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Cantata BWV 119
Preise, Jerusalem, den Herrn
Discussions - Part 6

Continue from Part 5

Discussions in the Week of August 23, 2015 (4th round)

William Hoffman wrote (August 26, 2015):
Cantata BWV 119: 'Preise, Jerusalem,den Herrn,' Town Council Cantatas

<< A quarter century after composing his first Town Council cantata, BWV 71, "Gott is mein König" (God is my King), Bach as municipal music director in Leipzig in 1723 began the first of a series of as many as nine annual festive works that reveal a mastery of late German Baroque technique while still following his original model. With large orchestra, Psalm and chorale texts, and mixture of musical styles, Bach constructed the scaffolding of stirring introductory choruses and sinfonias with closing, summarizing harmonized chorales with trumpet flourishes - all the while transforming borrowed materials into new music and creating movements to become parodies such as the two in the <B Minor Mass>.1

The result was a special facet of Bach's "well-ordered church music to the glory of God." Although they could be considered "Gebrauch" or utilitarian music commissioned and conceived by formula for a special annual service, the Leipzig town council cantatas often served as a repertory to be repeated as well as to find new uses in both related celebrations and in the church year. The range of Leipzig works began with the exploration of form and content in Bach first years with Cantata 119, "Preise, Jerusalem, den Herrn" (Praise the Lord, Jerusalem), and Cantata BWV 193, "Ihr Tore zu Zion" (Ye Portals of Zion), and his mastery around 1729 with Cantata BWV 120, "Gott, man lobet dich in der Stille" (God, one praises Thee in the stillness) and Cantata BWV 29, "Wir danken dir, Gott" (We thank Thee, God), as well as the final years of mostly repeats and parodies.

During Bach's first two years in Leipzig, the accounting of his production of Town Council cantatas shows all the marks of experimentation within a record that remains uncertain and lacking. Bach's initial effort, Cantata BWV 119, "Preise, Jerusalem, den Herrn" (Praise the Lord, Jerusalem), shows the marks of his later works. The extended introduction is an iconic French Overture that has borrowed material in the choral B section while establishing a text using Psalms of Praise. Mature, alternating recitatives and arias utilize either Psalm text or new poetry specific to the Leipzig situation. Towards the end, Bach introduces another collective chorus as he did in Cantata BWV 71 and concludes with a harmonized statement of a popular Luther congregational chorale, as found in Bach's favorite hymnbook, <Neu Leipziger Gesangbuch> (NLGB) of 1682, that includes the music, usually Johann Hermann Schein's simple SATB settings of c1610.

Cantata 119 2

Bach seemed assured of producing effective musical materials for the required cantatas for each Sunday, as well as selective festival services during the week, while struggling to find appropriate texts for the first half of Trinity Time 1723. In all liklihood, Bach began early in his tenure to forge his first modern Town Council musical sermon to fit the special requirements for a non-liturgical annual service. Bach had no model town council texts from Erdmann Neumeister in Hamburg, Salomo Franck in Weimar, or the obscure Johann Oswald Knauer in Gotha. Instead, he apparently relied on his pastor, Christian Weiss the Elder at St. Thomas Church, with possible input from local poet and postmaster Picander, who had good relations with the Town Council.

The opening text was sure to please Bach's employer and the residents: Psalm 147, a <Laudate Dominum> in praise of God, with a special emphasis on the holy city of Jerusalem and God's temple. Particularly appropriate is the comparison of the Jerusalem to Leipzig with their gates (Leipzig has imposing towers where the statdtpfeifer [town pipers} played) and blessed children (Bach's boy-charges as the cantor at the Thomas School), as well as the peace assured by the Saxon Court in Dresden. Verses 12-14a are:

Preise, Jerusalem, den Herrn,
lobe, Zion, deinen Gott!
Denn er machet fest die Riegel deiner Tore
und segnet deine Kinder drinnen,
er schadet deinen Grenzen Frieden.

