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Cantata BWV 172
Erschallet, ihr Lieder, erklinget, ihr Saiten!
Discussions - Part 5

Continue from Part 4

Discussions in the Week of May 15, 2016 (4th round)

William Hoffman wrote (May 15, 2016):
Pentecost Cantata 172, Erschallet, ihr Lieder: Intro

On Pentecost Sunday, May 16, 1724, Bach probably presented two encores in a festive double-bill: revival of his Weimar Cantata 172, Erschallet, ihr Lieder, erklinget, ihr Saiten! (Ring out, ye songs, resound, ye strings), and Cantata 59, “Wer mich liebet, der wird mein Wort halten” (“He who loves me, he will my word keep,” John 14:23), that may have originated in Weimar in 1716, two years after Cantata 172. As with Christmas Day 1723, Pentecost Sunday was a joyous, festive occasion with full orchestra and chorus reinforced with trumpets and drums. Not as popular as Christmas, the remaining two days of the three-day Pentecost-festival produced fewer works and, as the first cycle was coming to a close with the end of the Thomas School term, Bach was able to utilize textual and musical similarities to recycle and transform works composed before Leipzig.

Cantata 172 at 20 minutes offers an opening da-capo chorus (repeated at the end), three da-capo arias in a row, including a soprano/alto Soul, Holy Spirit) love duet (no. 5), “Komm, laß mich nicht länger warten” (Come, let me wait no longer), which includes a chorale melody in the oboe, Martin Luther’s “Komm Heiliger Geist, Herre Gott” (Come Holy Spirit, Lord God), repeated as a plain chorale in Cantata 59, and a bass recitative/arioso (no. 2) representing Vox Christi in the sermon dictum (John 14:23) “Wer mich liebet, der wird mein Wort halten” (Who loves me will keep my word). Cantata 172 closes with a tutti plain chorale setting, “Von Gott kömmt mir ein Freudenschein” (A joyful light from God comes to me,” of Philipp Nicolai’s popular, versatile 1599 “Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern” (How beautifully shines the morning star).1

Cantata 59 uses the Gospel dictum, “He who loves me will keep my word,” as the opening duet of this concise (14 minute) soprano-bass (Soul-Jesus) solo cantata, complementing Cantata 172. Cantata 59 has a plain chorale setting (later recycled) of Luther’s “Komm, Hiliger Geist, Herre Gott” Stanza 1 (no. 3) and an undesignated closing aria. It also has a soprano secco recitative (no. 2), “O, was sind das vor Ehren, / Worzu uns Jesus setzt?” (O what are these honours / that Jesus sets as our goal?), and a bass aria with violin (no. 4), “Die Welt mit allen Herrlichkeit . . . / Kann dieser Herrlichkeit nicht gleichen” (The world with all its glory / cannot be compared with this glory). The duet, aria, and chorale later were recycled.

They were presented before and after the sermon in the early main service at the Nikolas Church, Superintendent Salomon Deyling (1677-1755) preaching the sermon (not extant) on the Gospel, John 14:23-31, says Martin Petzoldt in his Bach Commentary, Vol. 2, Advent to Trinity Sunday.2 They then were performed at the festival noon main service at St. Thomas Church with Archdeacon Johann Gottlob Carpzov (1679-1767) preaching the sermon (not extant).

For the Pentecost Sunday service in Bach’s time, the lectionary readings were: Epistle, Acts 2:1-13 (Descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles), and Gospel, John 14:23-31 (If a man loves me, he will keep my word). Texts are found at (German, Martin Luther 1545; English, Authorised King James) Version [KJV] 1611). Further, the Introit Psalm for Pentecost Sunday was Psalm 51, Miserere mei, Deus (Have mercy upon me, O God, KJV) and is known as “Davids Bußspiegel (David’s repentance reflection), says Petzoldt (Ibid.: 959). Psalm 51 is one of the Vesper Penitential Psalms and is particularly appropriate during Lent services. The others are Psalms 6, 32, 38, 102, 130, and 143. Psalm 51 provided madrigalian texts and paraphrases for 10 Bach sacred cantatas and a unique Bach setting of Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater.

Pentecost Cantatas, Lessons3

Bach’s Pentecost Festival odyssey for the founding of the Christian Church proves to be one of uniformity, complexity, diversity and practicality -- and even some repetition. While not as extensive as the three-day Christmas Festival but much more so than the three-day Easter Festival, Bach’s <Pfingsten> compositions use various well-known chorales with mostly traditional trappings created and presented in a period of more than 30 years until 1746/47, beginning in 1714 in Weimar with Cantata 172, “Erschallet, ihr Lieder, erklinget, ihr Saiten!” (Ring out, you songs, resound, you strings!”). The libretti seem appropriate and competent to fulfill the utilitarian need for parody/recycling of pre-existing materials while Cantor Bach rushed to complete the Thomas School year.

