Cantata BWV 115Mache dich, mein Geist, bereit
Discussions - Part 5
Continue from Part 4
Discussions in the Week of November 2, 2014 (4th round)
William Hoffman wrote (October 26, 2014):
Cantata BWV 115, 'Mache dich, mein Geist, bereit': Intro.
CANTATA 115, Part 1
Bach’s intimate penitential chorale Cantata BWV 15, “Mache dich, mein Geist, bereit” (Make yourself ready, my spirit), is a typical hymn-based work of six minutes with striking pairs of fantasia chorus-closing chorale, da-capo arias and recitatives. Meanwhile, this 20-minute work uses a near-contemporary (1695) popular pietist hymn of Saxon Johann Burchard Freystein, its scoring is for an intimate concertante orchestra of favored solo flute, oboe d’amore and violoncello piccolo with strings, its opening chaconne motet chorus is followed by a contemporary siciliano operatic aria, with Bach reversing himself and giving the arias to alto and soprano while the men sing the standard recitative.1
While it emphasizes the penitential Psalm 6, Domine, ne in fuore (Have mercy upon me, O LORD), the poetic text “makes no direct reference to the day’s Gospel, Matthew 18:23-35 (Parable of the unjust steward and the unmerciful servant), “providing instead a warning to the soul to be wary of Satan, to pray, and to be prepared for the Last Judgment,” says Nicholas Anderson in Oxford Composer Companions: J. S. Bach.2
“It is not the kernel of the parable (the contrast between God’s grace and man’s lack of mercy) that lies aty the heart of this cantata text but rather a certain aspect of it: the king’s demand for settlement catches the unfaithful servant unawares, which teaches us to be prepared when the Lord comes and demands settlement of us, says Alfred Dürr, Cantatas of JSB.3 Some such passage as Luke 21:36 perhaps suggests the choice of hymn for this Sunday” “Thus watch and pray now always, so that you may be counted worthy of escaping all these things that shall come to pass . . . .” This is cited in the closing hymn (Mvt. 6), Stanza 6, “Drum so lasst uns immerdar / Wachen, flehen, beten,” (Therefore let us always / be awake, entreat and pray), as well as the Gospel, Matthew 18:23-25. It also is the incipit of Cantata 70, “Wachet, betet, betet, wachet,” for the 25th and final Sunday after Trinity in 1723.
Cantata No. 115 is a “towering masterpiece,” says Anderson (Ibid.), with “suppleness and robust character of the opening chorus that provides effective contrast with the” succeeding alto movement, described as a “sleep aria,” “initially a cautionary warning to the unwary, slumbering spirit.” “Marked ‘Molto adagio’ by Bach,” the soprano aria (Mvt. 4) is a “profound penitent entreaty for God’s understanding and forbearance.” In the closing hymn (Mvt. 6), “The very simplicity with which Bach treats this chorale at the close lends emphasis to the inherent strength of a fine melody.”
Trinity 22 Readings, Cantata 115 Text
The Lutheran Church Year Readings for the 22nd Sunday after Trinity are: Epistle: Philippians 1:3-11 (Paul’s love for the Philippians); Gospel: Matthew 18:23-35 Parable of the unmerciful servant; complete text, Martin Luther 1545 English translation, English translation Authorised (King James) Version [KJV] 1611, complete texts, BCW, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Read/Trinity22.htm
The Introit Psalm 6 for the 22nd Sunday after Trinity is Domine, ne in fuore (Have mercy upon me, O LORD), says Martin Petzoldt in BACH Commentary, Vol. 1, Trinity Sundays.5 He calls it the Prayer of Repentance for the health of the body and the soul. The full text of Psalm 6 is found at http://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/Psalms-Chapter-6/. Bach may have performed Psalm 6 Introit polyphonic motet settings of Claudio Monteverdi and Orlando de Lassus, as well as Johann Theile, from his edition of the Bodenschatz Florilegium Portense collection.4
The Cantata Text 115 text is based on the Johann Freystein 10-stanza, eight short-lines chorale (Mvts. 1, 6, unaltered); anonymous librettist (Mvts. 2-5 paraphrased); German text and Francis Browne English translation, BCW http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/BWV115-Eng3.htm . Chorale Text (EKG 261), “Mache dich, mein Geist, bereit,” Francis Browne English translation, is found at BCW http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/Chorale118-Eng3.htm. The Chorale Melody is probably Johann Georg Albinus (1624-1679) “Straf mich nicht in deinem Zorn” (Do not punish me in your anger, Zahn: 6274a, EKG: 176). Bach’s source of the Freystein hymn probably was the Dresdener Gesangbuch (1725/36), No. 463, Sacred Vigilance.
