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Cantata BWV 117
Sei Lob und Ehr dem höchsten Gut
Discussions - Part 4

Continue from Part 3

Discussions in the Week of May 10, 2015 (4th round)

William Hoffman wrote (May 11, 2015):
Cantatas 117, 128, ?Rogate Sunday and Ascension Day

(The following previous BCW discussions contain materials and references to Cantatas 117 and 128 which have direct connections to the Easter Seasons 1725 and 1731.) as part of Rogate Sunday and Ascension Thursday:


For the last Sunday before Christ’s Ascension on Thursday, called “Rogate,” meaning “Pray” or “Ask,” only two Bach cantatas survive, BWV 86 from 1724 and BWV 87 from 1725. Two cantata texts were readily accessible to Bach, in the Rudolstadt Libretto Book of 1726 for that year in the third cycle, with no Johann Ludwig Bach setting extant, and a Picander Cycle text for 1729. In addition there is a slight possibility that Bach between 1728 and 1731 may have presented his unspecified <per omnes versus> Chorale Cantata, BWV 117 on Rogate Sunday, particularly in 1731 when he presented previous works for the Easter Season.

Found in both Cantatas BWV 86 and 87 are quotations from the Rogate Gospel for the Fifth Sunday After Easter, John 16: 23-30, known as a “Prayer in the name of Jesus” in “Christ’s Promise to the Disciples.” It is the third of five Sunday Christ Farewell Discourses used as the Gospel readings from the 12 discourses in John’s Gospel, Chapters 14 to 16, for the consecutive Sundays of Jubilate, Cantate, Rogate, Exaudi, and Trinity. The Rogate Epistle reading is James 1:22-27, emphasizing “Hearing and doing” but is not quoted directly in either Cantata 86 or 87.

The title, “Sonntag Rogate”, does not come from the introit (Isaiah 48:20b,c; “With the voice of singing). It is a reference to the traditional pre-Reformation Rogation processions (with chanted litanies) that blessed the newly-seeded fields but were suppressed by Luther. The theme of “asking” appears in the Gospel reading, John 16:23b, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you.”

The Motet and Chorale Musical Context for Rogate Sunday (BCW, Douglas Cowling) is

Introit: “Vocem Jucunditatis” (LU 830)
Motet: “Vocem Jucunditatis”
“Exivi a Patre”
“Pater Noster”
“Oremus Praeceptis
Hymn de Tempore: “Christ Lag in Todesbanden”
Pulpit Hymn: “Christ ist Erstanden”
Hymns for Chancel, Communion & Closing:
“Vater Unser”

On the Bach’s first Rogate Sunday in Leipzig, May 14, 1724, he presented Cantata 86, “Wahrlich, wahrlich, ich sage euch” (the dictum), to a text possibly by Christian Weiss Sr. The five-movement cantata form of double chorales in the middle and end are part of Dürr’s Cantata Group 3 Form often used during Easter Season.

As the two-month Easter Season came to a close with the great parabola of Christ’s ascension, Bach increasingly turned to comforting, joyous omnes tempore chorale melodies and texts with devotional themes for the half-year Trinity Season. In keeping with spirit of Rogate Sunday, the music and texts emphasize devotion, affirmation, request, and allegiance and two chorales are set much earlier in the Orgelbüchlein chorale preludes, “Es ist das Heil uns kommen her” and “Jesu, meine Freude.” The two chorales Bach used in Cantata 86 are for the Easter Season.

No. 3, Grunwald 1530 text and melody, “Komm her zu mir, spricht Gottes Sohn” (Come here to me, said God’s Son (from Matthew 11:28). This chorale has 16 stanzas and the last used, “Und was der ewig Gütig Gott” (And what the goodly everlasting God . . . has promised), is set as a unison chorale aria quartet for soprano, 2 oboes d’amore, and basso continuo). The hymn’s final three stanzas close Johann Ludwig Bach’s Cantata JLB 8, “Die mit Tränen säen” (That with tears seen): “Ist euch die Kreuz bitter und schwer” (If this cross is full of woe, S. 14), “Ihr aber werdt nach dieser Zeit” (You, after this short time; S.15). Cousin Sebastian presented this cantata on Jubilate Sunday (the Third After Easter) in 1726. The chorale melody only is used to close Cantata 108, set to Gerhardt’s “Gott Vater, senden deine Geist,” S.10, “Dein Geist, den Gott vom Himmel gibt” (The Spirit God from heaven sends) for Cantate Sunday (4th after Easter)1725 and also closes Cantata 74 on Pentecost Sunday 1725, with chorale stanza 2, “Kein Menschenkind hier auf der Erd” (No mortal child here upon the earth).

