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Cantata BWV 120
Gott, man lobet dich in der Stille
Cantata BWV 120a
Herr Gott, Beherrscher aller Dinge
Cantata BWV 120b
Gott, man lobet dich in der Stille
Discussions - Part 4

Continue from Part 3

Discussions in the Week of August 13, 2017 (4th round)

William Hoffman wrote (August 12, 2017):
Town Council Cantata 120: Gott, man lobet dich in der Stille

Following completion of his third church year cantata cycle in 1727, Bach selectively focused on works for special occasions, cantatas for festivals and the annual Town Council, and a series of Passions for Good Friday vespers for all four Gospels between 1728 and 1732. Cantata 120, "Gott, man lobet dich in der Stille" (God, one praises Thee in the stillness) appears to have been premiered on 29 August 1729. It may have premiered a year earlier and possibly repeated on August 29, 1735, and again on August 27, 1742. More recent Bach scholarship suggests that the work wasn’t premiered until 1742. Cantata 120 was twice parodied:1 for a sacred wedding, probably 1729 about Easter, BWV 120a, "Herr Gott, Beherrscher aller Dinger" (Lord God, ruler of all things), and as BWV 120b, "Gott, man lobet dich in der stille," for the Augsburg Confession Festival 2, June 26, 1730. It is catalogued as BC B 6, BWV 120, BGA XXIV (Alfred Dörffel, 1876), NBA I/32.2 (Town Council, Christine Fröde 1994). Details are found at BCW: The council text is attributed to Picander, the Augsburg revision text published by Picander, but the 1729 wedding text may be the work of Leipzig clergy. In 1730, Bach and Picander collaborated on another town council Cantata BWV Anh. 3 (see below, “Picander Parody Council Cantata BWV Anh. 3”).

Cantata 120 of 1728/29 contains two of Bach finest free-da-capo arias in 6/8 tempo, derived from Cöthen violin music, as well as a new festive chorus ( that 20 years later would become the triumphant "Et expecto resurrectionem mortuorum" (And expect the resurrection of the dead), that closes the <Credo> central section of the B-Minor Mass ( Cantata 120 closes with Martin Luther's German setting of the <Te Deum laudaumus> (Praise be to God), "Herr Gott, dich loben wir" (Lord God, we thank You), a song of praise and thanks with multiple Bach uses and traditionally sung at the end of the council services ( Overall in Cantata 120, Bach uses descent/ascent (sacred parabola) tonal allegory representing benevolent divine and temporal authority, in a hierarchy with God at the apex, similar to the Greek-Christian concept of the Great Chain of Being.

Picander's two arias and chorus texts in Cantata 120 use Psalms of both praise and thanks: the opening biblical dictum alto aria, from Psalm 65:2, "God, one praises Thee in the stillness” (; the soprano aria (No. 4), "Heil und Segen" (Salvation and blessing), paraphrasing Psalm 85:10, "so that justice and loyalty must/ Kiss each other in friendship” (; and the chorus (No. 2), "Jauchzet, ihr erfreuten Stimmen" (Shout, ye joyous voices), from Isaiah 12:6, "Shout and sing for joy" and Psalm 150:1, "Praise God in his sanctuary." The two interspersed male recitatives describe the Leipzig council experience: No. 3, "Auf, du geliebte Lindenstadt" (Up, you beloved of the city of lindens), and No. 5, "Nun, Herr, so weihe selbst das Regiment mit deinem Segen ein" (Now, Lord, may you yourself consecrate this government with your blessing;

Cantata 120 closes with a plain chorale setting of the last part of "Herr Gott, dich loben wir": "Nun hilf uns, Herr, den Dienern dein, (Now help us, Lord, your servants) of Martin Luther 1529. For the text with Francis Browne English translation, see BCW Information on the anonymous melody (Zahn 8652) of Luther's German Te Deum, is found at BCW, Other Bach uses are plain chorale closing Cantata 119/9, "Hilf deinen Volk" (Help Thy people); Cantata 16/1 (New Year's 1726), chorale chorus; Cantata 190/1, chorus with melody, and 1725 New Year's Cantata BWV 190/2, BAT recitative with melody (repeated as Cantata 190a/2, Augsburg Confession 1, 1730), Neu Leipziger Gesangbuch, NLGB No. 167, Apostles' Feast.

Cantata 120 itself also provided multiple uses through new text underlay for a 1729 wedding, BWV 120a, "Herr Gott, Beherrscher aller Dinge" (Lord God, Ruler of all things) and Cantata BWV 120b, "Gott, man lobet dich in der Stille," for the 1730 bicentennial three-day festival of the Augsburg Confession, June 25-27. The wedding Cantata BWV 120a, possibly for the daughter of Bach's St. Thomas Pastor, Christian Weiss, is an expansion of BWV 120, divided into the customary two parts. It opens with the joyful chorus, followed by an original recitative/chorus and then the parodied soprano aria with violin obbligato, set to a new text, "Leit, o God, durch deine liebe" (Guide, O God, through thy love) with violin obbligato, based on the adagio from the Cöthen "Sonata in G for Violin and Clavier, BWV 1019a). This aria also may have been parodied in Bach's 1731 St. Mark Passion, BWV 247, with a new Picander text, "Welt und Himmel, nehm zu ohren" (Earth and Heaven, listen), at Jesus' death ( Part 2 following the wedding opens with the orchestral sinfonia setting of the "Preludio" from the Cöthen Violin Partita, BWV 1006, also repeated with trumpets and drums to open the 1731 council Cantata BWV 29, "Wir danken dir, Gott" (We thank Thee, God). The alto aria parody that opened council Cantata 120, now "Herr, fange an und sprich den Segen" (Lord, begin and give your blessing) is inserted between two male recitatives and Cantata 120a closes with a repeat of the closing chorale from chorale Cantata BWV 137, "Lobe den Herr" (Praise to the Lord), possibly presented as a council cantata in 1726 and repeated in 1732.

The 1730 Augsburg Confession parody, Cantata 120b (text only extant), is a perfunctory adaptation with little more than some text changes. Like Cantata 120, it opens with a repeat of the alto aria, "Gott, man lobet dich in der Stille), followed by the chorus with new text, "Zahle, Zion, die Gelübde" (Pay, O Zion, all thy pledges), then a possible parody of the Cantata 120/3 recitative, now "Ach, du geliebte Gottesdtadt" (Ah, thou beloved city of God). It closes with a possible repeat of Luther's Pentecost chorale "Komm, Heiliger Geist, Herre Gott" (Come Holy Spirit, Lord God), from the 1729 funeral motet, BWV 226, "Der Geist hilf unsre Schwacheit auf" (The Spirit uplifts our weakness).

