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Cantata BWV 100
Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan [III]
Discussions - Part 1

BWV 100 - Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan

Eitan Loew wrote (March 1, 2002):
I guess that this mail might be considered pre-mature, since this cantata is not yet on the "order of discussion" list. Maybe because it is not an important cantata.

Anyway, I have purchased the disc recently (Cantatas BWV 100 - 102, Bach 2000 edition vol. 31). It is an ADD recording by Gustav Leonhardt [3], apparently from 1980. When listening to it, I was stunned how bad the brass instruments play the finishing Choral (track #6). It is very annoying.

Can anybody explain how is it possible that this can happen? I don't think that it is a live recording, why didn't they take another one?

Aryeh Oron wrote (March 2, 2002):
[To Eitan Loew] After intensive listening to almost 120 cantatas in the recordings of various groups of performers, during the course of the weekly cantata discussions, I have learnt that no Bach Cantata can be considered as inferior to others (or 'not important' for that matter). Well, I have to admit that certain cantatas grasp you immediately and others require more time to get at. But each one of them has something to offer, and when its time to be discussed comes, we have the opportunity to explore it more closely, to reveal its hidden treasures and to enjoy it on its own terms. This phenomenon rarely happens with other composers, but I guess that most of the members in the BCML and the BRML know that already.

The cantatas to be discussed are proposed by the members of the BCML, and the main guideline for the 'Order of Discussion' is the Lutheran Church Year. Cantata BWV 100, like its 'sister' BWV 99 was composed for the 15th Sunday after Trinity. In the past two years we have discussed BWV 138 and BWV 51, which were composed for the same event. I assume that this year we shall discuss either BWV 99 or BWV 100 on September 8, 2002 (15th Sunday after Trinity). Next year, which is the last year of the first round of weekly cantata discussions, we shall discuss the other one. So, do not worry. BWV 100's time to be discussed will come!

The playing in the joint cycle of Harnoncourt & Leonhardt varies greatly. You have to remember that most of the cycle was recorded in the era where the HIP movements was in its early stages. Re-creating old instruments and playing techniques have not gained enough experience. The results were inconsistent playing, which was sometimes far from being satisfactory. In certain cases I find that the playing in the H&L cycle preserves the ancient colours and atmosphere better than any other rendition. In other cases the playing is so unclean, up to being painful. Usually the level of playing in the other HIP-cycles (Koopman, Suzuki, and even Leusink) is better than in H&L’s cycle. Nevertheless, you have to remember that the level of inspiration is not necessarily connected to the level of playing, although when the technique of the performer is better, more options for interpretation are open to him (or her), and he (or she) can convey his own thoughts more easily.

Regarding the playing in Leonhardt's recording of Cantata BWV 100 [3], following your query, I listened to this recording. I concur with you regarding the level of playing of the brass in the concluding chorale (and also in the opening chorus (Mvt. 1)). Why did they not make another take? Why did not other performers of Bach Cantatas re-record movements that were played badly or simply uninspired? I guess that limitation of time and budget and unavailability of good performers at the time of the recording were the main factors. After all, limitation of budget caused the discontinuation of Koopman’s cycle (temporarily, many of us hope). I feel that as Bach lovers, living in our time, we can see ourselves lucky, because in previous generations, let’s say 50 years ago, most of the cantatas were not available at all in recorded form! The main conclusion is that we, the Bach lovers, have to be happy with what we have, despite its occasional deficiencies, and wish for better. We can even try to influence the minds of the decision-makers in the recording industry (like we do in Koopman’s petition) and hope for the best.

Eitan Loew wrote (March 6, 2002):
[To Aryeh Oron] I waited a few days, but it seems that your response is fully comprehensive and nobody has more to comment about the issue.

I understand your explanation; however, I don't accept. I don't think that an artist should compromise on the level of performance due to budget constrains. If one cannot achieve a reasonable standard, he better should not do it at all rather than publishing a low level performance. That applies to any area of arts, but is even more critical when it is a recording that is preserved forever.

I envy you guys who enjoy many performances of the same piece. However, since I am still in the phase of trying to complete the first set of Bach music, it makes me unhappy to have a bad recording of a certain piece. Therefore, may I suggest that if someone of you realizes that a certain recording is under a reasonable standard - please give us a warning!

Maybe this last request applies more to the BachRecordings group - so I direct this mail to both groups.

Kirk McElhearn wrote (March 7, 2002):
[To Eitan Loew] Well, I certainly do that in my reviews. And others do not hesitate to point out where they hear a bad recording as well. That is the raison d'etre for the Bach Recordings list, and the secondary raison d'etre for the Bach Cantatas list.

Don't worry too much, though, if the recordings you buy are not the best. That is all relative. Enjoy the music, take what you like and leave the rest. If you really want to have recordings of all of Bach's music, you will certainly come across some bad performances. That's the way it is with everything. This said, I have often come out in favor of purchasing a complete set - at least a low-cost one - because it gives you a benchmark for the music by your having at least one recording of each work.

If you don't go that route, just ask. The men and women on these lists will be delighted to share their favorites and help you build up your collection.

Ludwig wrote (March 7, 2002):
[To Eitan Loew] First; I hope you are able to complete your collection before some company like **** company who yanks it off the shelves and throws the remainders into landfills and writes them off for tax purposes. Now this I must confess I strongly object to this practice because not only are we being deprived of the opportunity of buying these recordings but there are the enviromental hazards of putting these discs into a landfill that probally will take a thousand years to decay. I think that if a recording company must do this then they should sell their remainders at bargain prices and then they can still use this as a tax write off.

Next; one of the things that you should always look for and ask in the performance of Bach and other baroque composers is:

Is this music performed in the Baroque style or is it done in th style of Hadyn and Mozart (Classical) or Beethoven (romantic). If this anwser is yes to any after the baroque period---the performance should be faulted. How many times have you heard Bach's Magnificat or Handel's Hallelulia coarse given the big romantic climatical build up and then drop back as though it were some aria ---the effect is not pleasant and is like having holes blown through a bucket by cannon balls---little left of the bucket afterwards.