No. 6. Speratus 1524 text (14 verses) and anonymous melody, “Es ist das Heil uns kommen her” (Salvation has come to us), Stanza 9, “Die Hoffnung wart' der rechten Zeit” (Hope waits for the right time for, Francis Browne BCW); also as Chorale Cantata 9, 1731-35, c.1740-47 (repeat), 6th Sunday After Trinity (S. 1-12); also 155/5 (S. 12), 2nd Sunday After Trinity, 1716, 1724; 186/6 (S.10), 186/11 (S.9), 7th Sunday After Trinity, 1723; and Orgelbüchlein chorale prelude No. 77 (Confession, Penitence, Justification), BWV 638(a). It is a song of belief and faith, based on Roman’s 3:28, Luther’s doctrine, Justification by faith alone, originally an Easter song, “Freu’ dich du werthe Christenheit,” which was in use in 1478.

On May 6, 1725 Bach closes Cantata 87, “Bisher habt ihr nichts gebeten in meinen Namen” (Hitherto have ye asked for nothing in my name), with No. 7 melody Crüger “Jesu meine Freude” 1653; text, H. Müller “Selig ist die Selle” 1659; S.9 “Muß ich sein betrübt” (Must I be downcast) cf. 146/2 text Ambrose: BCW: “The theme of metamorphosis from bad to good is found in each of Bach's three cantatas for Jubilate Sunday (BWV 12, 103, and 146), a theme appropriate to Acts 14:22: "Through many tribulations we must. BCW Z. Philip Ambrose.

“With the sole exception of BWV 87/7, where Bach used instead the 9th verse of Heinrich Müller’s (1659) chorale text Selig ist die Seele, all Bach’s settings of this melody use or make reference to Johann Franck’s chorale text “Jesu, meine Freude” (Jesu, my joy) from 1650,” says Z. Philip Ambrtose (BCW: Other uses of the Franck Jesus Song with the six-stanza text are BWV 64/8 (S. 5), 1723 Christmas 3; 81/7 (S. 2), 1724 4th Sunday After Epiphany; motet 227/1, 3, 5, 7, 9 , 11 (all 6 stanzas) in 1723; and plain chorale BWV 328. The melody alone is used in Cantata BWV 12/6, tenor aria, Jubilate Sunday, 1714, 1724; organ chorale prelude BWV 610 (Orgelbüchlein No. 13, Christmas), 713, 753, and 1105.

Chorale Cantata 117

Chorale Cantata BWV 117, “Sei Lob und Ehr dem Höchsten Gut” (All praise and glory to the highest good), per omnes versus, unspecified, J.J. Schütz hymn of Thanksgiving text 1673 (9 stanzas), 251 wedding associated with vows, c.1729; associated melody “Es ist das Heil uns kommen her” is found with its own text in chorale cantata BWV 9 Trin.+6 (1724); also found as wedding chorale BWV 251.

Bach’s original score of Chorale Cantata 117 is not divided into two parts, the practice for sacred wedding cantatas. Thus Bach may have been able to perform it on Rogate Sunday, given its original Easter Song melody that he used with its associated text in Cantata 86/6 for Rogate 1724.

Francis Browne in his Discussion Introduction to Cantata 117 (May 18, 2008): says:
Gardiner performed the cantata with others for the Fourth Sunday after Easter at St Mary's Warwick on May 21st 2000 [7]. He writes :

"The most impressive of all to me in this concert was the final cantata, BWV 117 ‘Sei Lob und Ehr dem höchsten Gut,’ written some time between 1728 and 1731. One of a group of works in which the hymn text is retained unaltered per omnes versus, it has no specific liturgical designation but was surely composed for an especially important celebration or a service of thanksgiving. Yet with its assertion that 'The Lord is not and never was severed from His people' it seems to answer that feeling of insecurity experienced by the Christian community during the limbo period between the Resurrection and Whit, and as such it provided the perfect riposte to the earlier pair written for Easter 4. Each verse ends like a litany with the words 'Gebt unserm Gott die Ehre'.” BCW:, Cantata 117, Details & Recordings,

Cantata 87

Bach’s third venture into the Easter Season second cantata cycle closing of Mariane von Ziegler texts, Cantata 87, “Bisher habt ihr nichts gebeten in meinen Namen” (Hitherto have ye asked for nothing in my name), for Rogate Sunday (5th After Easter), is the most expansive (seven movements), personal, and developed of these stimulating and productive collaborations.

This cantata continues Bach’s renewed emphasis on Dürr’s Cantata Group 1 form of alternating recitatives and arias with a closing chorale, found in all nine Ziegler texts, and having no double chorales.

