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Cantata BWV 174
Ich liebe den Höchsten von ganzem
Discussions - Part 4

Continue from Part 3

Discussions in the Week of June 18, 2017 (4th round)

Wiulliam Hoffman wrote (June 16, 2017):
Pentecost Tuesday Cantata 174: Introduction

Bach’s 1729 Pentecost Monday Good Shepherd Cantata 174, “Ich liebe den Höchsten von ganzem Gemüte” (I love God most high with all my heart, Mat. 22:37) is one of his last extant musical sermons for a designated service and has characteristics of cantatas in his third cycle. Lasting about 23 minutes it has an abbreviated, symmetrical form with an extended sinfonia based on borrowed material from the Brandenburg Concerto No. 3, its dictum alto aria set in appropriate 6/8 pastorale siciliano dance style, and its Picander text emphasizing the sacrificial satisfaction Good Shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep instead of the Johannine Christus Victor atonement figure. The five-movement solo work has two da-capo type arias in G Major interspersed with a recitative that cites the day’s Gospel, John 3:16, and closes with the chorus plain chorale setting of Martin Schalling’s 1569 Death and Dying hymn, “Herzlich lieb hab ich dich, o Herr” (From my heart I hold you dear, o Lord).1

Bach’s setting of the Schalling chorale (see below, “Closing Chorale”) and the Picander pietist text with its emphasis on the satisfaction theory of Christ’s sacrificial atonement, coming less than two months after the reperformance of the synoptic Gospel St. Matthew Passion, shows that Bach focused the theology away from the 1725 Pentecost Tuesday Cantata BWV 68 with its Johannine emphasis on the Christus Victor concept of atonement, most prominently found in his St. John Passion (see below, paragraph beginning “Ziegler’s textual emphasis . . . ). Other information is found below at “Cantata 174: Motive, Method, Opportunity” of Julian Mincham, “Pentecost Festival Observations,” liner notes of John Eliot Gardiner and Klaus Hofmann as well as material on Bach’s parody process, the “Picander, 1728-29 Cantata Cycle,” “Sinfonia Criticism, Cantata 174 Theology,” “1729: Bach Turns to Secular Compositions,” and “Cantata 174 Provenance.”

Cantata 174 is documented as having premiered on 6 June 1729 at the early main service of the Thomaskirche before the sermon (not extant) on the Gospel by Deacon Urban Gottfried Sieber (1669-1741) and repeated at the later main vesper service of the Nikolaikirche before the sermon (not extant) on the Epistle, Acts 10:42-48, by Deacon Friedrich Werner (1659-1741), says Martin Petzoldt in Bach Commentary, Vol. 2, Advent to Trinityfest. 2 The Gospel in Bach’s time for the 1st Day of Pentecost (Monday) was John 3:16-21, Meeting of Jesus and Nicodemus: “God so loved the world . . .” ; and Epistle: Acts 10:42-48 (Peter’s sermon while Holy Spirit’s Descent Upon Cornelius and Company). The German text of Luther’s 1545 translation and the English Authorised (King James) Version 1611 is found at BCW, The introit psalm set to a polyphonic motet was Psalm 116, Dilexi, qunoiam (I love the Lord, KJV), which Petzoldt (Ibid.: 1001) calls “How one should trust and act by the cross.” It also was the introit psalm for the 25th Sunday after Trinity. The full text is found at

Cantata 174 movements, scoring, text, key, meter; Picander text, Francis Browne English translation (

