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Cantata BWV 144
Nimm, was dein ist, und gehe hin
Discussions - Part 4

Continue from Part 3

Discussions in the Week of February 7, 2016 (4th round)

William Hoffman wrote (February 7, 2016):
Cantata 144: 'Nimm, was dein ist' Intro. & Pre-Lent

With the completion of Epiphany Time on the Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany Feast, January 30, 1724, Bach’s first Leipzig cycle of service cantatas entered the pre-Lenten period in February involving the so-called three “gesima” Sundays (also known as the Sundays before Lent), representing the 70 days before Easter. Bach’s Cantata BWV 144, “Nimm, was dein ist, und gehe hin” (Take what is yours and go on your way, Matthew 20:14) for Septugesima (70 days) Sunday, the first in the series of three fixed “gesima” Sundays continues his plan for new, distinctive musical sermons.

Cantata 144 has a “new” form with an opening biblical dictum chorus based on the gospel, Matthew 20:1-16 (Jesus’ first parable, the laborers in the vineyard), two related plain chorales in BAR form that affirm God’s will, two arias and a secco recitative. It is one of Bach’s shortest cantatas, usually lasting under 15 minutes, an intriguing work that invites considerable analysis and commentary.

It’s distinctive style can be called "stile misto," or so-called “mixed” style, with an opening old-fashion motet followed by a modern alto da-capo aria, “Murre nicht, / Lieber Christ, / Wenn was nicht nach Wunsch geschicht” (Do not grumble, / dear Christian, / when what happens is not what you wanted), cast as a minuet. It is followed by Samuel Rodigast’s 1674 uplifting (for wedding, Middle Trinity Time) “Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan” (What God does that is done well), a tenor secco recitative and soprano concertante aria (no. 5), “Genügsamkeit / Ist ein Schatz in diesem Leben” (Contentment with what there is / is a treasure in this life). Cantata 144 closes with a plain penitential psalm chorale, Markgraf Albrecht von Brandenburg (Albert Duke of Prussia) 1547/55, “Was mein Gott will, das gscheh allzeit” (What my God wants, may it always happen).1

It’s weak text and its irregular form suggested among early Bach scholars Schweitzer, Schreyer (1913) and Schering (1913) that Cantata 144 was not by Bach. Comments include: “‘weakness in declamation' (Schweitzer); 'almost entirely made of recycled mvts. not necessarily by Bach', 'an inexplicable scantiness/feebleness/weakness of the 1st aria', and 'the motivically irregularly rushed character of the introductory chorus' (Schreyer); "this cantata is one of Bach's later church cantatas, not even one of his pre-Leipzig ones, which could have been composed by any of the lesser cantors in the smaller churches of Saxony and Thuringia' (Schering), cites Thomas Braatz in BCML Cantata 144 Discussions Part 2, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV144-D2.htm (see his commentary, below, Cantata 144 Problems, Provenance).

Cantata 144 involves an old-fashion, concise alle breve 2/2 polyphonic motet that brought considerable positive commentary from the Emmanual Bach Berlin circle after 1750; followed by the minuet-style, homophonic alto aria which lasts almost half (6 minutes) the total time; the near-contemporary Rodigast chorale (no. 3) and the concluding Reformation chorale (both in old BAR form); and contemporary tenor secco recitative, “Wo die Genügsamkeit regiert . . . Da ist der Mensch vergnügt” (Where contentment rules / there people are pleased); and concertante, unorthodox-text free-da capo soprano aria.

Distinctive Form

The distinctive form and two-part nature of this brief cantata are explored in Alfred Dürr’s Cantatas of J. S. Bach.2 Plain chorale (no. 3), “Was Gott tut,” “has an articulating function as the conclusion of the first half of the work” (Ibid.: 222). With the preceding soprano aria lasting almost half the length of the work and with the opening motet only two minutes, the first half is a satisfactory mini-cantata: chorus-aria-chorale.

The cantata form Dürr shows is used in a number of Cycle 1 works: opening biblical words and two plain chorales, (no. 3) and closing, with at least an internal recitative and two arias. There are two variants. The first has the second movement as a recitative and two arias flanking a second recitative before the final chorale, totaling seven movements (BW,R,C,A,R,A,C). The initial group totals six with four at Christmas-Epiphanyfest (BWV 40, 64, 163, 65). The second variant has an aria following the biblical words, with a recitative and aria preceding the closing chorale totaling six movements (BW,A,C,R,A,C).

This six-movement group has a special emphasis on its learned treatment of the biblical content, attributed to Cantata 144 begins this group that also has BWV Anh. 199 (Purification), and the 4th Sunday after Easter to the Sunday after Ascension (BWV 166, 86, 37 and 44) in the first cycle, Dürr notes. The librettist may have intended the same text-form for Easter Monday to the 2nd Sunday after Easter (BWV 6, 42, 85) but these Bach postponed until 1725. Instead Cantatas 67 and 104 were substituted for the 1st and 2nd Sundays after Easter in 1724, while Bach, to start the Easter Season 1724 repeated Cantata 31 on Easter Sunday (and possibly 4) and parodied Köthen serenades BWV 66a and 134a for Easter Monday and Tuesday respectively.

Easter Season Changes

The original three Cantatas BWV 6, 42, and 85 were set to music and performed at the same services, Easter Tuesday to the 2nd Sunday after Easter 1725. Further, John Eliot Gardiner, citing Dürr, has developed the hypothesis that for the 3rd Sunday after Easter to Trinity Sunday, concluding the Easter-Pentecost season, Bach originally in 1724 also had commissioned Christiane Mariane von Ziegler to write the 10 cantata libretti but these were not ready in time and Bach set them the next year, 1725, along with the three postponed cantatas, in lieu of chorale cantatas for the entire season.3 These changes will be discussed in the coming BCML Discussion, beginning the week of March 27, Easter Sunday.

