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Cantata BWV 16
Herr Gott, dich loben wir
Discussions - Part 4

Continue from Part 3

Discussions in the Week of January 1, 2017 (4th round)

William Hoffman wrote (January 3, 2017):
Cantata BWV 16 - Intro

Bach’s Cantata BWV 16, “Herr Gott, dich loben wir” (Lord God, we thank you), for the Leipzig 1726 festive New Year’s sacred and secular celebrations, continued his use of the published texts of Georg Christian Lehms in the third cycle with yet another unique and distinct musical sermon setting of varied works. In his fourth cantata for this day, Bach composed a modern motet setting as the chorus fantasia, terse and exuberant, of Luther’s German Te Deum. The Lehms text enabled Bach to set a central, dramatic scena for chorus with interpolated bass solo as Preacher, connecting the two choruses with a bass recitative in praising Psalm-style, all the while using progressive tonality to create a larger tableau dialogue befitting the occasion. Following are an alto recitative (no. 4) imploring Godly protection and sustenance and a meditative tenor dance-style love aria to Jesus with pastoral oboe da caccia (or viola in a later performance). To close, Bach uses another plain chorale setting of Paul Eber’s 1580 “Helft mir, Gotts Güte preisen,” closing Sanza 6, “All solch dein' Güt' wir preisen, (We praise all this goodness of yours), also closing Cantata 28, “Gottlob! nun geht das Jahr zu Ende” (Praise God! Now the year comes to an end), premiered two days before on the Sunday after Christmas, 30 December 1725.1 It was a most “well-ordered church music to the Glory of God” (for an accounting of Bach’s varied New Year’s music see below, “Bach’s New Year’s Cantatas”)

Cantata 16 was introduced on 1 January 1726 at the early main service of the Nikolaichirche before the sermon (not extant) on the day’s Gospel of Superintendent Salomon Deyling and was repeated at the afternoon vespers at the Thomaskirche before the sermon (not extant) on the day’s Epistle by Deacon Urban Gottfried Sieber, says Martin Petzoldt in Bach Commentary, Vol. 2, Advent to Trinityfest.2 Cantata 16 was repeated in 1731 and again in 1749. The Lehms text does not cite the day’s Gospel or Epistle but refers to various Psalms of praise and cites the first four lines of Luther’s Te Deum setting of the Ambrosian chant hymn.3

The Lehms text omits a closing chorale but Bach chose a most appropriate New Year’s chorale in keeping with the Lehms’ text general celebration of New Year’s. It was published in 1711 under the heading “Afternoon Devotion for New Year's Day.”3 The appropriate Introit Psalm for New Year's Day (or the Naming of the Lord) is Psalm 34, Benedicam Dominum in omni tempore (I will bless the Lord at all times, KJV), says Petzoldt (Ibid.: 298), who calls Psalm 34 “Thanksgiving for God’s joyfulness.” Motet settings of the chant are among the most popular and recorded. 5