How can you tell: The music must be ornamented but not excessively even though such ornaments may not be written as during the baroque age it was something that was understood. To be sure; Bach railed against the excesses of the baroque period which is why you often find him inserting the ornaments that he wanted especially in his keyboard music.

What were these exesses? Given a score say for an Opera or othform; the performer would insert much that the composer did not write ( as an uncalled for credenza). For instance if the passage called for a turn (for the benefit of those good listeners who may not read music on the list this is a kind of ornament that is prominently famous in Mozart's Rondo a la turque) on the note of d the performer not only might do that but also include a chromatic glizzando warbling trills up the scale before getting back to what the composer really intended if he/she did. (one of the reasons American Jazz has much in common with the music of the Baroque age). This seems to be ok for Handel as he did not seem to object too strongly (we know this from the records of certain noted Castrati) but we have written records that Bach did.

There are other questions that need to be asked of a performance outside of general good musicianship such as those of what I call the Glenn Gould school who want to use Pianos (which J.S. Bach did not like and was near death when he heard his first one) in the place of Harpsichords; Clarinets in the place of Oboi d'amores (no two insruments could sound more differently) etc. I personally take off points for this kind of performance even though the performance otherwise demonstrates masterful musicianship however others do not and I certainly do not intend to offend them. Music is often a matter of personal taste.

Some substitions are more reasonable---where is one going to find Castrati these days??? or even a Man who can do Counter Tenor--I can count on my first 5 fingers less than that number throughout the world who can professionally perform in this manner. However if available they should be used for authenticity.

Anyway without going much further into a very long and sometimes controversial subject--these are the guidelines that one should use in music critism.

And NO, finally, are no two performances of Bach Cantatas the same--even when performed by the same group except on recordings of the same performance.

Michael Grover wrote (March 7, 2002):
Ludwig wrote:
< First; I hope you are able to complete your collection before some company like **** company who yanks it off the shelves and throws the remainders into landfills and writes them off for tax purposes. Now this I must confess I strongly object to this practice because not only are we being deprived of the opportunity of buying these recordings but there are the enviromental hazards of putting these discs into a landfill that probally will take a thousand years to decay. I think that if a recording company must do this then they should sell their remainders at bargain prices and then they can still use this as a tax write off. >
Interesting. I confess I have never heard of this practice occurring. Can you direct me to some sources that describe this problem, either on the web or in print? Which companies are throwing their discs into landfills?

Rev. Robert A. Lawson wrote (March 7, 2002):
[To Ludwig] Actually plastic will never decay, even if it lies in a landfill for a million years--all the more reason to sell their remainders at bargain prices. However, if there is an up-side to throwing them in a landfill, it's that several thousand years from now some archeologist is going to be digging around looking for something and come across these discarded discs upon which is recorded some of the greatest music ever written. If he is very lucky he will also come across a discarded CD player (also made of plastic) and be able to play them.


Discussions in the week of September 28, 2003 (1st round)

Andrew Oliver wrote (September 28, 2003):
This is one of my favourite JSB cantatas. I have the recordings by Leonhardt [3] and Leusink [5], and prefer the latter, though I like both.

I note that Eitan Loew referred to this cantata as "not important", (see the website - March 2002,) but I canot agree. Surely a composition for an unspecified occasion, such as this one, could be utilised more frequently than one for a specific date only, and its value in terms of usage would therefore be at least equal to, if not greater than, those cantatas written for specific occasions.

The libretto is a hymn by Samuel Rodigast, the gist of which concerns the confidence a true christian has that, however difficult, sorrowful or inexplicable his current situation may be, everything will turn out well in the end because he knows that God does everything well and never makes mistakes. In the first movement, Bach clothes with music this happy statement of trust with appropriately joyful music. Indeed, the whole cantata is upbeat and cheerful, with only the occasional darker colouring, such as the effective word-painting on 'Geduld' in the duet (Mvt. 2).

My main interest lies in the excellence of the composition rather than the comparitive standards of different performances, however, I would especially single out the fine performance of Nico van der Meel in the tenor aria (Leusink [5]), but I liked the whole of this recording.

Incidentally, I note that Leusink's soprano was Marjon Strijk on this occasion, who gave a lovely performance also. Leusink's usual soprano, Ruth Holton, was the soprano soloist in a performance of the B minor Mass (BWV 232) three months ago, in which I had the privilege of participating, and I can inform you that, although her voice has been described on this list as weak, it is nevertheless clearly audible when heard live, even though it is not particularly powerful.

All in all, I consider this work as an example of Bach at his best. (My twin baby sons of one month old seem to enjoy it as well ! )

Aryeh Oron wrote (September 29, 2003):
BWV 100 - Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan [III]


The chosen work for this week’s discussion (September 28, 2003) is the Chorale Cantata ‘Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan’ [III] (What God does, that is done well) for the 15th Sunday after Trinity. As the [III] following its title indicates, this is Bach’s third and last setting of Samuel Rodigast’s hymn. Cantatas BWV 99 (1724), and BWV 98 (1726) have already been discussed in the BCML. Now comes the turn of what many consider as the most beautiful setting of the three.

The short commentary below is quoted from the liner notes to the American issue on Vanguard of original Cantate recording (the author is not mentioned).

J.S. Bach composed, in Leipzig, three cantatas that start with the line, Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan. Only in the third of these (1745?) however, did he employ the complete text of Samuel Rodigast's hymn. It raised a kind of challenge, since each of the six verses, and therefore each of the six movements, had to begin with the same line. And Bach met it, as he met all such challenges, in splendid fashion. The form of this cantata is somewhat unique for Bach. There are two corner movements for chorus, based on chorales, and in between are a duet and three arias. There are no recitatives.