The Ziegler literary trademarks are even more pronounced: Gospel sermon quotations in the vox Christi ariosi, concise yet didactic texts, and selective allusions to Lutheran teachings and chorale images.

Bach builds on the basic Ziegler initial template, particularly with the instrumental ensemble addition of a pair of oboes da caccia and expanded basso continuo in Ziegler’s first da-capo aria (No. 3, alto, “Forgive, O Father, our trespasses), based on the Sunday’s use of musical settings of the Lord’s Prayer, as well as in the three quotations from John’s Gospel:

(1) Opening bass vox Christi arioso dictum, “Hitherto have ye asked for nothing in my name” (Gospel, 16:24);
(2) The penultimate line in the alto da-capo aria No. 3, B section, “Ah, speak no more in proverbs” (Gospel 16:25, “but tell of the father);
(3) And the other bass Christi dictum, No. 5 (John 16:33), the comforting, “Be of good cheer: I have overcome the world,” following the opening, “In the world you will have tribulation.”

Most interesting, this is the first Ziegler text that begins in a dictum of caution; then turns to the Great Awakening warnings in the ensuing alto recitative, No. 2, beginning, “O words that fill our spirit and soul with fear,” and the ensuing alto aria (No. 3), “Forgive, O Father, our tresspasses.” The tenor recitative, No. 4, continues with, “Though our guilt even rises up to heaven” and closes with the arioso, “therefore, seek to comfort me.”

To this point, Bach’s treatment has been in the minor key, primarily D Minor. Now, reflecting Ziegler’s text, Bach composes a beautiful, comforting bi-partite tenor aria, No. 6, in Bb Major, a siciliano in 12/8, Bach’s first dance-like setting of a Ziegler text.

Bach closes with the harmonized chorale in c minor, to the J. J. Müller text, Must I be downcast,” Stanza 9 of “Blessed is the Soul,” in Bach’s setting to his only departure to the Franck chorale text while retaining the melody, “Jesu, meine Freude (Joy).”

Ascension Day Festival

Bach’s four extant cantatas for the Feast of the Ascension – BWV 37, 183, 43, and 11 -- exemplify the central liturgical theme of joy, in keeping with Christianity’s three great celebratory Feasts of our Lord’s Godhead – Nativity, Easter, and Ascension (ref. ancient Greek hymn writer Ephrem the Syrian, 4th Century).

Bach in Leipzig pulled out all the stops to celebrate holy joy, using prominent brass instruments, affirmative quotations from Psalms, appropriate double chorales with borrowed, familiar melodies, and four favorite text poets emblematic of his cantata cycles in form and style. The biblical teachings are revealed in both the poetic texts and the chorales. In a period of just over a decade, 1724-35, Bach composed increasingly festive works, with the final two, BWV 43 and 11, having 11 movements each.

The two New Testament lessons for Ascension Day narrate the fulfillment of Jesus Christ’s redemptive odyssey and the final swing of the great spiritual parabola, beginning with the descent through human birth and <kenosis> (emptying) on Good Friday, and the reversal beginning with the Resurrection:

Gospel: Mark 16:14-20; Disciples’ commission to baptize, Christ’s Ascension;
Epistle: Luke’s Acts 1:1-11; Easter Prologue, Jesus’ last promise (baptism by Holy Spirit), Ascension.

Bach’s Leipzig Easter Season,

Musical Context (BCW, Douglas Cowling) shows the following for Ascension Day (Himmelfahrt Thursday, 40th Day after Easter):

Introit: “Viri Galilaei” (“Ye men of Galilee,” LU 846), Acts 1:11a/b (Epistle), chant
Motet (Psalm): “Omnes Gentes” (Psalm 47, “O clap your hands, all ye people)
Hymn de Tempore: “Nun freut euch, Gottes Kinder” (BWV 387)
Pulpit Hymn: “Christ fuhr gen Himmel (not set by Bach)
Hymns for Chancel, Communion & Closing
“Heut triumphiret Gottes Sohn” (Easter Season)
“Du Lebensfürst, Herr Christ” (BWV 43/11, 11/6)
“Aus Christi Himmelfahrt Allein” (BWV 128/1)
“ Gott fahret auf gen Himmel” (not set by Bach)

The biblical texts and the specific chorale texts guide the four libretti that Bach set. The first Ascension Cantata 37 has no reference to the Ascension and its two chosen chorales reflect the general, timeless mood of thanks and joy that would continue in the three later Ascension works. Cantatas 183, 43, and 11 use Ascension biblical narrative references and four specific Ascension hymns not used elsewhere in Bach’s music. In addition, the three works utilize timeless chorales as well as well-known timeless chorale melodies such as “Allein Gott in der Höh’ sei Ehr” (To God alone on high be glory), “O Gott, du frommer Gott” (O God, Thou pious God), “Ermuntre dich, mein schwacher Geist” (He revives thee, my weak spirit), and “Von Gott will ich nich lassen” (From God will I not depart). Thus Bach at the Ascension Feast was better able to engage his congregation in his musical sermons with special, timeless hymn texts set to familiar tunes.