1. Sinfonia concertante with interludes [Corno da caccia I/II, Oboe I/II, Taille, Violino I-III, Viola I-III, Violoncello III, Continuo (+ Fagotto, Violone); G Major; 4/4
2. Aria da capo with ritornelli [Alto]; Oboe I/II, Continuo’ A. “Ich liebe den Höchsten von ganzem Gemüte, / Er hat mich auch am höchsten lieb. “I love God most high with all my heart, he holds me dear also in the highest degree.); B. “Gott allein / Soll der Schatz der Seelen sein, / Da hab ich die ewige Quelle der Güte.” (God alone / should be the treasure of my soul, / where I have the eternal source of goodness.); D Major; 6/8 siciliano pastorale.
3. Recitative accompagnato [Tenor; Violino I-III all' unisono, Viola I-III all' unisono, Continuo); “O Liebe, welcher keine gleich! / O unschätzbares Lösegeld! / Der Vater hat des Kindes Leben / Vor Sünder in den Tod gegeben / Und alle, die das Himmelreich / Verscherzet und verloren, / Zur Seligkeit erkoren. / Also hat Gott die Welt geliebt! / Mein Herz, das merke dir / Und stärke dich mit diesen Worten; / Vor diesem mächtigen Panier / Erzittern selbst die Höllenpforten.” (O love with which none cane compare! / O inestimable ransom! / The Father has given his child's life / for sinners in death / and all for whom the kingdom of heaven / was forfeited and lost / are chosen for blessedness. / God has so loved the world!, John 3:16) / My heart, mark this for yourself / and strengthen yourself with these words: / before this mighty banner / the gates of hell themselves tremble.); b minor; 4/4.
4. Aria freer da-capo with ritornelli, dal segno opening ritornello repeat (11 mm), [Bass; Violini e Viole, tutti all'unisono, Continuo]: A. (30 mm) “Greifet zu, / Fasst das Heil, ihr Glaubenshände!” (Seize the opportunity, take hold of salvation, you believing hands!); B. (84 mm) (Jesus gibt sein Himmelreich / Und verlangt nur das von euch: / Gläubt getreu bis an das Ende!” (Jesus gives his heavenly kingdom / and requires only this from you: / believe faithfully to the end!); G Major; 4/4.
5. Chorale plain BAR Form [SAT,B; Oboe I e Violino I/II col Soprano, Oboe II e Violino III coll'Alto, Taille e Viola I-III col Tenore, Continuo): A. “Herzlich lieb hab ich dich, o Herr. / Ich bitt, wollst sein von mir nicht fern / Mit deiner Hülf und Gnaden.” (From my heart I hold you dear, o Lord. / I pray that it may be your will to be be not far from me / with your help and grace.); A’ “Die ganze Welt erfreut mich nicht, / Nach Himml und Erden frag ich nicht, / Wenn ich dich nur kann haben.” (The whole world gives me no delight, / I do not ask for heaven and earth, / if only I can have you.) B. “Und wenn mir gleich mein Herz zerbricht, / So bist du doch mein Zuversicht, / Mein Heil und meines Herzens Trost, / Der mich durch sein Blut hat erlöst. / Herr Jesu Christ, / Mein Gott und Herr, mein Gott und Herr, / In Schanden lass mich nimmermehr!” (And even if my heart at once breaks, / you are still my reassurance, / my salvation and comfort of my heart, / who has redeemed me through his blood. / Lord Jesus Christ, / my God and Lord, my God and Lord, / never again let me be put to shame!); D Major; 4/4.

Closing Chorale

Martin Schalling’s 1569 BAR Form chorale 13-line, three-stanza Passion hymn uses the anonymous 1577 melody (Zahn 8326) found in the Orgeltabulatur-Buch, Straßburg. Text and Francis Browne English translation are found at BCW Martin Schalling (1532-1608) biography is found at BCW Further information is found in BCW “Chorales & Motets for Pentecost,” "Herzlich lieb hab ich dich, o Herr" appears in three Picander texts for Bach cantatas, two for the Feast of St. Michael, 1728/29 BWV 149/7(S.3) and 1726 Cantata BWV 19/5 from Picander poetry (tenor aria, trumpet melody only), and also in the St. John Passion, BWV 245/40 (S.3), and in plain chorale BWV 340 in C Major This hymn was assigned to the Michaelfest in the Leipzig and Dresden hymn schedules as well as in Weißenfels and there for the First Sunday after Trinity, says Günther Stiller.3
The source of the melody, is found in Thomas Braatz’s (December 11, 2002): BWV 19 - Commentary: The "music/melody evolved as follows: in its 1st incarnation the melody by Matthias Gastritz appeared in "Kurtze vnnd sonderliche Newe Symbola etlicher Fürsten," Amberg, 1571; it was later modified by Bernhard Schmid in "Zwey Bücher einer Neuen Künstlichen Tabulatur auf Orgel und Instrument," Straßburg, 1577 - [this is the melody that remained associated with the chorale text, "Herzlich lieb hab ich dich, o Herr," a chorale that still appears in German Lutheran hymnals up to the present day"; "Lord, Thee I love with all my heart," Lutheran Book of Worship, No 325, "Christian Hope."

Pentecost Monday, Tuesday Cantatas

The cantatas Bach presented in Leipzig on the second and third days (Mondays and Tuesdays) of the Easter and Pentecost Festivals utilized existing materials, suggesting a possible reduction in the composer’s workload. The sources were primarily celebratory secular pieces composed in Köthen and Weimar for special occasions and now appropriate through parody or new-text underlay for sacred occasions, while the actual revisions often required more time to adapt. The cantatas are BWV 66 (Easter Monday); 134, 145, 158 (Easter Tuesday); 68, 173 and 174 (Pentecost Monday), and 175 and 184 (Pentecost Tuesday). While Bach turned mostly to original composition in 1725 for the nine cantatas with texts of Mariane von Ziegler, these included borrowed music (BWV 68, and 175).

