Cantata BWV 129Gelobet sei der Herr, mein Gott
Discussions - Part 4
Continue from Part 3
Discussions in the Week of May 31, 2015 (4th round)
William Hoffman wrote (May 31, 2015):
Chorale Cantata 129 and Trinityfest, Motets & Chorales
(The following materials for Trinity Sunday originally were drawn from the BCML Discussions Part 3, Cantata 165, Week of March 20, 2011, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV165-D3.htm.)
Bach’s four extant cantatas for the final festival in the <de tempore> half of the Christian church year represent a strong reflection of the meaning of Trinity Sunday as well as exemplars of both unity of sacred purpose, such as Lutheran teaching and chorales, as well as diversity of poetic texts and cantata forms – all emblematic of his goal of a well-ordered church music to the glory of God.
Beginning with the Protestant Reformation in 1519, the Sunday Festival of the Holy Trinity became a pivotal observance in which the Lutheran teachings through the chorales and the Catechism systematically exemplify and illustrate the biblical and doctrinal teachings, often with music. Thus, the original Lutheran hymns and Bach’s resulting cantata musical sermon settings demonstrate and celebrate the meaning and significance of this tradition as found at Trinity Sunday, now usually called the First Sunday After Pentecost.
“In the Lutheran liturgy, Trinity Sunday ends this sequence [Proprium Temporale of “proposer of the time (of Christ, de tempore)], celebrating the completed revelation of God’s triune nature and serving as a kind of symbolic ‘doxology’ to the first half of the year, says Eric Chafe in Analyzing Bach Cantatas (New York Oxford Univ. Press, 2000: 12). In a very broad sense, the dynamic of the Temporale can be described as a pattern of descent (extending from the incarnation of Jesus’ death and burial) followed by ascent (Jesus’ resurrection and ascension), after which the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, traditionally viewed as the “birthday of the church,” describes another symbolic incarnation, or descent, that returns the liturgical focus of the year to the perspective of the church on earth [omnes tempore].”
Bach four sacred cantatas as well as Latin Mass Movements most appropriate for the Sunday Festival of the Holy Trinity are:
1. Cantata BWV 165, “O heil’ges Geist- und Wasserbad” (O Holy Spirit- and water-bath); premiered in 1715, with repeats ?1716 (K. Hoffman BJ 1993:29, Boyd OCC:JSB:331) and 1724; an intimate solo (SATB) work typical of poet Salomo Franck’s sermon-text with symbols, teachings, and affections.
2. Cantata BWV 194, “Höchsterwünschtes Freudenfest” (Highest wished-for joy-feast), performed in 1724 (Part 1 only, in a double-bill with BWV 165). Cantata 194 is an extensive two-part chorus cantata parodied from a Cöthen congratulatory serenade (BWV 194a) in the style of a dance suite and originally recomposed for the service of a church remodeling and organ dedication (1723) and partially repeated as BWV 194b (1726, Movements Nos. 12, 2-5, 7, 10), 1731 (?Part 1 only), and after 1750 in Halle with Friedemann. The other dance-suite cantata setting, also using material from Cöthen, is pure-hymn Cantata 97, "In allen meinen taten" (In all my doings), 1734.
3. Cantata BWV 176, “Er ist ein trotzig und verzagt Ding” (It is an obstinate and hopeless thing), premiered in 1725, a chorus cantata with opening biblical dictum, alternating arias and recitatives and closing chorale, typical in form of the first group in the first cycle (1723-24), according to Alfred Dürr, <Cantatas of JSB> (2005: 27); the last in a series of nine cantatas by progressive Leipzig poetess Mariane von Ziegler, and later assigned to Bach’s hybrid, incomplete third cantata cycle (1726-27).