Cantata 37

Bach’s Ascension musical journey began almost inauspiciously with the six-movement Cantata 37, “Wer da glaubet und getauf wird” (Who there believes and Baptizes, Mark 16:15), with oboes d’amore. It focuses not on the actual Ascension but on Luther’s idea, “Justification by Faith Alone,” libretto possibly by St. Thomas Pastor Christian Weiss Sr. It is in the third cantata form of dictum-aria-chorale-recitative-aria-chorale while being bi-partite: 3/3 movements, observes Alfred Dürr,< Cantatas of JSB>: 27, 326. It has no overt dance-style arias or choruses, unlike its three succeeding Ascension counterparts.

Bach uses two chorales in Cantata 37: No. 3, soprano-alto aria, P. Niccolai’s versatile seven-stanza 1599 hymn, “Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern” (How lovely shines the morningstar), using Stanza 5, “Herr, Gott Vater, mein starker Held” (Lord, God, Father, my strong hero”, primarily for Advent and Annunciation; and No. 6, closing plain chorale, J. Kolrose’ nine-stanza 1535 hymn, “Ich dank’ dir, lieber Herre” (I thank Thee, Dear Lord), using Stanza 4, “Den Glauben mir verleihe” (The faith to me lends),

Cantata 128

For the second cycle in 1725, Cantata 128, “Auf Christi Himmelfahrt allein” (On Christ’s Heaven-journey alone), begins with the Ascension chorale as a chorale chorus (with trumpet and two horns), characteristic of the now- This is Bach’s only use of this chorale, text by Sonnemann/Wegelin, 1661/1636, 3 stanzas; and melody “Allein Gott in der Höh’ sei Ehr” (To God alone on high be glory) by N. Decius, 1526, based on the Latin < Gloria in excelsis Deo> (Glory to God in the Highest). abandoned chorale cantata cycle.

Librettist Mariane von Ziegler uses the introductory chorale as the theme for the Christian’s allegiance to Jesus in Heaven, citing in No. 2, recitative, 1 Corinthians 13:12 (“face to face” with God) and Matthew 17.4 (Christ’s Transfiguration), and No. 4, aria, Acts 7:55 and Matthew 25:33 (at God’s right hand), says Alfred Dürr, <Cantatas of JSB>: 329)

This movement is the only one in cantatas for the 1725 Easter Season to begin with a chorale chorus. For Pentecost Tuesday, Ziegler also began Cantata 68, “Also hat Gott die Welt geliebt” (So has God the world loved), with a chorale chorus.Because both Cantata 128 and 68 begin with chorale chorus incipits on the original scores, they were put into Bach’s Chorale Cantata Cycle 2 at the heirs’ estate division in 1750.

Cantata 128 is in Dürr’s basic first cantata form of alternating pairs of recitatives and arias, with a closing plain chorale. The da-capo alto-tenor duet, No. 4, “Sein Allmacht zu ergründen” (His omnipotence to fathom) is in the dance style of a pastorale-giga. Full details, see BCW,

Cantata 128 closes with, No. 5, M. Habermann (Avenarius) six-stanza 1673 “O Jesu, meine Lust (joy),” using Stanza 4, “Alsdenn so wirst du mich” (Then so will thou me), set to the A. Fritzsch 1679 melody “O Gott, du frommer Gott” (O God, Thou pious God). “Reflecting a fairly common situation found in 16th, 17th, and 18th century hymnals, Bach would not only use alternate melodies for the same chorale text, but also alternate texts for the same chorale melody.” Thomas Braatz and Aryeh Oron show four variants of the melody, ref. BCW: There are at least four alternate texts that Bach used. The texts/melodies were used primarily in the early Trinity Season and later at Christmas in Leipzig. The hymn is related to the <Schemellis Gesangbuch> sacred song, “Ich freu mich in dir” (I rejoice in thee), four stanzas, BWV 465 (1736), also in Cantata 133/1, 6 (Christmas 3)

“O Gott, du frommer Gott” was set by Bach in the following works: BWV 24/6 (Tr.4), 71/2 (memorial), 164/6 (Tr.13); 45/7 (Tr.8); SG 465, organ partita 767; to other texts: 64/4 (Ch.3), 94/8 (Tr.9), 128/5(Asc.), 129/1(Tr.), 197a/7(Ch.1)=398, 399 (middle Trinity); and plain chorale 1125.