For Pentecost Sunday, the first Day of Pentecost, or Whitsun (White Sunday for the vestment color, while red is observed in the Lutheran church today), Bach seems to have emphasized appropriate church hymns beyond serviceable texts that make perfunctory references to the New Testament Gospel and Epistle lessons with intrinsic themes of fidelity, inspiration, and commitment. In Bach’s time, the story of Pentecost and the Holy Spirit are told not in the Gospel lessons but in the Epistle lessons: Pentecost Sunday, Acts 2:1-13 (The Coming of the Holy Spirit); Pentecost Monday, Acts 10:44-48 (The Gentiles Receive the Holy Spirit); and Pentecost Tuesday, Acts 8:14-17 (Holy Spirit in Sumaria). The Gospel lessons are: Pentecost Sunday, John 14: 23-31, "Promise of the Paraclete"; Pentecost Monday, John 3:16 (God so loved the world); Pentecost Tuesday, John 10:1-10 (Parable of the sheep).

Beginning with the third Sunday after Easter (Jubilate), the Pentecost Gospel is the last of five unique Jesus’ farewell discourses to his disciples in John’s gospel, Chapters 14-16: Whit Sunday [1st Day of Pentecost], John 14: 23-31 "Promise of the Paraclete" as "The Gift of Peace"; Cantatas BWV 172, BWV 59, BWV 74, BWV 34, BWV 218. The post-Resurrection Sunday Gospels in Bach’s time involving the work and witness of the Paraclete (Holy Spirit, advocate, intercessor) as well as Christ’s farewell and promise of the Second Coming to the Disciples. The Sundays, Gospel themes and Bach works are: 1. Jubilate [3rd Sunday after Easter, "Make a joyful noise"], John 16: 16-23, "Sorrow turned to joy" in "Christ's Farewell"; Cantatas BWV 12, BWV 103, BWV 103 (BWV 224). 2. Cantate [4th Sunday after Easter, "Sing"], John 16: 16-23, "The work of the Paraclete (Holy Spirit)"; Cantatas BWV 166, BWV 108. Rogate [5th Sunday after Easter, "Pray"], John 16: 23-30, "Prayer in the name of Jesus" as Christ's Promise to the Disciples; Cantatas BWV 86, BWV 87. 4. Exaudi [Sunday after Ascension, "Hear"], John 15: 26 - 16: 4, "Spirit will come" in the "Witness of the Paraclete"; Cantatas BWV 44, BWV 183.

Introit Psalm 51, Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater

Passages from Psalm 51 are found primarily in recitatives in 10 Bach mostly Leipzig cantatas for Easter-Pentecost and Trinity Time: verse 1 in “Shepherd” Cantatas BWV 85, 104, and 112 for Misericordias Domini (Second Sunday after Easter; verse 3 in general chorale Cantata 97/5; verse 4 in Cantata 132/4 for Advent in Weimar; verse 7 in Cantata 78/1 for the 14th Sunday after Trinity; verse 12 in Cantata 25/4 for the 4th Sunday after Trinity; verse 13 for Cantata 194/11 for Trinity Sunday; verse 15 for Cantata 68/4 for Pentecost Monday; and verse 18 in Weimar Cantata 199/3 for the 11th Sunday after Trinity.

Serendipitously, Bach in the 1740s arranged a paraphrase of Psalm 51 in German, parodied to a setting of Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater, "Tilge, Höchester, meine Sünden" (Blot out, Highest, My Sins), BWV 1083/BC B-26.5 This soprano-alto duet cantata with two believers blends the contemporary Neopolitan opera style of Pergolesi set to Bach’s traditional baroque four-part string harmony and using an accessible German text similar in mood for utilization in Lutheran services. As a motet, it was most appropriate in Leipzig as a polyphonic motet setting for appropriate Trinity Time services as well as Good Friday vespers and possibly as a polyphonic setting of the Introit Psalm 51 for Pentecost Sunday.

Cantata 172 History

Cantata 172 had quite an initial career, beginning in Weimar on May 20, 1714, in the Court Chapel after the sermon (not extant) on the gospel by Superintendent Johann Georg Layritz (1647-1716) in the initial D Major version (lost). Parts in a C-Major version, survive dating to Bach’s Köthen service, 1717-23 (Smend, Bach in Köthen, 1985: 219) where quite possibly Cantata 172 was Bach’s Hamburg Probe, May 17, 1719 on the day before Ascension Thursday. It probably was performed at the Lutheran St. Agnes Church in Köthen on Pentecost Sunday, June 5, 1718, says Petzoldt (Ibid.: 965). Other performances in Köthen during Bach’s tenure as court Kapellmeister (1717-23) “(among others, BWV 21 and 199) have been verified as having taken place,” “even though in what context they took place remains unclear,” says Christoph Wolff in The Organs of J. S. Bach: A Handbook (University of Illinois Press, 2012: 41). Cantata 172 Leipzig Pentecost performances were: May 28, 1724; a new C Major version on May 13, 1731, at St. Nikolas (Deyling sermon) and St. Thomas (Deacon, Urban Gottfried Sieber (1669-1741) preacher); and its final documented performance was dated to 1732-35.