Cantata 120 movements, scoring, texts, key, meter (Francis Browne English: translation,\:

1. Aria [Alto; Oboe d'amore I/II, Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo]: “Gott, man lobet dich in der Stille zu Zion, / und dir bezahlet man Gelübde.” (God, they praise you in the stillness of Zion, / as they pay vows to you.); A Major, 6/8.
2. Chorus [S, A, T, B; TrombaI-III, Timpani, Oboe d'amore I e Violino I all' unisono, Oboe d'amore II e Violino II all' unisono, Viola, Continuo]: “Jauchzet, ihr erfreuten Stimmen, /Steiget bis zum Himmel nauf! / Lobet Gott im Heiligtum / Und erhebet seinen Ruhm; / Seine Güte, / Sein erbarmendes Gemüte / Hört zu keinen Zeiten auf!” (Rejoice, you joyful voices, / climb up to heaven! / Praise God in his sanctuary / and exalt his fame. / His goodness, / his compassionate nature / Cease at no time!); D Major; 4/4.
3. Recitative [Bass, Continuo]: “Auf, du geliebte Lindenstadt, / Komm, falle vor dem Höchsten nieder, / Erkenne, wie er dich / In deinem Schmuck und Pracht / So väterlich / Erhält, beschützt, bewacht / Und seine Liebeshand / Noch über dir beständig hat. / Wohlan, / Bezahle die Gelübde, die du dem Höchsten hast getan, / Und singe Dank- und Demutslieder! / Komm, bitte, dass er Stadt und Land / Unendlich wolle mehr erquicken / Und diese werte Obrigkeit, / So heute Sitz und Wahl verneut, / Mit vielem Segen wolle schmücken!” (Up, you beloved of the city of lindens, / come, fall down before the Most High. / Acknowledge how by him you are / in your beauty and splendour / with fatherly love / preserved, protected, guarded / and he keeps his loving hand / over you constantly. / Come then, / pay the vows you have made to the Most High / and sing songs of gratitude and humility / Come, pray that the country and city / may forever be refreshed by him / and that this worthy authority / which today renews its seat and election / may be decked with many blessings!); b minor; 4/4.
4. Aria [Soprano; Violino concertante, Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo]: “Heil und Segen / Soll und muss zu aller Zeit / Sich auf unsre Obrigkeit / In erwünschter Fülle legen, / Dass sich Recht und Treue müssen / Miteinander freundlich küssen.” (Salvation and blessing / will and must at all times / come to our authority / in the abundance that we desire, / so that justice and loyalty must / Kiss each other in friendship.); G Major, 6/8.
5. Recitative [Tenor; Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo]: “Nun, Herr, so weihe selbst das Regiment mit deinem Segen ein, / Dass alle Bosheit von uns fliehe / Und die Gerechtigkeit in unsern Hütten blühe, / Dass deines Vaters reiner Same / Und dein gebenedeiter Name / Bei uns verherrlicht möge sein!” (Now, Lord, may you yourself consecrate this government with your blessing, / so that all evil may flee from us / and righteousness may flourish in our dwellings, / so that your father's pure seed / and your blessed name / may be glorified among us!); D Major to f-sharp minor; 4/4.
6. Chorale [S, A, T, B; instrumentation to designated]: “Nun hilf uns, Herr, den Dienern dein, / Die mit deinm Blut erlöset sein! / Laß uns im Himmel haben teil / Mit den Heilgen im ewgen Heil! / Hilf deinem Volk, Herr Jesu Christ, / Und segne, was dein Erbteil ist; / Wart und pfleg ihr zu aller Zeit / Und heb sie hoch in Ewigkeit!” (Now help us, Lord, your servants, / Who are redeemed by your blood! / let us have a share in heaven / with the Saints in everlasting salvation! / Help your people, Lord Jesus Christ, / and bless what is your inheritance; / Maintain and care for them and at all times / And raise them high in eternity!); b minor to D Major; 4/4.

Cantata 120 Background, Production Notes

Extensive background for Cantata 120 is provided in Klaus Hofmann’s 2010 liner notes.2
<<“Gott, man lobet dich in der Stille,” BWV 120 Praise waiteth for thee, O God, in Sion.This cantata was composed in 1742 (or shortly afterwards) for the council elections in Leipzig, the regular change of leadership between the parties in the town council (for an alternative dating see Production Notes, below). This event was marked on the Monday after the Feast Day Of St Bartholomew, 24th August, every year with a festive church service at the principal church, St Nikolai. As Thomaskantor, Bach was responsible for the music and, it would appear, he contributed one ceremonial cantata in each of his 27 years of service.

Not everything was newly composed: for such occasional pieces Bach readily plundered works he had composed earlier – as in the case of the present cantata. Its three main movements – the opening aria, the chorus ‘Jauchzet, ihr erfreuten Stimmen’ (‘Rejoice, ye gladdened voices’) and the soprano aria ‘Heil und Segen’ (‘Good fortune and blessing’) – can be traced back to a festive cantata of the same name, BWV 120b, that Bach wrote in 1730 to mark the bicentenary of the Augsburg Confession (the primary confession of faith of the Lutheran Church). But even in this cantata – of which today only the text is preserved – Bach had made use of earlier compositions: variants of the three movements mentioned above are found in the wedding cantata Herr Gott, Beherrscher aller Dinge (Lord God, Thou Ruler of All Nature), BWV 120a. And if that was not enough, those in their turn were arrangements: the ‘original’ of the opening aria of the cantata is presumed to be the slow middle movement of a now lost violin concerto. There is no such clear assumption in the case of the choral movement ‘Jauchzet, ihr erfreuten Stimmen’ (‘Rejoice, ye gladdened voices’), but the unknown original returns, in a very different arrangement, with the text ‘Et expecto resurrectionem mortuorum’ (‘And I look for the resurrection of the dead’) in the B minor Mass, BWV 232. The aria ‘Heil und Segen’ (‘Good fortune and blessing’) also exists in instrumental form, in the Sonata in G major for violin and obbligato harpsichord, BWV 1019a, and both settings probably originated in a vocal piece from Bach’s Köthen period. We do not know who produced the text for Bach’s election cantata, including the reworkings of movements 2 and 4. The words of the opening aria come from Psalm 65:2, whilst the concluding chorale is from Martin Luther’s German Te Deum of 1529.

The beginning of the cantata must have surprised the city elders and Leipzig congregation. Unlike all of Bach’s other cantatas for council elections, this one does not begin with a radiant, trumpet-crowned tutti but – as befits the text – with a quiet, rather lyrical solo piece, reticent in sonority, with strings and oboi d’amore in siciliano rhythm. The choir then enters, all the more weightily and more impressively, together with the full orchestra, with the words ‘Jauchzet, ihr erfreuten Stimmen’ (‘Rejoice, ye gladdened voices’). After this full-voiced praise of God, the following movements offer a reflection upon God’s good deeds for the ‘geliebte Lindenstadt’ (‘beloved city of lindens’) and a request for blessing for the authorities. Luther’s chorale verse ends the cantata with a prayer that looks forwards, beyond the here and now.

For the end of the cantata Bach envisaged a particular effect. At the last bars of the concluding chorale he marks in the score: ‘In Fine Intrada con Trombe e Tamburi’. Having begun with music that is gentle in character, the cantata would thus end with the sound of trumpets and drums. The score does not indicate what these instruments would have played, apparently because there was no space left on the last page. No doubt it was notated in the players’ parts – but these have not survived. Closing this regrettable gap in our knowledge continues to present a challenge to our musical imagination.>>
© Klaus Hofmann 2010

<< Production Notes: Gott, man lobet dich in der Stille, BWV 120. The main extant material for this work is Bach’s own manuscript of the full score, which is housed in the collection of the Kraków University Library (Jagiellonian University in Kraków, Bach P 871). The parts have been lost. The work is closely related to BWV 120a, BWV 120b, BWV 1019a/3, and No. 21 (Et expecto) of BWV 232, and opinions are divided as to how it came into being. It is clear that Bach’s autograph dates from the 1740s, for which reason Klaus Hofmann, in his commentary on the work, considers it to have been completed in 1742. By contrast, the writers in the catalogue of Bach’s works (BWV) and the Bach Compendium reckon that the first version of BWV 120 dates fromaround 1729. In the autograph, the order in which the movements are arranged is not the order of performance, since the sequence is one and two followed by five, six, three and four. There is nevertheless no room for doubt about the order in which Bach intended the individual movements to be played, as this is clearly indicated. The sixth movement is immediately followed by the inscription ‘In Fine Intrada con Trombe / e Tamburi’ clearly in Bach’s own hand. Musicologists differ in their interpretations of this: Christine Fröde is of the opinion that this means that an instrumental intrada should be inserted at this point (NBA I/32–3), while Klaus Hofmann believes that obbligato trumpet and timpani were added in the final bars of the chorale. In any case, we can not reconstruct the original music that Bach intended.>>
© Masaaki Suzuki 2010

Cantata 120: Individual Movements

Analysis of individual movements is found in Julian Mincham’s notes. << Chapter 86 BWV 120 Gott, man lobet dich in der Stille (God, Praise awaits You in the stillness). A cantata for council elections. N.B. This chapter should be read in conjunction with that on C 120a, chapter 77. It is not known precisely when this cantata was composed; some parts of it may date back to Còthen (Dürr p 736). It was certainly used as the basis for the wedding cantata C 120a towards the end of the 1720s although that work has not survived intact. Nevertheless three movements, the alto and soprano arias and the chorus, are common to both works and readers should turn to chapter 77 for further detailed comments on them.