For the opening chorus (Mvt. 1), Bach adapted one he had written for the preceding cantata with this opening line (BWV 99). It was already a gay and festive piece, with flute, oboe d'amore and solo violin, and by enriching the instrumentation with two horns and drums, Bach now enhanced its effectiveness. It proceeds like a bright and beautiful triple concerto movement with an incorporated chorale. The following alto-tenor duet (Mvt. 2), by contrast, has no instrumental decoration, calling only for voices and continuo, and has an almost canonic texture. Then a joyful bravura returns with the soprano aria (Mvt. 3), and its broad, expansive solo flute passages. The chorale melody, turned to minor, is sdiscernible here. And it also makes its presence felt in the bass aria (Mvt. 4), in G major, which has a rollicking dance feeling and uses no solo winds, but only the full strings. The alto aria (Mvt. 5), with oboe d'amore obbligato adds a touch of drama with its contrast between the evocation of the "bitter cup" (E minor) and the following sweet consolation. The closing chorale is an adaptation, with subtle harmonic changes and richer instrumentation, of the chorale movement in Bach's inaugural work in Leipzig, Cantata BWV 75.

More on the text of this cantata can be read at Francis Browne’s English translation. See: Cantata BWV 100 - English Translation [Interlinear Format]


The details of the recordings of the cantata can be found at the following page of the Bach Cantatas Website (BCW): Cantata BWV 100 - Recordings

Cantata BWV 100 has (at least) 6 complete recordings. Apart from the usual three – Leonhardt (1980) [3], Rilling (1983-1984) [4] and Leusink (2000) [5] – we have Heinz Wunderlich (1967, from the usually excellent mini-series on Cantate, LP only) [1], Karl Richter (1976-1977) [2] and Karl-Friedrich Beringer (2000) [6]. Unfortunately I shall be able to add music examples only on Oct 2, 2003.

Additional Information

In the page of recordings mentioned above you can also find links to useful complementary information:
A. Original German text and various translations, three of which were contributed by members of the BCML: English (Francis Browne), French (Jean-Pierre Grivois), and Hebrew (Aryeh Oron).
B Score in Vocal & Piano version and BGA Edition (unavailable until Oct 2, 2003).
C. Commentaries: in English by Simon Crouch (Listener’s Guide) & “Blue Gene” Tyranny (AMG), and in Spanish by Julio Sánchez Reyes (CantatasDeBach).

I hope to see many of you participating in the discussion. Actually, we had already a short discussion of this cantata during March 2002. Only 11 cantatas (2 sacred, 9 secular), including this one, remained to be discussed in the BCML!

Santu de Silva wrote (September 30, 2003):
All I have to say is that I love the opening chorus (Mvt. 1).

Bach, as always makes horns sound very jolly. This chorus is so utterly German (don't anybody ask me what I mean by that), it shouts BACH to me! It is indeed a dance, and --as I must have mentioned several times already-- has been made into a ballet movement by Sir William Walton (in his Wise Virgins suite) and I can't listen to it without imagining a chorus dance. And it does, indeed have a festive, wedding-like feel to it. There's an exhaltation that leaves me confused and satisfied, yet wanting more!

I'm listening to the Rilling version [4] now, and the emphatic manner of the choir simply leaves much to be desired. I think I have the Harnoncourt also, and I must clear the palate with that. Still, so brilliant is the music that even Rilling manages to make it work!

It (the work) is so forward-looking! I can imagine a 19th or 20th-century writer writing it--how can it be bettered, even for this day and age? Wagner would have been proud to have written it for one of his operas--say Meistersinger! There I go, dreaming again

P.S. The next chorus in my collection is Singet dem Herrn eine neues Lied. I have heard this one sung in English, and --though I do like German sacred music sung in English, what little I have heard, mostly Haydn-- it sounds terrible. The phrase "eine neues Lied" sounds bearable in German, but awkward in English ("A new song").

Aryeh Oron wrote (September 30, 2003):
[To Santu de Silva] Indeed, BWV 100 and BWV 99 (and, of course, BWV 98) are based on the same chorale by Samuel Rodigast. However, Walten's arrangement for his ballett suite The Wise Virgins is based on the opening chorus of BWV 99 and not BWV 100. See:

Neil Halliday wrote (October 1, 2003):
"Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan".

In the opening chorus (Mvt. 1), the three-beat timpani figures (in the context of common time) may remind listeners of the opening chorus of BWV 130 ("Herr Gott, dich loben alle wir").

As has been already stated, the music for the opening chorus is very similar to BWV 99 (with the same title); and I note that Rilling [4] achieved a better result in BWV 99; in his BWV 100, the recording seems soft, and I have to turn up the amplifier volume, to achieve as bright a sound as in the recording of BWV 99, made a few years earlier.

This done, the music to BWV 100 is very enjoyable indeed, with vivid sound colours augmented by the horns and timpani, and strong rhythm, in the tempo of a strong march.

Mvt. 2: The duet (alto and tenor) is not as interesting as that in BWV 99, which has flute and oboe (and continuo) accompanying the two vocalists; here we have only a "walking" continuo bass as accompaniment to the two singers, who perhaps use too much vibrato, in Rilling's recording.

Mvt. 3: The soprano aria features a lovely part for transverse flute, with swirls of demisemiquavers (the flautist, most likely Peter Graf, deserves a special mention); and Auger gives a good account of the vocal part, with her characteristic sweet timbre
evident throughout.

Mvt. 4: The bass aria features rich string colour in Rilling's recording of this cheerful music, the mood of which expresses confidence in God's favour. Huttenlocher's approach to the melismas may be over-expressive for some - but I think I'm getting used to his powerful voice.

Mvt. 5: The alto aria, with oboe d'amore, has a gentle, wistful mood (in 12/8 time). Hamari is expressive and attractive.

Final Mvt. 6: This elaborately scored chorale is as interesting as the opening chorus (Mvt. 1). In Rilling's recording [4], the resonance of the timpani is full and powerful, without overpowering the other forces; and the overall sound is bright and strong, with excellent singing from the choir.

Richter's recording [1] of this cantata is very good, but I seem to turn to Rilling's, because of the more 'up-front' presentation of the instruments in the latter.