Ziegler’s textual emphasis in Cantata 68 focuses on the first three verses of John’s iconic Gospel passage, 3:16-18 with their themes of God’s love, faith as the key to salvation, and the question of judgment,” observes Chafe in his recent study, “The Cantatas for the Spring of 1725: Exaudi and Pentecost, Cantatas 183, 74, 68, and 175.”4 The three final Gospel verses (John 3:19-21) dealing with light and darkness Ziegler will utilize in Cantata 176 for Trinityfest, closing the de tempore (Temporale, Proper Time) of the first half of the church year centering on Jesus Christ from his original incarnation as man to incarnation of the rebirth through love in the Holy Spirit.

Pentecost Monday Performance Calendar

Bach’s Pentecost Monday performance calendar in Leipzig involved three original cantatas: 5 May 1724, solo Cantata BWV 173, “Erhöhtes Fleisch und Blut, / Das Gott selbst an sich nimmt” (Exalted flesh and blood / which God himself accepts); 1725 chorus Cantata “Also hat Gott die Welt geliesacred with all my heart), set to a published Picander text of 1728-29. It is possible that Bach presented a parody version of BWV Anh. 6, “Dich loben, see lieblichen Strahlen,” on 17 May 1723 (Pentecost Monday) at the Leipzig University Church, although only the Hunold/Menantes text survives for New Year’s 1720 in Köthen, music lost.

There is no documentation of a Pentecost Monday cantata performance on 10 June 1726. There is a slight possibility of the use of a Johann Ludwig Bach Cantata (1726 Rudolstadt text, music lost), or Telemann Cantata TVWV 1:634=BWV 218, “<Gott der Hoffnung erfulle euch>” (May the God of Hope fill you); or a repeat of Cantata BWV 173. On 2 June 1727, Cantata 173 probably was reperformed in the Thomas Church in the morning and the Nikolaikirchke in the afternoon. On 14 May 1731, Cantata 173 was reperformed in the Thomas Church in the morning and the Nikolaikirche in the afternoon in its final version.

Cantata 174 performing parts were completed on 5 June 1729 and performed the next day. It has an opening sinfonia with six woodwinds added, from Brandenburg Concerto No. 3, BWV 1048, composed in Köthen. Bach reused instrumental materials as cantata opening sinfonias in some 15 Leipzig cantatas, mostly between 1725 and 1729. On 21 May 1736, Bach presented Gottfried Heinrich Stölzel’s Cantatas “Wie sollte er uns mit ihm nicht alles schenken?” (He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us al (KJV), Romans 8:32), Mus. A 15:203, and “Daran ist erschienen die Liebe Gottes” (In this was manifested the love of God toward us (KJV), 1 John 4:9, Mus. A 15:204.

Pentecost Monday Cantata Distribution. In the 1750 estate distribution of Bach’s cantatas for Pentecost Monday, The period Cantata 173 in the first cycle shows that Emmanuel received the parts set and the surviving score probably went to Friedemann. In the second cycle distribution, the chorale-titled Cantata 68 surviving parts set went to Friedemann instead of Anna Magdalena and the lost score presumably also to Friedemann. The post-second cycle Cantata 174 distribution shows that the surviving score and parts set probably went to Friedemann and probably not part off the third cycle distribution between sons Emmanuel and Friedemann or Johann Christian Bach.

Cantata 174: Motive, Method, Opportunity

Bach’s motive, method and opportunity for opening Cantata 174, as well as the other two Pentecost Tuesday Cantatas BWV 173 and 68 with “substantially reworked”parody, are explored in Julian Mincham’s Commentary introduction ( <<The question which immediately springs to mind is: why begin this otherwise rather slight work with such a mighty sinfonia one which had, indeed, even been expanded from the original conception. All listeners will surely recognise what is probably the best known of all Bach′s concerto movements from Brandenburg 3. They may, however, be thrown off track for a moment as the enlarged orchestral sound, three oboes and two horns added to the original strings and continuo, give the immediate impression of an unfamiliar soundscape. [John Butt on-line introduction to BWV 174/1 with music,]

It is the case that following the completion of his second Leipzig cycle (in which only C 42 enjoyed the luxury of being introduced by a large-scale instrumental piece) Bach increasingly used sinfonias as introductory movements. Whether this heralded a change of public taste, a greater availability of, and/or enthusiasm from, his performers or even a deliberate change of strategy by the composer himself is not recorded. We do, however, know that very few of these pieces were newly composed. On almost every occasion Bach returned to earlier concerti, plundering fast and slow movements as he deemed appropriate. It is surprising, though, that he made relatively little use of the Brandenburgs. He used less than a fifth of the available movements, turning more to the early violin and keyboard concerto.