1. Alto aria. The first unresolved mystery surrounding this cantata is why Bach should have chosen to begin it with a rather sedate alto aria. Most of the municipal celebratory works began with a fulsome movement, usually a large scale chorus or, in the case of C 29, an ebullient sinfonia. The text of the opening stanza is not so different from the other cantatas, a statement that praise waits for God in the stillness of Zion, a conventional homage such as is paid to God in all these works. But this departure from normal practice may have been a consequence of just one word, such was Bach’s sensitivity to text—-Stille—-stillness. References to chapter 77 will demonstrate to the reader a) the differences between this version of the aria and that for C 120a and b) the extraordinary lengths Bach went to in order to accommodate various shades of meaning. It is very probable that the notion of ‘stillness’ led him to begin this work with an aria that encapsulated that quality in a way that a chorus might not have achieved. The sustained notes on Stille are contrasted with the extreme melismas on lobet—-the praise given to Him. Neither feature is apparent in the reworked version for the wedding cantata in which Bach altered not only details of this kind but, indeed, the entire movement structure. The restrained beginning of this cantata may possibly indicate that it had been composed before Bach’s appointment at Leipzig where, all the evidence suggests, a more rousing initial movement became the norm. But even so, there would have been nothing to prevent Bach from reversing the order of the first two movements for Leipzig patrons had he considered it to be appropriate.

2. Chorus. Comments upon the differences between the chorus (second movement) and the later version in C 120a are also to be found in chapter 77. It was less radically reworked than the aria and it is highly probable that the arpeggio figures on strings and woodwinds were inspired by the text as a depiction of the steps by which we climb to paradise. The idea of eternal praise for God is, of course, an appropriate text for any number of generalized texts which would be suitable for such a setting—-sing for joy, climb to heaven—-praise and exalt Him whose kindness and mercy are limitless. We have no way of knowing whether an earlier lost cantata formed the basis of C 120. What we can be sure of though, and this will be of great interest to students and scholars, is that we have three different versions of this chorus in the cantatas and the Bm Mass. That found in C 120a is only minimally adapted (see chapter 77). In the Mass the opening and closing ritornelli are omitted and, much more fundamentally, a fifth vocal line (a second soprano) has been added.

3. Bass recitative. The bass secco recitative is the first of the three movements not considered in chapter 77. The reference to the city of Lindens (trees) certainly places the cantata in its Leipzig context. The text is as conventional as ever, causing one to wonder how the same mundane sentiments could be expressed in so many different ways. The answer, perhaps, is that they were not. Most of these verses acclaiming God’s our protector and our government as an extension of His authority, are virtually interchangeable. One surmises that Bach may well have sighed when faced with another such text to set. The miracle is that he applied his sense of professionalism and seemingly infinite powers of invention to each successive challenge. This recitative is a case in point. Despite the slow moving bass and harmonies, Bach contrives a perfectly cohesive tonal scheme such as might be found in any suite movement i.e. Bm, F#m, Em and Bm. The predominance of minor keys, whilst allowing no tonal light and shade is, perhaps, appropriate to the seriousness of the address delivered by the bass voice. He begins with two boldly assertive phrases—-arise—-come and kneel before the Highest! Mention of God’s paternal qualities of support and protection then produce a softer quality of melody (from bar 5). The command—-come then and fulfil your vows to Him—-is again forceful, though moderated by the little run of semiquavers that suggests the singing of songs (of gratitude: bar 10). This is followed by a clear command to pray that He continues to vitalize this land and government (from the end of bar 12) and the movement ends, rising to the very top of the singer’s range in a confident expression of the divine approval which the government seeks and, no doubt by implication, deserves. It is worth listening to this recitative more than once. A sensitive singer will communicate the many nuances of meaning and feeling with which Bach manages to invest his melodic line of fewer than twenty bars. It is the work of a man who clearly was never satisfied with the second rate, despite the uninspiring nature of his given material.

4. Soprano aria. The jewel at the centre of this cantata is the soprano aria, later adapted with the minimum of change for the wedding cantata. In C 120 it is an additional call for health and blessing to attend our government so that justice and faith may follow. It is a deeply personal movement, in modified ternary form, made all the more expressive by the touch of chromatic movement in the continuo line of the very first bar. The all-encompassing violin obbligato is endlessly inventive and, although richly ornate in its baroque decorations, is never intrusive. Further comment on this movement may be found in chapter 77.

5. Tenor recitative. We will discover that the closing chorale begins in the minor and ends in the major. The tenor recitative reverses this process and the sustained chords of the upper strings provide a discreet halo of sound encompassing the voice. Beginning with an upward interval of a 7th, presumably a suggestion of the Lord’s lofty position, the tenor requests His consecration and blessing. The image of wickedness fleeing from us is painted momentarily (bars 3-4) and, as in the first recitative, there is a softening of the line at the mention of the Father (bar 6). And once again the singer has to rise to the top of his register, expressing the confidence with which we are bound to glorify His blessed Name. Both recitatives may be seen to have similarities of structure and purpose and it is difficult to believe that Bach did not conceive of, and create, them as parts of the same work. Once again his care anattention to detail over mundane, repetitive and uninspiring texts stands as a lesson for us all!

6. Chorale. The cantata ends with a version of part 3 of the German Te Deum. In church this would have been sung by the choir and congregation in alternate phrases. Whether those attending the ceremony marking the institution of the new council members joined in with Bach’s choir can only be surmised; it seems very possible that they may have done so. Bach’s setting is plain and largely homophonic but its apparent simplicity disguises several surprising features. It is, of course, an archaic modal theme which does not fit comfortably within a ‘modern’ tonal framework. Bach raises the g to g# in the sixth bar partly as a response to this difficulty. His harmonization of the opening phrase (the melodic shape of which contains virtually no inherent musical interest) is almost bizarre as he attempts to inject some harmonic interest into the barren chant. But the thing that will strike most modern ears is the surprising fact that he begins in Bm and concludes in D major. Indeed, Bach contrives to end all but one of the eight phrases on major chords, a possible symbol of the optimism surrounding the celebrated event. The words are a prayer for Christ, by whose blood we are redeemed, to save, bless, tend and nurse us, eventually to raise us to all eternity. Bach’s setting is unpretentiously optimistic, a suitable conclusion to the celebration of such an occasion and, presumably, acceptable to everyone, citizens and politicians alike. LINK: Copyright: J Mincham 2010. Revised 2012, 2014, 2017.