(On the Rilling CD [4], the opening chorus of BWV 101 ("Nimm vom uns, Herr, du treuer Gott") follows immediately after the final chorale of BWV 100; it is difficult to imagine a more striking contrast between the mood of two pieces of music!)

Arjen van Gijssel wrote (October 1, 2003):
BWV 100: The Laurenscantorij performance.

Tomorrow, October 2nd Aryeh intends to upload for me a recording of the Laurenscantorij (Rotterdam, 2002, the Netherlands) of the first movement of BWV 100. I hope that you will still be able to comment on that recording as well.

What I like of the BWV 100 opening chorus (Mvt. 1) is the beat in the continuo group. The counterpoint is very effective and appealing. When listening I cannot avoid humming or wizzling the continuo line. The choir part is not very difficult, technically speakin. The challenge in our church was as always to keep it transparant in spite of the large room and difficult accoustic. As for instrumentation, our conductor Schuurman chose trumpets because of the high range, which is difficult to play for modern horns.

Neil Halliday wrote (October 3, 2003):
[To Arjen van Gijsse]

The tempo of this performance (4:56) is midway between Rilling (4:33) [4] and Richter (5:21) [1], and this sets up a lovely dance-like rhythm for this charming music, especially when the continuo, as Arjen says, starts its stepping motion down the scale, accompanied by lovely writing in the upper parts. (Interestingly, Rilling is beginning to sound rushed in BWV 100, but not so in BWV 99, despite being performed at an almost identical speed (4:38); and I can only explain this in terms of the much brighter recording evident with BWV 99).

The orchestra and choir perform pretty well, apart from some obvious problems with the brass (baroque trumpets) in the bars immediately after their first trill (about bar 10) and in a number of other places.

Apart from "booming bass" acoustic problem evident on the recording (I am sure this was not happening in the actual performance), the flute and trumpets lack presence in places, and this results in loss of some of the sparkle this movement should project to the listener. Rilling's recording [4] similarly lacks clarity - in his case from the oboe, flute, and upper strings - which is surprising, considering the wonderful brightness and clarity he was able to achieve with the almost identical score for these instruments in BWV 99, a few years earlier. This goes to show the mysteries involved in the uncertain art of recording! (One would think Rilling could have produced at least as fine a result in the later recording, but this is clearly not the case.)

The Laurenscantorij choir sounds fine, but (in the recording) is unfortunately partly masked by the acoustic problem mentioned above.

Thomas Shepherd wrote (October 5, 2003):
Last Sunday we had our annual Harvest Festival (a particularly British church custom which is fast being adopted by many primary schools). It celebrates the work of human hands in bringing farm produce to our tables and is rightly celebrated just as the weather changes from summer to the cold and damp of early autumn.

The Gospel reading for Harvest this year was the same as that for the 15th after Trinity - Matthew 6: 25-33 the teaching of Jesus about striving after worldly cares. We are to consider the birds of the air and the lilies of the field - they are cared for by God. And humanity, so much dearer to the heart of God, is cared for even more.

The morning sermon was a meditation upon the least heard, and the most often repeated commandment in both Old and New Testaments - Do not afraid; don't be anxious; fear not.

The evening sermon was about the great blessings afforded the human race in the creative, sustaining and redeeming role God has towards his creation.

So imagine how delighted I was to discover this week's cantata for the 15th after Trinity, BWV 100. Occasionally Bach excels himself with joyous and happy music that makes one truly content and pleased to be alive. The music uplifts the heart to marvel at the wonders of the created universe. And it seems to me that every time Bach had in mind, and used the chorale "Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan" the sun is out and all is well and all manner of things are well in God's creation - in brief, what God does is well done.

It is a fabulous cantata, the last of the four cantatas for that Sunday. All of them are effused with joy. Why did Bach write four supremely optimistic cantatas for this particular Sunday? The most widely known is the vocal pyrotechnics of Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen (BWV 51), but for my taste BWV 100 is quite as moving and spine tingling! I'm looking forward to a Susuki recording, for the now the Leonhardt recording [3] is sufficient.

Bob Henderson wrote (October 5, 2003):
[To Thomas Shephard] Thankyou for your marvelous letter. We have no such festival in the states. Excepting "Thanksgiving". I too look forward to the Suzuki recording. None till then.

Santu de Silva wrote (October 7, 2003):
Aryeh Oron wrote:
>>> Indeed, BWV 100 and BWV 99 (and, of course, BWV 98) are based on the same chorale by Samuel Rodigast. However, Walten's arrangement for his ballett suite The Wise Virgins is based on the opening chorus of BWV 98 and not BWV 100. <<<
Oh dear; yes, I believe you are right. I have my mp3s somewhat disorganized, and I may have put all the cantatas of those three in the BWV 100 folder. I apologize for the confusion!

Aryeh Oron wrote (October 7, 2003):
BWV 100 - Background

The commentary below, quoted from the liner notes to the Beringer’s recording on Rondeau Production [6], was written by Dr. Theodor Glaser, Member of the High Consistory (retired). The author used to be suffragan to the Lutheran Bishop of Bavaria. In his clerical capacity, Glaser is in particular demand in the leading of sung services, above all in the performance of Johann Sebastian Bach's cantatas.

Was Gott tut, das ist wohl getan ("What God doth, that is rightly done") - the text of the chorale is by Samuel Rodigast (1649-1708), rector of the Gymnasium des Grauen Klosters (Grey Cloister Grammar School) in Berlin. He wrote just the one hymn text, dedicating it to his seriously-ill friend, cantor Severus Gastorius. The invalid was so moved by the comforting words, that he at once composed an accompanying melody. The chorale, full of hope and faith, quickly became a firm favourite in religious circles.

Johann Sebastian Bach was also an admirer of the song, which is perhaps why he composed three cantatas around it (BWV 98, BWV 99 and BWV 100). However, only in BWV 100 does he take the trouble to set all six verses in their original wording to music. Perhaps he felt his own fate signed and sealed in these lyrics. Doubtless, he often experienced, particularly in times of musical triumph, that "what God doth, that is rightly done". However, he also suffered tragedy and deprivation. He experienced problems with his sacred and secular superiors, for which he himself was to blame to a certain extent. He saw the deaths of his first wife and eleven of his twenty children. But he also recognised that his God had supported him during those times of trouble. Both joy and suffering find expression in his cantatas - composed from the heart - in the joyful, festive majors and the plaintive, questioning minors.