The choice of this particular piece does, however, suggest that Bach was not always badly served by the availability of good players. Here three each of violins, violas and celli are required and furthermore, they must be very good players i.e. these parts are unlikely to have been performed by a wind or keyboard player for whom one of the strings may have been a second or third instrument. Additionally, the presence here of the six players of the middle and lower strings would seem to challenge the idea that many of the cantatas were performed with only one musician to a desk. Clearly it cannot be assumed that large forces were available for every Sunday service and it is known that at the end of the decade Bach bemoaned the lack of first rate musicians. But here, at least, there is evidence of the availability of relatively large forces of good players (but see below). Sixteen instrumentalists would have been required for this sinfonia and, even if there was only one singer to a part, that makea total ensemble of twenty performers.

But the mystery of why Bach chose this particular movement for this cantata remains tantalising. It may be that because the rest of the work is rather small in scale he felt it wanted a little ′beefing up′ at the beginning. But, as Dürr points out5 this serves only to misbalance the proportions of the work, something which Bach was usually very careful to avoid. There seems to be little question of the movement having been called into service at short notice. If that were to have been the case, why go to the trouble of adding new parts for horns and oboes? The latter are largely reinforcing the string rhythms and chords, but still would have needed their own parts written out. Might the lack of a rousing chorus have been due to a problem in getting a large choir together on this occasion? Only four singers are actually required, three soloists, joined by the fourth voice for the closing chorale. But an exuberant text extolling God′s love for the world and our love of Him would seem to demand an ebullient opening movement. If a large choral piece was not possible, then why should the composer not select one of the most driving and infectious movements from the concerto repertoire?

And this necessity for a positive and ebullient opening movement may also explain the addition of the extra instruments, although it has to be said that this cannot be counted as the most successful of Bach′s arranged scores. The original work had a freshness and lightness of touch, aligned to a transparency of texture, all of which seem somewhat stifled and muddied by the addition of five wind instruments. There are moments, such as in the extraordinary passage of circle-of-fifths harmony (beginning bar 87) where the sustained notes of the wind instruments endow the music with a different perspective. Pointed quaver figures do seem to give added impetus and focus to other phrases. But it is likely that most listeners will prefer the original version which, in any case, they will almost certainly have got to know and love before discovering it in this context.

However, there is another rather compelling explanation for the use of this movement. This work was performed shortly after Bach was appointed director of the Leipzig Collegium Musicum a ‘concert’ orchestra which was composed mainly of music students (March 1729). This was at a time when Bach’s relationships with his employers was deteriorating, as was the musical quality of the boys admitted into the school. Bach may well have been making a point by contrasting the relative magnificence of the instrumental forces he could command with the growing paucity of the vocal pool. This would explain the unusual misbalance of the work. Viewed in this way C 174 becomes a political statement, or a statement of protest!

There are three extant cantatas for this day the first of which, C173 ( vol 1, chapter 59), was performed in the first Leipzig cycle. It was, however, based upon the even earlier C 173a (Dürr p 358:- vol 1, chapter 89) and comparisons of the scores throw light upon Bach′s parody techniques. It contains just the one chorus, the final movement expanded from what was originally conceived as a duet.

Undoubtedly the most interesting and impressive of the three Whit Monday cantatas is C 68 from the second cycle (vol 2, chapter 49).This work begins with an inspiring yet enigmatic chorale/fantasia and ends with a formidable vocal fugue. Nevertheless, the two arias are parodies from an early secular work, C 208 (vol 1, chapter 88). There appears to be no explanation why all three works written for this day relied, at least to some extent, upon earlier compositions, albeit substantially reworked.>>

Pentecost Festival Observations

The Gospel description of the Pentecost Festival and Bach’s cantatas is provided in the liner notes to Eric J. Milnes Montreal Baroque recording, << Cantatas for the days following Pentecost. The major religious holiday known as Pentecost begins 50 days (seven Sundays) after Easter Sunday; pentkost is Greek for “50th day.” Pentecost Sunday, and the two days that follow it, commemorate the moment, 50 days after Jesus’ resurrection, when the Holy Spirit descended on the Virgin and the apostles who had gathered together. The sound of “a rushing mighty wind filled all the house” and “cloven tongues like of fire” appeared over each of their heads, conferring upon them the gift of tongues, so that they could announce the gospel throughout the world. Thus, as Irenaeus declared in the 2nd century A.D., “scattered tribes, restored to unity by the Spirit, were offered to the Father as the first fruits of all the nations.”