4. Cantata BWV 129, “Gelobet sei der Herr, mein Gott” (Praise be the Lord, my God) premiered on June 15, 1727, based on a recently-found cantata textbook (Tatiana Shabalina, Bach UK Network, Understanding Bach 4, 2009) and repeated in 1732-35, 1743-46, 1744-47, 1755 (Penzel); a pure-hymn chorale cantata like BWV 112, “Der Herr ist mein getreuer Hirt” (The Lord is my faithful shepherd) for Misericordias (Second Sunday After Easter Sunday), both belatedly composed for the Easter Season portion of the chorale cantata cycle (1724-25), BWV 112, composed 1729-31.
5. Mass sections: Sanctus in C, BWV 237 5/15/16 or 5/23/1723; Missa in B Minor (Kyrie-Gloria), BWV 232I, possibly performed in Leipzig in 1732-35); and the four Missae (Kyrie-Gloria), BWV 233-236, possibly performed in Leipzig or Dresden in 1735-38) as part of Bach’s Christological Cycle of sacred works.
In addition, a Picander “fourth” cycle published text exists for Trinity Sunday, June 12, 1729, “Gott will ich mich in dem Himmel haben” (God will have me in heaven). It is doubtful, however, that Bach set it because it contains no chorale and by that time Bach had virtually ceased composing new church-service cantatas; instead, he had assumed full responsibilities for the Leipzig Collegium musicum series at Zimmerman’s Coffee House.
Chorale Cantata 129 (BCW Details & Discography, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV129.htm).
“Gelobet sei der Herr, mein Gott” “is one of the most glorious melodies he ever wrote,” says John Eliot Gardiner’s 2008 liner notes to the 2000 Bach Cantata Pilgrimage on Soli Deo recordings. In 1727, “Bach’s preference for Trinity Sunday was for an uncomplicatedly jubilant text. For BWV 129 Gelobet sei der Herr, mein Gott he chose five strophes from Johann Olearius’ chorale of 1665, four of the five beginning with the title words. There are no recitatives or da capo arias; yet there is a plenty of variety, from the stirring chorale fantasia that opens the work, with flute, two oboes, three trumpets and drums added to the string band, to the three arias: one ritornello aria for bass with continuo in praise of the Son, a soprano aria with flute and low-lying violin obbligati addressed to the Holy Spirit and, the pick of the bunch, a pastoral dance for alto and oboe d’amore, inspired, perhaps in its imagery, by the concept of ‘den alles lobet, was in allen Lüften schwebet’ (‘praised by all things that move in the air’). No composer ever got more out of a tune than Bach when he chose, and this is one of the most glorious melodies he ever wrote (and one that has been a lifelong companion ever since I first heard my mother sing it during my childhood). The cantata ends with a chorale setting such as the one that closes the Christmas Oratorio, punctuated by brass and orchestral fanfares. It is a genial, uplifting work, and our performance of it was spirited.” © John Eliot Gardiner 2008, From a journal written in the course of the Bach Cantata Pilgrimage (Gardiner’s notes, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Pic-Rec-BIG/Gardiner-P27c[sdg138_gb].pdf; BCW Recording details, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Performers/Gardiner-Rec4.htm#P27.)
Cantata 129 Culminates Chorale Cantata Cycle
The festive atmosphere of Cantata 129 suggests “Bach imagined the cantata as the culmination of his Chorale Cantata Year,” says Klaus Hofmann in his 2008 liner notes to the Masaaki Suzuki BIS Bach sacred cantatas complete recording. <Bach’s cantata Gelobet sei der Herr forms part of his so-called Chorale Cantata year. This cycle of hymn-based cantatas was composed mostly during Bach’s second year of service in Leipzig, 1724–25.