[variant of Luther's translation]
Praise, Jerusalem, the Lord,
glorify, Zion, your God!
For he makes firm the bars of your gates
and blesses your children within,
he creates peace within your borders.
[Francis Browne English translation, BCW]

The music Bach chose was a French Overture with a regal, slow instrumental introduction, fugue and slow closing. It probably originated as the beginning of an instrumental suite Bach had composed previously in Köthen for the miniature French court of Prince Leopold. Like other music Bach borrowed for other Town Council Cantatas BWV 193, BWV 120 and BWV 69, it could have been presented on New Year's Day to observe the success of the court and the allegiance of its people. Other similar French Overtures included the stately introductions to Bach's Orchestral Suites Nos. 1, 3, and 4 (BWV 1066 & 1068-69), as well as the choral adaptation from a Köthen instrumental dance suite opening Cantata BWV 194, "Höchsterwünschtes Freudenfest" (Highest wished-for Joy-Feast), set to an original rather than biblical text, that served as a special cantata for a church/organ dedication, Trinity Sunday Festival, and Reformation Festival.

For the fugal section of the Cantata 119 French Overture, Bach judiciously chose to set the text in homophonic imitation but still struggled with the adaptation. The original autography score shows "all the characteristic corrections and various small compositional inconsistencies" and, in particular, "against all fugal conventions, displays all sorts of differences in the instrumental and vocal lines," says Klaus Hofmann in his 2001 recording linear notes to Masaaki Suzuki's Bach Collegium Japan BIS CD-1131. "A more detailed analysis, with reference also to the corrections in the autograph score, shows that Bach added the small opening ascending run (with which the theme normally begins) at a later stage, in order to lend the requisite emphasis to the first syllable of the word preise'." [See BCW,, scroll down to Recording No. 9,[BIS-CD1131].pdf.]

Bach also makes reference to Jerusalem in two other Leipzig Town Council cantatas: "Wünschet Jerusalem Glück" (Wished-for Jerusalem Fortune), BWV Anh. 4, of 1725 (see Details, below), and in the tenor recitative, "O Leipzig, our Jerusalem, be content on your Feast-Day," in 1727 Cantata BWV 193, "Ihr Tore/Pforten zu Zion" (You gates/portals of Zion). Cantata BWV 193 marks the second use of Köthen music, followed by violin solo movements in Town Council Cantatas BWV 120 and BWV 29.

Cantata 119 Internal Movements

Cantata 119 continues with typical poetic text in the conventional sequence of proclamatory alternating recitatives and interpretive arias singing the basic thoughts conveyed in Bach's Leipzig Town Council cantatas: praise and thanksgiving to God, how blessed is the populace, the importance of higher authority first emphasized in Martin Luther's teachings, thanks to those of service, the continued obedience of the people, and a call for continued peace, prosperity, and good fortune. To these Bach provides appropriate instrumental accompaniment, beginning with the customary continuo-only and including trumpet flourishes in the bass recitative (No. 4, "So herrlich stehst du, liebe Stadt!" (How gloriously you stand, dear city!), the gentle recorder melodies in the alto aria (No. 5), "Die Obrigkeit ist Gottes Gabe" (Authority is a gift of God) - both reminiscent of Cantata BWV 71, as well as the oboes da caccia (hunting oboes) introduced in the lullaby of the tenor aria (No. 3), "Wohl dir, du Volk der Linden" (Happy are you, you people [of the city] of the litrees), with its pastoral character. Showcasing each instrument in its unique environment, coupled with solo voice, is a Bach trademark in his vocal works created in Leipzig.

In Movement No. 2, "Gesegnet Land, glückselge Stadt" (Blessed land, fortunate city), the tenor recitative affirms the abundance God has granted the land, particularly in the paraphrase of Psalm 85 (Benedixisti, Domine; Bless us, Lord), verse 10: "er Güt und Treu einander lässt begegnen,/ Wo er Gerechtigkeit und Friede/ Zu küssen niemals müde" (he makes goodness and faith to meet together,/ where he makes justice and peace/ never weary of kissing). This same verse also is paraphrased in two Picander settings: No. 1, the recitative (Mvt. 3), Gott Lob!/ Der Herr hat viel an uns gethan!" (Praise God!/ The Lord hath much for us achieved), in the closing lines "Recht und Gerechtigkeit/ Hat biß hieher einander küssen" (Law and true righteousness/ Have until now here kissed each other), in the 1725 Town Council Cantata, "Wünschet Jerusalem Glück" (Wished-for Jerusalem Fortune), BWV Anh. 4; and No. 2, soprano aria (Mvt. 4), "Heil unSegen" (Salvation and blessing): "Dass sich Recht und Treue müssen/ Miteinander freundlich küssen" (so that justice and loyalty must/ Kiss each other in friendship) of 1729 Town Council Cantata BWV 120, "Gott, man lobet dich in der Stille" (God, one praises Thee in the stillness).