The gospel for the second day of Pentecost tells how Jesus explained to the Pharisee Nicodemus that God had sent his son not to judge the world, but to save it. This account of the incarnation and its purpose is evoked by several musical elements in the cantatas BWV 68, 173, and 174, the three surviving works written by Bach for the Monday after Pentecost. These three cantatas exalt God’s love for his creatures, and insist on our resulting duty to spread the word. The title of the first, Also hat Gott die Welt geliebt, (God so loved the world), is drawn from the Gospel of Saint John [3:16]: “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” The same phrase recurs in the two other cantatas, and Luther wanted it inscribed in golden letters on every house. In a similar spirit, the gospel for the third day of Pentecost, for which cantata BWV 184 was written, explains how Jesus presents himself as the good shepherd.

Several of the movements of the four works on this CD [BWV 68, 173, 174, 184] use the compositional procedure, common in Bach’s time, known as ‘parody’. This musical term implies not mocking imitation but rather self-borrowing. That Bach recycled his own music is easily understandable given the heavy work load he assumed at Leipzig, and the fact that many of the works from which he borrowed were secular cantatas, each of which had been heard only once, at the occasion for which it had been written. When the borrowed element is vocal—an aria or chorus—, the new text has to match the old one in structure, meter, and general sense, so that the musical images and symbols that Bach used as highlights do not fall, awkwardly, on inappropriate words. The master always made a few changes when self-borrowing—adapting, transposing, filling out the polyphony, modifying the instrumentation. And though he integrated parts borrowed from secular works into sacred works, he never did the opposite: once fitted to a sacred message, the music became sacred, and later secularization was verboten.

Since the Romantic period we have come to think of works of art as necessarily unique. This may cloud our judgment of the parody procedure, no matter how well it works. “Often, when we consider how surprisingly well parodies respect their new, mostly religious destination,” said Jean-Luc Macia, “we realize the extent to which Bach’s genius went beyond the pragmatic and involved a sixth sense of apt transformation, if not of actual transcendence.” And since a lot of the original work from which Bach borrowed has not survived, parodies allow us to hear music which otherwise would have been lost forever.

The cantata Ich liebe den Höchstein von ganzem Gemüte (I love the almighty with all my heart) BWV 174, first sung on Monday, June 6, 1729, opens with a surprise: an opulent sinfonia that we also know as the first movement of the third Brandenburg Concerto. In this recycled version, two French horns and three oboes (one of which is a taille) augment the strings. Bach clearly wanted to expand the scale of cantata, a setting of a relatively libretto by Picander, the librettist he used most frequently, with this long and sumptuous introduction, but it rather overweighs what follows. The alto aria, a tender and dreamy siciliano, recalls God’s love, of which the gospel of the day speaks, and what we owe God in return, and two oboes create a pastoral atmosphere as they weave long arabesques around the voice. In the accompanied recitative that follows, the trembling of the gates of hell is briefly evoked by, as Cantagrel puts it, “a little rhythmic figure that is exactly the one Beethoven used at the opening of the Fifth Symphony, and which he himself would have described as the sound of destiny knocking at the door.” The bass aria, accompanied by the violins and violas in unison, and the final chorale, enjoin everyone to seize the occasion of meriting God’s love and being saved.
© François Filiatrault, Translated by Sean McCutcheon

Opening Sinfonia Description

Bach’s motivations for transcribing and adding wind parts to the original music are describes in John Eliot Gardiner’s liner notes to his Bach Cantata Pilgrimage recording.6 <<Bach’s motives for incorporating and expanding on the first movement of his third Brandenburg concerto as the prelude to his final cantata for Whit Monday had nothing to do with pressure of time. In taking over as director of the city’s Collegium Musicum in 1729 he was surely seeking to sidestep the irksome hierarchy of the school system at St Thomas’, which had caused him so much grief during the past six years. With this core group of qualified instrumentalists newly available to him, and not subject to municipal regulation, he was understandably keen to demonstrate their qualities, not merely in Zimmermann’s café gardens on Wednesday afternoons but in the main forum of the town, his own stamping ground, the Thomaskirche on a Sunday morning.