Biblical Emphasis Content

Dürr details the special content with biblical emphasis in this form (Ibid.). The opening biblical passage, drawn from the day’s gospel, is followed by an aria that expands on this biblical dictum/spruch, often using literal quotations. “The single recitative is strikingly learned in its character and often seems dry to the present-day listener. The [second] aria that follows shows a similar tendency; and instead of the concluding application to the individual Christian otherwise popular in cantata librettos, it provides a generalized conclusion, valid at all times. No doubt due to their learned character, Rudolf Wustmann has attributed these texts to a theologian, namely Christian Weiß the Elder, to whom he also ascribes various other Bach cantata texts.”4

Again, Bach’s motive, method, and opportunity are considered. Cantata 144 needed almost two months’ preparation previous to its performance date. Its printed text is part of an eight-consecutive cantata libretto book (Bach’s first extant) beginning in mid-January 1724. By mid December, before approval of the Town Council for printing, Bach’s text required him to have solicited the librettist with only the lectionary, chosen chorale, and movement outline on which to rely.

Cantata 144 is Bach’s first setting for Septuagesima Sunday, premiering on February 6, 1724, at the early main service of the Thomas Church, before the sermon of Subdeacon M. Justus Gotthardt Rabener (1688-1731), substituting for the Pastor Christian Weise (1671-1736 who had voice problems, says Martin Petzoldt in Bach Commentary, Vol. 2, Advent to Trinityfest.5 The full texts of the Gospel and Epistle, 1 Corinthians 9: 24-10:5 (Our life is like a race; only one receives the prize), are Lut’s 1545 German translation and the English Authorised (King James) Version 1611, BCW http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Read/Septuagesima.htm.

Septuagesima Sunday sets the coming Lenten penitential tone with its Introit Psalm 38, Domine, ne in furore (O Lord, do not rebuke me in your wrath). It is described as a “Penitential prayer about bearing sins’ heavy burden” (Bußgebet um Erleidegung von der schweren Sündenlast) by Petzoldt (Ibid.: 527). The full English text of Psalm 38 (King James Version) is found on-line at http://www.christiananswers.net/bible/psa38.html.

Cantata 144 Chorales

The Seven Penitential Psalms of David are Psalms 6 (also Domine, ne in furore), 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, and 143, and especially suitable for Lent (see English translation, http://www.churchyear.net/psalms.html ). Bach set Psalm 51 as a German motet version of Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater, “Tilge, Höchser, meine Sünden” (Cancel, Highest, my sins) BWV 1083 (mid to late 1740s), and Psalm 130 (De profundis), as Cantata 131, “Aus der Tiefe rufe ich, Herr, zu dir” (Out of the depths, Lord, I call to Thee, 1707; BCML Discussion, Week of March 6). Psalm 6, is paraphrased in chorale Cantata BWV 135, “Ach Herr, mich armen Sünder” (Ah Lord, poor sinner that I am, Cyriakus Schnegaß, 1597, NLGB 246, David Psalms), for the 3rd Sunday after Trinity 1724. Motets based on Psalm 38 were composed by Orlando di Lasso (AATTTBBB), https://www.acc.umu.se/~akadkor/early/IVK_Lassus_Orlando_di.html; Josquin des Prez (SATB), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Josquin_des_Prez; Monteverdi (6 vv.), http://www.allmusic.com/artist/claudio-monteverdi-mn0001173620/compositions ; Heinrich Schütz, SW 085, http://imslp.org/wiki/S%C3%A4mtliche_Werke_(Sch%C3%BCtz,_Heinrich). It is possible that Bach presented some motets, based on his motet collection, the Bodenschatz Florilegium Portense.6

Cantata 144 two chorales with affirmative texts addressed to God have contrasting uses. Rodigast’s 1674 “Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan” is a 6-line, 7-stanza hymn for weddings and middle Trinity Time. It is not found in the Neu Leipziger Gesangbuch des Gottfried Vopelius (NLGB, Leipzig 1682: 293).7 It is one of Bach’s favorites, with the dictum opening each stanza. Bach set the entire chorale, per omnes versus, as chorale Cantata 100 (1732-35). The full text and Francis Browne’s English translation, as well as Bach’s uses in vocal works, is found at BCW http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/Chorale014-Eng3.htm. Rodigast’s BCW Short Biography is found at http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Lib/Rodigast.htm. Information on the text and the melody of Severus Gastorius and Werner Fabricius is found at BCW http://www.bach-cantatas.com/CM/Was-Gott-tut.htm. The 4-stanza, 8-line chorale “Was mein Gott will, das gscheh allzeit” is found in the NLGB as No. 325 under the heading, “Death & Dying.” The full text and Francis Browne’s English translation are found at BCW, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Lib/Rodigast.htm. The author’s BCW Short Biography is found at http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Lib/Brandenburg.htm. Information on the text and Claudin de Sermisy (1528) melody are found at BCW, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Lib/Brandenburg.htm.