Cantata 16 movements, scoring, incipits, key, meter:6

1. Chorus, unified motet with continuo introduction; soprano canto, imitation [SATB; Corno da caccia col Soprano, Oboe I e Violino I all' unisono, Oboe II e Violino II all' unisono, Viola, Continuo]: “Herr Gott, dich loben wir, / Herr Gott, wir danken dir. / Dich, Gott Vater in Ewigkeit, Ehret die Welt weit und breit.” (Lord God, we praise you, / Lord God, we thank you. / You, God the Father in eternity, / are honoured by the world far and wide.); a minor to G mixolydian; 4/4.
2. Recitative secco [Bass, Continuo]: “So stimmen wir / Bei dieser frohen Zei / Mit heißer Andacht an / Und legen dir, / O Gott, auf dieses neue Jahr / Das erste Herzensopfer dar. / Was hast du nicht von Ewigkeit / Vor Heil an uns getan, / Und was muss unsre Brust / Noch jetzt vor Lieb und Treu verspüren! / Dein Zion sieht vollkommne Ruh, / Es fällt ihm Glück und Segen zu; / Der Tempel schallt / Von Psaltern und von Harfen, Und unsre Seele wallt, / Wenn wir nur Andachtsglut in Herz und Munde führen. / O, sollte darum nicht ein neues Lied erklingen / Und wir in heißer Liebe singen?” (Therefore we begin to sing / at this joyful time / with ardent devotion / and lay before you / O God, at this new year / the first offering of our hearts. / What have you not from eternity / done for our salvation, / and what more have our breasts / to perceive of your love and faithfulness! / Your Zion sees perfect peace, / there falls to his share happiness and blessing. / The temple resounds / with psalteries and harps / and our soul burns / if we express with our heart and mouth the fire of devotion. / Oh, for this reason should not a new song ring out / and should we not sing in ardent love?); to G Major; 4/4.
3. Aria [Bass] and Chorus, free da-capo form, chorus insertion with permutation, independent orchestral accompaniment, ritornelli [Corno da caccia, Oboe I e Violino I all' unisono, Oboe II e Violino II all' unisono, Viola, Continuo]: Chorus: “Laßt uns jauchzen, laßt uns freuen: / Gottes Güt und Treu / Bleibet alle Morgen neu.” (Let us shout with joy, let us rejoice: / God's goodness and faithfulness / remain new every morning.); Bass (with violin solo): “Krönt und segnet seine Hand, / Ach so glaubt, daß unser Stand / Ewig, ewig glücklich sei.” (Crown and bless his hand - ah have this faith - so that our state / may be happy for ever and ever.); C Major; 4/4.
4. Recitative secco [Alto, Continuo]: “Ach treuer Hort, / Beschütz auch fernerhin dein wertes Wort, / Beschütze Kirch und Schule, / So wird dein Reich vermehrt / Und Satans arge List gestört; / Erhalte nur den Frieden / Und die beliebte Ruh, / So ist uns schon genug beschieden, / Und uns fällt lauter Wohlsein zu / Ach! Gott, du wirst das Land / Noch ferner wässern, / Du wirst es stets verbessern, / Du wirst es selbst mit deiner Hand / Und deinem Segen bauen. / Wohl uns, wenn wir / Dir für und für, / Mein Jesus und mein Heil, vertrauen.” (Ah faithful stronghold, / protect also in the future your precious word, / protect church and school; in this way your kingdom will be increased / and Satan's wicked cunning destroyed; / only maintain the peace and beloved calm / and enough has been granted to us / and we have our share of prosperity. / Ah! God, you will continue to / water this land, / you will make it better, / you yourself with your hand / and your blessing will build it up. / Happy are we, when we / for ever and ever / place our trust in you, my Jesus and my salvation.); e minor to C Major; 4/4.
5. Aria da capo with ritornelli [Tenor; Oboe da caccia o Violetta, Continuo]: A. “Geliebter Jesu, du allein / Sollst meiner Seelen Reichtum sein.” (Beloved Jesus, you alone / should be the wealth of my soul.); B. “Wir wollen dich vor allen Schätzen / In unser treues Herze setzen, / Ja, wenn das Lebensband zerreißt, / Stimmt unser gottvergnügter Geist / Noch mit den Lippen sehnlich ein: / Geliebter Jesu, du allein / Sollst meiner Seelen Reichtum sein.” (Before all treasures we want / to place you in our faithful heart, / yes, when the ties of life are broken, / our spirit that finds contentment in God /will still sing longingly with the lips: / beloved Jesus, you alone / should be the wealth of my soul.”; F Major; ¾.
6. Chorale plain BAR Form [SATB; Corno da caccia e Oboe I e Violino I col Soprano, Oboe II e Violino II e Viola coll'Alto]: A. (Stollen) “All solch dein Güt wir preisen, / Vater ins Himmels Thron,” (For all this kindness of yours we praise you, / Father on heaven's throne); A’. “Die du uns tust beweisen / Durch Christum, deinen Sohn” (that you have shown to us / through Christ your son); B. (abgesang); “Und bitten ferner dich: / Gib uns ein friedsam Jahre, / Für allem Leid bewahre / Und nähr uns mildiglich.” (and we ask you further: / give us a peaceful year, /protect us from all suffering / and feed us gently.); a minor, 4/4.

Bach’s New Year’s Cantatas

Bach’s New Year’s Cantatas BWV 190, 41, 16, 171, 143 and 248IV are compared and contrasted in Julian Mincham’s introductory commentary at his Bach Cantatas Websi, << There are probably as many extant cantatas for this special day as for any others in the church calendar, so comparisons are of particular interest. The first one presented at Leipzig (C 190 for Jan 1st 1723) is, as we would expect, a work intended to both uplift and impress. Even in its partially transmitted form, the richly scored opening chorus shows itself to be both ebullient and energetic. The second (also incomplete) movement contains one of Bachs earlier experiments with combining recitative and chorale phrases and the final statement of the chorale is emblazoned with independent trumpet parts, thematically linking it to the magnificent tripartite fantasia.

The chorale/fantasia C 41 from the second cycle (chapter 32) seems to have been constructed upon a similar plan, suggesting that Bach looked back over the earlier score to refresh his memory. He certainly used the same chorale, but a longer version with a few bars added in triple rhythm. Furthermore, he retained the trumpets and timpani in the final statement of the chorale, employing a motive that also thematically links it with the fantasia.

The later C 171 (vol 3, chapter 39) [Picander text] possibly composed for 1728 or 1729 (Dürr p 155) begins with an impressive choral motet and ends by borrowing the chorale arrangement from C 41, proving conclusively that Bach did, on occasions, look back over earlier compositions he had produced for the same events. It is noteworthy though, that in re-using this version of the chorale, the connections with the first movement which had provided a clearly recognisable sense of structural unity in C 41 were abandoned in the later cantata.

Two other cantatas must also be mentioned because of their association with this day. C 143 (vol 1, chapter 65) is a slight and possibly very early work of highly doubtful authenticity (Dürr P 161) and C 248/4 is Part 1V of the Christmas Oratorio (see Part 2 of this volume).