Cantata 43

For the third cycle in 1726, Bach composed an original work, Cantata 43, “Gott fähret auf mit Jauchzen” (God ascends with shouting). This is Psalm 47:5-6 from the Ascension Day Propers Motet, referring to Christ’s Ascension. Cantata 43 has two parts, like Bach’s Leipzig initial new, expansive cantatas early in the Trinity Season 1723 (75, 76, 21, 147), containing 11 movements, with festive brass.

Bach uses two Ascension hymns in Cantata 43: Movements Nos. 5-10, 1726 Rudolstadt six-stanza hymn text “Mein Jesus hat nunmehr” (My Jesus now has more); and No. 11, closing plain chorale, J. Rist’s 1641 Ascension 14-stanza hymn, “Du Lebensfürst, Herr Jesu Christ” (Thou life’s prince, Lord Jesus Christ); using the opening stanza as well as Stanza 13, “Zieh’ uns dir nacht” (Draw us to Thee), using J. Schop 1641 melody “Ermuntre dich, mein schwacher Geist” (He revives thee, my weak spirit).

Bach alternates five recitatives with four arias in Cantata 43. The tenor rondo trio aria, No. 3, “Ja tausend mal tausend begleiten den Wagen”(Yea, a thousand times a thousand attend the chariot), is in the style of a passapied-menuett. No. 4, soprano recitative, “Und der Herr. . . ward er aufghaben gen Himmel” (And the Lord. . .was lifted up into heaven), is a reference to the day’s Gospel, Mark 16:19.

Ascension 1726 was the first service with a new Bach work since the Second Sunday in Epiphany (BWV 13), followed by 12 Johann Ludwig Bach Cantatas set to Rudolstadt texts published that year. Bach used the Rudolstadt Ascension text for Cantata 43 but no further cantata performances are recorded until Trinity Sunday when Bach sporadically produced new cantatas, often set to Rudolstadt texts, interspersed with eight J. L. Bach cantatas, for the remained of the half-year Trinity Season. Then Sebastian ceased systematically presenting cantatas, except perhaps in the Easter seasons of 1731 and 1735.

Cantata 11 (Ascension Oratorio)

Cantata BWV 11, “Lobet Gott in seinen Reichen” (Praise God in His Kingdoms) [Ascension Oratorio] (1735). Beginning with the Christmas Oratorio, BWV 248, for the Christmas Season 1734-35, Bach produced major oratorios, parodied from previous secular celebratory cantatas, as a Christological cycle observing the major feast days in the earthly mission of Jesus Christ. For Ascension Thursday, May 19, 1735, Bach produced another 11-movement work to a text probably by his oratorio poet, Picander.

Giving Cantata 11 its oratorio character, four movements (Nos. 2, 5, 7, 9) set biblical narrative recitative with passages from the Ascension Gospel and Epistle lessons, as well as Luke’s Gospel, 24:50-52, Christ’s Ascension at Bethany and the disciples return to Jerusalem. The trumpeting opening chorus and both arias are parodies, respectively from Cantata BWV Anh. 18, “Froher Tag, verlangte Stunden” (Joyous day, awaited hours), for the 1732 consecration of the rebuilt Thomas School to a Johann Winckler text, and two arias from Cantata BWV Anh. 196, “Auf! Süß entzückende Gewalt” (Up! Sweet, enticing power), a 1725 secular wedding to a Gottsched text. The alto trio da-capo aria, No. 4, “Ach, bleibe doch” (Ah, remain then), later was adapted as the <Agnus dei” of the Mass in B-Minor, BWV 232. The other da-capo aria, for soprano, No. 10, “Jesu, deine Gnadenblicke” (Jesu, Thy mercy-looks), is in menuett-style. Bach newly-composed two ariosi (Nos. 3 and 8), as he had done in the other two pastoral oratorios for Christmas and Easter.