Of special note is the fugal tutti da capo chorus (No. 7), "Der Herr hat Guts an uns getan" (The Lord has done good things for us), that has overtones of Cantata BWV 71, with its added secular trumpet motif "commonly used at princely courts," says Hofmann (Ibid.), perhaps originating in a Köthen homage cantata.

Luther's German Te Deum

Cantata 119 concludes with the closing section, "Hilf deinem Volk, Herr Jesu Christ" (Help your people, Lord Jesus Christ), from Luther's popular German <Te Deum>, "Herr Gott, dich loben wir" (Lord God, we praise Thee), sung at joyous festivals [full text & Francis Browne English translation, BCW]. Bach's succeeding uses for this chorale are found in the New Year's Day Cantatas BWV 16, same dictum (1726) and Cantata 190, "Singet dem Herr nein neues Lied" (Sing to the Lord a new song (1724) and its 1730 Augsburg Confession Festival parody, BWV 190a, and the same ending stanza to close Town Council Cantata BWV 120 in 1728.

Because of the lack of space at the end of the autograph score of Cantata 119, only the chorale four vocal parts are found. Missing is the orchestral accompaniment in the score as well as the original parts set, both presumably inherited by Friedemann Bach. Probably missing were Bach's obbligato parts for trumpets and drums in special closing flourishes, also missing in Cantata BWV 120 but found in Council Cantatas BWV 29, BWV 69 and BWV 137, as well as chorales in the Christmas Oratorio. [Luther< Te Deum> chorale melody information, see BCW,

Information on the 1723 inaugural festival service sermon and preacher are found in Thomas Braatz' Cantata 119 BCW Provenance article, "The sermon for this occasion on August 30, 1723 was given by Friedrich Wilhelm Schütz (1677-1739) who was the designated preacher for Mondays in the Nicolai Church from 1721 to 1737. The sermon was based on Genesis 22:14. There is, however, no connection between the sermon text and the cantata text." Several printed texts of Bach's Town Council Cantatas survive in Picander's published poetry and the Leipzig archives, including the one for 1740, Cantata BWV Anh 193, "Herrscher des Himmels, König der Ehren" (Ruler of Heaven, King of Glory), with the preacher and biblical text identified, that as a lost parody has been reconstructed from the surviving text with the original music.>>

Cantata 119: Large Scale (Length, Forces)

Cantata 119 has “a particular grandeur,” observes Julian Mincham in his introductory Commentary, “Chapter 83 BWV 119 Preise, Jerusalem, den Herrn,” at BCW, << This was Bach's first cantata composed to celebrate the council elections in Leipzig, performed on August 30 1723 (Dürr Cantatas: 728). The fact that he had not yet been in office a full three months may account for the particular grandeur of the work, his biggest essay in orchestration so far in his new position: four trumpets and drums, two flutes, three oboes, strings and choir are all supported by a continuo which includes cellos, basses, organ and bassoon(s). With nine movements, three of which called upon the choir, it would have lasted in the region of twenty-five minutes.

It may have been that Bach began with the idea of constructing the piece around paired recitatives and arias for all four voices, as seems to have been the case in C 198 (chapter 81). However, in that case time constraints may well have been a factor in his abandonment of the scheme whereas the dates of the council festivities would have been known well ahead. Nevertheless, Bach was heavily involved in producing new (at least for the Leipzig congregations) cantatas for the weekly services and it may be that he could not devote as much time as he would have liked to additional commissions. In the case of C 119 he writes paired movements only for tenor, although the three other voices do have solo roles.>>