When, and for what occasion, this cantata was composed remains unknown. It is possible that it dates from between 1732 and 1735. Not being assigned to a particular Sunday in the church calendar possibly meant that the cantata was performed more often - a work per ogni tempo (for all seasons).

In a setting full of musical fantasy and variety, maintaining the theological tension between doubt and devotion, the lyrics find their expression in choral movements, three arias and a duet. For the first and last movements, Bach drew on earlier compositions. The opening chorus (Mvt. 1) is taken from the cantata BWV 99 ("What God doth, that is rightly done"), the closing chorus from BWV 75 (Die Elenden sollen essen - "The hungering shall be nourished"), composed by Bach when he took up his post in Leipzig. In addition, he inserted parts for pairs horns and timpani, which lend the piece a certain festivity and also lead to a string of associations. The horns sound lustily; are they perhaps intended as hunting horns - calling to mind the folksong Aut aut zum fröhlichen Jagen - "Rise up, rise up, join the happy hunt" following a contented and peaceful existence? Should we be reminded of the post horn, trumpeting abroad the glad tidings, the good news of the Gospel, or should we - on hearing the oboe d'amore - think on the messenger of love, so desirous to sing the love of God into our hearts? "What God doth, that is rightly done", is reiterated in an exchange between the festive horns and timpani and the lightly tripping flute and two oboes, as if the Christian congregation in the opening chorus (Mvt. 1) are urging each other on in song, convinced and convincing, full of trust and hope.

The alto/tenor duet (Mvt. 2), in which - as in the arias - the melody of the chorale is merely hinted at, has a continuo accompaniment, measured even steps charting "the proper path". The musical details are lovingly, sighingly depicted. "betrayal and contentment, misfortune and forbearance". The third verse sees the introduction of the new and highly fashionable flauto traverso with a virtuoso coloratura. "God keepeth faith." It calls to mind the flute of the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ. He is the healer and miracle-worker, playing the melody of love. In the fourth verse, written in an optimistic major key, and in a mood of joyous, dancing merriment, the bass sings of "my light and my being" .It almost sounds as if the Catholic court organist Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart glanced backwards in time over his shoulder to influence the Protestant cantor of St Thomas'. In the alto aria (Mvt. 5) which follows, in minor contrast, the oboe plays around the theme of the "bitter cup" and the "sweet hope" with harsh, yet somehow still pastoral tones. The closing chorus is an unshakeably triumphant hymn of faith. It doesn't invite the listener to take a step into the void, but a step of faith into the enfolding arms of a loving Father.

Johann Sebastian Bach confirmed musically with this cantata what Martin Luther had already expressed theologically, "The greatest of God's gifts is music. Many are the sore temptations that it puts to flight. It affords great comfort for those in distress. Peace and happiness it bestows on the soul, gladdening the sad at heart and strengthening the despondent."

Recordings & Timings




Mvt. 1

Mvt. 2

Mvt. 3

Mvt. 4

Mvt. 5

Mvt. 6























































The Event

Last Saturday we repeated the enjoyable experiences we had couple of months ago, firstly when we listened and discussed recordings of cantatas BWV 173/BWV 173a and secondly two weeks later with Cantata BWV 175. This time the subject was cantata BWV 100. Three of our guests were familiar members of the BCML: Ehud Shiloni, Uri Golomb and Eitan Loew. The others were Uri’s father, Eitan’s partner and a very dear old couple, who participated in the previous meetings. Together there were nine of us, all Bach lovers, with various levels of expertise and experience. The third time was as enjoyable and as fruitful for all participants as the first two were.

We started early afternoon, listened to three renditions, had a break for light supper, and than we heard another three recordings. The guidelines we set for ourselves were similar to the previous meetings. I gave the small audience short background about the cantata and Rodigast’s hymn, and we got to work (?).

As before, I took notes while we were listening and discussing and hereinafter is a summary of the impressions, almost unedited. The names are not mentioned according to the request of participants. But although we were nine individuals with different musical background and experience, generally there was a consensus between the participants regarding the relative merits of each recording. The few cases in which the opinions were in dispute are singled out. The recordings are presented according to order of listening.

The Impressions

The first rendition we listened to was the earliest recording of this cantata, from 1967.

[1] Heinz Wunderlich
Most of the participants were annoyed by the bad transfer of the recording, which distorted the sound. I explained to the small audience that the original American pressing of the LP (licensed from the German Cantate label) was not especially good. Than the LP was worn out by being played numerous times by my simple gramophone during my days as a student. On top of this comes the transfer from LP to CD on home equipment without any ability to clean noises and to improve sound. This is what we have at hand until Cantate label will take the courage decision to issue the wonderful series of Bach Cantatas recorded during the 1960’s. One participant said that we should listen to the rendition through all the filters and let our ears and mind do the cleaning, imagine what was the original sound and listen with compassion.

The playing in the opening chorus (Mvt. 1) is relatively clean, except the horns, which miss more than they meet. One can clearly hear that the choir is amateurish. In the duet (Mvt. 2) the alto (Wolf-Matthäus) covers a little bit the tenor (Rotzsch). A beautiful performance. They did something from nothing. The soprano (Schwarzweller) in the ensuing aria has boyish timbre of voice. Her vibrato is quite strong. Nevertheless it has a unique beauty. The bass (Heinz-Müller) sings with a lot of taste and he is the best singer in this rendition. The alto singer (Wolf-Matthäus) has a dark and deep voice, of the kind we rarely hear nowadays, which are dominated by mezzo-sopranos and counter-tenors.