Picander Parody Council Cantata BWV Anh. 3

The 1730 council Cantata BWV Anh. 3, "Gott, gieb Dein Gerichte dem Könige," survives in Picander's published text with possible parodies. Cantata BWV Anh. 3 has an opening chorus, two internal da-capo arias, and central and closing recitatives with the same interpolated chorale, Paul Gerhardt's 1647 "Wach auf, mein Herz, und Singe" (Wake up, my heart, and sing), Stanzas 8 and 9, free translation. The movements, incipts (and possible parody relationship) are:

1. [Chorus] Dictum (Psalm 72:1-2): God, give the king Thy judgment (Cantata BWV 195/1, festive chorus (3 trumpets, timpani), "For the righteous the light must rise again [Psalm 97:11), c.1727, ?wedding cantata3 (
2. Aria (d.c.): "Highest, show thy judgment "(bass aria "Domine Deus, Rex coelestis" (O Lord God, Heavenly King) with violin, Kyrie-Gloria Mass No. 2 in A Major, BWV 234/3, late 1730s,
3. Recitative, "Lord, Zabaoth, you are faithful"; chorale, "Speak yea to your deeds" (S.9).
4. Aria (d.c.), "We see, we build, from Your calling alone.
5. Recitative, "Therefore grant that our authority"; chorale, "Cover us with blessing" (S.10).
"Domine Deus, Rex coelestis" is also the text of the soprano-tenor duet in the Missa Gloria, BWV 232I of 1733, a contrafaction from the 1727 Augustus Nameday dramma per musica BWV 193a/3. Aria (Providence), but not used in the 1727 council Cantata BWV 193, "Ihr Tore/Pforten zu Zion."

BWV Anh 3/3, 5 are two recitatives with the same interpolated chorale: Paul Gerhardt, verses 9 and 10 of "Wach auf, mein Herz, und singe" (Wake up, my heart, and sing), 1647 (Fischer-Tümpel, III, #380). The chorale melody is "Nun laßt uns Gott dem Herren" (Now let us God the Lord), Nikolaus Selnecker (1587) [Zahn melody 159, NLGB No. 222, Communion hymn]. Bach's uses of the chorale are the same Stanzas 9 and 10 in closing plain chorale, Cantata 194, Höchsterwünschtes Freudenfest" (Highest wished-for joy-feast), Trinity Sunday 1724. Thus, it is possible that Bach took this plain chorale and interspersed the Picander recitative texts. Gerhardt text and Francis Browne chorale translation, BCW,

The sermon for this occasion on August 28, 1730, 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 Roman 13:3: “For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same." There is, however, no connection between the sermon text and the cantata text.

Anatomy of Town Council Cantatas4

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. These cantatas employ large orchestra with three trumpets and drums, opening chorus psalm quotations and usually closing festive hymns. The internal arias use a mixture of musical styles in poetic form with references to the gifts God has bestowed, sometimes in dance style. Bach constructed the scaffolding of stirring introductory choruses and sinfonias with closing (usually), summarizing harmonized chorales with trumpet flourishes. The recitatives generally proclaim the blessings produced through good governance.

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. Bach’s range of Leipzig works began with the exploration of form and content in his first year (1723) with Cantata 119, "Preise, Jerusalem, den Herrn" (Praise the Lord, Jerusalem), and 1727 with 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 in 1731 with Cantata BWV 29, "Wir danken dir, Gott" (We thank Thee, God). In his final decade of the 1740s in Leipzig Bach provided mostly repeats and parodies, as for example BWV 69, “Lobe den Herrn, meine Seele I (Praise the Lord, my soul, Psalm 103:1). All the while Bach transformed festive, borrowing materials for new music and creating movements to become parodies such as the two choruses in the B Minor Mass. There is no record for the 1724 council presentation but in 1725 was premiered lost Cantata BWV Anh. 4a, “Wünschet Jerusalem Glück” (Pray for Jerusalem's peace, Psalm 122:6-7).

Leipzig as Jerusalem: Biblical Connections

<<Peter Smaill wrote (April 6, 2008): The Text of Cantata 193 and BWV Anh. 4, opens up an important theme in the worship in Bach's Leipzig, namely the image of Leipzig as Jerusalem. In line also with the first known civic Cantata, BWV 71, for Mühlhausen, there is no mention of Jesus in the text, only God, and it is only a single image, that of the city of light, that can be tentatively linked to the New Testament.

We also come across the destruction of Jerusalem as a significant feature in Lutheran worship, as in the text of BWV 46 and in the reading of the Josephus account on the appropriate day, the 10th Sunday in Trinity and in Holy Week. In this context, Jerusalem serves for Luther as the "analogy of faith"; it is not so much the historic fact of its destruction that matters, but the need of the believer to hold to the belief in the Holy City; in this analogy, Jeis the church.

Significantly IMO the choice of Cantata sources for the B-Minor Mass includes three with Jerusalem-referentiality: BWV 46, BWV 29, and BWV 120 [the choruses of Town Council Cantatas BWV 29/2 and 120/2, “Wir danken dir, Gott” (We thank Thee, God, Psalm 75:1), and “Jauchzet, ihr erfreunten Stimmen” (Rejoice, you joyful voices), became, respectively, “Gratias agimus tibi/Dona nobis pacem” and “Et expecto resurrectionem mortuorem”; the BCML Discussion for November 6 will be BWV 233a, Missa: Kyrie-Gloria, aria possible origins, 1725-27].

The Jerusalem image, which derives from medieval ideas, is understood three ways: allegorically (the Church), tropologically (the soul) and eschatologically (the Kingdom of Heaven), says Eric Chafe in Analyzing Bach's Cantatas.10 The image is referred to over a dozen times in Helene Werthemann's "Die Bedeutung der alttestamentlichen Historien in Johann Sebastian Bachs Kantaten", pioneering work on the textual hermeneutics from 1960.11

One possibility is that the perfect dimensions of the Temple at Jerusalem are related to the highly structured numbers of bars in several of Bach's major works; scholarship is ongoing in this area [Ruth Tatlow]. Quite by chance, reading of the medieval mystic Walter Hilton's account of the dimensions of the "city upon a hill" , there is reference to "six cubits , meaning the perfection of a man's work." Perhaps here is a clue to the tendency in Bach for works in groups of sixes, a question raised recently on BCML.

The tradition of considering Leipzig as Jerusalem predates Bach. Here is the encomium of Johann Kuhnau's “Treatise on Liturgical Text Settings”: "Let our Chorum Musicum sing of [God's] glory to our hearts' content amidst the ever blessed prosperity of the Leipzig Jerusalem, until the end of the world! and let us continue the glorification of your most holy name amidst the perfect choir of angels and the elect in the heavenly Jerusalem, forever and ever. Amen." Leipzig, Dec. 1709.5

Council Cantatas: Tonal Allegory

Thomas Braatz wrote (May 11, 2003): BWV 119 - Commentaries: Eric Chafe: 6 <<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. 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.

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. The first of these works for Leipzig, Cantata 119, "Preise Jerusalem, Den Herrn" (Praise the Lord, Jerusalem; 1723), is a C major composition of highly extrovert, festive character - with French overture beginning, prominent trumpets and drums and the like. Its central movement, 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.>> [Cantata 119 Commentary, BCW]

"The other <Ratswechsel> cantatas all exhibit to some degree the descent/ascent patters: 29 (D, D, A f sharp-e, h, D, D, D); 69, (D, b-G, e-f sharp b D); 120, (A, D, b, G, D-f sharp, D), and 193 (DS, b, e, G, D), says Eric Chafe.2 In most cases the tonal distance covered is not great, but in general the descent is related to God's protection of man -- "Denn er versorget und erhält,/ beschützet und regiert die Welt" (For he looks after and upholds,/ protects and rules the world) [E minor] - tenor recitative No 4 in Cantata 69, the contrast between the "most high" and his subjects on earth (A major aria, "Hallejuah, Stärk und Macht,/ sei des Allerhöchsten Namen" (Alleluia, power and might/be to the name of the Highest, tenor aria No. 3) versus the B minor aria, "Gedenk' an uns mit deiner Liebe,/ schleuss' und in dein Erbarmen ein" (Think of us with your love,/ enclose us in your pity! in Cantata 29), or 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. 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 tonal plan helps to represent a baroque hierarchy with God at the top. The two cantatas that use flat-minor movements (Nos. 71 and 119), point out that wherever the assertion of worldly glory is greatest, it is necessary to bring out there the contrast between the power of the divinely invested ruler and his humanity.


