Wiliam Hoffman wrote (July 24, 2016):
Cantata 168: 'Tue Rechnung! Donnerwort': Intro. & Trinity 9 Liturgy, Cantatas
Bach’s first extant composition for pre-Cycle 3 Trinity Time 1725 was the solo Cantata BWV 168, “Tue Rechnung! Donnerwort” (Give an account of yourself! [Luke 16:2] Word of thunder). At first appearance it is simply a brief (17 minutes), busy (in its arias), and undistinguished work. It is two-faced in its symmetrical alternating arias and recitatives (with a closing chorale) that reach backward a decade to a Weimar text of court poet Salomo Franck to which Bach sets forward-looking music that superficially seems incongruous with its dramatic word-painting, animated string writing, and dance styles. As is so typical in Bach’s musical sermons, it moves from a stern demand for accountability (Gospel Luke 16:1-9, parable of the unjust steward), to a reminder of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross (bass recitative no. 4), “So sei bemüht und unvergessen,” (take care and do not forget), to an affirmative congregational prayer, “Stärk mich mit deinem Freudengeist” (Strengthen me with your joyful spirit). Franck chose Stanza 4 of Bartholomäus Ringwaldt’s eight-stanza 1588 Catechism penitential chorale, "Herr Jesu Christ, du höchstes Gut" (Lord Jesus Christ, Thou highest Good).
Three pulsating arias dominate Cantata 168: two with dance styles: the opening 4/4 bass whirlwind, the tenor in passepied-menuett style (no. 3), and the duet in gigue style (no. 5). Instrumentally, the opening aria has no oboes d’amore, the second aria (no. 3) is a trio with solo oboe d’amore, voice, and continuo, and the third (no. 5) is a continuo duet with soprano and alto.1 In typical Bach fashion, the four solo voices could represent the soprano as Faith, the alto as Soul, the tenor as the Evangelist, and the bass as the Preacher. For the sake of brevity, Bach avoids the usual Leipzig practice of strict da-capo repeat of the opening A section. For the sake of added textual emphasis, he sets the arias, respectively, as free da-capo, two-part with ritornelli, and three part with ritornelli, the instruments serving as an additional voice, perhaps the Speaker. Operatic elements include dramatic representation and interpretation, word-painting, dance-style arias, and the alternating of arias with recitatives.
At a deeper and wider level, Cantata 168 bears hidden treasures. It is a tribute to Bach’s colleague and friend, Salomo Franck (1659-1725), whose works dominated Bach’s endeavors during this hiatus as Bach sought published texts for his coming third cantata service cycle. Bach’s treatment here of Franck’s poetry is faithful, creative, and distinguished. The results, however, are decidedly unlike the majority of the new third cycle extroverted cantatas in two parts or the intimate solo/dialogue works using borrowed materials composed over two years. While Bach probably produced this work in quick fashion, it shows great forethought, deliberation, and intention. The opening aria with dotted rhythms and shaking melismas, harkens back to a prophetic aria added to the St. John Passion on Good Friday, with its warning of the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem and the weeping of its Daughters (see below, ‘Opening Aria Intensity’).
Cantata 168 was first performed at the early main service of the Thomas Church, before the sermon (not extant) of Pastor Christian Weise ((1671-1736), says Martin Petzoldt in Bach Commentary, Vol. 1, Trinity Sundays.2 Cantata 168 may have been repeated the next year, August 18, 1726, possibly on a double bill with cousin Johann Ludwig Bach’s Cantata “Wer sich des Armen erbarmet” (We ourselves pity the poor, the Rudolstadt text only survives). Cantata 168 also was repeated about 1746-50.
Trinity 9 Liturgy, Cantata 168 Chorale
The day’s Gospel, Luke 16:1-9, the parable of the unjust steward. The Cantata 168 incipit cites Luke 16:2 in which the Rich Man demands, “Tu Rechnung von deinem Haushalten” (give an account of thy stewardship, KJV). The Epistle reading for the 9th Sunday after Trinity is Paul’s letter in 1 Corinthians 10:6-13 (Take heed lest ye fall). The full text in German and English is found at BCW http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Read/Trinity9.htm. The German text is that of Luther’s translation published in 1545, the English is the Authorised (King James) Version 1611. The Introit Psalm is Psalm 50, Deus deorum, “The mighty God, even the Lord,” says Petzoldt (Ibid: 191), who describes it as “Vom wahren Gottesdienst” (true service). The full text of Psalm 50 is found at https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Bible_(King_James)/Psalms#Psalm_50.