The Ascension oratorio has two chorale settings, as do Bach’s other Ascension cantatas, a central plain setting of the Ascension chorale, No. 6, “Du Lebensfürst, H.J.C.,” using Stanza 4, “Nun lieget alles unter dir” (Now lies everything beneath Thee); and a closing tutti chorale chorus, No. 11, G. Sacer’s 1697 seven-stanza Ascension hymn, “Gott fähret auf gen Himmel” (God Ascends to Heaven), using Stanza 7, “Wenn soll es doch geschehen” (When will it happen), set to the anonymous 1557 melody, “Von Gott will ich nich lassen” (From God will I not depart). Bach set the melody as a chorale prelude, BWV 658; harmonized it in three plain chorale settings, BWV 417-419; and listed but did not set it in the < Orgelbüchlein>, No. 93 for “Christian Life.” Bach set the melody to its related 1572 L. Helmbold nine-stanza hymn text in Cantata BWV 73/5 (Eph.3)=?186a6 (Adv.3), as well as to the J. Heermann 1630 text, “Was will du dich betrübten” (Why would you grieve) in BWV 107/1 and 7 (Tr.7). The melody of secular origin has Christmas associations while the related Helmbold text has Christmas associations.

Other Ascension Chorales

For Ascension 1729, Picander’s published cantata text, P-36, “Alles, alles Himmelswärts” (All, all heavenward [ascending]), also has texts for two chorales, Movements Nos. 2 and 7. The first is Stanza 1 of Luther’s 1524 Pentecost hymn text, “Komm, heiliger Geist, Herre Gott” (Come Holy Spirit, Lord God). Bach in 1729 did harmonize the associated, anonymous melody to Stanza 3 in his Motet BWV 226, “Der Geist hilf unsre Schwachheit auf” (The Spirit upholds our weakness), as the motet’s second movement. The Picander Ascension cantata text closes with Stanza 3 possibly set to Bach’s free-standing harmonized chorale, BWV 415, V. Herberger’s 1613 five-stanza Passion hymn, “Valet will ich dir geben” (Farewell, I shall bid to you) to M. Teschner’s 1613 melody.

The Leipzig Ascension Day “Hymn de Tempore,” E. Alberus’ 1549 “Nun freut euch, Gottes Kinder” (Now rejoice Ye, God’s Child, 16 stanzas), melody Einzeldruck 1546, was listed as <Orgelbüchlein> No. 41 but not set, but was harmonized as free-standing plain chorale BWV 387.

The Leipzig Ascension Day “Pulpit Hymn,” “Christ fuhr gen Himmel,” melody “Christ ist erstanden” (2 brief stanzas, 1200s/Wittenberg 1529) was not set by Bach.

1. Christ fuhr gen Himmel.
Was sandt er uns hernieder?
Den Tröster, den Heiligen Geist,
zu Trost der armen Christenheit.
Halleluja, Halleluja!
Des solln wir alle froh sein,
Christ will unser Trost sein

The Ascension Day chorale, “Gen Himmel aufgefahren ist” (B. Gesius 1601, 5 stanzas, interpersed Hallelujas), was listed as< Orgelbüchlein> No. 40 but not set.

Chorales for Various occasions: *Ich dank’ dir, liebe Herre, 37/6(S.4) (Asc.); 347-348=?P20/5(Septuag.), 147a/6 (S.6, Adv.4, music lost); *Valet will, ich dir geben, 415=?P.36/7 (Asc.), 736; BWV 245/52, OB132 (not set, Death) *Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern: BWV 1/1(Ann.), 1/6, 36/4 (Adv.1), 37/3 (Asc.), 49/6 (Tr.21), 61/6 (Adv. 1), 172/6 (Pent.1), Anh. 199/3=436 (Ann.); 739 (OB 120, “Word”), 763.

Introit opening: "Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice (Psalm 27, A Prayer of Praise; verse 7). This Sunday, following Ascension Thursday, centers on the Disciples' waiting for the Holy Spirit to come and is a brief time of expectation. The Gospel, John 15: 26 -16: 4, has the theme "The Spirit (Helper, Comforter) will come" followed by Christ's warning that the Disciples will be expelled from the synagogues. It is the penultimate Farewell Discourse of Jesus to his Disciples (John's Gospel, Chapters 14-16. The day's Gospel reading is divided into two sections: 15:26-27, "The Witness of the Paraclete" (advocate, intercessor), and 16:1-4, Persecutions. These discourses are virtually unique to John's Gospel.

Following four substantial works composed in Leipzig for the Feast of the Ascension, Bach for Exaudi, the last or Sixth Sunday in the Easter Season in Leipzig, narrowed his emphasis to two extant, original works. Both Cantata 44 for May 21, 1724, and Cantata 183, for May 13, 1725, emphasize the same biblical dictum: "Sie werden euch in den Bann tun" (They will put you under the ban [from the synagogues]), John 16:2. In addition, Bach drafted an opening cantata recitative six-bar sketch for Exaudi Sunday, 1725, but replaced it when his librettist, Mariane von Zigler, set the same dictum to open Cantata 183. This dictum may be considered Christ's final caution to his followers.