If then, we look at C 16 within the context of Cs 190, 41 and 171, what do we discover? Firstly, although it does begin with an opening chorus, it is both short and modestly scored. It contains just the one aria and the closing chorale is of the type most often found, a simple four-part harmonisation with doubling by the available instruments. There is a second chorus, however, somewhat unusually combined with an aria. But in general this cantata does not challenge the premise that Bach
s contributions to the Christmas/New Year celebrations of 1725/6 were of a more muted, personal and less overtly triumphant nature than those of the previous two years.

The tonal planning of this cantata is worthy of particular attention and appears to demonstrate the composer
s developing interest in progressive tonality. The opening of the first chorus is ambiguous; is it Am or C major?

The ending does not help us because it closes on a G major chord. This is, however, the dominant chord of C which takes us naturally to the first chord of the following C major recitative. The tonal process is then repeated since the recitative also ends on a G chord, thus leading to the key of the second chorus in the (now) firmly established key of C major.

It does seem that Bach may have been using harmonic processes in order to link the first three movements together as a cognate, integrated group, conjoined by these subtle tonal connections. Might he have viewed these as three sections of one large movement? He had done something comparable with the opening chorus of C 103 from the second cycle where two choral sections are divided, again by a bass recitative. He had also sought an arch of over-riding unity with the opening three movements of C 79, although there they are more connected through theme and motive than by tonal means.

Bach does, at times, set himself a challenge when he chooses, or is presented with, an archaic melody that has modal [mixolydian] rather than tonal implications. Such difficulties are to be noted in the closing chorale of C 176 (vol 2 chapter 50) and the fantasia for C 7 (vol 2 chapter 4). In the case of C 16 it is the use of Luther
s Te Deum, the first two phrases of the traditional melody which are also intoned in long notes in the opening chorus of C 190. In C 16, however, the treatment of the theme is quite different, aligning it more to the concept of the chorale fantasias from the second cycle.>>

Thus Bach composed six cantatas for
New Year's Day (BWV 190, 41, 16, 171, 143, and 248IV. What influenced Bach were the festive sacred and secular occasion, assigned chorales and German Te Deum, interesting texts, and his personal experience composing music for this day as well as similar music for the traditional annual sacred-secular installation of the town councils. Bach first composed this music, which involved Psalms of praise, in Cantata 71, “Gott is mein König” (God in my King), in 1707 for the Mühlhausen Town Council, and in two subsequent years composed works for the same event (now lost). In Cöthen, Bach only responsibility for composing vocal music were annual serenades for Prince Leopold’s Birthday (December 12) and New Year's Day. From these works, Bach salvaged four Cantatas BWV 66, 134, 173 and 184 as parodies for the second and third feast days of Easter and Pentecost 1724 in Leipzig. Bach continued composing sacred cantatas for the annual Leipzig Town Council. The same-type festive works, with trumpets and drums, to appropriate Psalm texts and chorales, were presented annually with Bach composing BWV 29, 69, 119, 120, (137) and 193. Contrafactions were made in the B-Minor Mass from Cantatas 29 (Gratias agimus tibi, Dona nobis pacem), and Cantata 120 (Et expecto).

Commentaries: Tatlow, Spitta, Schweitzer, Voigt, Dürr, Robin Leaver

Summary commentaries on Cantata 16 are provided in the Bach Cantata Website (BCW) from Ruth Tatlow, Philipp Spitta, Albert Schweitzer, Woldamar Voigt, Alfred Dürr, and Robin Leaver (February 10/12, 2003), as complied by Aryeh Oron and Thomas Braatz (BCML Discussion Part 1,

Tatlow: << Although the New Year’s fair had officially opened, it was forbidden to trade on a Sunday or festival day, and so on 1 January 1726 the church congregation were swelled to capacity with foreigners. Commercial gain was their prime motive for visiting Leipzig, but many merchants would return home bearing something of more eternal value. Having found in a published collection the text by Georg Christian Lehms for the day's cantata, BWV 16, Bach decided to add a verse of the New Year hymn "Helft mir Gotts Güte preisen" for the final movement. The exultant opening C major chorus, "Herr Gott, dich loben wir", resounded through the church after the unusually short Gospel reading (Luke 2: 21). Any early morning lapse of congregational concentration would have been remedied by the whooping and trilling corno da caccia. This is cast as a dialogue for solo bass and chorus, reminiscent of the cantor and people in the Temple, the scene of Jesus' circumcision. After the alto blessing on every sphere of life, we come to the heart of the cantata, the tenor aria "Geliebter Jesu, nur du allein". Alternating between the corporate "our" and the personal "my", the tenor focuses the hitherto global praises onto the person of Jesus alone, with a love-song accompanied by the warm tones of oboe and violetta. The final chorale is a prayer: "gib uns ein friedlich Jahre, / vor allem Leid bewahre / und nähr uns mildiglich [give us a peaceful year, shield us from sorrow and feed us lovingly].>> (2000, John Eliot Gardiner recording,