Bach’s cantata BWV 174 Ich liebe den Höchsten is based on a text from Picander’s cycle of 1728. He seems to have instructed his copyist to transfer the original Brandenburg lines for nine solo strings (three each of violins, violas and cellos) [] into the new score. These now become a concertino group set against a brand new independent ripieno ensemble comprising two horns, three oboes and four doubling string parts. These he composed straight into score. Even with one instrument per part, and the addition of violone, bassoon and keyboard continuo, suddenly he had available a band of over twenty players – hardly an inconsiderable phalanx, and one which provided a new- minted sheen and force to the original concerto movement, its colours and rhythms even sharper than before. What a wonderful way of opening the celebrations to this Whit Monday feast!

The potential impact in church of that living bombardment of instrumental sounds more usually associated with Zimmermann’s café put me in mind of Thomas Hardy’s description in Life’s Little Ironies of the clerical uproar and indignation when the Dorset village choir-band, exhausted by too many Christmas gigs and fuelled against the cold with hot brandy, fell sound asleep during the long sermon. Waking suddenly, instead of striking up the evening hymn, they launched into ‘The Devil among the tailors’, according to Hardy ‘the favourite jig of our neighbourhood at that time.’

The extraordinary thing is that Bach manages to balance this impressive opening with an aria of (almost) equivalent dimensions, a warm, pastoral number of impressive serenity for alto with two oboes, in which at one point he compresses his material in a way one normally associates with Beethoven. The triple division of the upper strings derived from the original Brandenburg concerto is preserved in the accompanied tenor recitative (No.3) and in a second aria for bass, which establishes the firmness of faith in forthright terms: salvation is available to all to ‘seize’ and ‘grasp’ it. Perhaps only a chorale packing the emotional punch of Schalling’s ‘Herzlich lieb hab ich dich, o Herr’, which ends the St John Passion so movingly, was adequate to conclude this remarkable cantata, marking Bach’s liberation from the shackles of self-imposed weekly cantata composition.
© John Eliot Gardiner 2006, From a journal written in the course of the Bach Cantata Pilgrimage

Parody Process, Challenges. << It puzzles me why scholars get so hot under the collar about Bach’s self-borrowings, as though there were something innately shoddy about the practice. You’d have thought that Handel, with his habit of plagiarising other men’s themes as starter fuel when the muse refused to co-operate, would have presented a far juicier target. It so happens that all three of Bach’s surviving Leipzig cantatas for Whit Monday originated to a greater or lesser extent in secular music he had composed a few years earlier for the Weimar and Cöthen courts – and are none the worse for that. For although he is alert to the theological emphasis on the basic disparity between God and humankind, especially at this time of year, which refers back to the miracle of God’s choice of the human heart as His dwelling place, Bach could express homage to a prince and homage to God in essentially the same way. Music – his music – was there to bridge the divide between worldly and divine glory. Each ruler exerted unquestioned authority in his own sphere. That was a basic tenet of Lutheranism and one that Bach, whose nomination as Thomaskantor in Leipzig was primarily due to the intervention of the Absolutist party in the town council, readily endorsed.>>

Picander, 1728-29 Cantata Cycle

A brief biography of the librettist Picander and his 1728-29 published cycle are described in Klaus Hofmann’s 2011 liner notes to the Masaaki Suzuki of Cantata 174.7 << Among the most significant products of Bach research in the twentieth century was the realization that his church cantatas were not – as had long been supposed – composed gradually during his 27 years of work in Leipzig (from 1723 to 1750), but that the vast majority date from his first six years there, in other words between 1723 and 1728–29. At the end of this period, Bach’s attention turned to a church year cycle based on cantata texts by the Leipzig poet Christian Friedrich Henrici (1700–64). After studies at Wittenberg University, Henrici – who as a poet used the pseudonym Picander – settled in Leipzig, where he worked in postal and financial administration but also, especially, as the writer of occasional poems. His collaboration with Bach began in 1725, and would soon result in a very important work: the St Matthew Passion. Like that work’s text, those for the cantata year were specifically intended to be set by Bach. The cantata texts appeared in four volumes that were published quarterly, beginning in June 1728, for the congregation to follow.