Commentary on both chorales used in Cantata 144 is found at ‘All of Bach, The Inside Story: Cantata 144, DON’T COMPLAIN AND GO AWAY, Bach changes the mood with his favourite hymn,” http://allofbach.com/en/bwv/bwv-144/detail/, http://allofbach.com/en/about-all-of-bach/, November 2015. <<It’s amazing what you can do with a hymn that appeals to you! Bach used the chorale ‘Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan’ for no fewer than seven cantata arrangements. The optimism and faith in God exuded by it must have touched him deeply. Here [Cantata 144], Bach uses the first verse as a turning point. The words of the cantata talk about the dissatisfied workers in the parable in the Gospel according to St Matthew. The opening comes straight to the point: don’t complain and go away is the strict message contained in a fugue, which is given to the men who think they have been underpaid. In the ensuing aria, a gentle alto encourages them to take satisfaction, although you still hear the echo of the workers’ grumble in the lower regions. The second chorale ‘Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan’ forms the turning point, where the message is ‘Have a little faith’. The tenor and soprano take the wise lesson to heart, following which the cantata closes aptly with the chorale that appears in the St Matthew Passion, among other works: ‘Was mein Gott will, das g’scheh allzeit’.

The key line of that final chorale, ‘Sein Will, der ist der beste’, must have lingered in the mind of Severus Gastorius as well. When he wrote the words to ‘Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan’ for his friend Samuel Rodigast, the latter’s life was hanging in the balance. However, he did not die and was able to set the words to music. Whether or not he was a great composer remains to be seen, as although he later became cantor in Jena, little of his music is known, and he based ‘Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan’ on a melody from a previously published collection of songs. We do know, however, that Rodigast was attached to the hymn, as his pupils sang it every week at his home. At his request, it was also performed at his funeral, when he died seven years later, in 1682.>>

Cantata 144 Topics

Cantata 144 brevity, it’s opening motet and closing chorale, and the “rudder” reference in the tenor recitative are touched on in Peter Smaill’s initial commentary (March 4, 2006), http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV144-D.htm. <<BWV 144,"Nimm, was dein ist,und gehe hin" for Septuagesima ( 6 February) 1724, appears to have attracted a relatively low level of interest in the previous cycle of discussions; perhaps on account of its brevity.

It can be argued that its beauty lies in he compactness of the structures; even with the fifteen-fold "Genuegsamkeit" ("contentment") expressed in the soprano aria Mvt. 5, the work only takes around 16 minutes to perform, a far cry from the 40 minutes needed for BWV 75, "Die Elenden sollen essen", with which Bach commenced his tenure at Leipzig. By now, if one includes BWV 22 in the reckoning, Bach has completed a full cycle barring the following Sunday for which "Leichtgesinnte Flattergeister" BWV 181, which ends in a chorus, is offered. At 14 minutes it is even shorter, as if we are winding down as a preparation for Lent.

By contrast with its modern obscurity, this cantata, according to Daniel Melamed," especially its first movement, was particularly well known after Bach's death. Writing in 1759, F.W. Marpurg cited the first movement as an example of admirably clear text declamation in a fugal texture." This setting of a short Spruch or dictum is the gem of the work, with a falling major scale from the sixth to the tonic, with the vigorous countersubject producing clarity of structure. The emphasis on "Thine' at the highest note of the fugal subject the slow minim rendition of "gehe hin" show Bach's care in fitting the music and text. [More commentary on the motet and early reception history is found below in John Eliot Gardiner’s ‘Gardiner Take on Cantata 144’ and Thomas Braatz’s commentary on earlier scholars dismissal of Cantata 144, Cantata 144 Problems, Provenance

The final suspension in the Chorale BWV 144/6 at "verlassen", resolving into the major, is another moment of effective word-painting in a setting of "Was mein Gott will, das g'scheh allzeit." The poignancy of this Chorale, as a meditation by the Prussian prince Markgraf Albrecht of Brandenburg-Culmbach (multiple titles apparently) on the death of his wife Dorothea, was explained in the discussions of the eponymous BWV 111 by Thomas Braatz and others. Its sentiment of resignation to the divine will are entirely appropriate to the exposition of doctrine flowing from the Gospel of the labourers in the vineyard.

After the discussion of the nautical images in BWV 81, from the previous Sunday, it is interesting to see a "Ruder" (rudder) making a brief appearance here, even when there is no cue from Scripture. (Tenor recitative, BWV 144/4; Duerr translates, "Where contentment governs, and everywhere rules the helm"). Was the librettist for both Sundays a sailor? [Thomas Braatz follows in the discussion [Ibid.] with a study of Johann Rist’s texts.]

Septugesima Sunday & Bach’s Cantatas

<<Septuagesima (in full, Septuagesima Sunday), an observance dropped from the calendar as revised following the Second Vatican Council [1962-65] but still in use in the traditional calendars, is the name given to the third from the last Sunday before Lent in the Catholic and Anglican churches [BCW, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/LCY/Septuagesimae.htm]. The Lutheran Church Year continues using the name. The term is sometimes applied to the period of the liturgical year which begins on this day and lasts through Shrove Tuesday (with the following day being Ash Wednesday, when Lent begins). This period is also known as the Pre-Lenten season or Shrovetide. The next two Sundays are labelled Sexagesima and Quinquagesima, the latter sometimes also called Shrove Sunday. The earliest Septuagesima Sunday can occur is January 18 (Easter falling on March 22 in non-leap year) and the latest is February 22 (Easter falling on April 25 in leap year).>> Septuagesima (70 days) Sunday also is known as the Third Sunday before Lent or the Ninth Sunday before Easter.