Spitta: << Among all the known compositions of Bach, this is the one where Bach seems closest to the type of cantatas composed by Telemann. To be sure, this does not occur in the 1st mvt. which is a splendid introductory chorale mvt. based on the 1st 4 lines of the Ambrosian Song of Praise: in such forms as this Bach was unable to incorporate Telemann-like features, and Telemann would have had difficulty even attempting to imitate what Bach accomplished here. The 2nd chorus (Mvt. 3 Aria tutti) is a very different story because a another type of spirit prevails here: there is a lively exchange between the bass soloist and the choir, the melodies are pleasing to the ear, the manner of expression is rather drastic, and the way the choir is handled – all these bear great similarity with the choral mvts. by Telemann. Of course, behind all of this, Bach’s spirit is always present. Bach’s connection with Telemann was close not only in his personal relationship with this composer, but he also respected and admired Telemann very much. He even copied the score of Telemann’s cantata “Machet die Thore weit” and used it in an Advent service in Leipzig. In the tenor aria (Mvt. 5,) one can easily recognize the solo singing style of Keiser and Telemann in their solo songs. Anyone who will compare this tenor aria with the tenor aria of the Estomihi cantata BWV 22/4 will sense a kinship in the manner of expression in both.>>

Schweitzer: The motif of joyous agitation is the bass line that opens this cantata. Schweitzer claims that there are over 200 such joy motifs in Bach’s cantatas.

Voigt: << The 1st mvt. opens with a splendid, festive, figured chorale that treats the 1st 4 lines of the Tedeum. A horn or trumpet supports the c.f. in the soprano voice, while the 2nd violin and viola play colla parte with the alto and tenor voice. The 1st violin swings upwards over the choir in very lively, imitative passages. After an expansive, particularly beautiful bass recitative, the bass aria with a freely treated chorus follows and has in the middle a bass arioso. Bach composed this mvt. in a popular manner (to appeal to the masses) by having the horn play very high. It could be replaced by a trumpet which will play an important role; specifically, it will be enchanting in the final ritornello. The alto recitative corresponds in quality to the beauty of the bass recitative. The tenor aria, with its sickly-sentimental style, does not approach the level of the other mvts. and should be drastically shortened. The final chorale expresses a pious kindness.>>

Dürr: << The cantata begins with rather short c.f. chorale fantasia mvt. which treats the liturgical melody of the Tedeum. The chorale melody is presented by the soprano voice (+ Horn), while the contrast is provided by the lower voices (alto, tenor, and bass,) which are then combined with the instruments that offer interesting counterpoint. The task of the instruments is not restricted to colla parte playing. The continuo begins with an 8-measure introduction that is maintained independently throughout the mvt. Equally independent and contrapuntally interesting is the combination of the 1st oboe and 1st violin, which leaves to the horn the task of supporting the soprano voice. If this part (1st violin + 1st oboe) were not so high and more within the range of the voice, this part easily could have been transformed into a 5th vocal part. A secco recitative (Mvt. 2 for bass) describes the cause of the jubilation: there is peace (“Dein Zion sieht vollkommne Ruh”) and in the churches people are singing God’s praises (“der Tempel schallt von Psaltern und von Harfen.”) The conclusion (“O sollte darum nicht ein neues Lied erklingen und wir in heißer Liebe singen?“) leads directly (there is no introductory ritornello here) into the next mvt. (3. Aria tutti) with an invitation to shout for joy („Laßt uns jauchzen.“) This mvt. has a very unusual structure or form in that it combines the characteristics of both an aria as well as a choral mvt. It is set up as a free da capo form. The main section is a choral mvt. out of which the bass occasionally arises. The middle section which has two parts belongs to the bass solo which is interrupted in the middle by a choral section. It is easier to see the structure in the following scheme: A – Choral introductory section (a) (“Laßt uns jauchzen… ») which is followed by an orchestral ritornello (b); then a choral fugue on (a) follows with a Choreinbau in (b); Orchestral interlude (b); B – Bass solo (c) (“Krönt und signet seine Hand”), a short interrupting choral section (a), Bass solo (c’); A’—Choral section with a following orchestral ritornello (b’); choral fugue on (a) but changed; Choreinbau in (b),Orchestral ritornello (b) (conclusion). The 2nd recitative (Mvt. 4 alto), another secco recitative, presents the requests for future blessings. The tenor aria (Mvt. 5) which had as an obbligato instrument an oboe da caccia in 1726, was changed in a later performance (perhaps 1731) to a ‘violetta,’ a term which according to Johann Gottfried Walther can mean either a viola or an alto viol. This would provide the appropriate sound of a string instrument that would suit the intimate sound of this aria very well. The final choral is in a simple 4-pt. harmonization.>> These notes with revision are found in Dürr’s Cantatas of J. S. Bach, revised and translated by Richard D. P. Jones (New York, Oxford University Press, 2005: 153f).