"Herr Jesu Christ, du höchstes Gut" is an 8-stanza, 7-line Bar Form (ABACDDB). The Ringwaldt German text and Francis Browne English translation are found at BCW http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/Chorale008-Eng3.htm. Ringwaldt (c1532-99) BCW Short Biography, see http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Lib/Ringwaldt.htm. Information on the text and anonymous (?Ringwalt) 1593 melody (NLGB 181, Zahn 4486) are found at BCW, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/CM/Herr-Jesu-Christ-du-hochstes.htm. Other Bach uses of this omnes tempore chorale are: 1. Chorale Cantata BWV 113 in b minor (S.1,2,4,8), for the 11th Sunday after Trinity 1724; 2. two duet movements (S.2,5; Nos. 2 & 4) of the 1707 memorial Cantata BWV 131, "Aus der Tiefen, rufe ich, Herr, zu dir" (Out of the Depths I cry to Thee, Oh Lord; nunct dimmitis, Psalm 130); 3. plain chorale BWV 334 in G Major; 4. melody only in Neumeister organ chorale prelude BWV 1114 in g minor (b1710); 5. melody only in the opening chorale chorus, "Ich elender Mensch, wer wird mich erlösen" (Miserable man that I am, who will free me, Rom.7:24; Francis Browne BCW) 6. set as chorale Cantata BWV 48 in g minor for the 19th Sunday after Trinity 1724 and cited for that Sunday in Stiller's book (p. 252f). The incipit is listed but not set in the Orgelbüchlein chorale prelude collection (c.1722) under “Atonement.” For further information, see BCW “Motets & Chorales for the 9th Sunday after Trinity, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/LCY/M&C-Trinity9.htm.
A gospel exegis of Franck’s text is found in Alfred Dürr’s Cantatas of J. S. Bach.2a The parable of the unjust steward becomes the situation of mankind, whom God will call to account one day. Then he will wish that the mountains and hills fall and cover him. Franck uses metaphors and conceits dealing with business accounting that Bach probably found particularly appropriate in Leipzig’s position of commerce and trade. These include accounts of one’s “office and rank” (Luther’s calling) “full of faults” in the prosaic tenor recitative (no. 2), followed by the tenor’s aria, “Capital and interest, / my debts great and small / must one day be settled.”
The following bass recitative is “the decisive turning point,” says Dürr. “Jesus’ sacrificial death,” now “paid and fully discharged.” The believer now has the duties of the steward (part of one’s calling), “to use Mammon prudently, to do good to the poor.” “The themes of rejection of Mammon and salvation through the blood of Jesus are themes in all three,” Trinity 9 Cantatas BWV 105, 94, and 168, says Peter Smaill in Cantata 168 BCML Discussion Part 2, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV168-D2.htm. “If there is a special trend BWV 168, it is to pietism, especially in the sentiment of the Chorale: ‘wash me with Thy death-sweat’ (Mvt. 6). [Hans-Joachim] Schulze [Cantatas of JSB] agrees that this Cantata is a little lost, a maverick,” "Im Kontext von Bachs Leipziger Vokalwerk nimmt diese Kantate sich ein wening verloren aus". “The origin he reveals is Pietist, for before Franck we have a sermon by the Rector of Rostock, Heinrich Müller, from 1679 expressing the same sentiments and language as BWV 168/1.”
Cantata 168 was the third and final work Bach composed for the 9th Sunday after Trinity. His performance calendar is:
1723-07-25 So - Cantata BWV 105 Herr, gehe nicht ins Gericht (1st performance, Leipzig)
1724-08-06 So - Cantata BWV 94 Was frag ich nach der Welt (1st performance, Leipzig)
1725-07-29 So - Cantata BWV 168 Tue Rechnung! Donnerwort (1st performance, Leipzig)
1726-08-18 So - J.L. Bach: Cantata Wer sich des Armen erbarmet, JLB (1st performance, Leipzig; ?Lost); possible repeat BWV 168 (double bill)
1727-08-10 So Picander text only, P-52, "Mein Jesu, was meine, ist alles das" (My Jesus, what is mine is all this), closing S. 5, “O Gott, du frommer Gott,” ?BWV 399, G Major.