1 Cantata 120 BCW Details and Discography, Score Vocal & Piano [1.75 MB] | Score BGA [3.20 MB]; References. BGA: XXIV | NBA: I/32.2 | BC: B 6 | Zwang: K 166 | First Published: BG, 1876 | Autograph score (facsimile): Kraków, Biblioteka Jagiellońska | Provenance details (Thomas Braatz),; Autograph Score (Facsimile, P. 871, c.1742, Bach Digital): Much of this material is derived from Cantatas BWV 120, 120a, and 120b, BCML Discussion (April 28, 2013),
2 Liner notes, 1eY5UB-Suzuki-C48c[BIS-SACD1881].pdf, BCW Bach-Werke-Verzeichnis (BWV), kleine Ausgabe, Alfred Dürr, Yoshitake Kobayashi, p. 122; Bach Compendium (BC), Hans Joachim Schulze, Christoph Wolff, Teil III, p. 836.
3 Source: Klaus Häfner, Aspekte des Parodieverfahrens bei JSB (Laaber 1987: -161, 366-370, 471f), cited in NBA I/32.2 (Town Council, Christine Fröde 1994: 13).
4 Source material, BCML Cantata 119 Discussions Part 4 (August 23, 2015),
5 Source: Bach’s Changing World: Voices in the Community, essays ed. Carol K. Baron (University of Rochester Press: 2006): 219-226).
6 Erich Chafe, "The Leipzig Cantatas," Tonal Allegory in the Cantatas of JSB (Berkeley: Univ. of Calif. Press, 1991: 155f.

William Hoffman wrote (August 16, 2017):
Wedding Cantata 120a: "Herr Gott, Beherrscher aller Dinge"

Among the special sacred occasions in Leipzig was the so-called Braut-Messe or wedding mass for local dignitaries in two parts, before and after the ceremony with biblical readings and a homily. As Leipzig cantor and music director Bach had the opportunity to compose sacred cantata settings with references to the groom’s status, earning special compensation. Another distinguishing characteristic in Bach’s wedding compositions was the use of parody or new text underlay, setting these works for multiple usage as music of praise and thanksgiving. Best known is his setting of Cantata BWV 120, "Gott, man lobet dich in der Stille" (God, they praise you in the stillness), extant in the 1742 version for the Town Council.

Chorales played a major role and the thrin Bach’s middle 1730s setting are the designated Vor der Trauung (before the vows): “Was Gott thut das ist Wohlgetan; Nach der Trauung (after the vows) Sei Lob und Ehr'
Nach dem Segen (after the blessing): Nun danket alle Gott; BWV 250-252 (BC B 17), between 1734-38 (watermark), The use of horns adds to the splendor.

The music was used as a wedding cantata in 1729, BWV 120a, "Herr Gott, Beherrscher aller Dinge" (Lord God, ruler of all things). In this version (Bach Compendium BC B 15), Bach created an extended, two-part Braut-Messe, presented after Easter 1729 with two special features not found in the Town Council version: a sinfonia setting of the preludio from the solo Violin Partita in E Major, BWV 1006 that opens the second part, after the wedding, and a closing chorale setting “Lobe den Herren, den mächtigen König der Ehren” by Joachim Neander (1680), a setting borrowed from 1725 chorale Cantata 137 for the 12th Sunday after Trinity.1

Special Sacred Works: “Undiminished Care”

Bach’s occasional compositions for special sacred services are a “broad spectrum” of commissions approached “with undiminished care,” says scholar Klaus Hofmann in his 2012 liner notes to the Masaaki Suzuki recording (Suzuki-C51c[BIS-1961-SACD].pdf; << The cantatas on this disc bring us to a subsidiary field in Bach’s activities as a composer during his Leipzig years: the broad spectrum of occasional and commissioned works. In Bach’s time – far more than today – the special occasions in people’s public and private lives were celebrated with specially written poetry and music. Moreover, as all aspects of public and private life had a spiritual as well as a worldly dimension, such highlights were also marked by suitably elaborate church services. The organizer of such events had the task of commissioning the poet, composer and performers. For Bach, such commissions were a welcome supplement to his income as Cantor. In Leipzig, the regular occasions for which such works were required included the annual church service for the council elections; for each of these occasions, the city asked Bach to produce a festive cantata. In addition there were commissions for noble and bourgeois birthdays, marriages, funerals and other events, as well as a few projects for academic ceremonies connected with Leipzig University.

Bach approached such commissions with undiminished artistic care. His occasional pieces are in no way inferior in quality to the sacred music he wrote as part of his ‘day job’. From time to time, however, he made life easier for himself by reusing music that he had composed earlier, if necessary providing it with a new text and adapting it to its new purpose. His re-solve in this respect may have been strengthened by the knowledge that the works in question had been planned for just a single performance – and, as some of the movements were highly effective, Bach may have regretted that they would not be heard again. There was, however, some possibility of reusing material for later events with similar musical demands and expectations.

Bach’s sacred occasional pieces are independent works and did not form part of his cantata cycles for the Sundays and feast days of the church year. Probably owing to their associations with specific events, they have been affected more than the works belonging to the cantata years by the loss of original materials after Bach’s death. Their special status may also explain why many questions regarding these works remain unanswered – concerning for example their purpose and raison d’être, whether they are parodies, and other contextual issues: the time and place of their composition and thus their position within Bach’s life and work. This applies to the four cantatas on this disc as well [BWV 120a, 157, 192, 195].>>

Cantata 120a: Movement Sources

<< “Herr Gott, Beherrscher aller Dinge” (Lord God, ruler of all things, BWV 120a). Bach’s original score has survived only in fragmentary form; of the original parts, only the vocal parts, a viola part and three continuo parts have survived. These sources allow us to date the work with some certainty to 1729. Despite its fragmentary state, the cantata may be reconstructed and performed in its entirety, primarily because five of its eight movements appear elsewhere in Bach’s cantata output as well.

The recitatives – movements 2, 5 and 7 – have survived only in the present cantata. The first, third and sixth movements were reused by Bach (with a different text) in 1730 in the cantata “Gott, man lobet dich in der Stille" (God, we praise thee now in the stillness), BWV 120b, although only the text of that work has survived, and again much later, in 1742, in a council election cantata with the same opening words, BWV 120. In the election cantata, however, the sixth movement appears not as a duet but as a largely new composition for solo alto. The first movement, substantially modified, recurred again some years later as ‘Et expecto resurrectionem’ in the Credo of the B minor Mass, BWV 232, and the soprano solo third movement is also known as the slow movement of the Sonata for violin and harpsichord, BWV1019a. The Sinfonia (fourth movement) can be traced back to the Preludio from the E major Partita for violin solo, BWV 1006, and was used again in an arrangement for organ and orchestra in the election cantata from 1731 “Wir danken dir, Gott” (We thank you, God) BWV 29. The concluding chorale comes from the cantata Lobe den Herren, den mächtigen König der Ehren (Praise the Lord, the mighty king of honour), BWV137, composed in 1725.