Bach’s plan was to produce a cantata for every Sunday and feast day of the church year, starting with the first Sunday after Trinity, 11th June 1724 and ending on Trinity Sunday (27th May) 1725. Apparently, however, external factors led Bach to end the project before time, however, in February 1725. This involuntary interruption must have irked Bach, but it seems that he did not immediately abandon the project completely. In the following years he added soof the missing chorale cantatas, most probably with the intention of gradually completing the series. All of the later additions, however, differ from the original text conception: whereas in the cantatas from 1724–25 only the first and last strophes of the hymn appear in their original form, the inner strophes being reworked as recitatives and arias, the later compositions make do without reworking the inner strophes and retain the original wording in all of the movements.
Gelobet sei der Herr is one of these later additions: the sources indicate that it dates from 1726. Its liturgical purpose would suggest that it was for Trinity Sunday, 16th June of that year; certain aspects of the manuscript sources, though, would indicate the autumn, specifically a performance at the Feast of the Reformation (31st October). Admittedly the text with its praise of the Holy Trinity points unmistakably towards Trinity Sunday. The festive orchestral forces required, with three trumpets and timpani, go beyond what is found in Bach’s
other cantatas both for the Feast of the Reformation (BWV79, 80) and for Trinity (BWV165, 176 and 194). This may be because Bach imagined the cantata as the culmination of his Chorale Cantata Year. The beautiful, powerful five-strophe hymn text by the eminent theologian Johann Olearius (1611–1684) supplies both the content and the form of the cantata. The first three strophes, each beginning with the words ‘Gelobet sei der Herr’ (‘Praised be the Lord’) are addressed respectively to God the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. The last two strophes, however, deal together with praise of the Holy Trinity.
Bach set the two outer strophes to resplendent, festive music, forming a framework for the three arias that are scored more like chamber music. The outer movements combine the hymn text with a 17th-century tune often used for the chorale O Gott, du frommer Gott (Oh God, You Righteous God). In the opening chorus, as in most of Bach’s chorale cantatas, the hymn appears line by line in the soprano in long note values, embedded in the orchestral texture, while the alto, tenor and bass underpin the cantus firmus with agile, thematically independent lines, sometimes emphasizing individual words – for instance the coloraturas on ‘gelobet’ (‘praised’) and ‘Leben’ (‘life’). The energetic orchestral part, led by the strings, often lets the oboes emerge as an independent group, and the trumpets’ brief contributions highlight the celebratory tone.
The three solo arias could hardly be more different from each other: the bass aria develops from a multi-part continuo ritornello, a free basso ostinato that frames and divides the movement – while at the same time serving as the thematic basis for the imaginative vocal line. Bach uses the minor key in the soprano aria, no doubt on account of the emotive keyword ‘Trost’ (‘comfort’), which alludes to the term ‘Tröster’ (‘comforter’) that has traditionally been applied to the Holy Spirit. A homophonic theme from the flute and violin lends an elegiac quality to this movement, its simple melody featuring an ascending sixth. The piece acquires a special flavour from a short, agile, circling figure that constantly permeates the instrumental parts and evidently alludes to Jesus’ words from the gospel passage for Trinity Sunday, John 3:1–15, referring to the work of the Holy Spirit: ‘The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth’. By contrast, dance-like vitality [6/8 pastorale] and the sweet sound of the oboe d’amore characterize the praise of the Trinity in the following alto aria. At one point Bach unmistakably illustrates the unity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit by means of a unison from the alto, oboe d’amore and continuo.
The concluding chorale strophe is, as usual, a homophonic piece for choir, but this time it is provided with resplendent, independent orchestral support which – introduced by the trumpets – conjures up an impression of the ‘Heilig, Heilig’ (‘Holy, Holy’) sung by ‘die ganze Christenheit’ (‘all of Christianity’) together ‘mit der Engel Schar’ (‘with the host of angels’. © Klaus Hofmann 2008 (Hofmann notes, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Pic-Rec-BIG/Suzuki-C45c[BIS-SACD1801].pdf; BCW Recording details, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Performers/Suzuki-Rec3.htm#C45.)