Newer Penitential Hymn, Chorale Cantata6
Having virtually exhausted the established chorale possibilities with penitential themes for Late Trinity Time, Bach in the second cycle of cantatas paraphrasing well-known chorales, turned to lesser-known but important newer texts written to established, popular melodies. This enabled him to set music to relevant new Lutheran writings related to orthodox <omne tempore> church teachings found in the actual sermons delivered after Bach's cantatas were presented in the main service. This practice also observed a contemporary trend in Lutheran hymns favoring the restricted use of established melodies in order to enable congregations to sing chorales with new, relevant texts, rather than learning a proliferation of new melodies associated with the new texts. Thus, Bach increasingly used alternate texts and melodies in his chorale settings.
Such was the case with Chorale Cantata BWV 115, "Mache dich, mein Geist, bereit." Bach chose the 10-stanza penitential chorale text written in 1695 by Dresden court official Frystein (1671-1718), BCW Short Biography, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Lib/Freystein.htm), who was influence by the pietists and had Leipzig and Dresden connections. It was set to the anonymous 1681 folk dance melody, "Straf mich nicht in deinem Zorn" (Do not punish me in your anger). Better known is the Johann Georg Albinius (1624-79, BCW Short Biography, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Lib/Albinus.htm) 7-stanza hymn paraphrase of Psalm 6 (Dominem ne in furore), "Straf mich nicht in deinem Zorn," written in 1655 and later set to the 1681 melody that is in bi-partite AB, partial da-capo form, best known in Handel oratorio arias. Albinius had Leipzig and Naumberg connections. Neither hymn would be found in the NLGB of 1682. Bach did not set the Albinius hymn text although the melody was known by both titles and there are various English translations and uses of the Albinius hymn, best known being Catherine Winkworth's five-verse 1863 version, "Rise my soul to watch and pray." There is no BCW German-English texts of either the Frystein or Albinius texts but information on the melody and two texts is found at BCW, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/CM/Straf-mich.htm.
Bach uses the melody in chorale Cantata BWV 115/1, S.1, chorale chorus fantasia, and Mvt. 6, plain chorale, S.10, "Drum so lasst uns immerdar/ Wachen, flehen, beten," (Therefore let us always/ be awake, entreat and pray,); 10 stanzas, English translation (Stanzas 1,4,5,6,7,10 German only), http://www.musicanet.org/robokopp/Lieder/machedic.htm; also "Rise, my soul, to watch and pray," five-stanza Catherine Winkworth English translation, http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/r/i/risems2w.htm. There also exists a Christoph Graupner Cantata, "Mache dich, mein Geist, bereit," GWV 1102/41 (1741).
For "Ach Herr, Mein Gott, Straf mich nicht in deinem Zorn" related melody/text references, see BCW, Chorales & Motets, Trinity 1, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV75-D3.htm, "Other hymns also related to Trinity +1 readings" (Psalm 6): ["Herr, straf' mich nicht in deinem Zorn" (O Lord, do not punish me in your anger) /Das bitt ich dich von Herzen," (NLGB No. 244); text, J. Crüger 1640 (6 stanzas; based on Psalm 6); melody unknown ?1640; Bach usage: BWV 338 (A-Minor/Major); Listed as Psalm hymn (Hänssler complete Bach edition (No. 82), A Book of Chorale settings, No. 5, CD 92.082 (1999):
+a. "Straf mich nicht in deinem Zorn/großer Gott, verschone." (Do not rebuke me in your anger, Ps. 6:1) Text 1, J. G. Albinus (7 stanzas, 1676; based on Psalm 6), melody anonymous 1681; not set by Bach
+b. Listed in NLGB 243 as "Ach Herr mein Gott, straf mich doch nicht" six stanza text of Cornelius Becker and set to the melody "Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir."