Cantata 59

Bach’s first composition in Leipzig in May 1723 probably was the brief, concise Pentecost Cantata 59 (Neumesiter IV libretto, 1714), May 16, at the Paulinerkirche, the Leipzig University church. Although no documentation exists, it is possible that Cantata 59 was composed and first performed in Weimar on Pentecost Sunday, May 31, 1716. Cantata 59 has a plain chorale setting (later recycled) of Luther’s “Komm, Hiliger Geist, Herre Gott” (Come, Holy Spirit, Lord God), Stanza 1 (no. 3) and possibly closing Stanza 3 (no. 5), “Du heilige Brunst, süßer Trost” (You sacred warmth, sweet consolation). The harmonization is used to close Cantata 175, “Er rufet seinen Schafen mit Namen” (He calls his own sheep by name), to a Johann Rist text, “Nun, werter Geist, ich folg dir” (Now, honoured spirit, I follow you), for Pentecost Tuesday 1725 to a text of Christiane Mariane von Ziegler.

Cantata 59 uses the Gospel dictum as the opening chorus, “He who loves me, he will my word keep,” (Wer mich liebet, der wird mein Wort halten), John 14: 23, the Promise of the Spirit. This final Last Supper Farewell Discourse to the Disciples also is found in Bach’s first Pentecost Cantata 172 (Weimar, 1714), No. 2, bass secco recitative/arioso (Vox Christi), probably to a Salomo Franck libretto. The opening duet, BWV 59/1, was recycled as a chorus in 1725 for Bach’s second cantata cycle to open Pentecost Sunday Cantata BWV 74, “Wer mich liebet” II, that also has the parody trio aria, BWV 59/4, as the second movement changed from bass with violin to soprano with oboe da caccia and transposed from C to F Major, to a new Ziegler libretto. [See details below, “Cantata 59.” Cantata 59 was part of the current BCML 4th Round Discussions in the Week of May 4, 2014, as a soprano-bass solo cantata; see for the extensive monograph, with various versions of the original, undesignated closing chorale (no. 5).]

Pentecost Festival Monday, Tuesday

For the second and third days of the Pentecost Festival, Monday and Tuesday, Bach turned from celebratory to more intimate music while restricting his creative efforts. In the first cycle, May 29-30, 1723, Bach parodied Cöthen serenades, possibly to his own new text underlay, with Cantatas BWV 173, “Erhöhtes Fleisch und Blut” (Exalted flesh and blood), and BWV 184 “Erwünschtes Freudenlicht” (Longed-for light of joy). In the second cycle, May 21-22, 1725, Bach used original texts of Ziegler with John’s Gospel dicta for Cantatas BWV 68 “Also hat Gott die Welt geliebt” (God so loved the world, John 3:16), and Cantata BWV 175, “Er rufet seinen Schafen mit Namen” (He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out, John 10:1).

In the heterogeneous third cycle of 1726-27 there are neither new compositions nor performances of other music documented for the entire three-day festival. In 1726, Bach composed no new cantatas for six months, between the Second Sunday After Epiphany (January 20, BWV 13) and the First Sunday After Trinity (June 23, BWV 39), with the exception of BWV 43 for the Ascension Day Festival, with 11 movements in two parts, instead substituting entirely cantatas of Johann Ludwig Bach until the First Sunday After Trinity with Cantata 39. In 1727 the record of new Bach compositions is very infrequent only through pre-Lenten Septuagesima, with solo soprano Cantata 84 (Picander text), then ceases. For the next two years, Bach produced only a handful of sporadic new compositions mostly in the so-called Picander 4th cycle and meanwhile began repeats, Cantatas 173 and 184 on Pentecost Monday and Tuesday, June 2-3, 1727. His last documented new composition in this period was Cantata BWV 174 “Ich liebe den Höchsten von ganzem Gemüte” (I love God most high with all my heart), Pentecost Monday, June 6, 1729, when Bach apparently ceased church performances and undertook directing the Leipzig Collegium musicum at Zimmermann’s coffeehouse.

Pentecost Sunday Cantatas

Bach on Pentecost Sunday 1724 Bach possibly presented two encores: Cantata 59 and a revival of his Weimar Cantata 172, Erschallet, ihr Lieder, erklinget, ihr Saiten! (Ring out, ye songs, resound, ye strings).