For Exaudi Sunday 1726 (June 2) for his third cantata cycle, Bach found no acceptable Rudolstadt text or extant Johann Ludwig Bach cantata setting. Likewise, for Exaudi Sunday 1729 (May 29) in the Picander cycle, Bach showed no apparent interest in the cantata libretto P-36, "Quäle dich nur nicht, mein Herz" (Torment thee only not, my heart), which contains no chorale setting.

Bach also initially may have composed an opening chorale chorus and succeeding bass chorale aria for Exaudi Sunday 1725, "In allen meinen taten" (In all my doings), perhaps using instrumental music originally composed in Köthen. Bach added the music of movements 3-5 and No. 8 to this per omnes versus chorale cantata and quite possibly performed this version with closing chorale BWV 392 on Exaudi Sunday (May 5, 1731) as part of an Easter Season celebration that began with the< St. Mark Passion> on Good Friday, March 23. Eventually, Bach completed the nine-movement pure-hymn cantata, BWV 97 in 1734, with no service designation on the score, with its parts set dated 1735. Cantata 97 could have been performed on the Sixth Sunday After Easter, Exaudi Sunday (May 22, 1735) in between the Ascension Oratorio and the lost Pentecost Oratorio See BCW Cantata 97 Discussion: Cantata BWV 97 - Discussions - Part 2

Bach initially used the closing stanza, "So sei nun, Seele, deine" (So be now, soul, thine) of Paul Flemming's 1642 nine-verse chorale, "In allen meinen taten," set to Paul Gerhardt's 1648 Passion melody, "O Welt, ich muss dich lassen" (O world, I must leave thee) as the closing plain chorale setting of Cantata 44 for his first Leipzig cycle, Exaudi Sunday, May 21, 1724. Bach again set the same stanza and text to close solo Cantata 13, "Meine Seufzer, meine Tränen" (My sighs, my tears), for the Second Sunday After Epiphany, 1724.

Bach also set the same Flemming texts and Gerhardt melody of this hymn of submission and humility as the opening chorale chorus and closing plain chorale in per omnes versus chorale Cantata 97. The entire Flemming text set to the Johannes Quirsfeld 1679 melody found in the 1682 Vopelius Leipzig Songbook is harmonized in Bach's free-standing four-part chorale, BWV 367 in C Major. While this setting also is used to open Leipzig wedding services, Bach only set the other three prescribed wedding chorales as BWV 250-252, for the beginning, after the wedding vows, and after the benediction.

Cantata 44, possible to a text of Christian Weiss Sr., also has a tenor chorale aria, No. 4, "Ach Gott, wie manches Herzeleid" (Ah God, how many a heart-sorrow), Stanza 1 of Martin Moller's 1587 18-stanza chorale text, set to the Seth Calvesius 1694 melody, "O [Herr] Jesu Christ, meins Lebens Licht (Lord Jesu Christ, my life's light), based on the melody "Rex Christe factor omnium," a chant of praise and affirmation. Moller's text is a free paraphrase of Bernard of Clairvaulx's 12th century "Jesu dulcis memoria, some 42-53 verses, for the Office (vespers or lauds) of the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus, the Sunday After New Year, or January 2/3.

Bach set the same first stanza of the Moller text as the opening chorale bass-soprano duet of Dialogue Cantata 58, "Ach Gott, wie manches Herzeleid II," for the Sunday After New Year, 1727, as well as the last three stanzas as a plain chorale to close Cantata 153, "Schau, lieber Gott, wie meine Feind," also for the Sunday After New Year, 1724. Bach is also used an abridged 12-stanza version of the entire Moller text for Chorale Cantata 3, "Ach Gott, wie manches Herzeleid I," for the Second Sunday After Epiphany, 1725.

While the Moller text is most appropriate for the Sunday After New Year, it also is used for other services as an omnes tempore hymn under the related themes of "Cross, Persecution and Tribulation," "Cross and Solicitude," and "Patience and Hope in the Cross," says Günther Stiller, <JSB and Liturgical Life in Leipzig> (pp. 237, 249). Thus Bach, possibly in conjunction with his St. Thomas Pastor Christian Weiss Sr. also used the Moller hymn in the omnes tempore Epiphany Season as well as in the Easter Season with the approach of the omnes tempore Trinity season half-church-year services.

For Cantata 183 for Exaudi Sunday 1725, Bach closes with the plain chorale, "Zeuch ein zu deinen Toren" (Move into thy gates), Paul Gerhardt's 1653 12-stanza text set to the Paul Figulus 1580 New Year' melody, "Helft mir Gotts Güte preisen" (Help me God's goodness praise). Bach sets Gerhardt's fifth stanza, "Du bist ein Geist, der lehret" (You are the spirit that teaches). "Zeuch ein zu deinen Toren" is a Pentecost hymn that is one of four assigned to Exaudi Sunday in the Leipzig hymn books of Bach's time, says Stiller (p. 241).