1735-08-07 So 9.So.n.Trin. - G.H. Stölzel: Er ist reich über alle, die ihn anrufen [Not extant]
Vocal works with no definite date
(1732-1735) - Cantata BWV 94 Was frag ich nach der Welt (2nd performance, Leipzig)
(1746-1749) - Cantata BWV 168 Tue Rechnung! Donnerwort (2nd performance, Leipzig).
The theological and liturgical underpinnings of Cantata 168 are found in Francis Browne’s “Notes on the text” (below). The context of Cantata 168 within his compositional hiatus in the summer of 1725 and Bach’s turning to texts of Franck is discussed in Julian Mincham’s extended Commentary introduction to Cantata 168, see below, ‘Cantata 168 Larger Context,’ as well as ‘Cantata 168 Larger Context.’ Also, Klaus Hofmann’s informative 2007 liner notes to the Masaaki Suzuki BIS complete cantata recordings is found at BCW, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Pic-Rec-BIG/Suzuki-C40c[BIS-SACD1671].pdf
Gospel Parable Pattern, Righteousness Theme
The thematic pattern of the gospels is the third sequence from Trinity 9 to 19, alternating a parable with a teaching or miracle, says Douglas Cowling, BCML Discussions Part 3, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV105-D3.htm. The pairs are: *Trinity 9: Luke 16: 1-9- Parable of the unjust steward: “There was a certain rich man, which had a steward; and the same was accused unto him that he had wasted his goods.” *Trinity 10 Luke 19: 41-48 Teaching: Jesus weeps over Jerusalem: “And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it.”
The 9th Sunday after Trinity is the culmination of the mini-cycle (Trinity 6-11) emphasizing the “new life of righteousness,” involving the Christian comparison and contrast of the “New Covenant in the Blood of Christ” with the Old Testament covenants between God and the People of Israel. The smaller Trinity internal cycles are shown in Paul Zeller Strodach’s The Church Year.3 “The lessons of Trinity Time are arranged in group cycles, based on doctrine and practice, with a general definite topic. The first group, the First to the Fifth Sunday after Trinity, deals with the “Kingdom of Grace and the Call to enter therein.” The second group (the Sixth to the 11th Sunday after Trinity) “is rich with practical indications of the “Right Manner of Life in the Kingdom of Grace,” emphasizing the “new life of righteousness.” Like the Christian comparison and contrast of the New Covenant in the Blood of Christ” with the Old Testament covenants between God and the People of Israel, the Old Testament models of righteousness of the law, from the Scribes and Pharisees is compared and contrasted with the “new” Christian concept of righteousness through the Sacrament of Baptism, also known as the Sacrament of Initiation into Christianity, according to Martin Luther.
Cantata 168 Movements, Scoring, Text Incipits; Key, Meter.4
1 Aria free da-capo, dal segno opening ritornello repeated [Bass; Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo]: A. “Tue Rechnung! Donnerwort / Das die Felsen selbst zerspaltet” (Give an account of yourself! Word of thunder, / that splits apart the very rocks, Luke 16:2); B. “Ach, du mußt Gott wiedergeben / Seine Güter, Leib und Leben” (Ah, you must give back to God / his belongings, body and life); b minor; 4/4.
2. Recitative secco with arioso phrases in oboes [Tenor; Oboe d'amore I/II, Continuo]: “Es ist nur fremdes Gut, / Was ich in diesem Leben habe” (It is only the property of someone else, / what I have in this life) . . . . ; “Ich rufe flehentlich: Ihr Berge fallt! ihr Hügel decket mich / Vor Gottes Zorngerichte / Und vor dem Blitz von seinem Angesichte!” (I cry aloud beseechingly: You mountains, fall! You hills, cover me [Hosea 10:8, Luke 23:30] / from God's angry judgement / and from the lightning of his countenance!); f-sharp to c-sharp minor; 4/4.