Of the roughly sixty cantatas by Bach that will have been performed in the 1728–29 season in the Thomaskirche and Nikolaikirche, only nine have survived (and some of these only in fragmentary form). Three of the cantatas on this disc [BWV 149, 145 and 174] are among them. In recent decades, the small number of surviving works has given rise to various speculations among Bach scholars that Bach might not have set the year’s full complement of texts. Nonetheless, the nine works that have chanced to survive are spread widely throughout the church year, which would suggest that Bach did indeed make a continuous series of settings. More- over, the quarterly publication of the texts would certainly have been discontinued if Bach’s musical set- tings had not appeared, or had broken off early. We must therefore conclude that some fiftyBach cantatas

Among the peculiarities of this cantata year – as we can already discern from Picander’s texts – is the relatively concise form. The cantatas generally centre on two arias, linked by one or two recitatives, and a final chorale. A further distinguishing feature is the extremely sparing use of the choir: introductory choruses based on Bible quotations, as we find in many other Leipzig cantatas, are present only in those works

destined for major church feasts – and not even in all of these. In addition, the nine surviving works display a peculiarity of a different kind: they contain a larger than average incidence of parody – in other words movements in which Bach did not compose entirely new music for Picander’s text, but combined the words with an existing composition. We also find other kinds of borrowing, such as the reuse of earlier instrumental movements as cantata introductions. It was apparently part of Bach’s and Picander’s plan that the music should contain as much as possible of valuable older pieces and, by integrating them into a cantata year, to give them an enduring function. The three Picander cantatas recorded here, too, display these features.>>

Cantata 174 Description

<< This cantata, performed at the Leipzig church service on Whit Monday 1729 (which that year fell on 6th June), must have surprised its listeners with the unusual sonic richness and length of the opening

instrumental movement – which, so to speak, takes the place of an introductory chorus. Hardly anyone in the audience will have realized that Bach here had recourse to an earlier composition – the first movement of a piece that had probably been composed while he was in Weimar and which we know today as the Third Brandenburg Concerto. For its new context, he added significantly to the instrumental forces required. To the original ensemble (which was already quite large, with three violins, three violas, three cellos and basso continuo) he added three horns and a three-part tutti section for two violins, viola and three oboes. No fewer than twenty musicians were thus required to perform the movement. The large forces reflect a new situation: Bach had recently assumed the direction of a student Collegium musicum, and had thereby gained access to a number of skilled instrumentalists for his church music as well.

Picander’s text takes the beginning of the gospel passage for that day – ‘Also hat Gott die Welt geliebt’ (‘For God so loved the world’; John 3:16–21) – as a kind of motto: it is about the love of God for mankind and the love of the Christians for God. The first aria tells of this mutual love; here Bach combines the alto voice with two oboes moving in close imitation, also assigning them extended ritornello passages. With the addition of the basso continuo, the result is a quartet movement that clothes the text in gently rocking siciliano melodies, expressing spiritual tranquillity and compassion. By contrast the bass aria, with its incitement to grasp the salvation that faith brings, is characterized by dramatic touches and rhetorical emphasis. The vocal part’s lively declamation is powerfully sup- ported by the agile unison of the violins and violas, whose ‘knocking’ motif of repeated notes insistently underlines the urgency of the text. In the form of a tender prayer, the final chorale – by Martin Schalling (1569) – once more affirms the profession of love for God.>>

Production Notes. A few remarks are in order concerning the unusual combination of stringed instruments used in this cantata. The first movement is to all extents and purposes the same music as the first movement of the Brandenburg Concerto No. 3, requiring an ensemble consist- ing of three violins, three violas and three cellos in the concertato role. The other instruments in the orchestra are two horns, two oboes, two violins and one viola as ripieno, with the addition of bassoon and violone for the continuo part. The problem from the second move- sent onwards, with what appears to be standard aria and recitative sections, is that according to the extant parts three cellos seem to be retained in the continuo. In the second movement in particular, three cellos and organ would most likely not balance well with the two obbligato oboes, however. We have therefore assumed that the part marked ‘continuo’ was intended for bas- soon and violone and a keyboard instrument other than the organ (i.e. harpsichord), and have also reduced the number of cellos according to the instrumentation in each movement.
© Masaaki Suzuki 2011

Sinfonia Criticism, Cantata 174 Theology

Criticism of the sinfonia expansion, with the added wind parts, and Bach’s theological emphasis are disced in Peter Smaill’s commentary in the Cantata 174 BCML Discussion Party 2 (July 6, 2008, <<Why transcribe and enhance the Third Brandenburg Concerto opening movement as the Sinfonia (Mvt. 1) to BWV 174? "One cannot see why... "(Whittaker) "The scale of this opening movement disrupts the proportions of the cantata" (Dürr) "We can only guess what prompted Bach to preface this Cantata...." (Robertson).