This possible double bill is discussed in Julian Mincham’s Cantata 172 commentary introduction, BCW << This is another early work which Dürr [Bach Cantatas: 347] suggests might have been the third that Bach composed at Weimar. It is the second-to-last work of this cycle to commence with a festive chorus, and one that has a particularly ′secular′ sound about it. The last spectacular opening chorus of the cycle is the French Overture which heads C 194 [“Höchsterwünschtes Freudenfest” (Most greatly longed-for feast of joy)], the first of two cantatas [with BWV 165, “O heilges Geist- und Wasserbad” (O sacred bath of water and the Spirit)] presented for Bach′s first Leipzig celebration of Trinity Sunday [BCML Discussion Part 4, Week of May 22, 2016] (It will be recalled that he took up his formal duties on the first Sunday after Trinity, the day from which cycles 1 and 2 both begin).

It has been suggested that Bach may have intended C 172 and C 59 to have been performed on the same day, the one before and the other after the sermon. It is also possible that the latter work was never intended to form part of the church service. The use of the same hymn tune in the fifth movement of C 172 and the third of C 59 [Luther’s “Komm Heiliger Geist, Herre Gott”], and the setting of the same text as the second and first movements of each work [“He who loves me will keep my word”] would suggest that they were not conceived for the same [1724] service.

The [C 172] orchestra consists of strings and cont(with a bassoon, only in a doubling role but adding ′bite′ to the bass line), three trumpets and drums. A flute and oboe double the first violins in at least one performance but seem to have been unavailable for others where the oboe obbligato from the duet was allocated to the organ. Nevertheless, the absence of woodwind is well compensated for by the trio of trumpets in the first and third movements.>>

Cantata 172 Movements, Scoring, Incipits, Key (D Major version), Meter4

1. Chorus da capo [SATB; Tromba I-III, Timpani, Violino I/II, Viola I/II, Fagotto, Continuo]: A. homophonic with ritornelli, “Erschallet, ihr Lieder, erklinget, ihr Saiten!” (Ring out, you songs, resound, you strings!”); B motet-like fugue, “O seligste Zeiten! / Gott will sich die Seelen zu Tempeln bereiten.” (Oh blessed times! / God will prepare our souls to be his temples.); D Major; 3/8 gigue-passepied style.
2. Recitative secco, arioso (John 14:23) [Bass (Vox Christi); Continuo]: secco, “Wer mich liebet, der wird mein Wort halten / und mein Vater wird ihn lieben,” (Who loves me will keep my word, / and my father will love him); arioso, “und wir werden zu ihm kommen / und Wohnung bei ihm machen.” and we shall come to him / and make our dwelling with him.); b minor to D Major; 4/4.
3. Aria irregular da-capo with entrada flourishes [Bass; Tromba I-III, Timpani, Fagotto, Continuo]: A. “Heiligste Dreieinigkeit, / Großer Gott der Ehren, / Komm doch, in der Gnadenzeit / Bei uns einzukehren,” (Most holy Trinity, / great God of honour, / come then, in this time of grace; to visit and stay with us); B. “Komm doch in die Herzenshütten,” (come then into the shelter of our hearts); D Major; 4/4.
4. Aria da-capo in Vokaleinbau with ritornello [Tenor; Violino I/II e Viola I/II all' unisono, Continuo]: A. “O Seelenparadies, / Das Gottes Geist durchwehet” (O paradise of souls / through which the Spirit of God breathes); B. Der bei der Schöpfung blies, . . . / Auf, auf, bereite dich, / Der Tröster nahet sich.” (who blew at the creation . . . / up, up, prepare yourself, / the comforter draws near.); a minor; ¾ generic dance style.
5. Aria (Duet) in canon in three verses with response and cantus (oboe) [Soprano (Believing Soul) , Alto (Holy Ghost); Oboe, Violoncello obligato]: Soprano (Soul): Alto ( Holy Spirit): 1. “Komm, laß mich nicht länger warten / Komm, du sanfter Himmelswind,” (Come , let me wait no longer, /come, you gentle wind of heaven); “Ich erquicke dich, mein Kind. ”(I refresh you, my child). 2. Liebste Liebe, die so süße,
. . . / Ich vergeh, wenn ich dich misse.” (Dearest love, who are so delightful, . . . / I shall die, if I have to be without you); “Nimm von mir den Gnadenkuß” (Take from me the kiss of grace); 3. Sei im Glauben mir willkommen, . . . / Du hast mir das Herz genommen.” (Welcome in faith to me, . . . / You have taken my heart from me); “Ich bin dein, und du bist mein!” (I am yours, and you are mine!); G Major; 4/4.

6. Chorale [SATB; Violino I/II, Viola I/II, Fagotto, Continuo]: “Von Gott kömmt mir ein Freudenschein” (A joyful light from God comes to me); [Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern, Philipp Nicolai 1599]; G Major; 4/4.
7. Chorus, repeat of No. 1.