3. Aria (trio) two-part with ritornelli [Tenor; Oboe d'amore I/II all' unisono, Continuo]: “Kapital und Interessen, / Meine Schulden groß und klein / Müssen einst verrechnet sein” (Capital and interest, / my debts great and small / must one day be settled); B. “Alles, was ich schuldig blieben, / Ist in Gottes Buch geschrieben / ” Everything for which I remain in debt / is written in God's book); f-sharp minor; 3/8 passapied-menuett style.
4. Recitative secco [Bass; Continuo]: “Jedoch, erschrocknes Herz, leb und verzage nicht!” (And yet, my frightened heart, live and do not despair!) . . . . / “So sei bemüht und unvergessen, / Den Mammon klüglich anzuwenden” (take care and do not forget / to use Mammon prudently); b minor to G Major; 4/4.
5. Aria (Duetto [often canonic]) three-part with ritornelli and basso ostinato [Soprano, Alto; Continuo]: “Herz, zerreiß des Mammons Kette” “Heart, tear apart the chains of Mammon”; B. “Machet sanft mein Sterbebette / Bauet mir ein festes Haus” (Make my deathbed soft, / build for me a firm house ); C. Das im Himmel ewig bleibet, / Wenn der Erde Gut zerstäubet.” (that remains for ever in heaven / when the earth's goods turn to dust); e minor; 6/8 dotted rhythm gigue-style Canarie.
6. Chorale plain [SATB; Oboe d'amore I/II e Violino I col Soprano, Violino II coll'Alto, Viola col Tenore, Continuo]: A. “Stärk mich mit deinem Freudengeist, / Heil mich mit deinen Wunden” (Strengthen me with your joyful spirit, / heal me with your wounds); A’. “Wasch mich mit deinem Todesschweiß / In meiner letzten Stunden” (wash me with the sweat of your death / in my last hours); B. “Und nimm mich einst, wenn dirs gefällt, / In wahrem Glauben von der Welt / Zu deinen Auserwählten.” (and take me then, whenever it pleases you, / in true faith from this world / to be with those you have chosen.); b minor; 4/4.
<<Notes on the text
BWV 168 was composed for the 9th Sunday after Trinity and was first performed on 29th July 1725. The text is by Salomon Franck. Bach used his “Evangelisches Andachts-Opfer” for some of the cantatas he composed a decade earlier in Weimar. Wolff suggests that in 1715 the 9th Sunday after Trinity fell during a period without music, the time of state mourning for Prince Johann Ernst. The autograph score according to Dürr clearly originated in Leipzig, and so it is plausible to suppose that Bach recalled the text he could not use in Weimar and set it years later in Leipzig.
As was his custom Franck keeps close to the gospel for the Sunday (Luke 16: 1-9, the parable of the unjust steward). The opening aria some of the words of the gospel. Hans Joachim Schulze suggests as possible sources for Franck's text a sermon printed in 1679 by Heinrich Müller, a theologian from Rostock, in his Evangelischer Hertzens-Spiegel: “Wir sitzen auff Rechnung / und müssen augenblicklich gewärtig seyn /daß diß Donner-Wort erschalle: Thue Rechnung... Fordert es Gott nicht ehe / so fordert er es gewiß in der letzten Todes-Stunde / da muß die Seele an die Rechen-Banck / und Antwort geben." and also a stanza from a hymn by Johannes Olearius printed 1671 in Leipzig in his Geistlichen Singekunst: “Thu Rechnung! Gott will ernstlich Rechnung von dir haben, thu Rechnung, spricht der Herr, von allen deinen Gaben, thu Rechnung, fürchte Gott, du mußt sonst plötzlich fort, thu Rechnung: denke stets an diese Donner-Wort." The occurrence of both Tue Rechnung and Donnerwort seems striking but the same collocation is found in Andreas Gryphius: “Weil mir das ernste Donnerwort durch Ohr vnd Muth/ vnd Geister kracht. Thu Rechnung Mensch/ von Leib vnd Geist/ von reden/ lesen/ thun vnd schreiben. (Sonnet 46). This suggests that it is a question of a rhetorical commonplace of the time rather than a direct source.