A comparison and contrast of the three cantatas Bach composed for the pre-Lenten Septuagesima Sunday (Third Sunday before Lent) -- Chorus Cantata BWV 144, Chorale Cantata BWV 92, and Solo Soprano Cantata BWV 84 – and their musical qualities and biblical themes are found in Julian Mincham’s BCW Commentary, http://www.jsbachcantatas.com/documents/chapter-37-bwv-84.htm (revised 2012). The works are: chorus Cantata BWV 144, Nimm was dein ist, und gehe hin (Take what is yours and go on your way [Matthew 20:14], Leipzig, 1724); chorale Cantata BWV 92, Ich hab in Gottes Herz und Sinn (I have surrendered to God's heart and mind [Paul Gerhardt chorale], Leipzig, 1725); and soprano solo Cantata BWV 84, Ich bin vergnügt mit meinem Glücke (I am content with my luck, Leipzig, 1727).

Another study of the three cantatas is found in John Eliot Gardiner’s 2000 double album featuring cantatas for the second and third Sunday before Lent, http://www.monteverdi.co.uk/shop/albums/cantatas/20. <<The Monteverdi Choir and the English Baroque Soloists, under the direction of John Eliot Gardiner, perform in Naarden, Holland for a performance of Bach’s cantatas for Septuagesima. The programme opens with Bach’s first Leipzig cycle, BWV 144, “Nimm, was dein ist, und gehe hin” - a cantata encapsulated by the moral drawn by Bach’s librettist from the Gospel for the day: accept and be satisfied with your lot, however unfair it may seem at the time. Following the magnificent bold and uncompromising opening, the moral of the cantata is beautifully portrayed in “Murre nicht, lieber Christ” - an aria set as a minuet for alto over a pulsating string accompaniment to represent the mutterings of dissatisfied Christians. In contrast, the engaging five-movement work for solo soprano, oboe and strings, BWV 84, “Ich bin vergnügt mit meinem Glücke,” has no mention of the disgruntled work-force, but only of being ‘content with my good fortune that dear God bestows on me.’ Gardiner stresses this sentiment by making the choir sing the final chorale “Ich leb indes in dir vergnüget” (‘I live meanwhile content in thee’) a cappella and quietly. ‘I found it very affecting’, writes Gardiner. The programme ends with the third of Bach’s surviving cantatas for this Sunday, BWV 92 “Ich hab in Gottes Herz und Sinn.” Unlike the previous two cantatas, the text does not relate specifically to either of the appointed Bible readings, but asks the congregation to surrender to God’s heart and mind and to trust in Him through good and ill. >>

The NLGB lists four omnes tempore chorales for Septuagesima Sunday: “Vater unser im Himmelreich”; “Ich ruft zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ”; “O Herre Gott, dein Göttlich Wort”; and “Es ist das Heil uns kommen her.” It notes that the Johann Hermann Schein 1627 Cantional Leipzig Songbook also lists the same four chorales under the NLGB omnes tempore heading “Vom Kreutz/Verfolung und Anfechtung” (Cross, Persecution and Challenge; Chorales Nos. 275-304). The Schein heading continues for Sexagesima Sunday (“Ich ruf zu dir” and “Ach Gott vom Himmel siehe darein”) while Quinquagesima Estomihi Sunday carries the Schein heading Von der Beich und Buß (Confession and Penitence) that is cross-referenced for the NLGB de tempore Passiontide (Lent), “Vom Leiden und Sterben Jesu Christi” (Suffering and Death of Jesus), Chorales Nos. 61-85). The four chorales for Quinquagesima are: “Durch Adams Fall ich ganz verderbt,” “Die Propheten han geprophezeit” (not set by Bach), “O wir armen Sünder,” and “Sündiger Mensch schau wer du bist” (not set by Bach).

Bach’s Pre-Lenten Cantatas8

Bach composed three cantatas for each of the three pre-Lent Sundays: Septuageisma (BWV 144, BWV 92, BWV 84), Sexagesima (BWV 18, BWV 181, BWV 126) and Quinquagesima (BWV 22/23, BWV 127, BWV 159). Bach used non-Passion omnes tempore chorale texts in his first two pre-Lent “Gesima Sunday” cantatas: Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan (BWV 144/3), Ich hab in Gottes Herz und Sinn (BWV 92), “Wer weiß, wie nahe mir mein Ende” (BWV 84/5), Durch Adams Fall ist ganz verderbt (BWV 18/5), Erhalt uns, bei deinem Wort" (BWV 126), and Herr Christ, der einig Gottes Sohn (BWV 22/5). In his cantatas for Quinquagesima Estomihi, Bach was able to use Passion chorales for Quinquagesima, in accordance with the hymn schedules of Leipzig and Dresden (Stiller, Bach & Liturgical Life in Leipzig, 1984, 238f). The cantatas are: Jesus nahm zu sich die Zwölfe (BWV 22,) Du wahrer Gott und Davids Sohn (BWV 23), Herr Jesu Christ, wahr’r Mensch und Gott (BWV 127), and Sehet, wir gehen hinauf gen Jerusalem (BWV 129). The chorales used in these cantatas are Herzlich tut much verlangen; Christe, du Lamm Gottes; Herr Jesu Christ, wahr’ Mensch und Gott; Jesu, deine Passion; and Jesu, Kreutz, Leiden und Pein.

Epiphany-Gesima Transition, Pre-Lenten Time

In traditional Christian practice Epiphany is the period from the fixed date festival of the Feast Day of Epiphany or the Adoration of the Magi, on January 6, to Ash Wednesday or the beginning of the 40-day Lenten period, reflecting the 40 days of Jesus fasting in the wilderness. The actual Epiphany “season” is a spe, mixed, in-between, overlapping, Transitional Time from the joy of Christmastide to the austerity of Lent. In fact and practice, Epiphany is not a church season but a time, based in part on its treatment in Lutheran hymn books and Bach-era chorale settings, beginning with Jesus hymns and ending with Passiontide hymns.