Some conclusions regarding the rendition as a whole: not very enjoyable performance. There is a difference in the musicality of the singers and the accompaniment. The singers are better. The accompaniment of the organ is rude. He emphasises every bit. His monotonous playing causes the whole rendition to sound somewhat static. Only in the opening chorus every instrument could be clearly heard. Afterwards the instrumentalists are not even trying and as a consequence the playing sounds vague and mixed. But the music is very beautiful.

After the problematic and somewhat frustrating listening to Wunderlich, the participants asked me to put the latest and best recording of this cantata. So I gave them Beringer.

[6] Karl-Friedrich Beringer
The playing in the opening chorus (Mvt. 1) is clean, bright and bubbling. The choir is excellent. All the voices can be clearly heard. The accompaniment in the duet (Mvt. 2) is tastefully played. The adjustment between the singers (Martin & Schäfer) is magnificent, and their voices are attractive. The almost vibrato-less singing helps to keep the balance. Every component, singer or instrumentalist, is heard. One participant said: I told you that this duet (Mvt. 2) is marvellous. The previous recording misled you. The soprano has strong and dark voice and expressive as needed. The flute is simply gorgeous, a thing to be remembered from this recording. The bass is nice, if a little bit lack in expression in relation to the other singers. The least impressive, even static sometimes. He does not bring an added value to the performance. The bass (Bluth) is good, but the former bass was more likeable. There is no difference between the approaches of the bass and the accompaniment. They are equal parts. Nevertheless, this is the weakest movement of this rendition. The blending between the alto and the oboe is appealing. It is slower than the others, but certainly holds up together. Her voice is relatively light in comparison to the previous recording, but the singer (Martin) is very musical and expressive in the right measure.

Some conclusions regarding the rendition as a whole: All the players are in very high level, so is the balance in the recording between the instruments and the singers. All the textures can be easily heard. The recording is bright, transparent and full. The musicality of the whole performance is very impressive, with slight reservations regarding the vocal soloists. There is a feeling that singers and instrumentalists are working together to give a homogeneous (in the positive meaning of the word) performance. They take care of the text and understand what they are singing. They listen to each other. The do not miss small details. For example, the words ‘Geduld’ in the duet (Mvt. 2) or ‘Gnade’ in the aria for soprano get special attention, as they should. The figurations in the playing of the woodwind and brass playing are not sharp enough.

[2] Karl Richter
The participants asked me not to tell them who the performers are, but some of them guessed along the listening. The balance of the chorus (Mvt. 1) is quite different from Beringer’s. The flutes are very prominent. Sometimes the movement sounds as a concerto for flutes and orchestra. This is a serious performance, less bubbling than the previous one is. At the beginning of the duet (Mvt. 2) the tenor (Schreier) sounds distant, as an echo to the alto (Hamari). Later he is getting closer, until some coherence is crated between the two singers. The playing of the organ in the continuo is clear and tasty. The recording is more muffled than Beringer’s. The music in the aria for soprano stands, not moves. Not because of the tempo, not because of the flute. The singer (Mathis) is to be blamed. It seems that she does not understand what she is singing about. Her vibrato is very strong. When she is not singing, the flow of the movement is improving. The singer in the aria for bass (Mvt. 4) raises the movement to a new level. Is it as if he sees things that have escaped from the eyes of the other singers. With him it sounds so simple. It is like a virtuoso football player, who does everything so easily that you do not understand what the problem is. Everybody can do it, even me. Only when you compare him to other players you realise how good he is. Most of the participants identified the singer as DFD. Only one participant had an interesting observation. He said that DFD is not as good in Bach as he is with other composers. His velvety voice suits Schubert like a glove, but is alien to Bach. Following him another participant said that sometimes DFD’s singing in Bach sounds over-interpreted instead of letting the music speaks for itself. The playing of the oboe in the aria for alto (Mvt. 5) is stinging. The singing of the alto (Hamari) is heart-rending, full of sensitivity and taste. Her voice is rich with many nuances and colours. The chemistry between her and the oboist is charming. Sometimes they follow each other’s lines, other times they accompany each other. The singing in the concluding chorale is straight and the playing bright.

Some conclusions regarding this rendition as a whole: it is too measured, like a metronome, very synthetic, lacking in feelings. The aria for alto (Mvt. 5) is the exact opposite to all the other movements. As if the tempo is breaking down, and all control is lost. One can hardly guess that this aria belongs to this recording. The balance is good, because every instrument can be clearly heard. In some movements the singers are more prominent than the instruments. The accompaniment in the aria for bass (Mvt. 4) is better than its usual self. The jumpings here are more compelling. Richter usually excels in movements as the opening chorus (Mvt. 1). Here he is dry and dogmatic.

[5] Pieter Jan Leusink
The chorus (Mvt. 1) is scattered and lacking momentum, although the playing of the instruments is relatively satisfactory (except the horns, of course). The cello in the continuo is more prominent than in the previous rendition, and the playing of the organ is delicate. The counter-tenor (Buwalda) is intolerable. The whole performance of the duet (Mvt. 2) is boring. Another participant liked the voice of the counter-tenor, but found his interpretation uninteresting. The aria for soprano (Mvt. 3) (Holton) lacks some drama. The bass singer (Ramselaar) is the most satisfactory of all vocal soloists. His expression is dignified and restrained. He does not exaggerated like DFD. The aria for alto (Mvt. 5) (Buwalda) is continuous suffering.

Some conclusions regarding the performance as a whole: the four interim movements are beautiful and the singers satisfactory, where the extreme choral movements are awful. The horns miss a lot, hard to play. In the first two movements the cello stood out. The rendition as a whole is on low profile, and lacks drama, dynamism and momentum. Its lacks any distinctiveness. The level of instrumentalists is generally good, and they are better than the singers.