Sunday After Ascension Musical Context (Douglas Cowling, BCW):

Introit: "Exaudi Domine" (LU854)
Motet: "Deus Adjutor Fortis"
|"Exaudiet Te Dominus"
Hymn de Tempore: "Nun Freut Euch, Gottes Kinder"
Pulpit Hymn: "Christ fuhr gen Himmel"
Hymns for Chancel, Communion & Closing:
"Zeuch ein zu Thoren"

Thus, it appears that Bach had no chorale in mind to set as a chorale cantata for Exaudi Sunday.

Bach uses two distinct cantata forms for his two extant Exaudi Sunday Cantatas 44 and 183. Cantata 44 has the first cycle third form of six-seven movements with two plain chorales, beginning with an opening dictum followed by an aria and a chorale, as designated by Alfred Dürr (<Cantatas of JSB>: 27). Cantata 183 reflects the Ziegler unique hybrid cantata form, beginning with the biblical dictum as recitative followed by aria, recitative and aria, closing with plain chorale. Cantata 128 “broadly follows the [movement] plan of most of the chorale-based Leipzig cantatas, with one exception,” No. 4, a duet with obbligato, says David Humphreys in Oxford Composers Companions: JSB (Oxford Univ. Press, 1998: 26). Technically, it is not a chorale cantata since it does not have “the adoption of a single chorale in its entirety within the text,” says Dürr (Ibid.: 329). He points out that while “Bach later assigned most of the cantatas with text by Ziegler to the third Leipzig cycle [in the estate distribution], Cantata 128 and 68 were classified among the chorale cantatas with which they belong in terms of their date of origin” [spring 1725],” perhaps because they open with “large-scale chorale choruses” (Idib.: 329).

Charlers Francis wrote (May 12, 2015):
Cantata 117 video clips

Scouring YouTube, I cacross some BWV 117 videos of interest.

A complete performance by the Lutheránia Choir and Orchestra of Budapest, Hungary:
[YouTube’s ‘autoplay’ feature should hopefully automatically lead to the subsequent movements]

A second complete performance, with the Eastman School of Music in the US. This is a virtuoso affair that at times seems rather secular. IMO, the chorus illustrates the dangers of letting operatically-trained singers loose in OVPP. Interestingly, the choral is sung with an ‘audience-choir’, suggesting congregational support:
[again, YouTube’s ‘autoplay’ should automatically kick-in]

The opening chorus is performed by l'Ensemble Telemann in Montreal, Canada, and is particularly notable for its animated conductor:
(a contemporary account suggests Bach was likewise animated when conducting)

This following snippet was recorded in the Marienkirche Strausberg, Germany:

And the following two movements were apparently performed in the Maulbronn Monastery in southern Germany:

Guilherme Feitosa de Almeida wrote (May 12, 2015):
[To Charles Francis] Thanks indeed!

Aryeh Oron wrote (May 16, 2015):
Cantata BWV 117 - Revised & updated Discography

The discography pages of the Chorale Cantata BWV 117 “Sei Lob und Ehr dem höchsten Gut” for unspecified occasion on the BCW have been revised and updated.
The cantata is scored for alto, tenor & bass soloists; 4-part chorus; and orchestra of 2 transverse flutes, 2 oboes, 2 oboes d’amore, 2 violins, viola & continuo. See:
Complete Recordings (14):
Recordings of Individual Movements (9):
The revised discography includes many listening/watching options to recordings directly from the discography pages, just below the recording details.

I have also added to the movement pages of this cantata an option to move back and forth between the movements and to each movement page the text and relevant portion of the BGA score. See:

I also put at the BCW Home Page:
2 audios & 2 videos of the cantata. A short description below the audio/video image is linked to the full details at the discography pages.

I believe this is the most comprehensive discography of this chorale cantata. If you are aware of a recording of BWV 117 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):


Cantata BWV 117: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

Recordings & Discussions of Cantatas: Main Page | Cantatas BWV 1-50 | Cantatas BWV 51-100 | Cantatas BWV 101-150 | Cantatas BWV 151-200 | Cantatas BWV 201-224 | Cantatas BWV Anh | Order of Discussion
Discussions of General Topics: Cantatas & Other Vocal Works | Performance Practice | Radio, Concerts, Festivals, Recordings


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Last update: Sunday, May 28, 2017 05:27