Epiphany Time encompasses the Sundays following the fixed Feast of Epiphany, varying from three to six Sundays (depending on the occurrence of Easter Sunday one week (Holy Week) after the spring equinox). Epiphany is followed by the three preparatory, pre-Lenten, so-called “Gesima” (Lord’s Day) Sundays: Septuagesima, Sexagesima, and Quinquagesima Estomihi, or the Fiftieth Day before Easter in preparation of Jesus crucifixion and death on Good Friday and resurrection on Easter Sunday following the Lenten penitential time of six fixed Sundays involving Quadragesima or 40 days. Thus, Septugesima (70 Days) and Sexagesima (60 Days) are misnomers or numerical generalities, enumerating the days of required fasting before Christ’s resurrection. The initial total 70 days of fasting recalls the 70 years Israel spent in captivity in Babylon.

The three Gesima Sundays were established by Pope Gregory (590-604 AD) to precede the 40 Lenten days. Septuagesima Sunday, the first of the Gesima Sundays or the Third Sunday before Lent, established the pre-Lenten penitential period, observing the cessation of the Christmastide Alleluia and Gloria, with the use of Purple service paraments and vestments of Lent. Actual fasting practices have varied over the years.

Today, the so-called Epiphany Season is recognized and observed in the Lutheran Church as a period of Standard Sundays or Green Sundays (the color of the paraments and vestments). This means that Epiphany time is an omnes tempore (ordinary time) period, like the last half of the calendar and church year, called the Trinity Season or the Twenty-some Sundays After Pentecost. These Standard Sundays emphasize the timeless teachings of Jesus Christ, rather than the milestone events in his life. The established, fixed “de tempore” or timely seasons of Christmas and Easter-Pentecost, are preceded by fixed observance periods of reflection and temperance, called Advent and Lent. The “de tempore” seasons of Christmas and Easter/Pentecost end, respectively, with the Feasts of Epiphany and Trinity Sunday.9

Cantata 144 Movements, Scoring, Incipits, Key, Meter.10

1. Chorus motet [SATB with colle parte Oboe I/II (Oboe d'amore) Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo]: Nimm, was dein ist, und gehe hin.” (Take what is yours and go on your way); b minor; 2/2 alle breve.
2. Aria da capo [Alto; Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo]: A. “Murre nicht, / Lieber Christ, / Wenn was nicht nach Wunsch geschicht” (Do not grumble, / dear Christian, / when what happens is not what you wanted); B. “Sondern sei mit dem zufrieden, / Was dir dein Gott hat beschieden” (instead be satisfied / with what God has allotted for you); da capo repeat of A, B and “ Er weiß, was dir nützlich ist” (he knows what is useful for you); e minor; ¾ minuet style.
3. Chorale plain [SATB, Continuo ?with instruments]: “Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan, / Es bleibt gerecht sein Wille” (What God does that is done well, / His will remains just”;
4. Recitative secco [Tenor, Continuo] “Wo die Genügsamkeit regiert . . . Da ist der Mensch vergnügt” (Where contentment rules / there people are pleased); e to b minor; 4/4.
5. Aria in three parts with ritornelli [Soprano; Oboe d'amore, Continuo]: Genügsamkeit / Ist ein Schatz in diesem Leben” (Contentment with what there is / is a treasure in this life); Denn es lässet sich in allen / Gottes Fügung wohl gefallen: / In everything this is well pleased / with God’s providence, / contentment with what there is.); C. music/text of A without opening ritornello but with additional references to “Genügsamkeit.”
6. Chorale plain [SATB, Continuo ?with instruments]: “Was mein Gott will, das gscheh allzeit” (What my God wants, may it always happen); b minor; 4/4.

Gardiner’s Take on Cantata 144

The central theme of Christian’s accepting their lot is discussed in Gardiner’s 2009 liner notes to the 2000 Bach Cantata Pilgrimage on Soli Deo Gloria recordings (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lVaSgrwBUCc). 11

<< With Lent only a few weeks away – a time of fasting, sackcloth and ashes – it is appropriate that the Gospel for the day should turn to the parable of the labourers in the vineyard as recounted in St Matthew. The moral drawn by Bach’s librettist is unequivocal: accept and be satisfied with your lot, however unfair it may seem at the time. It permeates all six movements of Bach’s offering from his first Leipzig cycle, BWV 144 Nimm, was dein ist, und gehe hin. It is hard to imagine a balder, more uncompromising opening to a cantata than this. From a standing start – there is absolutely no instrumental preamble – the tenors launch into the Spruch, the start of a fugal motet, with two oboes and strings doubling the voice lines over a partly independent basso continuo. Ten years after his death, at a time when not many people outside the charmed circle of his ex-pupils knew or could remember anything of his astonishing Sunday menu of church cantatas, it comes as a surprise to find an educated voice extolling the virtues of Bach’s fugal writing for voices. In 1760 the Berlin music theoretician Friedrich Wilhelm Marpurg singled out the opening of this cantata, admiring the ‘splendid declamation which the composer has applied to the main section and to a special little play on the words, “gehe hin!”’ And it is admirable the way Bach sets up a simple-seeming contrast between the syllabic statement of his first theme (in minims and crotchets) and this urgent, rhythmically propelled countersubject. It is also proof, as Robert Marshall showed in his study of the sketches and manuscripts, that Bach, typically, didn’t compose fugal expositions ‘answering to a mechanical, predictable routine’, but in order to give a special character to the text he was setting. In fact, it is a brilliant example of Bach’s economical, circuitory procedure with his material that he manages to introduce the ‘gehe hin’ figure no less than sixty times in sixty-eight bars. The effect is not so much that of a curt dismissal – ‘go thy way!’ – as a playful exhortation to take whatever life has to offer on the chin. It is also the perfect riposte to Charles Burney who, preferring Handel, wrote, ‘I never have seen a fugue by the learned and powerful author [Bach] upon a motivo that is natural and chantant’. There is of course a subtle difference between Bach the famed writer of fiendishly difficult keyboard fugues and the composer of these choral fugues. True, some of the latter are fiendish, too, (just think of the ‘fecit potentiam’ subject that the tenors are required to lead off with in his Magnificat); but more often than not they are manageable and singable, as well as conforming to what Marpurg calls ‘truth, essence, and [with] an exactly suited “rightness” to the text’.