Town Council Subject Matter

“The relationship described between God and humankind and between ‘Obrigkeit’ and ‘Untertanen,’ for example, is the subject matter of Bach’s several cantatas for the changing of the town council, in Leipzig as well as Mühlhausen, says Eric Chafe in Analyzing Bach Cantatas.4 “Those cantatas, like “Gott ist mein König,” generally project a very festive character, primarily in association with praise and thanks to God, but also in keeping with the idea that worldly government derives its authority from God and serves, as an aria from BWV 119 puts it, as God’s image (“Ebenbild”) on earth. BWV 119 is unusually festive in the styles and instrumentation of its cornerstone choruses: the opening mvt. is an ABA form French Overture with chorus in its fugal section and the 7th is a similarly disposed ABA choral fugue with orchestral introduction and a contrasting (texted) middle section; both mvts. are scored for 3 [sic] trumpets and kettledrums, 2 recorders, and 3 oboes, in addition to the strings, chorus and basso continuo. The image of stability and majesty dominates not only these mvts. but also the 4th mvt, a bass recitative accompanied by strings [sic] and bc and framed by fanfares for the trumpets and kettledrums. The cantata develops the analogy between Leipzig and Jerusalem, Leipzig as the ‘new Zion,’ praising God and thanking Him for His blessings, which, as the central recitative makes clear, are transmitted through “kluge Obrigkeit und durch ihr weises Regiment” – that is, through government and the Leipzig town council. Both the bass recitative and the 2nd of the large chorus introduce a widely used fanfare theme of the time that Bach associates in his cantatas with majesty (usually God’s majesty;) in BWV 119 he introduces it in order to suggest the transmission of authority from God to His people through the duly appointed worldly government. The bass recitative begins with this theme, setting the line “So herrlich stehst du, liebe Stadt.” In the 7th mvt. it sounds first (somewhat modified) in the instrumental introduction and conclusion, then again in the middle section, punctuating the words “Er seh’ die teuren Väter an und halte auf unzählig’ und späte lange Jahre ‘naus in ihrem Regimente Haus, so wollen wir ihn preisen,” first in unison strings, then unison oboes, and finally (again slightly modified) unison recorders. We have already encountered this theme in the opening . of BWV 70, where it represents God’s coming in glory to judge the world. Between the C major choral “pillars” appear 2 recitative/aria pairs, the 1st in the dominant major (G) and the second in the dominant minor (g). The key of the latter may well appear surprising since its text deals with worldly authority as God’s gift to His people, even the image of God Himself (“Die Obrigkeit ist Gottes Gabe, ja selber Gottes Ebenbild.”) And the mvt. has occasionally been interpreted as satirical in tone. But, in fact, the flat minor tonality is exactly Bach’s means of representing the important idea that such government is human, not divine, and our accepting and obeying it is exactly because of its sanction by God. The middle section of the aria amplifies the idea just described by turning to C minor –that is, the tonic minor of the C major of the choral “pillar”—for the line “Wer ihre Macht nicht will ermessen, der muß auch Gottes gar vergessen: wie würde sonst sein Wort erfüllt?” (Whoever will not accept its authority must also abandon God’s: how otherwise would His word be fulfilled?) Behind this idea lies, of course, a very similar “tonal allegory” to the representation of Jesus’ humanity in the incarnation by means of modulation to flat-minor regions. As in “Gott ist mein König” behind the turn to flat-minor keys in “Preise, Jerusalem, den Herrn” lies an acknowledgment of human weakness, even in the person of worldly authority. Bach invokes the ancient, broader meaning of the terms ‘durus’ and ‘mollis’ to lend the figurative aspect of his tonal design a meaning we might not otherwise suspect.