<<Note on the text: Bach composed this cantata in Weimar around 20th May 1714. The text is usually ascribed to Salomo Franck. It does not appear among his published works, but stylistic details make the ascription quite certain. Characteristic of Franck is the series of arias without recitatives. Although Franck cannot be classified as a pietist, the content of the text is close to pietist thinking. This can be seen in a certain emotional exuberance, especially in the picture presented in the third aria of the dialogue of the soul with the Holy Spirit. The concluding chorale is taken from a hymn by Philipp Nicolai (1599) that is an early example of the emotional, mystical basis from which pietism was to develop (See: “Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern”) (based on Dürr, Die Kantaten, p394)>>

Trinitarian Symbols, God-Man Relationship

Cantata 172 has inner movements with trinitarian symbols while the tone grows more personal describing “stages in the evolving relationship of God with man and of the Holy Spirit dwelling within and guiding the believer’s soul,” says John Eliot Gardiner in his 2006 liner notes to the Bach 2000 Cantata Pilgrimage on Soli Deo Gloria recordings.5 <<I’m finding through this year-long exploration of his cantatas in their seasonal context that Bach often brings to the surface pre-Christian aspects and forgotten connections which mirror the turning of the agricultural year. Now at the approach to midsummer he comes up with music of unalloyed optimism and exuberance in celebration of the first gifts of newly awakened nature, as well as the miraculous ignition of the divine Pentecostal spark which allows human beings to communicate across the language barrier. Much the earliest of the four cantatas for this day, BWV 172, “Erschallet, ihr Lieder, erklinget ihr Saiten!,” was composed in Weimar in 1714, just two weeks after Bach’s promotion as court Konzertmeister. Evidently it is a work which he particularly valued, reviving and retouching it once in Cöthen (possibly) and three times in Leipzig, and setting a pattern for his later approaches to the Pentecostal theme.

In the absence of the autograph score we chose to adopt the version in D major used for the first of the three Leipzig performances on 28 May 1724. Its opening movement is sunny and ebullient, the ensemble divided into three ‘choirs’, one of trumpets, one of strings (with a bassoon as its bass) and the third comprising a four-voiced chorus. With no high woodwind instruments the textures are unusually open and there is a marvellous sustained surge as the voices twice pause on a seventh chord to convey the ‘happiest hours’. For the middle section, in which the trumpets fall silent, Bach fashions an engaging piece of imitative polyphony, a fugue with no true countersubject, the vocal entries placed at a distance of 3, 2, 3 and 2 bars. Twice he builds up an intricate web of sounds – a four-fold stretto stretched across the barlines – conjuring before us the elegant tracery of those ‘temples’ which God promises to make of our souls.

Jesus’ valedictory words from the Gospel of the day (John 14:23) are set in recitative for bass (No.2), leading to an aria which is in effect a fanfare for the Holy Trinity: three trumpets, a tripartite form, a theme moving in steps of a third and a triple address to the ‘mighty God of honour’, all highly appropriate in this glorious church dedicated to the Trinity with its circular ‘rabbit’ window, three of them forming a triangle as the left ear of each serves as the right ear of its neighbour. It is also a dazzling showpiece for the principal trumpet, required to negotiate 45 consecutive demi-semiquavers (three times, of course) and at speed. If this was intended to represent the ‘rushing mighty wind’ or the ‘cloven tongues like as of fire’ described in the Epistle for the day (Acts 2:1-13), the textual allusion to Pentecost is even stronger in the delicate tenor aria which follows, a dreamy evocation of ‘a paradise of souls through which God’s spirit breathes’ generated by a seamless gentle melody for unison violins and violas with no apparent gravitational pull. In contrast to the Pentecostal rushing wind, here we sense the moment when God ‘breathed into Adam’s nostrils the breath of life’. Again, Trinitarian symbols are present: a three-part form, triple metre, an arpeggiated bass line rising by thirds and a three-fold reiteration of a waving figure to convey God’s creative breath.

From its festive ‘public’ opening chorus the tone of this cantata grows gradually more personal, each successive movement defining stages (marked by a downward modulation by thirds) in the evolving relationship of God with man and of the Holy Spirit dwelling within and guiding the belie’s soul. The Comforter announced by the tenor now converses with the soul and their dialogue (No.5), couched in overtly erotic/Pietistic language, is a musical allegory of the ‘indwelling’ and guiding of the believer’s spirit within. It is a highly ornate and sensual piece, the two voices entwined over an ostinato-like cello obbligato to which Bach adds a fourth voice, an oboe playing an embellished version of the Whitsun chorale ‘Komm, heiliger Geist’. So embedded is it in the texture, interlaced with the two singers’ lines and transfigured by Bach’s fioriture, that only the most wide-awake listener would have been able to pick it out and recognise it. Yet for all its apparent complexity – the filigree part-writing and the ornament-encrusted chorale tune – the duet is structurally fairly straightforward (tripartite, of course!). First comes an appeal to the ‘gentle breeze of heaven’, then a modulation to the dominant minor, once for the sealing of this union with the ‘kiss of grace’ and once more for the third section marking its consummation, ‘I am yours, and you are mine’. The cantata concludes with the fourth verse of Nicolai’s rousing hymn, ‘Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern’, with a soaring first violin fauxbourdon, and finally a return of the opening chorus.