The first aria is set as a minuet for alto over a pulsating string accompaniment to represent the mutterings of dissatisfied Christians. According to Kirnberger’s copy of the score, it should also feature two oboes doubling the violins; but since these plunge well below the lowest range of the standard baroque oboe, we felt the most plausible option was to have a single oboe da caccia to double the first violin line. It certainly gives it an extra plangency. Bach’s response to the injunction not to complain is in some ways ear-catching (the gentle lullaby with its ‘murmuring’ lower-string accompaniment), in other ways quite irritating (its four-square repetitiveness). All in all there is some - thing a little facile in the neat way he inverts the sound of the opening two 8-bar segments so as to ensure that the ‘murmuring’ is always heard at the lower pitch, while the ‘lieber Christ’ (a figure clearly reminiscent of the ‘gehe hin’ motif in No.1) appears at thhigher pitch. Look a little deeper and you sense that Bach has deliberately searched for an annoying way of fixing in the minds of his listeners what Germans describe as ‘meckern und motzen’ – the grumblings of dissatisfied labour. For behind the mutterings of the aggrieved vineyard workers stands St Paul’s injunction to the Corinthians, ‘Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer’ (1 Corinthians 10:10), and, further back, the God of the Old Testament, exasperated beyond endurance by the moaning of the ungrateful Israelites whom he had safely shepherded out of captivity in Egypt, ‘How long shall I bear with this evil congregation, which murmur against me?’ (Numbers 14:27). Bach reminds us in a passage he underlined in his Calov Bible commentary that he himself was no stranger to the injustices of contractual employment: ‘Lord, I attend to my duties and do what you have commanded me, and I will gladly work and do what you will have me do, only help me also to manage my household and help me to regulate my affairs’ – something he evidently found difficult to achieve. In fact the highest number of annotations and under-scorings in his Calov copy come from Ecclesiastes, a book that frequently refers to acceptance of one’s lot being more important than worldly acclaim, and to the idea that intelligent people are in for a life of suffering, but nowhere that talent is praiseworthy beyond the demands of meeting one’s official duties.

Sandwiched between two fine harmonisations of sturdy hymns by Samuel Rodigast (No.3) and Albrecht von Brandenburg (No.6) is a tenor recitative which ends by repeating the words ‘Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan’ of the previous chorale, and an aria for soprano with oboe d’amore obbligato. Here Bach makes the most of the attractive irregularity of phrasing. In place of the expected da capo he contrives that the third and longest portion of the aria should encompass a restatement of the whole text but without a literal reprise of the associated music. By this means he is able to vary the convention so successfully that, what with the contrapuntal interweaving of oboe and voice and the way the final oboe ritornello is ushered in while the voice still has four more bars to go, one gains the impression of the aria having been made up of a free sequence of variations

Doctrine, Technique, etc.

Theological background, form/length, doctrine, Bach’s musical response, reception, and conclusion are addressed in Peter Smaill’s (February 21, 2010) BCML Cantata 144 Part 3 Introduction, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV144-D3.htm (with some editing).

<<Introduction Background: At Septuagesima the Church Year turns towards Lent. Bach produces BWV 144, translated as “Take what is yours and go your way!” in his first year at Leipzig, to a text by an unknown author. Dürr considers that the sentiments of this Cantata are “a superficial moral (as it may seem to modern listeners) that one should cultivate contentment, be satisfied with one’s lot and resign oneself to the Will of God”.

However, if we moderns attempt to re-enter the theological world of the seventeenth century, it will be discovered that this moral was then considered profound rather than superficial, and at its extremes a threat to Lutheranism; it is a surprising libretto for that reason. Secondly, the unusual musical construction (leading strict motet and two chorales in a short (18 minute) work suggests that there may be a structural reason for the unorthodox format.

One argument for its length can be challenged quite easily. The Cantata is not short because of cold weather at that time of year, since the successor BWV 92 for 28 January 1725 is in nine parts and lasts 33 minutes. The cause may be the difficulty in sustaining the number-alphabet underpin of the text beyond a small number of movements, the evidence for which is set out below.

Doctrine

“He who has truly yielded up his free-will to God will use it no more, but perform all his actions in dependence on God…He expects only what it shall please God to send or permit, receiving prosperity and adversity with an even mind”. Thus ran the writings of the Quietist Antoinette de Bourignon (1616-1680), whose output was republished in twenty-one volumes in 1717, sixteen of which were translated into German. In Aberdeen in 1700 her doctrine is described as “spreading like a devouring fire, leading sundry well-meaning persons to vent many errors, and causing young men of good expectations to have their melancholy heightened to an excessive degree.”

This doctrine of passivity to the will of God, rather than the usual Lutheran emphasis on active cultivation of belief, is the basis of BWV 144. The two chorales both reinforce the Gospel message (from the parable of the labourers in the vineyard who grumble at late comers receiving the same amount of wages for less work): complete acceptance of the Will of God.

