: "Ware tada taru wo shiru," or "I am content with what I have." The alto aria "grumble not when things do not go your way" is an expressive minuet, rather dark in tone. The grumbling is in fact heard in the accompaniment. In the soprano aria, the word "Genügsamkeit" (contentedness) is repeated in an almost obsessive way. The final chorale restates the theme of the cantata: What God does is well done. (****)

  2. Ich hab in Gottes Herz und Sinn, BWV 92, 28 January 1725

    Choral: Ich habe in Gottes Herz und Sinn
    Chor und Rezitativ Bass: Es kann mir fehlen nimmermehr!
    Arie Tenor: Seht, seht! wie reißt, wie bricht, wie fällt
    Choral Alto: Zudem ist Weisheit und Verstand
    Rezitativ Tenor: Wir wollen uns nicht länger zagen
    Arie Bass: Das Brausen von den rauhen Winden
    Choral und Rezitativ: Ei nun, mein Gott, so fall ich dir
    Arie Soprano: Meinem Hirten bleib ich treu
    Choral: Soll ich den auch des Todes Weg

    This cantata is only loosely related to the readings for this Sunday, as it in general exhorts the congregation to put their trust in God through good and ill. There are 9 parts of which 5 are chorals. The extensive first choral exudes a feeling of joyful trust. It is accompanied by a pair of oboes. The second part is a bass recitative interpolated by a chorale and lots of word-painting in the accompaniment. In the fast tenor aria aggressive ascending lines of the strings suggest the breaking and toppling of waves, and the raging and thundering of Satan of which the text sings. The next chorale calmly proclaims God's wisdom. After a recitative follows a bass aria which is also quite agitated ("The roaring of rough winds") and only accompanied by the continuo group. Next follows another recitative with interpolated chorale, now as an alto cantus firmus. The soprano aria "I remain faithful to my Shepherd" is based on a delightful dance-like melody and accompanied by oboe d'amore and pizzicato strings. The work concludes with a chorale in plain four-part harmonization. (****)

  3. Ich bin vergnügt mit meinem Glücke, BWV 84, 9 February 1727

    Arie Soprano: Ich bin vergnügt mit meinem Glücke
    Rezitativ Soprano: Gott ist mir ja nichts schuldig
    Arie Soprano: Ich esse mit Freuden mein weniges Brot
    Rezitativ Soprano: Im Schweiße meines Angesichts
    Choral: Ich leb indes in dir vergnüget

    Cantata for solo soprano (one of three Bach wrote). The theme is again contentment. It starts with a soprano aria "I am content with the fortune that my dear God bestows on me", accompanied by an oboe playing delightful trills. The aria is full of delicacy and elegance, a magical world beyond human greed. The second aria "I eat my little bit of bread with joy" continues in this vein and is also very playful, with a nice accompaniment by the violin and oboe, almost like a trio sonata. It all speaks of a childish faith (especially when you hear this in the Harnoncourt version, where the soprano voice is sung by a boy soprano). (***)

(1) New Year's Day (2) New Year I (3) Epiphany (4) Epiphany I (5) Epiphany II (6) Epiphany III (7) Epiphany IV (8) Feast of Purification of Mary (9) Septuagesima (10) Sexagesima (11) Quinquagesima (Estomihi) (12) The Consecration of a New Organ (13) The Inauguration of the Town Council (14) Oculi (15) Wedding Cantatas (16) Feast of Annunciation (17) Palm Sunday (18) Easter Sunday (19) Easter Monday (20) Easter Tuesday (21) Easter I (Quasimodogeniti) (22) Easter II (23) Easter III (24) Easter IV (25) Easter V (26) Ascension Day (27) Ascension I (28) Pentecost Sunday (29) Pentecost Monday (30) Pentecost Tuesday (31) Trinity Sunday (32) Trinity I (33) Trinity II (34) Trinity III (35) St. John's Day (36) Trinity IV (37) Visitation (38) Trinity V (39) Trinity VI (40) Trinity VII (41) Trinity VIII (42) Trinity IX (43) Trinity X (44) Trinity XI (45) Trinity XII (46) Trinity XIII (47) Trinity XIV (48) Trinity XV (49) Trinity XVI (50) Trinity XVII (51) Trinity XVIII (52) Trinity XIX (53) Trinity XX (54) Trinity XXI (55) Trinity XXII (56) Trinity XXIII (57) Trinity XXIV (58) Trinity XXV-XXVII (59) Advent I-IV (60) Christmas Day (61) Second Day of Christmas (62) Third Day of Christmas (63) Sunday after Christmas