+c. Text 2: "Mache dich, mein Geist, bereit," J. B. Freystein (1695); Bach usage in chorale Cantata BWV 115/1(S.1),6(S.10( (Trinity +22).
Other composers who have set "Herr, straf' mich nicht in deinem Zorn" include: Scguetz, Telemann and Knüpfer.]
Another hymn setting of penitential Psalm 6 is "Ach Herr, mich armen Sünder " (Ah Lord, I poor sinner), NLGB No. 246, set by Bach as Chorale Cantata BWV 135 for the 3rd Sunday after Trinity 1724.
Cantata 115 movements, scoring, text lines, key, meter:7
1. Chorus (Stanza 1 unaltered), two-part imitation with ritornelli in concertante [SATB; Corno (C.f.), Flauto traverso, Oboe d'amore, Violino I/II e Viola all' unisono, Continuo]: A. “Mache dich, mein Geist, bereit” (Make yourself ready, my spirit); B. “Dass dich nicht die böse Zeit / Unverhofft betrete” (so that the evil time / may not come upon you unawares); G Major; 6/4/ chaconne.
2. Aria da-capo (Stanza 2 paraphrased) [Alto; Oboe d'amore, Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo]: A. “Adagio,” “Ach schläfrige Seele, wie? ruhest du noch? (Ah, slumbering soul, what? Do you still take your rest?); B. “Allegro,” “Es möchte die Strafe dich plötzlich erwecken” (Punishment may suddenly awaken you); e minor; 3/8 siciliano style.
3. Recitative secco (Stanzas 3-6 paraphrased) [Bass, Continuo]: “Gott, so vor deine Seele wacht, / Hat Abscheu an der Sünden Nacht” (God who watches over your soul / has a horror of the night of sin); 4/4; G major to B minor.
4. Aria da-capo (Stanza 7) [Soprano; Flauto traverso, Violoncello piccolo, Continuo): A. Molto adagio, “Bete aber auch dabei / Mitten in dem Wachen!” (But you should also pray / while you are awake!); B. “Bitte bei der großen Schuld / Deinen Richter um Geduld” (For your great guilt beg / for patience from your judge); 4/4, B minor.
5. Recitative secco, arioso (Stanzas 8-9) [Tenor, Continuo]. Recitative, “Er sehnet sich nach unserm Schreien” (He longs for us to call out to him); arioso last line, “Und will als Helfer zu uns treten.” (and will come to us as our helper.); 4/4; B minor to G major.
6. Chorale (Stanza 10) [SATB; Corno (C.f.) e Flauto traverso e Oboe d'amore e Violino I col Soprano, Violino II coll'Alto, Viola col Tenore, Continuo): “Drum so lasst uns immerdar / Wachen, flehen, beten,” (Therefore let us always / be awake, entreat and pray); G major; 4/4.
Gardiner Cantata 115, Best of Trinity 22 Cantatas
Cantata 115 is a terse work with “subtle” instrumental writing with an “original and “robust” chorale fantasia and two da-capo arias that are “long, immensely demanding and utterly spellbinding,” says John Eliot Gardiner in his 2010 liner notes to his 2000 Bach Cantata Pilgrimage recordings on Soli Deo Gloria. 8 <<Bach’s three cantatas for the Twenty-second Sunday after Trinity – BWV 89, 115 and 55 – all take their lead from the parable of the unjust steward as recounted in the Gospel of the day (Matthew 18:23-35). The pick of these three cantatas, unquestionably, is BWV 115, “Mache dich, mein Geist, bereit,” from Bach’s second Leipzig cycle. Ten stanzas of Johann Burchard Freystein’s hymn (1695) condensed into six numbers ensure that the cantata is fat-free (‘no encumbrance of unnecessary or problematic matter’, comments Whittaker [II:421]). In the opening G major chorale fantasia the orchestra is four-part, comprising flute, oboe d’amore, unison violins and violas and basso continuo, with a cornetto notated in G added to double the detached hymn-tune given in long notes by the sopranos. The instrumental writing is subtle and needs very careful balancing, particularly as the unison violins and violas can easily overpower the flute and d’amore. The strings lead off with an octave leap, later associated with the injunction to ‘prepare yourself, my soul’ presented by the three lower voices of the choir. There is a canon 4 in 2 at the seventh and fourth below between flute, oboe and the entwined violins and viola. This serves as a ritornello between the lines of the text, often broken mid-sentence, the thought carried over each of the gaps. Despite the implied warnings of the text this is an assured portrayal of the believer trusting and refusing to be blown off course by ‘Satan’s cunning’ (conveyed by a vigorous semiquaver bariolage figure) or the sounding of the last trump.