Cantata 172 Versions, Changes

The various versions and changes in Cantata 172 are explained in Tsdashi Isoyama 1998 liner notes to the Masaaki Suzuki BIS complete cantata recordings.6 Cantata <<BWV 172 was written for the Feast of Pentecost, which ranks with Christmas and Easter as one of the three great feasts of the Church year. Bach also wrote three other cantatas for Pentecost, but of BWV 59, 74, 34 and 172, it may be deduced that the present cantata was his favourite, as it is known that he used in 1717, 1724, and 1731, and at least once after 1731 as well. The first performance of BWV 172 was probably on 20th May 1714. The libretto was most likely written by Salomo Franck, who was librettist for BWV 3l (Easter Sunday 1714).

When he revisired this cantata after its premiere, Bach made some revisions. In describing these revisions, the Bach Compendium (ed. H.J. Schulze and Chr. Wolf), makes mention of three consecutive manuscripts: a version in C major from Weimar, a D major manuscript from Leipzig, and a late Leipzig manuscript in C major. Although the parts from the Weimar premiere no longer exist, preventing a precise restoration of that version, the inclusion of oboe and recorder and the repetition of the opening chorus after the final chorale were characteristic, and it can be expected that the performance incorporated these features. The piece is transposed into D major for the performance mounted in Leipzig in 1724 and a flute replaced the recorder. For the later 1731 Leipzig performance, the pitch was restored to C major and the reappearance of the opening chorus at the end was omitted. The cantata was performed again sometime after 1731, and for that performance the obbligato in movement 5, formerly entrusted lo oboe and cello, was given instead to the organ.

Trumpets take the lead in the opening chorus, Erschallet, ihr Lieder, erklinget, ihr Saiten! (Ring out, songs, resound, stringsl), which is a lively statement of joy in C major, 3/8 time. Brass, strings and chorus are treated in groups, as in a concerto in the A minor middle section, the brass and percussion are silent as the chorus relates God's promise in tidy imitative phrases

In movement 2 (Recitative), the bass in the words of the Gospel itself relates Jesus' promise that he will come again. The bass continues in a dynamic C major aria (No.3) with brass obbligato. Well-suited to a prayer lifted up to the Holy Trinity, the three unison trumpets move in steps of a third. The bass, too, plays with the number 3: the melody of the aria is based on thirds and the whole movement exhibits a free three-part form
With its three voices, 3/4 time and three-part form movement 4 (tenor aria, A minor) in a sense inherits the spirit of the preceding movement but the mood is completely different. The trumpet echoes give way to a gently flowing line for unison strings and the great rise and fall of the smooth melodic line creates a dreamy image of the 'Paradise of souls through which God's Spirit breathes'.

This setting draws us toward the inward spirituality of No.5, a duet in F major. In this dialogue, the soul converses not with Jesus, but with the Holy Spirit, and the latter role is sung by the alto. Schweitzer refers to the ostinato-like form in the continuo as 'a motif of purified happiness'. When the duet begins, the oboe (later the organ) enters with lavishly decorated version of Luther's chorale Veni creator Spiritus. The chorale which closes the cantata (No.6, F major) is the fourth verse of Philipp Nicolai s famous hymn Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern (How beautifully shines the morning star, 1655). It is written in five voices, including the independent first violin part and the harmony is filled with gentle longing. © Tsdashi Isoyama 1998>>

Harmonic Rules Broken, Nicolai’s Chorale

Bach’s breaking of harmonic rules and his use of Philipp Nicolai’s well-known chorale, "Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern," are discussed in Peter Smaill’s commentary in the BCML Cantata 172 Discussions Part 2 (March 6, 2005), <<BWV 172, "Erschallet, ihr Lieder, brings us to what is now believed to be Bach's third Cantata as Konzertmeister at Weimar. It is however, I think, a "first" in separate regards. Harmonically, the "rules" against consecutive fifths are broken in the duet " Komm, lass mich nicht laenger warten" in bar 23. We've already encountered naked consecutive seconds in BWV 71; when we come to BWV 95, "Christus, der ist mein Leben", it is consecutive fourths which feature. In the last case, this occurs in the amazing tenor aria "Ach, schlage doch", the texture of oboes d'amore and pizzicato depicting another favourite Bach motif, the striking of bells. JEG's Soli Deo Gloria recording is worth buying for this movement alone.

BWV 172 is also the first encounter with Philipp Nicolai, who furnishes the major chorale "Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern", in this case verse 4. Nicolai was in 1588 appointed court preacher to Countess Margaretha von Waldeck. The first letters of each line of v1. of the chorale are another acrostic, in honour of the son and heir, Wilhelm Ernst, Graf und Herr zu Waldeck.