“The opening motif sung by the bass in mvt. 4 after the trumpet fanfare is a symmetrical ascent-descent figure that has associations with God in His majesty,” says Chafe (Ibid.: FN 34: 252-3). <<This is extended by a jump of a 5th at the end. In mvt. 7, ms. 68-69 when the choir is mainly singing the word ‘naus,’ the 2 recorders announce this theme with an additional repeated-note pattern. Perhaps the best-known occurrence of this theme in Bach’s work is as the horn call of the 1st mvt. of the 1st Brandenburg Concerto, where Bach assigns it a triptlet rhythm that stands apart from the quadruple meter of the other parts and the mvt. as a whole. Bach used a version of the 1st mvt. of this concerto as introductory Sinfonia to the final cantata of the Trinity season in 1726, BWV 52. In BWV 127 Bach introduces this theme at the beginning of the apocalyptic bass solo “Wenn einstens die Posaunen schallen,” a representation of the Last Judgment; there its C major arpeggio juxtaposes to the C minor (with recorders and other :soft” devices, such as pizzicato bass) of the preceding mvt., “Die Seele ruht in Jesu Händen,” a representation of the “sleep of death.” Other prominent appearances of this theme occur in this cantata, BWV 119, for the changing of the Leipzig town council in 1723 (in association with the majesty of Leipzig, interpreted allegorically as Jerusalem) and BWV 130, for St. Michael’s Day, 1724 (as principal theme of the aria “Der alte Drache brennt vor Neid”); closely related forms of this theme occur in BWV 147 for the Visitation of Mary, 1723 (as principal theme of the aria “Ich will von Jesu Wunden singen,” whose Weimar original text for the 4th Sunday of Advent, 1716, “Laß mich der Rufer Stimme hören,” has a character that is comparable to the 1st mvt. of “Wachet! betet!”). All the latter mvts. are in C. Versions of the theme also appear ithe other trumpet key, D, generally with associations of majesty and/or victory: BWV 172, the aria “Heiligster Dreieinigkeit”; BWV 214, on the words “Erschallet, Trompeten”; the SJP (BWV 245), in the middle section of the “Es ist vollbracht” on “Der Held aus Juda siegt mit macht”; BWV 249, later the Easter Oratorio, at “Wir sind erfreut (daß unser Jesum wieder lebt].” The 1st appearance of this theme that is known to me is in the setting of Psalm 136 from Heinrich Schütz’s “Psalmen Davids” of 1619, where it is associated with God’s majesty. It appears also in the ‘Intrada’ 1st mvt. of Heinrich Biber’s string suite, titled “Trombet und musicalischer Tafeldienst” (around 1673-74), where it is played by solo violin in imitation of the trumpet (headed “Tromba luditur in violino solo”) above a sustained C major chord on the lower strings.

Cantata 119 Tonal Descent

“The opposition of worldly and divine authority prompted Bach to use tonal descent and ascent in the cantatas written for the changing of the town council in both Mühlhausen and Leipzig,” says Chafe in Tonal Allegory in J. S. Bach.5 “The 1st of these works for Leipzig, BWV 119, is a C major composition of highly extrovert, festive character – with French overture beginning, prominent trumpets and drums and the like. Its central mvt., a G minor alto aria with recorders, follows a powerful bass recitative for full orchestra, framed by trumpet fanfares, asserting government as God’s representative on earth. Coming after such a display of pomp, the minor key asserts the humanity of the ruling authorities as the tie between them and the community at large.”

<< The other Ratswechsel cantatas also exhibit to some degree the descent-ascent pattern: 29, D, D, A, f sharp-e, h [b minor], D, D, D); 69, D, b-G, e-f sharp, b-D; 120, A, D, b-b, G D-f sharp, D); and 193 (D, b-e, G, D). In most cases the tonal distance covered is not great, but in general the descent is related to God’s protection of man (“Den er versorget und erhält, beschützet und regiert Welt” (E minor) in Cantata 69 [For he looks after and upholds, protects and rules the world, no. 4 tenor recit., “Der Herr hat große Ding an uns getan” (The Lord has done great things with us], the contrast between the “most high” and his subjects on earth (A major aria, “Halleluja, Stärk und Macht / Sei des Allerhöchsten Namen!” [Alleluia, power and might / be to the name of the Highest]versus B minor aria, “Gedenk an uns mit deiner Liebe, / Schleuß uns in dein Erbarmen ein!” [Think of us with your love, / enclose us in your pity!], or in an appeal to God (all six Ratswechsel cantatas). God’s blessings and salvation must be bestowed on the rulers in order for them to provide justice and truth. (G Major aria, Cantata 120) [no. 4, soprano, “Heil und Segen / Soll und muss zu aller Zeit / Sich auf unsre Obrigkeit”

(Salvation and blessing / will and must at all times / come to our authority)]. Bach’s picture of the world here is not at all tinged with pejoratives. Within the Lutheran frame of reference it is perfectly consistent; the tnal lan helps to represent a baroque hierarchy with God at the top. The two cantatas that use flat-minor keys (nos. 71 and 119) point out that whatever the assertion of worldly glory is greatest, it is necessary to bring out there the contrast between the power of divinely invested ruler and his humanity.>>

Special Musical Treatment

Special musical treatment is found in Braatz’s summary of Alfred Dürr’s German version of the Cantatas of JSB.6 << In this cantata Bach presents to us a splendid festival orchestra and just as magnificent is the musical form, the French overture, which he chooses as his 1st mvt. The dotted rhythms which are both solemn and ceremonial surround as an instrumental introductory and concluding ritornello the fast middle section, which normally would consist of the traditionally expansive fugue, but here appears as a predominantly homophonic section with, at the most, some imitative figures in the ‘outer’ voices (bass and soprano.)