Leaver (Ibid.): <<The 1st mvt. is effectively a choral motet, with the melody in the soprano, doubled by a horn, and close imitation in the lower parts. Rather unusually, it begins with the continuo and is somewhat short, just 34 bars in length. A brief bass recitative leads into a mvt. (3) which is remarkable in a number of respects. It takes the form of a modified da capo aria (A-B-A’) in which the outer (A) sections are choral, and in part fugal, without the usual orchestral introduction. The angular theme is an example of word-painting expressive of “jauchzen” (“shout for joy”), although what one hears is more like “lachen” (“laugh”), so exuberant is the celebration of the new year. Counter-motifs of joy are introduced by first violins and then woven throughout the independent orchestral accompaniment. The central (B) section, for solo bass with a single choral interjection, continues the theme of rejoicing, with pictorialism on “krönt” (“crowns”), a musical figure that resembles a crown in the score. It is an extraordinary mvt., almost without parallel in Bach’s sacred cantatas. Mvt. 4 is an alto recitative that calls for the protection of church and school, the overlapping spheres of Bach’s activity in Leipzig and the interconnected institutions necessary for the continuance of the Lutheran tradition of church music. In the only solo aria of the cantata (Mvt. 5) for tenor in da capo form, the mood changes from extrovert rejoicing to introverted prayer. It is a reflective trio for tenor, continuo, and (in 1726) oboe da caccia; for a later performance the obbligato instrument was changed to “violetta” (viola). With either instrument Bach wanted the darker colors to contrast with the earlier mvts. and to convey the meditative nature of the text. In the final chorale, the instruments play colla parte, with the horn again doubling the soprano, as in the 1st mvt.

Cantata 16 Provenance

An account of the provenance of the score and parts, as well as details of the copyists, dates of composition and reperformances, and Lehms text, chorales and melodies, are found in Thomas Braatz’s BCW article, “Provenance” (February 11, 2003): <1726.

Bach’s Titles and Other Text Notations: On the title page Bach wrote: Festo Circumcisionis J.C. | Herr Gott dich loben wir. | à | 4 Voci. | 3 Hautbois | 2 Violini | Viola | e | Continuo | di | Joh: Sebast. Bach. On top of the 1st page of the score he wrote: J. N. J. A. Festo Circumcisionis J. C. Concerto. In addition to this Bach marked the 4th mvt.: Recit. and the 5th: Aria, With a special indication for the top part: Hautb di Caccia. For the repeat of this aria he wrote: sub signo (the dal segno sign) | ab initio. Over the last mvt.: Choral. At the very end: Fine SDG.

The Original Parts: The existing original 14 parts (the set is incomplete missing among other things 1 or 2 untransposed continuo parts as well a doublet of the Viola 1 part – the existing Viola and Violetta parts are from a later period based upon the handwriting and paper used – there is a change of the obbligato instrument which was undertaken with C.P.E. Bach’s handwriting not being that of a 13-16 year old – everything seems to point to the New Year of 1734): Soprano: (Copyist 1); Alto: (Copyist 1); Tenore: (Copyist 1); Baßo: (Copyist 1) Corno da Caccia: (a later addition by Bach himself; it was not in the score); Hautbois 1: (Copyists 1, 2, and 3); Hautbo: [sic] (Copyists 3 and 4); Violino 1: (Copyists 1 and 3); Violino 1: (Doublet – Copyists 2 and 3) Violino 2: (Copyists 1 and 3); Violino 2: (Doublet – Copyists 3, 5 and 6); Violetta: (Copyist 7) (very late - 1734, does not really belong to the original set); Viola: (Copyist 8) (one of the least authentic parts- no corrections by Bach); Continuo: (Transposed – Copyist 3 – Bach added the figured bass). Further Identification of the Copyists: 1 = Main copyist “C” who was active in the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th years of Bach’s tenure in
Leipzig as identified by Alfred Dürr; 2=Used in Bach’s 3rd and 4th Leipzig years and identified by Dürr as “Anonymous IIIb”; 3=Another main copyist of the early Leipzig period and identified by Dürr as “Hauptkopist B”; 4=A secondary copyist in Bach’s 2nd, 3rd, and 4th years in Leipzig designated by Dürr as “Anonymous IIf”; 5=Another secondary copyist of the same period; called “Anonymous IIc” by Dürr; 6=This is the young W. F. Bach; 7=This is the young C.P.E. Bach; 8=Another main copyist, but from Bach’s late period (after 1745) in Leipzig. Dürr calls him “Hauptkopist H”. Date of Composition: The most likely date of composition would be for New Year's Day 1726. It does not appear very likely that Bach used earlier material, but there is no 100% certainty on this point either. Robin A. Leaver, in his article for this cantata in the Oxford Composer Companions: J.S. Bach [ed. Malcolm Boyd,] lists performances on New Year's Day of 1726, 1731, after 1745 and again in 1749. No additional sources of information are given to substantiate the findings of 1731 and 1749. [Leaver as editor reaffirms the reperformance dates of 1731 and 1749 in the new Routledge Research Companion to Johann Sebastian Bach (London & New York: Rourtledge, 2017: 518, 537)].