Franck's libretto with its short lines rhymed throughout is competent rather than inspired. Even as fair and judicious a critic as Dürr says (Ibid.: 476): “The baroque poet Franck is not deterred from using detailed metaphors whose realism, to our way of thinking today, exceeds the bounds of poetic possibilities: for example, 'When I see my accounts so full of defects' and 'principal and interest'.” Many might agree, but such judgements may also be seen as being based on a limited assumption of what is possible in poetry, more appropriate for romantic lyrics rather than the extravagant and ingenuity of baroque poetry.
The opening stanza at least makes a forceful beginning with its triple repetition of the key phrase. “Donnerwort” is found fairly often elsewhere in German literature and so is not as striking an expression as 'thunderous word' in English.
Problems perhaps begin with the first recitative which includes both a prosaic examination of accounts and, using the words of the prophet Hosea quoted by Christ on his way to Calvary, an emotional plea for mountains and hills to fall on the speaker. Incongruous juxtaposition of different spheres of imagery or apt illumination of the transcendent by the temporal? Each reader or listener will decide for themselves. Similarly the accounting and legal imagery of the tenor aria and the second recitative will evoke differing reactions.
The second recitative as often in the later movements of the cantatas proposes a solution to the problem posed earlier. Christ provides an answer to our fears of death and judgement. Here Franck adds also a passage which reflects on the gospel: use Mammon wisely so that death loses its terror
The final stanza is taken from Bartholomäus Ringwaldt's “Herr Jesu Christ, du höchstes Gut” (1588) and returns to thoughts of Jesus' sacrifice and our own death.
Bach thought sufficiently well of this libretto to remember it for ten years. Nobody would consider the cantata he produced in Leipzig to be among his greatest works, but as Julian Minham concludes 'we should be grateful for this minor work if only for the superb opening aria'.
Cantata 168 Context
The concise and perfunctory nature of Cantata 168 and its context within the compositional narrative of August 1725 is addressed at length in Mincham’s Commentary introduction to that musical sermon, BCW http://www.jsbachcantatas.com/documents/chapter-2-bwv-168-l.htm. Cantata 168 was the first of only a handful of new works Bach composed for Trinity Time 1725 and the first in Bach’s third church year cantata cycle. The lack of an opening chorus and the light orchestration are among the “mysteries about this comparatively minor and undoubtedly enigmatic work,” says Mincham, distinguished primarily for its “exhilarating beginning” bass solo.
<<In chapter 1 it was suggested that Bach required an impressive beginning for each of his major cycles. Cs 75 and 76 were written before he took up his appointment and were clearly intended to open his account in his new post at the end of May 1723. Similarly, one year later, C 20 was a work of considerable proportion and originality, creating the format of chorale-fantasia cantatas that he committed himself to, without interruption, for the following eight months.
But we do not have any Bach cantatas for the period of Trinity to the eighth Sunday after Trinity in 1725. As it stands, C 168 might appear to be the first cantata of the third cycle, but it clearly wasn't a large scale work appropriate for either Trinity or the first Sunday following it, bearing in mind that the latter marked the commencement of the 1723 and 1724 cycles. C168 does not begin with a chorus and, apart from the closing chorale, there is nothing for the chorus to do. And there are a number of other mysteries about this comparatively minor and undoubtedly enigmatic work.
But however we might view the overall cantata, the opening bass aria is one of those energetic, rhythmically driving, infectious movements quite impossible to ignore. Some may feel that the rest of the work does not measure up to this exhilarating beginning and, indeed, there are a number of clues indicating that it may have been written under considerable pressure of time. The lack of a large chorus is one; and the scoring is extremely light throughout, strings and continuo in the first movement, two oboes d′amore in the tenor aria (but playing in unison, not individual parts) and continuo only for the duet.
Furthermore, in addition to his weekly performance and composition duties for the church, Bach may well have been distracted at this time by the need to produce an important secular work required less than [one week] after C 168. C 205, written for Friedrich Müller of the Leipzig University, is a large-scale piece of fifteen movements, lasting almost forty-five minutes. Not even the most impressive of the second cycle fantasia cantatas were of this proportion. And in between the performances of Cs 168 and 205, Bach also provided new works for the twelfth and thirteenth Sundays after Trinity: Cs 137 and 164.