In the following, plain secco recitative the words “Gesegnet Land, glückselige Stadt” are stated at the beginning and repeated at the end. Bach adds some charm to this ‘framing’ of the mvt. by reversing palindromically the sequence of the musical motifs and the words associated with them.

The choice of instruments in the tenor aria (mvt. 3) [2 oboi da caccia] along with the emphasis upon the middle range helps to create a warm and gentle feeling which is further increased by simple and song-like characteristics of the melodic lines.

Even more clearly than the 1st recitative, the 2nd recitative demonstrates the deliberate effoat framing a mvt. in a quasi ABA-type form: the middle section is the actual ‘song’ section accompanied by the woodwinds, while the A section features a tromba ritornello without the voice.

In the 2nd aria (mvt. 5 for alto) the low woodwinds are now replace with recorders playing in unison. Both arias have in common songlike quality which here almost becomes a dance. Some commentators have surmised that the staccato, repeated 8th notes played by the recorders represent a derisive caricature of the text: “Die Obrigkeit ist Gottes Gabe, ja selber Gottes Ebenbild.” This is a questionable interpretation. Is it not possible that a modern conception of a mature citizen in our age is being confused with that of the hierarchically thinking individual of the Baroque?

The following secco recitative (mvt. 6) moves directly into the following choral mvt. (7) which in its pure da capo form reveals a middle section treated primarily in chordal fashion with some imitation ‘to loosen things up.’ This middle section is framed by a choral fugue, the theme of which is based upon the incipit of the chorale “Nun danket alle Gott.” This fugal section builds upwards gradually from a bass voice + bc to the soprano voice, then the instruments are added sometimes with independent fugal entries (not colla parte with the voices) with a final entrance in the 1st tromba and 2 recorders.

After this majestic choral mvt., there is a very short secco recitative which is followed by a simple, 4-line treatment of the German ‘Tedeum’ with an ‘Amen’ that introduces some variety compared to the usual simple ‘Amen.’>>

Sacred-Secular Musical Elements

Musical elements of sacred and secular are found in Cantata 119, observes scholar Philipp Spitta’s biography, Johann Sebastian Bach,7 as found in Braatz’s BCW on-line commentary summary (Ibid.): <<The emphasis on the instrumental aspect in BWV 119 might seem to make it appear that that this cantata is more secular than sacred. Although this church service is not strictly one belonging to the church year, Bach maintains an aspect of the sacred in his choral treatment of the ‘Allegro’ section. The text of the recitatives and arias that follow moves away from the sacred. If Bach had not had such a fertile imagination, it would have been impossible for him to set these texts to music as easily as he did since these texts offer little to become enthusiastic about. But wherever he could find the smallest bit of poetic stimulus, Bach did seize upon it and gave it a marvelous musical setting. The first aria, “Wohl dir, du Volk der Linden, wohl dir, du hast es gut” is a good example of this. It is a sunny and contented piece of which there are not many others that could be compared with it. The oboi da caccia lend this piece an idyllic, but serious character. The bass recitative is also quite unusual with its trumpet fanfares and sustained notes played by the recorders. After the G-minor aria, all the musical forces are gathered to play and sing “Der Herr hat Guts an uns getan” which is obviously derived from the 1st line of the chorale melody by Johann Crüger “Nun danket alle Gott” (text by Martin Rinckart).>>

Bach’s Special Sacred Activities

A study of Bach’s special sacred, non-church activities (town council, funerals, weddings) and the council circumstances begins scholar Klaus Hofmann’s liner notes to the Masaaki Suzuki BIS complete sacred cantatas recordings.8 The regal circumstances and environment of the prelude and fugue French Overture show Bach pulled out all the stops to appease the annual installation of the Leipzig Town Council.

Besides various solo instrument movements and the Orchestral Suites, Bach set the following cantatas with French Overtures: Cantatas 20, “O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort I (O eternity thou thunder-word; Tr. 1), chorale fantasia; 61, “Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland I” (Now comes the heathen’s savior, Advent 1); 97, “In allen meinen Taten (In all my deeds), undesignated chorale cantata; 110, “Unser Mund, sei voll Lächens” (May our mouth be filled with laughter, Chrstmas), 119, and 194, “Höchsterwünschtes Freudenfest” (Highest, wished-for joy-feast, Tr. 1); and possibly the lost opening of Christmas Cantata 197a, “Erhre sei Gott in der Höhe” (Glory to God in the Highest) transformed from the Overture of the Orchestral Suite No. 4 in D Major, BWV 1069, similar to the Suite No. 3 overture as the basis of Cantata 110.