The issue is the extent of the doctrine of passivity, and its exclusion of the salvific effects of Grace, the Blood of Christ or Belief -- all of which are variously mentioned in BWV 92 and 84 for this day. BWV 144, by contrast, does not mention Christ himself at all (though it refers to the Christian), an especially unusual omission in the run-up to Lent and the Passion, and exclusively praises resignation of the will.

Refutations of Madame Bourignon from the University of Tübingen were published in 1708 and 1716; the theologian Albrecht Ritschl recounts how in 1719 a pious Lutheran pastor discovered to his horror that he had in his congregation an adherent of Antoinette Bourignon. And yet, in the text of this Cantata we have a developed thesis entirely in line with her teachings. Even at this early date it has to be questioned as to whether Superintendent Deyling is exerting control over the Cantata texts.

Bach’s musical response

The introductory chorus, in strict motet form, is an exemplar of the phenomenon discussed earlier by Doug Cowling: there is not even an orchestral chord to denote pitch; as in BWV 71, “Gott ist mein König”, we are left to surmise how this dramatic and severe entry is accomplished without the choir risking musical disaster on the first note.

This is one of seven motet-like movements in the Cantatas using biblical texts (unlike BWV 14/1, which is one of eight such movements based on chorales.) Apart from the severe affekt of the words, there is the possibility that Bach chose the motet form to create a numerical language-alphabet underpin. It is as if, by analogy with the Gospel story, each voice is to receive the due number of notes implied by the usual natural order number alphabet, a word-counting technique in which A=1, B=2 etc. ….

Reception

Sometimes it is suggested that we have no knowledge at all of the effect on the hearers of Bach cantatas. This is generally the case but not so in two instances. As discussed previously, this Cantata is a rarity in that the insistent repetition of “und gehe hin” was noted by F. W. Marpurg for its “splendid declamation”. As Marpurg claimed to have met Bach and discussed counterpoint with him this may well constitute, though published in 1760, a reaction to a later performance in Bach's lifetime. It is not the only one, for in the Acta Lipsiensum Academica for June 1723, the chronicler (presumably referring to the performance of BWV 75 on 30 May) records that Bach’s music found general approval (“mit guten applaus.”)

Conclusion

If the contentions on theology and numerology are correct then we can start to form an idea of the character of the librettist – exposed to, and influenced by, a rigorous doctrine of self-abnegation; and tempted to order words to create hidden numeric patterns within the text even before the musical relationship to notes is established by Bach. Whoever the author, he has a mind that is (contra Leibniz) “ conscious that it is calculating.”

Bach responds with a tightly controlled work suited to the focussed text. The theology may be dated but and the praise to be heaped on the robusand rhythmic opening chorus, achieving sustained musical interest despite the short text and frequent repetitions, is as valid in 2010 as it was for Marpurg exactly 250 years ago.>>

Bach’s performance calendar

1724-02-06 So - Cantata BWV 144 Nimm, was dein ist, und gehe hin (1st performance, Leipzig)
1725-01-28 So - Cantata BWV 92 Ich hab in Gottes Herz und Sinn (1st performance, Leipzig)
1726-02-17 So - J. L. Bach JLB-3 Darum will ich auch erwahlen (1st performance, Leipzig)
1727-02-09 So - Cantata BWV 84 Ich bin vergnügt mit meinem Glücke (1st performance, Leipzig)
1728-01-25 So – no performance recorded
1729-02-13 So - possible repeat of version of Cantata 84 (Picander cycle P-19)
1736-01-29 So - G.H. Stölzel: Ich bin der Herr, der das Recht liebt [Not extant]

Cantata 144 Problems, Provenance

The problems in Cantata 144, its authenticity, and early Provenance response are discussed in Thomas Braatz’s commentary in BCML Discussion 2 (Ibid.: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV144-D2.htm). <<The NBA KB I/7 pp. 1-29 discusses in detail the problems associated with this issue [identifying the orchestration] and even the broader issue whether this cantata is actually by Bach at all.

Serious questions have been raised by Bach scholars about its authenticity (the score, the only real evidence from Bach's lifetime, is in Bach's handwriting without his name assigned (this was done many years later by C.P.E. Bach). Schweitzer, Schreyer (1913) and Schering (1913) give various reasons for not ascribing this cantata to Bach: 'weakness in declamation' (Schweitzer); 'almost entirely made of recycled mvts. not necessarily by Bach', 'an inexplicable scantiness/feebleness/weakness of the 1st aria', and 'the motivically irregularly rushed character of the introductory chorus' (Schreyer); "this cantata is one of Bach's later church cantatas, not even one of his pre-Leipzig ones, which could have been composed by any of the lesser cantors in the smaller churches of Saxony and Thuringia' (Schering).

Opinions from the other side include those of Leonhard Wolf (1913), Alfred Heuß (1933), and Friedrich Smend (1947-1948). They emphasized, among other things, the 'masterly structure', 'excellent declamation' found in this cantata.

The NBA relies upon C.P.E. Bach's attribution, the placement of 'J.J.' before the designation of the liturgical Sunday in question, the fact that the 4-pt. chorale harmonization was included in the Breitkopf collection of chorales (1784-1787), the appearance of the score generally as a 'working' or 'composing' copy with numerous corrections not simply as a result of miscopying from another score.