But the mystery remains that no cantata of Bach′s survives from the eight weeks separating C 176 (the last of the second cycle) and C 168. Are they missing? Did Bach use the works of other composers as he was to do later in 1726? If that were so, the case for a work hastily composed is weakened.
One further intriguing possibility exists. Might Bach have just heard of the death of his friend and erstwhile collaborator Salomo Franck and wished to provide a tribute to him by setting one of his texts for the following Sunday? (He would, incidentally, again turn to libretti of Franck′s later in this cycle e.g. Cs 164 and 72).
However, the lack of the by now well-established da capo structures and the fact that the libretto is known to have been written a decade previously, are factors that might suggest an earlier date of composition. The entire cantata is shrouded in mystery and it remains, apart from the opening aria, the least imposing of the three extant works composed for this day.
C 105 from the first cycle shows Bach at his most inventive. The splendid opening bipartite chorus is complemented by a soprano aria which is a veritable textbook of composition techniques, demonstrating what may be achieved technically and expressively through the manipulation of a simple four-note motive. C 94 opens with a chorale fantasia much enhanced by the splendid flute player whose services Bach was able to draw upon in the second cycle. It is slightly surprising to discover that C 168, the only one of these three works to begin with an aria rather than a chorus, actually commences with the greatest of emotional intensity.
It may also be instructive to turn back to the three cantatas from the second cycle which also begin with an aria for bass (Cs 85, 108 and 87, vol 2, chapter 44). All are impressive and powerful movements but none contain the sheer driving energy, amounting almost to violence, of C 168. Of course, in the earlier works either God or Jesus speaks in the first person and a sense of constrained dignity is justly appropriate. In C 168 it is the voice of the teacher or pastor addressing his congregation about the awesome word and power of the Lord, and that is a different matter allowing, perhaps, for a more human, emotional and less constrained expression.>>
Opening Aria Intensity
The rushing strings of the opening bass aria set the tone for the preacher’s text incipit from the day’s Gospel, “Tue Rechnung! Donnerwort / Das die Felsen selbst zerspaltet,” (Give an account of yourself! [Luke 16:2] Word of thunder / that splits apart the very rocks). It is repeated many times in free da-capo form, like the emphasis in sermons and theological discourses (see above, Francis Browne’s “Notes on the text above,” citing Heinrich Müller, Johannes Olearius, and Andreas Gryphius). To the account of thunder follows the accompaniment of lightning in the succeeding tenor recitative, punctuated by the repeated oboes d’amore at the end, and followed by the reflective tenor aria (no. 3), the first of two dances-style arias, leading to the concluding, congregational prayer, “Stärk mich mit deinem Freudengeist” (Strengthen me with your joyful spirit).
The thunder and lighting that tears apart the rocks anticipates the Gospel teaching for the next, 10th Sunday after Trinity, Luke 19: 41-48, Jesus weeps over Jerusalem. This is the prophet’s anticipation of the destruction of the Temple, symbolically found just after Christ’s sacrificial and redemptive death on the cross, followed by the earthquake that destroys the Temple.
To better understand Franck’s metaphors and Bach’s tone painting, another whirling setting, perhaps composed earlier that year for the St. John Passion, provides a better understanding of Bach’s technique and motivation. Here are the first two lines: “Zerschmettert mich, ihn Felsen und ihr Hügel, / Wirf, Himmel, deinen Strahl auf mich!” (Crush me, you rocks and hills, / hurl, heaven, your bolt at me!), Emmanuel Music translation, http://emmanuelmusic.org/notes_translations/translations_cantata/t_bwv245a.htm (scroll down to No. 13), music, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N-mqBcGAv-k. The biblical source of the quotation is Luke 24:30. At the beginning of the Way of the Cross in his Passion, Jesus prophesies of the destruction of the Temple to the Daughters of Jerusalem, and predicts their response: “Then shall they began to say to the mountains, Fall on us; and to the hills: Cover us.”
Both arias with rushing strings, BWV 168/1 and 245II/13, have the repetitive free da-capo form with pulsating followed by slowing-down, reflective passages, and the repeated return of the opening incipit, while the aria in the John Passion is more extensive and repetitive, lasting almost six minutes in some recorded versions.