Trinity Festival Chorales
Interestingly, Bach in his Trinity Sunday cantatas used none of the established chorale texts associated with the Trinity Festival in Leipzig as found in the Gottfried Vopelius 1682 <Das Neu Leipziger Gesangbuch> (The New Leipzig Song Book). Three of these same texts also had been outlined in his earliest (1714) plan for a well ordered church music, the <Orgelbüchlein> (Little Organ Book) chorale prelude collection, which instead he focused on setting the <de tempore> chorales of the first half of the church year dealing with the major events in the life of Jesus Christ.
Instead, Bach sparingly set the Trinity chorale texts as free-standing plain chorales, used them in cantatas for the last Sunday in Easter, or adapted their associated melodies as organ chorale preludes. Meanwhile, Bach chose mostly popular hymn melodies with different, didactic texts that could relate to the original poetic texts of the Trinity Sunday cantata arias and recitatives. Bach also performed two-part and double-bill cantatas on Trinity Sundays in Leipzig. The most popular two of the four Cantatas, BWV 194 and 129, were repeated several times on Trinity Sundays and even were reperformed in the decade after Bach’s death in 1750 in Halle and Leipzig.
Festival of the Holy Trinity
The Festival of the Holy Trinity (ordered by Pope John XXII, 1332) reflects upon all of the events commemorated during the first half (<de tempore>) of the church year and celebrates them as its culmination. Whereas the other< de tempore> festivals annually observe historic events in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ (Christmas, New Year, Epiphany, Easter Sunday and Pentecost Sunday), the Trinity Festival is the expression of the great Doctrine of the Church, worshipping the Trinity of God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The institution of the Trinity Festival came shortly after the end of the Crusades in 1291, emphasizing the Mystery of the Trinitarian Doctrine which previously had been expressed widely in liturgical practice such as the Baptismal Formula, Glorias, Doxologies, and the Terminations of the Collects (Paul Zeller Strodach, <The Church Year>, United Lutheran Publication House, Philadelphia PA, 1924: pp. 179-181). Ordinary Time or < omne tempore> are the 33 weeks of the seasons of Epiphany and Trinity, the second half of the Church Year.
As John Eliot Gardiner observes in his 2000 Bach Cantata Pilgrimage diary: “Cantatas for Trinity Sunday, St Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwal. “Trinity Sunday does not register today as one of the more exciting of the church’s festivals. Yet in Bach’s day, it had a climactic importance: it marked the end of the Temporale, the first half of the liturgical year which celebrates the events in the life of Jesus. For Bach personally it signified the completion of the annual cantata cycles he composed in Leipzig (his first official cantata as Thomascantor in 1723 happening to be the first Sunday after Trinity), and not surprisingly drew from him works of summary significance: cantatas that were challenging even by his standards. For us in 2000 it was a half-way point, and thus a milestone to look forward to, especially as we were due to travel to the most northerly point on our pilgrimage route, to Kirkwall in Orkney.”
2nd part of this message, see: Musical Context: Motets & Chorales for Trinity Sunday
Aryeh Oron wrote (June 7, 2015):
Cantata BWV 129 - Revised & updated Discography
The discography pages of the Chorale Cantata BWV 129 "Gelobet sei der Herr, mein Gott" for Trinity Sunday on the BCW have been revisand updated.
The cantata is scored for soprano, alto & bass soloists; 4-part chorus; and orchestra of 3 trumpets, timpani, transverse flute, 2 oboes, 2 violins, viola & continuo. See:
Complete Recordings (12): http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV129.htm
Recordings of Individual Movements (18): http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV129-2.htm
The revised discography includes many listening/watching options to recordings directly from the discography pages, just below the recording details.
I have also added to the movement pages of this cantata an option to move back and forth between the movements and to each movement page the text and relevant portion of the BGA score. See: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/INS/BWV129-01.htm
I also put at the BCW Home Page: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/
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 chorale cantata. If you are aware of a recording of BWV 129 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.
Cantata BWV 129: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements
Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4