Original and robust though this chorale fantasia undoubtedly is, the two da capo arias which follow are both long, immensely demanding and utterly spellbinding: one for alto, a slow siciliano in 3/8 in E minor with oboe d’amore and strings, the other in B minor, even slower (molto adagio), for soprano with flute and piccolo cello. In the first aria the barely pulsating quavers of repeated Es in the bass line depict the heavy sleep of the soul. Above this the oboe d’amore initially doubles the first violin then aspires to break free, weaving a rising and falling figure like the involuntary stretching motions of a dreamer. The singer seems to stand both for the slumbering soul and the admonishing observer, a poignant overlapping of roles which makes the command to ‘rouse yourself’ all the more effortful as it is sung as though from a deep sleep. This injunction spurs the basso continuo to leap up an octave five times ‘as if the slothful one were being forcibly shaken’ (Whittaker [II:426]: ). After 109 bars the music shifts to allegro for twenty-two bars of spirited warnings of the price to be paid for lack of vigilance – this is nothing less than the prospect of everlasting oblivion, conveyed now back in adagio in tortuous and sombre harmonies, the alto climbing to a high D over a 7/5 chord on E sharp. The pathos, somnolence and inner struggle within this superb siciliano is hypnotising. But did it make its mark with Bach’s Sunday congregation in Leipzig: did they listen in rapt attention (as did our audience in both Bath Abbey and Eton Chapel), as though signifying a shift from passivity to participation, or did it take the brusque harangue of the bass soloist (No.3) to rouse them? ‘The whole world and all its members are naught but a false brotherhood,’ he declaims, ‘but your own flesh and blood seek naught but flattery from them.’
Still more beautiful is the soprano aria (No.4), in which the emphasis has shifted from the necessity for watchfulness to that for prayer. It would be hard to imagine a subtler and more exquisitely diversified palette of timbres than that of soprano, flute and piccolo cello: in combination they evoke the infinite yearning of the soul for divine mercy. The continuo does little except mark the beats, leaving the trio to float free. To me the way these three combined – Joanne Lunn in rapt stillness and with an angelic purity of tone on her repeated pleas of ‘Bete’ and ‘Bitte’, Rachel Beckett’s glorious yet fragile baroque flute, and David Watkin’s magical piccolo cello – was one of the high points of the pilgrimage so far: three fine musicians utterly caught up in the unfolding of their task, each with the requisite technical mastery and sensitivity to one another. The listening musicians and audience were visibly captivated. After this the final chorale seemed all the more effective on account of its dignified simplicity and the injunction perpetually to ‘watch, beseech, pray, for fear, distress and danger draw ever nearer.’>> © John Eliot Gardiner 2010, From a journal written in the course of the Bach CantaPilgrimage
Cantata 115 Chorus, Arias
Cantata 115 introductory chorus “works the hymn verse into a concertante orchestral part” as part of a chaconne and has two arias that are “display pieces in their own ways,” says Klaus Hofmann in his 2005 liner notes to the Misaaki Suzuki BIS complete sacred cantata recordings.9 <<Bach’s chorale cantata for the 22nd Sunday after Trinity was written for 5th November 1724. The text of the hymn upon which it is based is by the Dresden court official Johann Burchard Freystein (1671-1718); the melody is from the seventeenth century. The hymn is an exhortation to the Christian to be alert and to pray. Any connection with the gospel reading for that Sunday (Matthew 18, 23-35, the parable of the unforgiving servant (who was generously exonerated of his debts by the king, but who pursued his own debtors all the more mercilessly), is marginal and only heard in passing, for instance in the soprano aria with the words ‘Bitte bei der großen Schuld / deinen Richter um Geduld’ (‘In your great guilt, request patience from your Judge’). Maybe it was the task of the preacher to establish a stronger connection between the cantata text and the gospel reading.