The problem with assigning oboes which are not indicated on the autograph score is a serious one:

1. A copy of the score which J. Ph. Kirnberger had had made in Berlin before 1787 (the first record of it when it donated to the Joachimsthal Gymnasium) has no instrumentation listed at all.
2. A copy of the score of the 1st mvt. from the estate of C.P.E. Bach which Pölchau, a famous collector of Bach manuscripts, acquired in 1841, likewise has no indication of instrumentation.
3. A copy of the score of the entire cantata which was passed down in the Hauser (Joseph and son Franz) family dates from the first half of the 19th century and lists 2 Oboi, 2 Violini, Viola, 4. voci. e. Fondamento. [My comment: this copy was made at a time when performance practices had changed considerably with larger choirs and substitution or inclusion of clarinets as indicated by Felix Mendelssohn's performance preferences for Bach's cantatas. Perhaps, also, more operatic voices were also used, allowing the increase in the number of instruments and the choice of different instrumental coloring.]
4. A copy of the score by Anton Werner dated 1839 which has the same instrumental designation as Hauser's copy.
5. Another copy of only the 1st mvt (no instruments indicated) by Kirnberger's copyist (2nd half of 18th century) in a collection entitled 'Motetten v. J.S. Bach" which also included: 1. BWV 226 "Der Geist hilft unsrer Schwachheit auf," 2. BWV 229 "Komm, Jesu, komm," 3. BWV 244/78 (St. Matthew Passion).
6. Another copy of the score from the 19th century with the same instruments indicated as in Hauser's copy.

Looking at the sources available, the NBA decided there were two main categories: 1. the autograph score (to be kept separate from:), 2. all the other copies of it. The NBA then decided to include the enriched instrumentation for the choral mvts. (1st and last mvts.) for which there are many original examples where Bach would have done this.

The 2nd mvt., the alto aria, is, however a thorny problem for which there is no authoritative solution based on the sources available. In view of the reservations caused by the doubtfulness ["Bedenken"] that any clear reasons could be established, the editors decided on an indication of 'Violino ' [remember that Bach has no instruments or voices indicated on the autograph score] with the following: (ed Oboe) for each of the treble instrumental parts at the top of the score. The editors comment that the extremely low range ["Die ausgesprochene tiefe Stimmlage"] for the oboes makes the use of oboes here appear rather/quite doubtful ["läßt diese Zuordnung allerdings recht zweifelhaft erscheinen"]. To play these two parts properly on oboes you would have to allow much more "Oktavknickung" according to the "Umknickverfahren" ["the method used to play parts that go too low by simply jumping up an octave and playing the notes an octave higher"] than one can normally observe in other works that are definitely verified to be by Bach. Despite the fact that oboes are often "System-partner" ("share the same staff and play the same notes") with the violins in Bach's autograph scores, the editors feel that there is considerable reason to indicate their position by placing this assignation in parentheses on the NBA score with and asterisk referring to this section of the KB where the details of the discussion are given.>>

FOOTNOTES

1 Cantata 144, BCW Details and revised and updated Discography, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV144.htm. Score Vocal & Piano [1.30 MB], http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Scores/BWV144-V&P.pdf, Score BGA [1.27 MB], http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BGA/BWV144-BGA.pdf. References: BGA XXX (Cantatas 141-150, Paul Graf Waldersee, 1884), NBA KB I/7 (Septuagesima, Werner Neumann 1957), Bach Compendium BC A 41, Zwang: K 62.
2 Dürr, Cantatas of J. S. Bach, revised and translated by Richard D. P. Jones (Oxford University Press, New York, 2005: 222, 27).
3 Gardiner, Bach, Music in the Castle of Heaven (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2013: 333).
4 Cited in Dürr: Wustmann, “Sebastian Bachs Kirchenkantatenrexte,” BJ 1910, 45-62.
5 Petzoldt, Bach Kommentar: Theologisch Musikwissenschaftlicke Kommentierung der Geistlichen Vokalwerke Johann Sebastan Bachs; Vol. 2, Die Geistlichen Kantaten vom 1. Advent bis zum Trinitatisfest; Internationale Bachakademie Stuttgart (Kassel: Bärenreiter, 2007:533).
6 BACH'S MOTET COLLECTION: Otto Riemer, "Erhard Bodenschatz und sein Florilegium Portense" Schünigen: Kaminsky, 1927; ML 410 B67R4.
7
NLGB, BACH'S HYMN BOOK: Jürgen Grimm, "Das neu [?] Leipziger Gesangbuch des Gottfried Vopelius (Leipzig 1682),"Berlin: Merseburger, 1969. ML 3168 G75.
8 Sources for the materials are BCML Cantata 84 Part 4 Commentary, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV84-D4.htm, and BCML Cantata 92 Discussions Part 4, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV92-D4.htm.
9 Primary source is Keeping Time, the Church’s Years, Using Evangelical Lutheran Worshi, Vol.3 (Minneapolis MI: Aubsburg Fortress, 2009).
10 Cantata 144 text and Francis Browne English translation, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/BWV144-Eng3.htm.
11 Gardiner notes, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Pic-Rec-BIG/Gardiner-P20c%5Bsdg153_gb%5D.pdf; BCW Recording Details, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Performers/Gardiner-Rec3.htm#P20.

Aryeh Oron wrote (February 8, 2016):
Cantata BWV 144 - Revised & updated Discography

The discography pages of Cantata BWV 144 "Nimm, was dein ist, und gehe hin" (Take what is yours and go on your way) for Septuagesima Sunday on the BCW have been revised and updated.
The cantata is scored for soprano, alto & tenor soloists; 4-part chorus; and orchestra of oboe d’amore, 2 violins, viola & continuo. See:
Complete Recordings (17): http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV144.htm
Recordings of Individual Movements (14): http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV144-2.htm
The revised discography includes many listening/watching options to recordings directly from the discography pages, just below the recording details.

I also put at the BCW Home Page: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/
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 144 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): http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV144-D4.htm

 

Cantata BWV 144: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements
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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