For several decades, Bach scholars thought the music may have originated in the 1717 so-called “Weimar/Gotha Passion, text possibly by Salomo Franck. Recent research suggests that Bach Leipzig student Christoph Birkmann may have written the text for all three arias Bach inserted in the second version of John’s gospel and subsequently deleted, says Christine Blanken in “A Cantata-Text Cycle of 1728 from Nuremberg.” 5 In this version of the St. John Passion, BWV 245, presented on Good Friday, March 30, 1725, and published by Birkmann in 1728, Bach added after the rending of the Temple veil (Matthew 27:51a), the second sentence, “and the earth did quake and the rocks rent” (KJV, Matthew:27:51b). For the third version of his John Passion, about 1732, Bach removed the three arias and the entire Matthew 27:51 interpolation, to constitute a textually pure John Passion. In the final version, begun about 1739, Bach restored the Matthew interpolation but none of the arias, which survive separately.
Cantata 168 Larger Context
In a larger context, Bach during Trinity Time 1725 seemed highly selective in his texts and the music to be performed. Documentary evidence shows that he composed two settings to Weimar Court poet Franck’s texts, Cantata BWV 168 for the 9th Sunday after Trinity (July 29), and a month later, Cantata BWV 164, “Ihr, die ihr euch von Christo nennet” (You, who take your name from Christ), for the 13th Sunday after Trinity (August 26).
Meanwhile, Bach was busy with other compositions, as Julian Mincham points out above. On Thursday, August 3, Bach performed extended secular congratulatory cantata BWV 205, “Der zufriedengestellte Aeolus” (Aeolus Pacified). Possibly for the 12th Sunday after Trinity, Bach presented new pure-hymn cantata BWV 137, “Lobe den Herren, den mächtigen König der Ehren” (Praise the Lord, the mighty king of honour). In addition, a reperformance of Weimar Cantata BWV 161, “Komm, du süße Todesstunde” (Come, sweet hour of death), also to a Franck text, may have been presented on the 16th Sunday after Trinity (September 16), Blanken suggests (Ibid.: 20).
Bach’s motivation for composing settings of Franck’s texts may have been the recent death (June 14, 1725) of his Weimar colleague and collaborator who supplied texts for at least 17 cantatas, Mincham suggests. A possible narrative for the composition of Cantata 168 is suggested in Ruth Tatlow’s liner notes to the John Eliot Gardiner 2000 Archiv recording, BCW http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Pic-Rec-BIG/Gardiner-C11-2c[SDG-CD35].pdf; Recording details http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Performers/Gardiner.htm#C11. Unable to pay his last respects in person to his friend, “as storm clouds gathered from within and without” Bach found the libretto for what would become Cantata 168, “enriched with dramatic expletives,” and to speed up the planning stages, allocated a certain number of bars lined out on manuscript score paper and made a simple adaptation of a pre-existing chorale closing cantata BWV 113, composed a year earlier, with the same text and key of b minor.
1 Cantata 168 BCW Details & Discography, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV168.htm; Score Vocal & Piano [1.29 MB], http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Scores/BWV168-V&P.pdf; Score BGA [1.50 MB], http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BGA/BWV168-BGA.pdf. References: BGA XXXIII (Cantatas 161-170, Franz Wüllner 1887, NBA: KB I/19 (Trinity 9, Robert L. Marshall 1989), Bach Compendium BC A 116, Zwang K 128.
2 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: 211).
2a Dürr, Cantatas of J. S. Bach, revised and translated by Richard D. P. Jones (New York, Oxford University Press, 2005: 475f).
3 Strodach, The Church Year: Studies in the Introits, Collects, Epistles, and Gospels, United Lutheran Publication House, Philadelphia PA 1924: pp. 194ff).
4 Cantata 168 Salomo Franck German text and Francis Browne English Translation, as well as Browne’s “Notes on the text,” http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/BWV168-Eng3.htm.
5 See Christine Blanken, “A Cantata-Text Cycle of 1728 froNuremberg: A Preliminary Report on a Discovery relating to J. S. Bach’s so-called ‘Third Annual Cycle’” Understanding Bach, 10, 9-30, Bach Network UK 2015: 28f, http://bachnetwork.co.uk/ub10/ub10-blanken.pdf.