As so often in the introductory choruses of his cantatas (and as we hear in “Wo soll ich fliehen hin”), Bach works the hymn verse into a concertante orchestral part. The cantus firmus is in the soprano, supported by a horn. The alto, tenor and bass accompany the melody in a partly imitative, partly homophonic setting. On this occasion the orchestral part is thematically quite independent. As with the earlier cantatas for the fourteenth and seventeenth Sundays after Trinity, Jesu, der du meine Seele (BWV 78) and Ach, lieben Christen, seid getrost (BWV 114), Bach uses the chaconne – a highly stylized dance from the French opera tradition, characterized especially by its ostinato and variation elements. The orchestral writing is notable for its unusual transparency and colour: above the basso continuo there are no more than three instrumental lines: a transverse flute, an oboe d’amore and (gathered into a single line) the two violins and viola. As the movement progresses, this chamber music-like interplay is given considerable exposure. The musical representation of the textual content is confined to illustrating individual words auch as ‘fleh’ (‘entreat’) or ‘Versuchung’ (‘temptation’) by means of chromaticism or harmonic darkenings.
The two arias in the cantata are both display pieces in their own ways. The alto aria ‘Ach schläfrige Seele, wie? ruhest du noch?’ (‘Oh, sleepy soul – Are you still at rest?’) begins as a musical sleep scene of a kind that could have graced any opera of the time. Above slowly advancing string harmonies a ponderous siciliano melody
advances; then, out of the orchestral texture, an oboe d’amore solo emerges, only to lead back to a long peaceful, quasi-‘sleeping’ note. The text of the vocal line is not a tribute to sleep but an exhortation to be alert and a warning of danger to the soul: ‘Es möchte die Strafe dich plötzlich erwecken / und, wo du nicht wachest, / im Schlafe des ewigen Todes bedecken’ (‘Punishment might suddenly awaken you and, if you were not alert, conceal you in the sleep of eternal death’). The threatening aspect of the situation is emphasized dramatically in the music by a sudden increase in tempo from Adagio to Allegro.
The soprano aria ‘Bete aber auch dabei’ (‘But you should also pray’) forms the greatest possible contrast; everything theatrical is alien to it. Its text deals with prayer, with the plea for God’s patience and for the forgiveness of sins, and the music surrounds the words with an atmosphere of humility and devotion. At the same time it is an exquisite piece of chamber music. Above the discreet harmonic support of the basso continuo, nthe flute and violoncello piccolo play their expressive melodic lines and continue without any interruption, whilst at times the solo voice joins in with a noble cantilena, almost like a third melodic line.
The beautiful and simple concluding chorale releases the listener with the conclusion: ‘Drum so lasst uns immerdar / wachen, flehen, beten…’ (‘Therefore let us forever be alert, entreat and pray…’). © Klaus Hofmann 2005
1 BCW Details and discography, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV115.htm.
2 Oxford Composer Companions: J. S. Bach, ed. Boyd, Malcolm (Oxford University Press: New York, 1999).
3 Dürr, Cantatas of J. S. Bach, revised and translated by Richard D. P. Jones (Oxford University Press, New York, 2005: 614)
4 Petzoldt, Bach Kommentar: Die geistlichen Kantaten des 1. Bis 27. Trinitas-Sontagges, Vol. 1; Theologisch Musikwissenschaftlicke Kommentierung der Geistlichen Vokalwerke Johann Sebastan Bachs, Internationale Bachakademie Stuttgart (Kassel: Bärenreiter, 2004: Commentary, 609; Cantata 115, text 619-23; Commentary, 622-626.