The cantata “Herr Gott, Beherrscher aller Dinge" was intended for a wedding. This immediately becomes apparent from the text, and from the remark that the second part of the work was to be performed ‘post copulationem’ – i.e. after the church wedding service. Bach’s handwriting and all sorts of errors from the copyists show that the piece was prepared for performance in great haste. In the work itself, however, this is impossible to discern. The identity of the couple fortunate enough to begin their married life with such a splendid and also touching piece of music is unknown. The beginning of the text of the duet, ‘Herr, fange an, und gib den Segen / auf dieses deines Dieners Haus’ (‘Lord, begin and pronounce your blessing / On this, your servant’s house’) does, however, indicate the bridegroom’s profession: he was a ‘servant of God’, in other words a priest.
© Klaus Hofmann 2012>>

Cantata 120a movements, scoring, text, key, meter (English translation Francis Browne,

1. Chorus parody of BWV 120/2, “Jauchzet, ihr erfreuten Stimmen” [SATB; Tromba I-III, Timpani, Oboe d'amore I e Violino I all' unisono, Oboe d'amore II e Violino II all' unisono, Viola, Continuo]: “Herr Gott, Beherrscher aller Dinge, / Der alles hat, regiert und trägt, / Durch den, was Odem hat, sich regt, / Wir alle sind viel zu geringe / Der Güte und Barmherzigkeit, / Womit du uns von Kindesbeinen / Bis auf den Augenblick erfreut.” (Lord God, ruler of all things, / who possesses, rules and bears everything, / through whom whatever has breath is moved, / all of us are far too insignificant for the goodness and compassion, / with which from our earliest childhood / up to the present moment you delight us.); D D Major; 4/4 (
2. Recitative (new) [Bass, Tenor] and Chorus [SATB; Continuo - Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo]: 4/4 Bass: “Wie wunderbar, o Gott, sind deine Werke, / Wie groß ist deine Macht, / Wie unaussprechlich deine Treu! / Du zeigest deiner Allmacht Stärke, Eh du uns auf die Welt gebracht. / Zur Zeit, / Wenn wir noch gar nichts sein / Und von uns selbst nichts wissen, / Ist deine Liebe und Barmherzigkeit / Vor unser Wohlgedeihn / Aufs eifrigste beflissen; / Der Name und die Lebenszeit / Sind bei dir angeschrieben, / Wenn wir noch im Verborgnen blieben; / Ja, deine Güte ist bereit, / Wenn sie uns auf die Welt gebracht, / Uns bald mit Liebesarmen zu umfassen. / Und dass wir dich nicht aus dem Sinne lassen, / So wird uns deine Güt und Macht / An jedem Morgen neu. / Drum kommt's, da wir dies wissen, / Dass wir von Herzensgrunde rühme müssen:” (Bass: How wonderful, O God, are your works, / how great is your power, / how inexpressible your faithfulness! / You showed your mighty strength, / before you brought us to the world. / At a time, / when we did not yet exist / and knew nothing of ourselves, / your love and compassion / for our welfare / were most keenly concerned; / our name and lifetime / were written down by you, / when we still remained hidden; / Indeed your goodness was ready, / when it had brought us into the world, / to embrace us at once with loving arms. / And so that we do not put you out of our minds, / your goodness and might / are renewed every morning. / It follows therefore since we know this / that we must thank you from the bottom of our hearts:); 3/4 Coro: “Nun danket alle Gott, der große Dinge tut an allen Enden.” (Chorus: Now thank the God of all who does great things everywhere, Ecc. 50:22; 4/4 Tenor: “Nun, Herr, es werde diese Lieb und Treu / Auch heute den Verlobten neu; / Und da jetzt die Verlobten beide / Vor dein hochheilig Angesichte treten / Und voller Andacht beten, So höre sie vor deinem Throne / Und gib zu unsrer Freude, / Was ihnen gut und selig ist, zum Lohne.” (Tenor: Now, Lord, may this love and faithfulness / be also renewed today for the betrothed; / and since now both the betrothed / come before your most holy face / and pray full of devotion, / then hear them before your throne / and to our joy give, / what is good and blessed to them as a reward.); b minor (
3. Aria parody of BWV 120/4 “Heil und Segen” [Soprano; Violino concertante, Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo]: “Leit, o Gott, durch deine Liebe / Dieses neu verlobte Paar. / Mach an ihnen kräftig wahr, / Was dein Wort uns vorgeschrieben, Dass du denen, die dich lieben, / Wohltun wollest immerdar.” (Guide, O God, through your love / this newly betrothed pair. / Make powerfully true for them, / what your word has prescribed for us, / that for those who love you, / you will always do good.); G Major 6/8 gigue (

Second Part (after the wedding), 4. Sinfonia [Tromba I-III, Timpani, Oboe I e Violino I all' unisono, Oboe II e Violino II all' unisono, Viola, Organo obligato, Continuo]; D Major; 3/4 (
5. Recitative (new) [Tenor, Continuo] and Chorus [SATB; Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo]: “Herr Zebaoth, / Herr, unsrer Väter Gott, / Erhöre unser Flehn, / Gib deinen Segen und Gedeihn / Zu dieser neuen Ehe, / Dass all ihr Tun in, von und mit dir gehe. / Laß alles, was durch dich geschehen, / In dir gesegnet sein, / Vertreibe alle Not / Und führe die Vertrauten beide / So, wie du willt, / Nur stets zu dir. / So werden diese für und für / Mit wahrer Seelenfreude / Und deinem reichen Segen, / An welchem alles auf der Welt gelegen, / Gesättigt und erfüllt” (Lord of Sabaoth, / Lord, God our Father, / hear our plea, / grant your blessing and prosperity / on this new marriage, / so that all their actions may go in, from and with you. / Make everything that happens through you, / be blessed in you, / drive away all distress / and lead the betrothed couple / as you will, / but always to you / Then forever they will be / with true joy in their souls / and with your rich blessing, / on which everything in the world rests, / Satisfied and fulfilled.” Chorus: “Erhör uns, lieber Herre Gott.” (Hear us, dear Lord God, Luther Litany, Psalm 65:6); b minor to c-sharp minor; 4/4 (
6. Aria da capo parody of BWV 120/1 “Gott, man lobet dich in der Stile” (Duet) [Alto, added Tenor; Oboe d'amore I/II, Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo]: A. “Herr, fange an und sprich den Segen/ Auf dieses deines Dieners Haus.” (Lord, begin and give your blessing upon this your servant's house.); B. (new 28 mm in f-sharp minor) Laß sie in deiner / Furcht bekleiben, / So werden sie in Segen bleiben” / Erheb auf sie dein Angesichte, / So geht's gewiss in Segen aus.” (in your fear let them be fixed, / then they will remain in your blessing / I lift up your face upon them, / then they will go along with your blessing.); A Major; 6/8.
7. Recitative (new, refers to 1 Kings 8:57, Genesis 48:20f and 1 Chronicles 28:20) [Bass, Continuo]: “Der Herr, Herr unser Gott, sei so mit euch, / Als er mit eurer Väter Schar / Vor diesem und auch jetzo war. / Er pflanz euch Ephraim und dem Manasse gleich. / Er lass euch nicht, / Er zieh nicht von euch seine Hand. / Er neige euer Herz und Sinn / Stets zu ihm hin, / Dass ihr in seinen Wegen wandelt, / In euern Taten weislich handelt. / Sein Geist sei euch stets zugewandt. / Wenn dieses nun geschicht, / So werden alle eure Taten / Nach Wunsch geraten. / Und eurer frommen Eltern Segen / Wird sich gedoppelt auf euch legen. / Wir aber wollen Gott mit Lob und Singen / Ein Dank- und Freudenopfer bringen.” (May the Lord, Lord our God, be with you, / as he was with the flock of our fathers / before this time and also now. / He plants you as he did Ephraim and Manasseh. / he does not leave you, / he does not take his hand away from you, / he inclines your heart and mind / continually towards him / so that you walk in his way, / act wisely in all you do. / May his spirit to be continually turned towards you. / If this happens / then all that you do / will be according to your wish / and the blessing of your pious parents / shall be doubly laid upon you. / But we shall bring to God with praise and singing / an offering to show our thanks and joy.); f-sharp minor to A Major; 4/4.
8. Chorale parody of BWV 137/5 [SATB; Tromba I-III/Timpani (verse 2 only), Oboe I/II e Violino I col Soprano, Violino II coll'Alto, Viola col Tenore, Continuo]: “Lobe den Herren, der deinen Stand sichtbar gesegnet, / Der aus dem Himmel mit Strömen der Liebe geregnet. / Denke daran, / Was der Allmächtige kann, / Der dir mit Liebe begegnet.” (Praise the Lord who has clearly blessed your position in life, / Who has rained down from heaven with streams of love. / Think about / what the Almighty can do / Who encounters you with his love.); “Lobe den Herren, was in mir ist, lobe den Namen. / Alles, was Odem hat, lobe mit Abrahams Samen. / Er ist dein Licht, / Seele, vergiss es ja nicht; / Lobende, schließe mit Amen.” (Praise the Lord, whatever is in me, praise his name. / let everything that has breath give praise with Abraham's seed. / He is your light, / my soul, do not forget this; / giving praise, end with Amen.); D Major 3/4 (