Both the opening movement and the extravagant two-part da-capo chorus movement (no. 7), "Der Herr hat Guts an uns getan" (The Lord has done good things for us), may have originated in an homage work, says Hofmann. It was most likely a serenade composed for Cöthen Prince Leopold during Bach’s previous tenure there (1717-23), when he composed instrumental French Overtures and Cantata 194a.

The text by and unknown author, possibly Picander or Christian Weiss Sr., begins by portraying the beautiful linden-tree city and its governing group. As “the freely-written assembly of texts progresses,” Hofmann notes, through s series of recitatives and arias, Bach touches all bases of his employer, including those leaving the council. The second half of the text gives thanks to God , including “a prayer for the new administration.” “Almost all the movements are musical display pieces,” Hofmann notes. Of special note are the second recitative (no. 4), "So herrlich stehst du, liebe Stadt!" (How gloriously you stand, dear city!), with its “noisy fanfares” and “gentle woodwind sonorities,” says Hofmann, and the second chorus (no. 7), with its trumpet fanfares reminiscent of other Bach works such as Cantata 71, Bach’s first council work.

Other commentators (John Eliott Gardiner did not record Cantata 119) include Nicholas Anderson in OCC JSB,9 who says: “Bach’s music, together with some pleasing local references to Leipzig itself, raise the cantata on t5o a mich higher level.” “The cantata, which opened in a blaze of sound, is thus concluded modestly and in a spirit of contemplative prayer.” Calling Cantata 119, “one of the most externally brilliant works the master ever wrote,” W. Gillies Whittaker in The Cantatas of J. S. BachFN provides an historical anecdote: “The cantata was first heard after Bach’s death” when Mendelssohn conducted it at the opening of the Bach memorial at Leipzig, 23 April 1843.


1 BCW Source: William Hoffman wrote (April 15, 2013): “Cantata 119: Early Leipzig Council Cantatas, Chorales”; BCML Discussions Part 5 (3rd round),
2 Cantata 119, BCW Details and Discography, Score Vocal & Piano [2.24 MB],, Score BGA [3.99 MB], References: BGA XXIV (Cantatas 110-119, Alfred Dörffel, 1876), NBA KB I/32.1 (town council cantatas Christine Fröder, 1992), Bach Compendium BC B 3, Zwang K 42.
3 Mincham, The Cantatas of Johann Sebastian Bach: A listener and student guide, Revised 2014; Home Page,
4 Chafe, Analyzing Bach Cantatas (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 2000: 40; cited by Thomas Braatz, BCW Cantata 119 Commentary,
5 Chafe, Tonal Allegory in J. S. Bach (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991: 159f).
6 Later English language source: Dürr, Cantatas of J. S. Bach, revised and translated by Richard D. P. Jones (Oxford University Press, New York, 2005: 501-4)
7 Spitta, Johann Sebastian Bach, English translation from 1889 (New York: Dover: II:352-5).
8 Hofmann notes, BCW[BIS-CD1131].pdf; BCW Recording det,
9 Oxford Composer Companions: J. S. Bach, ed. Boyd, Malcolm (Oxford University Press: New York, 1999: 375).
10 Whittaker, W. Gillies. The Cantatas of Johann Sebastian Bach (Oxford University Press: London, 1958: 559, 566).


To Come: Town council performance calendar and council cantata provenances.

Aryeh Oron wrote (August 27, 2015):
Cantata BWV 119 - Revised & updated Discography

The discography pages of Cantata BWV 119 “Preise, Jerusalem, den Herrn” for the Inauguration of Leipzig Town Council on the BCW have been revised and updated.
The cantata is scored for soprano, alto, tenor & bass soloists; 4-part chorus; and orchestra of 4 trumpets, timpani, 2 flutes, 3 oboes d'amore, 2 violins, viola & continuo (including organ). See:
Complete Recordings (11):
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 also put at the BCW Home Page:
2 audios and 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 cantata. If you are aware of a recording of BWV 119 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 the recent discussion of the cantata in the BCML (4th round):


Cantata BWV 119: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

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 05:28