5 BACH'S MOTET COLLECTION: Otto Riemer, "Erhard Bodenschatz und sein "
Schünigen: Kaminsky, 1927 ML 410 B67R4; Partial Index of Motets in Florilegium Portense with links to online scores and biographies: http://www.cpdl.org/wiki/index.php/Florilegium_Portense and http://www3.cpdl.org/wiki/index.php/Florilegium_Portense; Dissertation on Bodenschatz Collection.
6 Selective materials cited from BCW Chorales for 22nd Sunday after Trinity, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/LCY/M&C-Trinity22.htm.
7 Scoring, Soloists: Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bass; 4-part Chorus; Orchestra: transverse flute, oboe d’amore, 2 violins, viola, violoncello piccolo, continuo including horn in the chorale movements. Score Vocal & Piano [1.25 MB], http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Scores/BWV115-V&P.pdf; Score BGA [1.88 MB], http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BGA/BWV115-BGA.pdf. References: BGA XXIV (Cantatas 111-120, Alfred Dörffel, 1876), NBA KB I/26 (Trinity 22 Cantatas, Andreas Glöckner, 1994), Bach Compendium BC A 156, Zwang: K 96. Provenance, BCW http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Ref/BWV115-Ref.htm
8 Gardiner notes, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Pic-Rec-BIG/Gardiner-P12c[sdg171_gb].pdf; BCW Recording details, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Performers/Gardiner-Rec3.htm#P12.
9 Hofmann notes, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Pic-Rec-BIG/Suzuki-C27c[BIS-CD1421].pdf; BCW Recording details, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Performers/Suzuki-Rec2.htm#C27.
To Come: Cantata 115 Part 2. The liturgical emphasis on repentance in Cantata 113, as revealed in the Linda Gingrich dissertation, “Hidden allegorical links in the Trinity season chorale cantatas of J. S. Bach,” the sacred text and chorales for the 22nd Sunday after Trinity, and other Bach Trinity 22 opportunities.
William Hoffman wrote (November 5, 2014):
Cantata BWV 115, Deliverance Theme & Trinity 22 Cantatas
Cantata 115, Part 2
For the closing weeks of Trinity Time the main themes are repentance, life in the new Kingdom of Grace and Righteousness declared in the Last Things (eschatology), as the individual believer is urged to wait, watch and pray at the end of the church year. This is particularly the case in the transitional 22nd Sunday after Trinity, with its Gospel parable teaching of the hypocrite servant whose debt is forgiven by the king but who refuses the same for his servant’s debt. Special hymn choices, dance music and intimacy are observed in the chorale Cantata BWV 115, “Mache dich, mein Geist, b” (Make yourself ready, my spirit), as well as in his two other cantatas for this Sunday, the intimate Solo SAB Cantata BWV 89, Was soll ich aus dir machen, Ephraim?" (What shall I of thee make Ephriam?") of the1723 first cycle, and the Solo (Tenor) Cantata, BWV 55, "Ich armer Mensch, ich Sündenknecht" (I, poor man, I sin's slave) for the third cycle, 1726, with recycled materials having Passion overtones.
The Introduction to Part 5 of the BCML Discussion of Cantata 115 is found at http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV115-D5.htm. The Bach Cantatas Website Home Pages has “Listening” and and “Videos of the Week,” BCW http://www.bach-cantatas.com/index.htm., while the BCW Details and Aryeh Oron’s Discography page, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV115.htm, has other recording opportunities to enjoy while reading the weekly discussion.