Possible 1729 Cantata 120a Wedding

Cantata 120a dating is from 1729 and the text is "relatively generalized and offers no clues as to the bridal couple, says Alfred Dürr.2 “Bach's treatment of the new recitatives and the overall structure adheres to the liturgical wedding model” (see BCML Cantata 120 Discussion Part 2, July 14, 2008). <<The grand opening chorus is a congregational praise to God. The new bass recitative continues tpraise, with a choral motet interlude quoting from Ecclesiasticus 50:22, "Now thank the God of all, who does great things in all quarters." The succeeding soprano aria addresses the "newly betrothed pair." Following the sermon, Part 2 opens with the Sinfonia (Preludio, BWV 1006) for strings, oboes, obbligato organ and continuo. The tenor secco recitative is an intercessory prayer of supplication to "Grant Your blessing and prosperity Upon this new marriage." It flows into Luther's Litany (Psalm 65:6) "in liturgical style in a plain four-part texture." The sixth movement is the other extant aria, for alto, with tenor added in duet, with a new middle section, summoning God's Blessing. The bass returns in recitative with the Blessing, which includes three biblical paraphrases: I Kings 8.57 f, Genesis 48:20-1 and I Chronicles 28.20. The concluding chorale, the fourth and fifth verses of "Lobe den Herren, de Mächtigen König," has the music borrowed from Cantata BWV 137.

So, who might the wedding be for and who wrote the text? The list of 34 full-bridal Masses with cantatas during Bachs's Leipzig tenure, 1723-50, has one possible entry in early 1729: Monday, February 14; Catharina Regina, daughter of Dr. Christian Weiss, Sr., St. Thomas Pastor; marries Johann Jacob Straube, businessman and banker; the preacher is deacon M. Justus Gotthard Rabener (NBA KB I/33, p.14). Whittaker (II:73) thinks the author is Bach. I would suggest the father of the bride and Bach's confessor.

In addition, during 1729, Bach presented several occasional cantatas: January 12, BWV 210a tribute; February 23, ?BWV 208 birthday; March 23-24, BC B-21 and BWV 244a at Köthen funeral; no specific date, possibly BWV 201; and as many as three weddings, July 5, 21, and 26 (BWV Anh. 212), as well as January 18 (BWV Anh. 211).3

There is one recording of the entire Cantata BWV 120a with the appropriate text: Koopman, Vol. 20, with him credited for reconstruction of the first four movements from the existing music and parts>> []. The Helmut Rilling recording has movements 2 and 5-8 (


1 Cantata 120a BCW Details & Discography,; score BGA, References: BGA: XLI | NBA: I/33 | BC: B 15 | Zwang: K 179 | First Published: BG, 1894 | Provenance The wedding music survives in an autograph score beginning with the conclusion of the sinfonia and ending with the untexted chorale harmonization,, as well as an incomplete parts set (SATB, viola, continuo), From this material and the Cantata 120 autograph score and other parody sources, the entire wedding mass Cantata 120a has been reconstructed.
2Alfred Dürr, Cantatas of J. S. Bach (Oxford University Press, 2005: 748).
3 See H. Tiggermann, “”Unbekantte Textdrucke zu drei Gelegenheitskantaen J. S. Bachs," Bach Jahrbuch 1994 (7-22).

Aryeh Oron wrote (August 19, 2017):
Cantatas BWV 120, BWV 120a & BWV 120b - Revised & updated Discographies

The Sacred Cantata BWV 120 "Gott, man lobet dich in der Stille " (God, they praise you in the stillness of Zion) was composed by J.S. Bach in Leipzig for Inauguration of the Leipzig Town Council. in 1729 or earlier. The cantata is scored for soprano, alto, tenor & bass soloists; 4-part Chorus; and orchestra of 3 trumpets, timpani, 2 oboes d'amore, 2 violins, viola & continuo.
The Secular Cantata BWV 120a "Herr Gott, Beherrscher aller Dinge" (Lord God, ruler of all things) was composed by J.S. Bach in Leipzig for a Wedding c1729. This two-part cantata is scored for soprano, alto, tenor & bass soloists; 4-part Chorus; and orchestra 3 trumpets, timpani, 2 oboes d'amore, 2 oboes, 2 violins, viola, continuo. The cantata is incomplete in its music, but complete in its text.
Cantata BWV 120b "Gott, man lobet dich in der Stille" (God, praise waiteth Thee in the temple) was composed by J.S. Bach in Leipzig for the 200th Anniversary of the Augsburg Confession in 1730. The text of this cantata was preseved but the music lost.
All 3 cantatas (BWV 120, BWV 120a & BWV 120b) were adapted from a lost Köthen original.

The discography pages of both BWV 120 & BWV 120a on the BCW have been revised and updated. See:
Cantata BWV 120 -Complete Recordings (14):
Cantata BWV 120 - Recordings of Individual Movements (1):
Cantata BWV 120a - Complete Recordings (3):
Cantata BWV 120a - Recordings of Individual Movements (3):

The revised discographies includes many listening/watching options as part of the recording details. When you click a link to video/audio, a new window will open above the discography page and the video/audio will start to play.