Text and Melodies: Dürr indicates that the librettist is Georg Christian Lehms who had printed this
New Year's Day text in 1711 in his book “Gottgefälliges Kirchen=Opfer” under the heading “Nachmittags=Andacht auf Neu-Jahrs-Tag” without making any reference to either the Epistle or Gospel for this Feast Day, but rather emphasized only praise and thanks in a general sense. The introductory 4 lines of text are Martin Luther’s German version (1529) of the “Tedeum.” The melody for this is a variant of the plain-chant upon which this is based. The following pairs of recitatives followed by arias are presented in such a way that the 1st pair expresses gratitude for all the good things that have happened in the past year and the 2nd pair is a request for future blessings. The final chorale, not included in Lehms’ meditation, is the last verse of the New Year’s hymn by Paul Eber (circa 1580), “Helft mir Gotts Güte preisen.” The chorale melody is uniquely associated with this chorale text.>> Further note: In the tenor da-capo aria (no.5), the oboe da caccia is used in the Gustav Leonhardt recording,, as well as the horn. John Eliot Gardiner also uses the oboe da caccia but employs trumpet instead of horn, -- scroll to “J. S. Bach: CANTATA – BWV 16 “Herr Gott, dich loben wir” (John Eliot Gardiner, 2000), timing 15:52 and click on photo, while Helmut Rilling uses viola instead of oboe da caccia in the tenor aria,, and so does Jan Peter Leusick,

Gardiner notes on Cantata BWV 16 (from his album Vol. 17)

After the stirring start to the Pilgrimage, with three Christmas concerts in Weimar, came a brief turnaround in London, a belated exchange of family gifts, a partial change of team and two immensely demanding programmes to prepare for two consecutive feast days:
New Year's Day, which this year fell on a Saturday, and the Sunday after New Year. Arriving in Berlin we headed straight for the Gethsemanekirche in Prenzlauer Berg, to the north-east of the city and centre of the cultural east. In October 1989 this church became the focus of protests by artists and intellectuals against the DDR that led to a prolonged siege. It retains a strong atmosphere, this big neo-Gothic theatre of a church scarcely a hundred years old, with its impressive jutting ‘dress circle’ gallery and a long reverberative acoustic, difficult to manage. We were here to usher in the new millennium, and what better way than with the music of Bach on the two hundred and fiftieth anniversary of his death? Everyone in the group seemed enthused and ready for this huge adventure.

On paper, however, the
New Year's Day programme of cantatas risked being a damp squib. How could the trite year-end exordiums and prayers for ‘Stadt und Land’, ‘Kirche und Schule’ of Bach’s anonymous librettists measure up to the momentous time-switch from the second to the third millennium? As it turned out, easily, aptly and – thanks to Bach’s music – triumphantly. Even if the horrors of seventeenth- or eighteenth-century warfare could not compare in scale with those of the outgoing century, surely the bloodiest ever in human history, there is enough substance in some of these cantata texts to mull over, such as the ‘thousandfold misfortune, terror, sadness, fear and sudden death, enemies littering the land, cares and even more distress’ which ‘other countries see – we, instead, a year of grace’ (BWV 143 No.4). 1999 had been the year of Kosovo, Chechnya and East Timor, whilst western Europe, in contrast, wallowed in a consumerist mudbath, to all intents and purposes unharmed and at peace. But with Bach’s cantatas one is dealing with so much more than just ‘settings’ of religious texts. His music opens the door to all-encompassing moods which, in their way, are far more powerful and evocative than mere words, particularly as his textures are typically multi-layered and thus able to convey parallel, complementary and even contradictory Affekte. Words, as Mendelssohn put it, can be equivocal, slippery and ‘so ambiguous, so vague, so easily misunderstood in comparison to genuine music, which fills the soul with a thousand things better than words. The thoughts which are expto me by music that I love are not too indefinite to be put into words, but on the contrary, too definite’. With Bach comes music that seems to vault over all sectarian obstacles and provide both performer and listener with experiences that are salutary and deeply purifying, simultaneously specific and universal, and ones that seem to fit a particular need at this momentous time-switch. It is all the more fascinating, therefore, to encounter and compare Bach’s responses to the same liturgical occasion and the same biblical texts in different works composed at separate stages of his life and development. This will be the pattern for the whole year: a slice-wise comparison of cantatas written for successive feast-days. Superficially the four New Year's Day cantatas that we performed in Berlin could hardly be more different from one another.
Outwardly Bach’s New Year offering for
1726 is like Cantata 41 of the previous year in that its entire focus is on praise and thanksgiving, with no reference to the Gospel or Epistle readings. But there the similarity ends. Where Cantata 41 is expansive and majestic, BWV 16 Herr Gott, dich loben wir is concise and pithy, summed up in its opening chorus of just thirty-four bars. This is an ebullient setting of the first four lines of Luther’s German Te Deum, with the melody assigned to the sopranos doubled by a corno da caccia. A lively counterpoint provided by the three other voices encompasses a fourth voice (first violin and oboe combined). Were it not for the fact that it lies a little too high for the human voice, this would form the upper line of a five-voiced chorale motet with independent continuo. A secco recitative for bass justifies all this jubilation: ‘Thy Zion beholds perfect peace... the temple rings with the sound of psaltery (‘Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied!’ was the refrain for Bach’s New Year cantata for 1724 – see SDG Vol 16). The soloist tees up for an explosive, rumbustious choral dialogue ‘Let us rejoice, let us be glad’ (No.3). Compared with the grand hymns of thanks that habitually open his more festive cantatas or parts of the Christmas Oratorio this is really no more than a miniature. But what a punch it packs in its seventy bars! No need here for an instrumental prelude; instead the combined basses lead off with a fanfare. Their whoops of delight are immediately answered by the other voices and a tantivy for the horn. In the middle section of this so-called ‘aria’ (in free da capo structure) the solo bass now steps forward like some Cantor exhorting the people in the Temple (the scene of Jesus’ circumcision, which is also celebrated on this day) with a brilliant little figure for ‘krönt’. To the eye on the page it is shaped exactly like a ‘crown’, while to the ear it gleams like a diadem. Then comes a preposterous, raucous trill on the horn, and back come the chorus with their arpeggiated jubilations and a return to the ‘A’ music before it burgeons into a short fugue.