Liturgical Emphasis on Repentance
The liturgical emphasis on repentance in Cantata 115, is revealed in the Linda Gingrich dissertation, “Hidden allegorical links in the Trinity season chorale cantatas of J. S. Bach,” 1 the sacred text and chorales for the 22nd Sunday after Trinity, and other Bach Trinity 22 opportunities. “The liturgical reason for the emphasis on repentance in Aus Tiefer not becomes clearer, when compared with the next cantata, for November 5 , the twenty-second Sunday after Trinity, BWV 115, “Mache dich, mein Geist, bereit” (Make yourself ready, my spirit). The twenty-second Sunday typically focuses on God as the great Judge at the end of the world, and through several allegorical means connects the preparatory contrition of Cantata 38 with the call to readiness in Cantata 115, a call that draws attention to the impending arrival of a God who longs to forgive sin yet is stern toward the unrepentant. The Gospel reading, Matthew 18:23-35, obliquely provides the foundation for the libretto. Jesus relates a parable about a servant who is forgiven a large debt by a merciful king, but who then refuses to pardon a small debt owed him by a fellow servant. When the king finds this out, he throws the hardhearted servant into debtors’ prison until he pays what he owes. The point of the parable is to warn against an unforgiving heart’ the point of the cantata is to be prepared for the life-accounting demanded by the eternal Judge, whose advent will catch unready souls by surprise. The librettist combined this with a chorale whose stress is on wakefulness, supplication, and prayer to create vivid antithesis: powerful entreaties mingled with grim warnings, sin’s night versus the light of grace, God’s care contrasted with Satan’s entrapment, spiritual slumber as opposed to spiritual wakefulness, salvation versus destruction.”
The strongest links between Cantata 115 and its predecessor, Cantata 38, says Gingrich (Ibid.: 108f) are tonal, e minor and its relative major, G; similar overall forms in their individual development; and textual themes such as the night of sin, calling to god and purification, especially in the alto da-capo aria (Mvt. 2), Ach schläfrige Seele, wie? ruhest du noch? (Ah, slumbering soul, what? Do you still take your rest?), in siciliano style. The heart of Cantata 115 is the fourth movement, the soprano da-capo aria, “Bete aber auch dabei / Mitten in dem Wachen!” (But you should also pray / while you are awake!), “the counter to the fearful judge who demands an accounting,” says Gingrich (Ibid.: 110).
2nd part of this message, see: Motets & Chorales for 22nd Sunday after Trinity
1Gingrich, D.M.A., University of Washington, 2008; 3303284: 102f). The Sixth (and final) Sequence involves the five chorale Cantatas BWV 38, 115, 139, 26, and 116, running from the 21st to the 25th Sunday after Trinity (http://pqdtopen.proquest.com/pqdtopen/doc/251359759.html?FMT=AI).
2BCW Chorales for 22nd Sunday after Trinity, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/LCY/M&C-Trinity22.htm.
3 Stiller (St. Louis MO: Concordia Publishing, 1985: 246.
4 NLGB, BACH'S HYMN BOOK: Jürgen Grimm, "Das neu [?] Leipziger Gesangbuch des Gottfried Vopelius (Leipzig 1682),"Berlin: Merseburger, 1969. ML 3168 G75.
Aryeh Oron wrote (November 6, 2014):
Cantata BWV 115 - Revised & updated Discography
The discography pages of the Chorale Cantata BWV 115 “Mache dich, mein Geist, bereit” for the 22nd Sunday after Trinity on the BCW have been revised and updated.
The cantata is scored for soprano, alto, tenor & bass soloists; 4-part chorus; and orchestra of transverse flute, oboe d’amore, 2 violins, viola, violoncello piccolo, continuo including horn in the chorale movements. See:
Complete Recordings (12): http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV115.htm
Recordings of Individual Movements (10): http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV115-2.htm
The revised discography includes many listening/watching options to recordings directly from the discography pages, just below the recording details.
I also put at the BCW Home Page: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/
four recordings of this cantata. Two are audios of the complete cantata: Nikolaus Harnoncourt (1979) and Christophe Coin (1993), both with original instruments. The other two are videos: the complete cantata conducted by Salamon Kamp from Budapest and the aria for soprano from a recital of Ying Fang at Juilliard School, New York.
I believe this is the most comprehensive discography of this chorale cantata. If you are aware of a recording of BWV 115 missing from these pages, or want to correct/add details of a recording already presented on the BCW, please do not hesitate to inform me.
You can also read on the BCW William Hoffman's detailed introduction to this week's discussion of the cantata in the BCML (4th round): http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV115-D5.htm
Cantata BWV 115: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements
Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5