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

I believe these are the most comprehensive discographies of both cantatas. If you are aware of a recording of BWV 120 and/or BWV 120a 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 these cantatas in the BCML (4th round):

William Hoffman wrote (August 21, 2017):
Augsburg Confession Cantata 120b: “Gott, man lobet dich in die Stille”

The third, not extant version of Cantata 120, “Gott, man lobet dich in die Stille” (God, one praises Thee in the stillness, Psalm 65:2), BWV 120b, was premiered for the Bicentennial of the Augsburg Confession, 26 June 1730. Only Picander’s text is extant but it has the same form and essential content as Cantata BWV 120. It preserves the core parodies of the festive chorus and alto and soprano dance-style arias in 6/8, with a new closing chorale, Martin Luther’s 1524 “Komm Heiliger Geist, Herre Gott” (Come, Holy Spirit, Lord God); Stanza 3 “Du heilige Brunst, süsser Trost,” (O thou holy flame, comfort sweet). The new text for the Monday second day of the three-day observation of Philipp Melanchthon’s Lutheran confession of faith was presented at the Thomas Church with a sermon (not extant) possibly by pastor Christian Weisse Sr. The 25-minute work, probably with trumpets and drums, observes the importance of the Reformation document of principles for the protestant church, variously described as the house of Zion, and in the newly-composed recitatives, as the “city loved of God,” and sacred congregation or community.1

Like the Town Council Cantata 120, it opens with a repeat of the alto aria, "Gott, man lobet dich in der Stille), followed by the chorus parodied with new text, "Zahle, Zion, die Gelübde" (Pay, O Zion, all thy pledges). The printed Picander text has the first two movement reversed, as well as the two aand the new recitatives, nos. 3 and 5, "Ach, du geliebte Gottesdtadt" (Ah, thou beloved city of God), and “Wohlan! du heilige Gemeinde”(Rise up, thou sacred congregation). It closes with Luther's Pentecost chorale, "Komm, Heiliger Geist, Herre Gott," possibly from the 1729 funeral motet, BWV 226, "Der Geist hilf unsre Schwacheit auf" (The Spirit uplifts our weakness).

Cantata 120b movements, texts, parody sources (scoring, key, meter), Picander text and Z. Philip Ambrose English translation):

1. (Arioso) [Dictum](1) [?SATB; Tromba I-III, Timpani,Oboe d'amore I e Violino I all' unisono, Oboe d'amore II e Violino II all' unisono, Viola, Continuo]: A. “Zahle, Zion, die Gelübde, / Zahle sie dem Höchsten aus.” (Pay, O Zion, all thy pledges, / Pay the vows to God on high.) ; B. “Deine Hoffnung trifft dir ein, / Brunn und Qvellen sind noch rein, / Seine Treue / Baut und gründet auf das neue / Seines Nahmens Ehr und Hauß.” (Now thy hope doth serve thee well, / Source and fountains are still pure; / His steadfastness / Builds and lays a new foundation /For his name's great fame and house.); parody from BWV 120a/2 da-capo chorus, “Herr Gott, Beherrscher aller Dinge” D Major; 4/4 (
2. Aria da capo [?Alto, Oboe d'amore I/II, Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo]: “Gott, man lobet dich in der Stille zu Zion, / und dir bezahlet man Gelübde.” God, they praise you in the stillness of Zion, / as they pay vows to you.); parody from BWV 120a/6 alto aria, “Gott, man lobet dich,” A Major; 6/8 gigue style) (
3. Recit. [new, ?tenor]: “Ach! du geliebte GOttes=Stadt / GOtt stehe dir noch ferner bey. / Dein Feuer, Heerd und dein Altar / Schwebt in Verfolgung und Gefahr, / Drum nimm doch deiner selbsten wahr. / Bekenne fest, und wancke nicht / Wie ein zerbrochnes Rohr, wie ein verlöschend Licht. / Bleib im Bekänntniß deiner Hoffnung / GOtt ist treu / Des sie verheissen hat.” (Ah! Thou the city loved of God, / May God by thee yet further stand, / Thy hearth and altar and thy fire / Are in great danger and oppressed; / So for thine own sake watch with care. / Be firm in faith and waver not / As though a mere broken reed, as though a fading light. / Maintain the hope of thy confession: / God is steadfast / Who sealed it with his pledge.)
4. Aria [?soprano, violin, strings, continuo. “A. Treu im Gläuben / Unbeweglich in der Noth / Treu im Leben, true im Todt” (True and faithful, / Never falt'ring in distress, / True in living, true in death); B. Müssen wahre Christen bleiben, / Daß sie nach dem frohen Sterben / Jenes Lebens Crone erben” (Must be real Christians always, / That they after welcome dying / Of true life the crown inherit.); G Major 6/8 gigue (
5. Recit. [new, ?bass]: “Wohlan! du heilige Gemeinde, (2)/ So thue nach dem Wort / Und reitze fort und fort / Zur Liebe; zu den guten Wercken, / Daß alle deine Feinde / Den wahren Bund / Und deiner Lehre festen Grund / Zur Folge der Gemeinschafft mercken.” (Rise up, thou sacred congregation, / Now act true to thy word / And hasten more and more / To kindness, to the works of goodness, / That all who now oppose thee / Thy covenant / And its true word's foundation firm / In service of the town may witness.”

6. Chorale [? plain, tutti instruments], source ?BWV 226/2 (a capella B-Flat Major, 4/4): “Du heilige Brunst, süßer Trost, / Nun hilf uns fröhlich und getrost / In dein'm Dienst beständig bleiben, / Die Trübsal uns nicht abtreiben! / O Herr, durch dein' Kraft uns bereit / Und stärk des Fleisches Blödigkeit, / Daß wir hier ritterlich ringen, / Durch Tod und Leben zu dir dringen! / Halleluja! Halleluja!” (O thou holy flame, comfort sweet, / Now help us, joyful and content, / To bide forever in thy service, / That sadness may not disperse us; / O Lord, through thy might us prepare; / Make strong the weakness of our flesh, / That we here gallantly struggle / Through death and life to reach thy presence. / Alleluia, alleluia.);

Note on the Text:

1. This text is closer than that of BWV 120/2 to the sense of the first movement. 2. Gemeinde = 'community' or 'congregation.' In Bach's Leipzig the two were virtually one. The last line of this recitative contains the word Gemeinschaft 'community.' For metrical reasons it is here translated with "town."
© Copyright Z. Philip Ambrose

Text: Mvt. 1: Psalm 65:2; Mvts. 2-5: Christian Friedrich Henrici (Picander) [Ernst-Schertzhaffte und Satyrische Gedichte, Teil III (Leipzig, 1732); Reprint: Sicul, Annales Lipsienses, Sectio XXXVIII, 1731, and Das Jubilierende Leipzig, 1731; Facs: Neumann T, p. 333]; Mvt. 6: Martin Luther, verse 3 of "Komm, Heiliger Geist, Heere Gott," 1524 (Wackernagel, I, #199). The German text is found st BCW,

Musical Sources

The chronology of Town Council Cantata 120 and its variants BWV 120a wedding cantata, and BWV 120b for the Augsburg Confession Bicentenary, is still disputed. Bach scholars originally thought that Cantata 120, found in its 1742 autography score, was composed in 1728 for the Town Council, followed by wedding Cantata 120a in early1729, and then Cantata 120b in 1730. More recently, other Bach scholars have suggested that the wedding version BWV 120a, with its sinfonia Preludio BWV 1006/1, and Cantata 137/5 closing chorale setting, was composed first and the Town Council version BWV 120 not composed until 1742.


1 Cantata 120b details, BCW; References: Bach Digital (*%2Cscore&q=%2BobjectType%3A%22work%22+%2Bcategory%3A%22BachDigital_class_00000006%5C%3A0001%22+%2Bcategory%3A%22BachDigital_class_00000005%5C%3A0001%22+%2Bwork01%3A%22BWV+120b%22+%2Bwork02%3A%22Gott%2C+man+lobet+dich%22&mask=search_form_work.xed&version=4.5&start=0&fl=id&rows=1&XSL.Style=browse&origrows=25; NBA KB I/34 (Miscellaneous church cantatas, Ryuichi Higuchi ed., 1990), Bach Compendium BC: B 28


Cantata BWV 120: Gott, man lobet dich in der Stille for Council Election (1729 or earlier)
Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements
Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

Cantata BWV 120a: Herr Gott, Beherrscher aller Dinge for Wedding (1729 ?)
Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements
Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

Cantata BWV 120b: Gott, man lobet dich in der Stille [music lost] for Bicentennial of the Augsburg Confession (1730)
Discussions: 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
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Last update: Tuesday, September 26, 2017 12:34