Sobriety and order return with a solo for the alto (No.4) who calls for the protection of church and school (Bach’s twin spheres of activity in
Leipzig), the destruction of Satan’s ‘wicked guile’, and then a whole wish-list of agricultural improvements: better irrigation, land reclamation and (divine) help with tillages. The penultimate movement is a heartfelt aria for tenor with oboe da caccia obbligato, with an intimate and particularly affecting conclusion to its ‘B’ section at the words, ‘Yea, when the thread of life breaks, our spirit shall, content in God, still sing with fervent lips’, and then a smooth transition back to the ‘A’ section – ‘Beloved Jesu, Thou alone shalt be my soul’s wealth’ – and finally a solemn, communal plea for a peaceful forthcoming year. © John Eliot Gardiner 2008 From a journal written in the course of the Bach Cantata Pilgrimage Klaus Hofmann notes on Cantata BWV 16 (from Suzuki Vol. 42)

New Year's Day has traditionally been regarded as the day when Jesus was named, and this is also the subject of the gospel passage for that day, Luke 2:21, but in his cantata text Georg Christian Lehms does not touch upon this. He opens the cantata with the first four lines of Martin Luther’s ‘Tedeum deutsch’, a German equi valent of the ancient ‘Te Deum laudamus’. His cantata text concentrates entirely upon praise and thanks: it looks back in gratitude upon God’s mer ci ful guid ance, sings confidently of his ‘Güt und Treu’ (‘goodness and faith’), asks for protection, peace, preservation and good fortune in the coming year, and combines all this with a vow of love and faith to Jesus. For those who attended the Leipzig church service on New Year's Day 1726 this cantata – especially the way it begins – must have come as a surprise. In the baroque era, when people knew how to celebrate feast days, the start of the new year was a day during which all the stops were pulled out – as a German might put it, it was celebrated ‘mit Pauken und Trompeten’ (‘with drums and trumpets’). Bach, too, had greeted the two previous years with fanfares: in 1724 with the splendid cantata Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied (Sing a new song to the Lord, BWV190), and in 1725 with a work that was scarcely less festive, Jesu, nun sei gepreiset (Jesus, be now praised, BWV 41). And now, in 1726: strings, oboes, organ continuo and probably not even a horn part (corno da caccia) – of which more later – to streng then the soprano cantus firmus in the opening movement. One can imagine the Leipzig audience looking questioningly at the performers at the beginning of the cantata: ‘And so where are the trumpets?’ It is possible that the trumpets (and perhaps also other instruments) were instead required in another church for a cantata that needed larger forces. From the particular circumstances surrounding the above-mentioned horn part, we can infer that Bach did not voluntarily impose these restrictions (which are by no means suggested by the text) upon himself. The part is not included in the score, and thus does not belong to the original conception of the work. Bach added it retrospectively, at a time that can no longer be determined with any precision – and, moreover, he wrote it straight into the individual horn part. The addition of a brass instrument does, of course, represent a step in the direction of the traditional festive instrumentation.

But for the
Leipzig audience the beginning of the cantata was also sur prising for another reason. The movement certainly does not begin in a full-blooded vocal manner: it starts with a four-bar introduction from the continuo alone, a sort of organ intonation of the kind that one might expect to precede the ancient Latin Introitus motets that traditionally began the main church service in Leipzig. The movement itself is furthermore written in the style of a traditional motet, with the usual Gregorian cantus firmus of Luther’s Tedeum in the soprano. Providing counterpoint to this is a lively and the matically varied accompaniment consisting in part of the remaining choir parts reinforced by instruments, and in part of a further, purely instrumental line, almost like a second soprano part, for oboe and first violin alone. The illu sion that a genuine motet is being performed is further nurtured at the outset by the fact that the first entry of the lower voices of the choir is un accompanied, the instrumental rein force ment only joining on the second line of the cantus firmus. In this way Bach offers us ‘old music’, so to speak: an old sacred text with a Gregorian melody in a type of genre and setting that belonged to times gone by. Like his librettist, Bach wants to direct the gaze and thoughts of the listener not only to the past year but also much further back in an historical, Biblical dimension.