[3] Gustav Leonhardt
One of the participants asked to hear Leonhardt’s rendition immediately after Leusink, because he did not want to finish with bad taste in mouth. Indeed the problematic horns were almost painful to hear. It is somewhat compensated by the beautiful playing of the flute. There are severe balance problems in the chorus (Mvt. 1), and there is also contradiction between the approaches of the choir and the orchestra. The first sounds restrained while the instruments are much more naughty. The organ in the ensuing duet (Mvt. 2) is more prominent than in the previous rendition, but its playing is considerable and sensitive. The voices of the tenor (Equiluz) and the alto (Esswood) singers are magnificently balanced and marvellously adjusted. The timbre of their voices together is simply gorgeous, very rich, something to take with you to eternity. One of the participants did not approve. In his mind the duet is beautifully performed vocally but uninteresting musically. They sound pure and heavenly but they do not go along with the phrases. The boy soprano in the duet has good and lucid voice. He also manages to put the right amount of expression, and some parts are even moving. The playing of the flute is well adjusted to his singing. The baritone voice of the singer (Egmond) suits exactly the demands of the aria for bass (Mvt. 4). He keeps beautifully his lines. Actually the choice of all the singers for this rendition is excellent. The playing of the oboe in the aria for alto (Mvt. 5) is smoother than with Leusink, and the counter-tenor of Esswood suits the melancholy of the aria. The concluding chorale is the shortest movement, but it is performed so badly that you want it to end ASAP.

[4] Helmuth Rilling
The opening chorus (Mvt. 1) is light, hasty and joyful; indefinite and unexciting. The horns passed the mission quite success, with minor obstacles. The cello in the continuo of the duet (Mvt. 2) is prominent but unpleasant. Most probably it was strengthened by contrabass. The two singers in this movement (Hamari & Kraus) sound as if they are trying to stand out one on behalf of the other. Unsuccessful rendition, even irritating. In the middle of the duet one of the participants even asked to skip to the next movement. The playing of the flute in the aria for soprano is full of sweetness, even though Augér is pressing too much. Not one of her best days. Her singing is too dramatic for this aria, as if she is not really connected to the message. Huttenlocher, in the aria for bass (Mvt. 4) is excellent. His singing is more flowing than DFD and a little bit more dramatic than Ramselaar. He has a flexible voice and good technique that allows him to be a master of his domain. His sings the coloratura parts excellently, not the singer who will fail in a live concert. The only problem of the movement is that the continuo is not with him. The entire burden is on the shoulders of the singer. Julia Hamari, in the aria for alto (Mvt. 5), is in worse shape than with Richter. There is a difference of 6-7 years between her two recordings and it shows. She is not in her best and her voice has lost much of its rich beauty. The chorale is performed well with good balance.


During the listening there were some small debates. The first was about comparing recordings. One participant said that we should try to get the outmost of each recording, despite technical and other shortcomings. Comparisons cause injustice, because nobody is perfect. Another participant said that this is unavoidable, because the human mind works with comparisons.

The second was about the special merits of this cantata. One participant said that this is not one of the highest achievements of Bach. He meant that there are not outstanding moments, which are engraved in the memory for a long time. No movement grab you in the throat; some fresh invention is missing. He was answered by another participant that Bach is never less than good. With great composers as Mozart and Beethoven you can find inferior works. But not so with Bach. Although it is actually impossible that everything will be on the highest level, one can surely says that the level of Bach’s music is never less than very high.

I believe that when we finished the joint listening every participant had at least one movement to take away and one complete recording to cherish. Here they are:

Movements to take a way: the duet (Mvt. 2) for alto (Esswood) and tenor (Equiluz) from Leonhardt [3], the aria for soprano (Winter) from Beringer [6], the aria for bass (Mvt. 4) (Huttenlocher) from Rilling [4], the aria for alto (Mvt. 5) (Hamari) from Richter [2]. There was a consensus about the preferred rendition as a whole: Beringer [6].

Only when we finished the joint listening, I realised that BWV 100 was actually the 200th Cantata in the weekly cantata discussions. I believe that most of the participants have grown to love this cantata along the meeting. What a beautiful cantata BWV 100 is, with some very moving renditions, and what a nice way to celebrate the event!

Other issues have also been discussed in the meeting, but this review is already too long. Important points and views might have escaped from my review, because I had the triple role of listening, commenting and writing. Probably Ehud, Eitan and Uri would want to add something. All other members are invited to comment as well.

With the next cantata to be discussed in the BCML, BWV 203, we are back to the secular world of Bach Cantatas.

Eitan Loew wrote (October 8, 2003):
Now that Aryeh has prepared his comprehensive review, I would like to share with you all the wonderful experience that I had on last Saturday, when I had been invited by Aryeh to participate in listening to the various recordings of the BWV 100 cantata. In fact, this was my opportunity to meet Aryeh for the first time even though we live in the same town! Also I met Uri and Ehud whose mails I enjoy reading.

First, a word about Aryeh: there are not enough words to express my appreciation to the enormous task that he accomplishes: the BCW is an outstanding interesting well done job (and lately I've learnt that he is sponsoring it from his own pocket) and so is his contribution to the BCML and the BRML. It is unbelievable his devotion to these tasks!

Entering the basement where we were listening to the recordings, I was amazed to see all 4 walls covered from floor to ceiling with shelves of CDs, LPs and music books! I could only envy him!

The listening and the discussions were very instructive: I myself had never experienced before listening to 6 different renditions of the same piece in one session, accompanied by scholar comments. To be honest, I had wondered if I can, with my limited musical education, contribute a significant addition to the discussion (You see, I love music since I was a child, but never got real musical education). I can only hope that I'll be invited next time...

Anyway, one comment about the issue itself:
I have joined both group some 2 years ago, most of the time I'm a passive member; however, one of the rare cases that I did write was about this same cantata! (coincidence?):
The issue that concerned me then is, I feel, still unresolved: how can a lousy performance (Leonhardt [3], concluding chorale, horns) be distributed? Why didn't they recorded another take? just budget constrains? how can a serious artist let something like that to be distributed on the market? bear in mind that it was not a live recording.

Again, from the depths of my heart, thanks to you Aryeh!