In the case of the equally famous "Wachet Auf ", the three verses begin W, Z, G; (Wachet ... Zion... Gloria...."); when reversed, it is claimed, giving the acrostic Graf zu Walden. The death of Nicolai's young charge at 15 following the great plague of 1597 is the background to the hidden message.

Terry points out that "Wie schön" derives from the fourteenth century carol, "Resonet in laudibus" via German folksong. Set five times in Reimenschneider (only "Jesu, meine Freude exceeds at six times), this is the first appearance of a chorale which later receives highly attractive harmonic treatment by Bach as well as in its own right being the inspiration of BWV 1.

Stanza 4 is the centrepiece of the seven verse text, the words "dein wort, dein geist, dein leib und blut" at the very heart of the verse itself - "your word, your spirit, your body and blood". Interestingly this chorale is made the closing movement by John Eliot Gardiner [13], omitting the recapitulation of the opening chorus. In view of the sense of the chorale and its exquisite violin descant, the excision of the repeat of the (possibly secular) opening chorus can be argued on musical theological grounds. The Hauptgottesdienst on this major festival of Epiphany would move next to the Creed, Sermon, Sanctus and then the words of institution, all anticipating Communion for which Nicolai's chorale text is appropriate.

Nicolai's " I come in response to Thy word" stands as the conclusion of the text in present tense, in response to to that which is begun in the future voice appropriate to a congregational introit, "God will make temples of our souls". However, the fact of four additional separate performance of BWV 172, "Erschallet ihr Lieder" suggest scholarship may exist indicating anyhow that, in point of fact, the opening chorus was at some point not repeated in historic terms.>>

Cantata 172 surviving manuscripts are outlined in Thomas Braatz’s (March 6, 2005 commentary, based on NBA KB 1/13: 35-38, found later in the Part 2 Discussion (Ibid.), with Braatz’s history on singing and bass parts in Bach’s music (ref. low C in bass vox Christi arioso) and his discussion of Chorton and kammerton intonation between Weimar and Leipzig (March 8, 2006), as well as extensive discussions of the merits of various recordings.

Pentecost Feast Importance

The importance of the Pentecost Feast and Bach’s first work for the Sunday celebration, Cantata 172, in its context with one of Bach’s first major works, Cantata 21, “Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis in meinem Herzen” (I had much affliction in my heart, Psalm 94:9), is explored in Eric Chafe’s new study: Tears Into Wine: J. S. Bach’s Cantata 21in Its Musical & Theological Contexts New York: Oxford University Press: 2015). His thesis is: “Cantata 21 represents the patterns of traditional hermeneutics and the spiritual goal that those patterns were created to attain: the believer’s progression from scripture, history, and the physical world to a ‘spiritual’ view of existence center on his hopes for a future life.” “The designation ‘per ogni tempo’ [for any time] should undoubtedly, therefore, be understood as an indication of the ‘universality’ of its theological message.” Chafe’s exploration of Cantata 172 is the final chapter in Part Four: Cantatas for Weimar 1714: Chapter 10. Perspectives on the Incarnation: Cantatas 61, 63, 152; 11. The Way of the Cross: Cantatas 182 and 12; and 12. Descent and Indwelling: Cantata 172.

Chafe begins Chapter 12 with an exploration of the significance of Pentecost (p.529f). With Christmas and Easter, it is “one of the defining feasts from earliest Christian times” and the “pillars in the first half,” de tempore, of the church year. The three feasts are associated with the three persons in the uniquely Christian concept of the Holy Trinity: Christmas, or the incarnation through God the Father (Creator) of the son, Jesus; Easter Sunday, or the day of the resurrection following the death of the son (Redeemer); and Pentecost, following the Ascension (or return to divinity) of Jesus Christ, through the earthly representation of the first two in the Holy Spirit.

Pentecost is based on the Jewish concept of the Fifty Days in Exodus, when God required on the 50th day of the Passover, the annual “commemoration of the granting of the Law to Moses on Mount Sinai,” says Chafe. The time between the Resurrection and Pentecost, the “Great Fifty Days” of Christianity, are commemorated at Pentecost. This day enables the Christian to recall the historical events of Jesus Christ on earth (de tempore) “and to experience their meaning through intimacy with God – usually described as his ‘indwelling’ (inhabitatio).”

Behind Pentecost lies the Christian “progressive view of salvation history” (the purpose of Jesus’ ritual and real sacrifice on Good Friday, “God’s purposes [for humanity] were increasingly revealed and manifested in the change from literal to spiritual understanding in Christian history, according to Martin Luther’s fourfold sense of scripture: historical (literal), allegorical (figurative), tropological (moral), and anagogic (future). “For many Lutherans, love was the key to the meaning of Pentecost, encapsulated in John 14:23” (KJV), says Chafe: “If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.” Beyond the traditional “Seven Gifts of the Spirit” (Isaiah 11:2) and the Christian “fruits” of the Holy Spirit (Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, 5:22), are the “seven aspects derived from John’s Gospel for Pentecost (Jn. 14:23-31), beginning with love and God’s word,” says Chafe.