In effective contrast tothe opening, the second chorus ‘Lasst uns jauchzen, lasst uns freuen’ (‘Let us cheer, let us be joyful’) – which is linked to a bass solo – speaks the musical language of its own time. The text was conceived by Lehms as a solo aria in da capo form. Borrowing from the then mod ern Italian concerto style, Bach here presents it in a musical shape which, from a typical concerto ritornello that is begun by the voices and carried on by the instruments, develops a highly complex structure. Crowning it all, with its signal motifs and virtuoso coloraturas, is the horn part that was added later. Again providing contrast to what has preceded it is the heartfelt tenor aria, to which the oboe da caccia contributes its warm timbre. Continuity into the new year, and also through the ages, is one of the unifying motifs of the cantata. At the beginning of the work, we look far back into the past. At the end of Lehms’s text, which con cludes with the aria, Bach has added a chorale strophe that refers back in a particular way to the previous year: two days earlier another setting of the same strophe, from the well-known hymn Helft mir Gotts Güte preisen (Help me to praise God’s goodness) by Paul Eber (1511–69), had ended Bach’s last cantata of 1725, Gottlob! Nun geht das Jahr zu Ende (Praise God! Now the year is ended, BWV28). © Klaus Hofmann 2008 Production Notes The main source materials for this cantata are Bach’s own manuscript (P 45) and the original parts (St 69) in the collection of the Berlin State Library. In contrast to the other parts, the part for the horn (corno da caccia) is in Bach’s own hand. Klaus Hofmann has suggested that this part was created not for the first performance but at a later date. We have included this part in this performance. Two obbligato parts exist for the fourth movement. An oboe da caccia was used on the occasion of the first performance, but for some reason a part for the ‘violetta’ (viola) was created for subsequent performances. We have used an oboe da caccia for the present per formance in deference to the instrumentation used in the first performance. © Masaaki Suzuki 2008

1 Cantata 16, BCW Details & Discography, Score Vocal & Piano [1.64 MB],, Score BGA [1.92 MB],, digital score (facsimile),, digital parts set (facsimile), References: BGA II (Cantatas 11-20, Wilhelm Rust 1855), NBA KB I/4 (New Year’s cantatas, Werner Neumann, 1964), Bach Compendium BC A 23, Zwang K 136.
2 Martin Pertzoldt, 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: 275). 3 Te Deum Latin, German, and Francis Browne’s English translation are found at BCW Extensive information on the Te Deum and the chant melody ans Bach’s usages are found at BCW The designated New Years Day hymns in Das neu Leipzier Gesangbuch are (Nos. 44-48), all set by Bach, according to Günter Stiller's Johann Sebastian Bach and Liturgical Life in Leipzig (St. Louis MO: Concordia, 1985: 236) are the hymn of the day, “Das alte Jahr vergangen ist,” and the pulpit and communion songs, “”Helfft mir, Gotts Güte preisen,” “Jesu, nun sei Gepreiset,” “Hilff, Herr Jesu, lass gelingen,” and “Das neugeborne Kindelein.”
4 Cited in Robin A. Leaver’s Cantata 16 essay in Oxford Composer Companions: J. S. Bach, ed. Malcom Boyd (Oxford University Press, 1999: 217).
5Polyphonic Motet Psalm settings found in Bach’s Florilegium Portense include those of Lassus (5 vv 1562, 4 vv 1585,, Palestrina (5 vv, 1593,, Hieronymus Praetorius (SSTBB, 1622, ); Henrich Schütz (STB 1629,\
(Heinrich_Schütz); and Buxtehude (Adendmusik, BuxWV 113,; and Johann Rosenmüller (TTB,bc,ölln-Cantus-Cölln-Edition/release/3767272 . For further details, see BCW Motets & Chorales for Turning Time,
6 Lehms German text and Francis Browne English translation, BCW
Gardiner (pp.5-6),[sdg150_gb].pdf
Hofmann/Suzuki (pp. 7-8, Production Notes p. 9);[BIS-SACD1711].pdf

Aryeh Oron wrote (January 9, 2017):
Cantata BWV 16 - Revised & updated Discography

The Chorale Cantata BWV 16 "Herr Gott, dich loben wir" (Lord God, we praise you) was composed by J.S. Bach in Leipzig for the New Year's Day [Circumcision of Christ, Holy Name] of 1726. It was performed again in Leipzig in 1749 on the same event. The cantata is scored for alto, tenor & bass soloists; 4-part Chorus; and orchestra of corno da caccia, 2 oboes, oboe da caccia, 2 violins, viola, violetta & continuo.

The discography pages of BWV 16 on the BCW have been revised and updated. See:
Complete Recordings (11):
Recordings of Individual Movements (5):
The revised discography includes many listening/watching options to recordings directly from the discography pages, just below the recording details.

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

I believe this are the most comprehensive discography of this chorale cantata. If you are aware of a recording of BWV 16 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):

Happy New Year!


Cantata BWV 16: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

Recordings & Discussions of Cantatas: Main Page | Cantatas BWV 1-50 | Cantatas BWV 51-100 | Cantatas BWV 101-150 | Cantatas BWV 151-200 | Cantatas BWV 201-224 | Cantatas BWV Anh | Order of Discussion
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Last update: Monday, September 11, 2017 15:23