Peter Bloemendaal wrote (October 15, 2003):
This is the last of three cantatas with this title, derived from Samuel Rodigast’s hymn and the only one in which the hymn text is used unaltered and integrally, per omnes versus, a principle Bach also applied with cantatas BWV 97, BWV 117 and BWV 192. These four cantatas also have in common that they were written for an unspecified occasion during the late 1720’s and early 1730’s. Still, Johann Christoph Rost, the sexton at the Thomaskirche from 1716 until his death in 1739, linked the hymns that Bach used for these four cantatas with wedding ceremonies. A different theory, proposed by Günther Stiller in “Johann Sebastian Bach and Liturgical Life in Leipzig”, suggests that it was designated for the 21st Sunday after Trinity because Rodigast’s hymn was included in a Dresden list of “Hymns of Lament and Comfort”, published in 1750, for this specific Sunday. Cantata BWV 100 was probably first performed some time about 1732.

The cantata consists of six movements, all of them beginning with the assertion “What God does, is well done.” Including the title this makes seven, a very strong statement indeed, six being the number connected with the days of Creation and the seventh day was the day God rested from his work. After every day God saw that it was good and at the end of the sixth day, God saw every thing that he had made, and behold, it was very good. God blessed and sanctified the day of rest, on which he looked back on his creation with satisfaction, and God enjoyed. Bach must have noticed the parallels with his own creative work on the six stanzas of the popular Rodigast hymn text, and without intending to be blasphemous, he ended up composing a cantata with this title three times, the number of Holy Trinity.

The main idea behind the hymn is twofold. What God does is his sovereign will. No mortal or heavenly soul can challenge or even question the things He does. Besides, there is no need for this, since all his words and deeds are aimed at our well-being. If we put our faith in him, we can trust him, for He will do good things to us.

Both aspects are well-voiced in the opening chorus in G-major (Mvt. 1). It is a triumphant confession of faith, heralded by the prominent horns and timpani, together with the strings. Then the lovely oboes d’ amore and the lively flauto traverso with its cheerful semi quavers join in, shortly followed by the sopranos or trebles singing the cantus firmus on long-held minims, i.e. half notes. The other voices then blend in on parallel slightly polyphonic lines. The final conclusion “Drum lass ich ihn nur walten!” is given an extra dimension by the homophonic support of the flauto traverso, the oboe d’ amore and the first violins. The alternation of the joyful choral singing and the brilliance of the brass and woodwinds make this festive opening movement a powerful testimony and the very picture of sheer bliss and rejoicing.

The following duet for alto and tenor (Mvt. 2) is only accompanied by the BC. Its lack of lustre is in shrill contrast to the preceding chorus. The frugality of the quasi ostinato support by the basso continuo shifts the emphasis from the orchestra to the two solo voices, imitating and encouraging each other. Their message is that God will keep his promise and will turn unhappiness into prosperity. Extensive word painting on “nicht betrügen”, “rechter Bahn” and “begnügen” express their unified resolution not to give in to doubt, even when the going gets tough. The central idea is “Geduld”. When, in the aria, we are advised to be patient in bad times, the motion is slowing down and the word “Geduld” is meaningfully repeated seven times in both voices. The duet ends with both singers professing that it is all in God’s hands.

The soprano aria (Mvt. 3) is actually a duet for voice and virtuoso flauto traverso. The instrument begins with the uplifting rising fourth from the chorale, which we already heard in the previous movements. As in the second movement the basso continuo plays an important part. The instruments playing the bass line often tend to be underrated in many reviews. However they are crucial in the cantatas, in the arias in particular, and in some arias even more predominantly so. The main thought here is that God is the reliable healer, capable of doing miracles in my life. Enjoy the magnificent flute and the soloist’s expressive coloraturas on “Gott ist getreu”.

The bass aria (Mvt. 4) is an upbeat, swinging testimony of faith on a wonderful dance melody. The key is shifted from B-minor to G-major. The soloist, this time accompanied by the affirmative strings, expresses a strong desire to surrender to God, my Light, my Life, in happiness and sorrow. The ups and downs of life and faith are magnificently voiced by the alternating ascending and descending passages in the coloraturas on the key words. A prophecy of the worldwide public revelation of God’s good intentions concludes this happy movement.

The E-minor mood of the alto aria (Mvt. 5) obviously refers to the bitter cup we all have to drink when sorrows fill us with fear. But in the end God will lift us up by granting us sweet comfort in our hearts. The singer is tossed to and fro between “Schmerzen” and “süssem Trost”, whereby the balance unfortunately dips to grief and sorrow. The soothing comfort comes from the heart-warming oboe d’ amore, representing the good shepherd, who can not be heard sometimes, but finally warrants the certainty of a bright future with upward motifs in the closing ritornello.

The return to G-major is a return to the opening chorus (Mvt. 1). There can only be one conclusion, God, the heavenly Father, does the right things. Therefore we can rely on his ruling our lives. Here there is straightforward chorale singing, reinforced by the tutti instruments, among which the brilliant horns take pride of place.

I listened to the first movement by the Rotterdam Laurenscantorij under Barend Schuurman. The live recording leaves something to be desired, especially coming from my limited PC loudspeaker boxes, but you can hear that it must have been a delight to be in the audience at the performance and an even greater pleasure to be among the performers. As some of you may know, St. Laurens was heavily damaged by bombing raids in World War II, but has been restored to its former glory. It is a fine church for singing, especially when the programme features a splendid cantata like BWV 100.

[5] The only complete recording I possess was recorded two and a half years earlier, some 85 miles east of Rotterdam. With no reference performances at my disposal, I quite enjoy what I hear. The tempo is a bit slower compared to that of the Laurenscantorij. Netherlands Bach Collegium are doing an excellent job. Doretthe Janssens on traverso is worth mentioning explicitly. Frank Wakelkamp plays a very convincing cello part. Peter Frankenberg is my favourite oboist, and from the beginning the natural horns and the timpani contribute greatly to the festive atmosphere of this cantata. So does the enthusiasm of Holland Boys Choir. The solo voices are those of Marjon Strijk, Sytse Buwalda, Nico van der Meel and Bas Ramselaar. Very good singing indeed, especially by Marjon Strijk and Bas Ramselaar. A cantata well done.


Continue on Part 2

Cantata BWV 100: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

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