Other Pentecost Performances

For Bach’s third cantata cycle, Pentecost festival Sunday-Tuesday, June 9-11, 1726 there are no documented performanc It is possible that Bach substituted cantatas to the Rudolstadt texts, possibly lost works of cousin Johann Ludwig Bach (1677-1731). There exist three Rudolstadt texts for the Pentecost Festival, republished in 1726. Accessible to Sebastian, these were originally set to music in 1705 by J. L. Bach’s Meiningen predecessor, Georg Caspar Schürmann (1672/3-1751), and performed on the three-day festival, May 31 to June 2, Pentecost Sunday to Tuesday. The works existing in manuscript are: “Aber über das Haus David,” “Gnädig und barmherzig ist der Herr,” and “Siehe, ich will mich einer Herde.” Bach’s cousin set the Rudolstadt text cycle, first published in 1704-05, for the Meinengen church year 1714-15.

Knowledge of Bach’s Pentecost Festival performing calendar continues to grow. Bach’s Pentecost Cantata ‘O ewiges Feuer! o Ursprung der Liebe’, BWV 34, is now dated to the 1727 third cantata cycle. Thanks to the recent BCW discussion reference of Peter Smaill we have: Tatiana Shabalina, “Recent Discoveries in St Petersburg and their Meaning for the Understanding of Bach’s Cantatas,” Understanding Bach, 4, 77-99, © Bach Network UK 2009 A recently-found libretto book shows that Bach began repeating his church-year cantatas in 1727. Here are the dates: Pentecost Sunday, June 1, 1727, BWV 34 (new); Pentecost Monday, June 2, 1727 – ‘Erhöhtes Fleisch und Blut’, BWV 173 (probable repeat); Pentecost Tuesday, June 3, 1727 – ‘Erwünschtes Freudenlicht’, BWV 184 (repeat); Trinity Sunday, June 8, 1727 – ‘Gelobet sey der Herr’, BWV 129 (new).

Another libretto book exists for the same period in 1731 when Bach reperformed, respectively, Cantatas BWV 172, 173, 184, and 194 for the Pentecost Festival and Trinity Sunday. In addition, source-critical manuscript part changes reveal further repeat performances of BWV 172, 173, and 129 dated between 1732 and 1735.

The previously-documented performance of Cantata 34, “O ewiges Feuer, o Ursprung der Liebe,” according to Shabalina, is now dated to Pentecost Monday, May 21, 1747, or May 29, 1746 in Halle, where Sebastian is believed to have revived the work for his oldest son Fridemann’s debut as music director Friedemann, who was required to present major works on the first feast day of high festivals (Christmas, Easter, Pentecost), also may have repeated BWV 34 in 1756 on a double bill with his own Pentecost Cantata, “Wer mich liebet,” Fk 72. These dates were established by Peter Wollny in “Wilhelm Friedemann Bach’s Halle performances of Cantatas by his father” in Bach Studies 2, ed. Daniel R. Melamed (Cambridge University Press, 1995; 210, 213).

Sebastian Bach's expansive Pentecost music calendar now appears to be more substantial than Easter. Like the Christmas calendar, which includes various reperformances, revisions, and parodies, possibly including a repeat of the Christmas Oratorio, Bach appears in his later Leipzig years to have strengthened his well-order church music while providing material for son Friedemann, especially in Halle.


1 Cantata 172 Details & Discography, Score Vocal & Piano [1.50 MB],, Score BGA [2.57 MB], References: BGA XXXV (Cantatas 171-180, Alfred Dörffel, 1888),| NBA KB I/13 (Pentecost, Dietrich Killian, 1960), Bach Compendium BC A 81, Zwang: K 12.
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: 965.
3 Except where noted, much of the subsequent material originated in Cantata 172 BCML Discussion Part 4 (3rd Round (Week of January 9, 2011), with editing,
4 Salomo Franck German text and Francis Browne English translation, BCW
5Gardiner notes, BCW; Recording details,
6Isoyama notes, BCW, Recording details,

Aryeh Oron wrote (May 18, 2016):
Cantata BWV 172 - Revised & updated Discography

The discography pages of Cantata BWV 172 "Erschallet, ihr Lieder, erklinget, ihr Saiten!" (Ring out, you songs, resound, you strings!) for Whit Sunday [1st Day of Pentecost] on the BCW have been revised and updated.
The cantata is scored for soprano, alto, tenor & bass soloists; 4-part chorus; and orchestra of 3 trumpets, timpani, bassoon, 2 violins, 2 violas, organ & continuo. See:
Complete Recordings (32):
Recordings of Individual Movements (27):
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 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 172 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 current discussion of the cantata in the BCML (4th round):



Cantata BWV 172: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

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Last update: Monday, September 11, 2017 15:21