Doug has given the instinctively attractive explanation that implies the Third Brandenburg always had in its unusual scoring an allusion to the Trinity, originally set for 3 violins 3 violas and 3 cellos plus continuo; and the underlying string band is still there in BWV 174. Most of the commentators say 2 corno di caccia plus 2 oboes and taille are added, but Hans-Joachim Schulze says 3 oboes; Dürr says the string parts were augmented by two horns, two oboes and one corno di caccia. (There was also by all accounts a bassoon). So there appears to be a muddle, likely semantically, as to what exactly the instrumentation really is, complicating any hermeneutic of the new instrumentation (as distinct from the old).

The absence of allusion to the Holy Spirit in a text for Whit Monday also suggests that Bach may be compensating by a celestial representation of the interplay of the Trinity, followed by the reciprocal adoration of the believing Christians. The isolated dactyl three note figure that repeats throughout also supports the Trinity theory. Note that although "erkoren", a word suggesting election in a Calvinist sense occurs, here it is universally available and with the customary Lutheran stress on belief.

The more prosaic interpretations for the Cantata's components are the brevity of the text; and Bach's pace of work; this is the line taken in Boyd's OCC: "Picander's text is quite short..." ; Whittaker says "the provision of three cantatas for successive days meant a congestion of work". But, as Whittaker also perceives, why if Bach is in a hurry, create the labour of new parts creating fifteen lines to each stave for 136 full bars?

So the debate as to the cause for this remarkable recreation of a fine Coethen work remains open to debate and hopefully more BCW adherents will join in this particular discussion!>>

1729: Bach Turns to Secular Compositions

In early 1729 Bach took over the Collugium musicum and turned his composing interest to secular music and special commissions, ending regular church cantata composition/presentation, says William Hoffman in the BCML Cantata 174 Discussion Part 2 (July 7, 2008), <<

Cantata BWV 174: Opportunity & Context. Bach's presentation of Cantata BWV 174 on Pentecost Monday, June 6, 1729, at the Nicholas Church, was a signal event. Not only was this his presumed debut as director of the Collegium musicum, it was the first major step Bach took in new directions and, at the same time, he was influenced by outside events. A week later, on Trinity Sunday, June 12, the Thomas School began its new term. Exactly six years before, Bachad officially assumed his position as Cantor at the school and Thomas Church, commencing the first off three extant annual cycle of church cantatas. With the beginning of the school term, Bach scheduled his classes, audition his choristers, and arranged teaching special students.

Now Bach was virtually free of the rigors of composing/presenting weekly cantatas. The only other documented cantata performance, after the Good Friday presentation of the St. Matthew Passion (BWV 244), was Cantata BWV 145 on Easter Tuesday, April 19. The Picander published cantata cycle would end on July 4, the Fourth Sunday after Trinity. Throughout the remainder of 1729 there would be only two new church cantatas for special events, and no repeat presentations documented. The exceptions are possibly Cantata BWV 120 for the Town Council Installation, August 29, and Cantata BWV 149 for St. Michael's Day beginning the fall fair, September 29. Bach composed Motet BWV 226, “Der Geist hilf unser Schwacheit auf (The Spirit upholds our infirmities) for the funeral of Johann Heinrich Ernesti, Thomas School rector, October 20-21.

Two secular works are documented: the academic homage, "Non sa che dolor," Cantata BWV 209, possibly August 4, and Cantata BWV 201, "The Contest Between Phoebus and Pan," with the Collegium Musicum, in the autumn. Picander Easter Monday Cantata BWV Anh. 190, “Ich bin ein Pilgrim auf der Welt,” survives only in a setting of the recitative in the handwriting of Emmanuel Bach and now possibly his student composition study along with other studies of his and other Bach students set from the Picander cycle.

In addition, recent research shows that Bach also turned to other special compositions although only the texts survive.8 This shows that Bach may have composed a string of occasional cantata commissions, based on published libretti found in the Leipzig municipal archives, with Bach connections to the librettists and the people being honored. They are: July 5, "Dort wo der Pleissen Urn' und Fluss," secular wedding cantata, text by Artopae Haertel (NBA KB 1/32: 14); July 21, "Des Zephyrs Atem rauscht und fliegt," a tribute to August Ludwig of Anhalt-Köthen, incipt only, text by C.B. Hulse; July 26, Vergnuegende Flammen, verdoppelt die Macht," BWV Anh. 212, secular wedding cantata, text by Picander (with possible Bach wedding chorale insertions, BWV 250-252); see Dürr Cantatas p. 745; and September 12, "Erschallet mit doppelter Anmut und Schoene," name day for Prof. Gottlieb Kortte, incipt only. In addition to the Motet, BWV 226, Bach may have composed “Was spelt ihr dean, ihr straffen Saiten,” BWV deest, for the June 12 funeral of Nicholaus Ernst Bodinus, presented by the Collegium museum, composer uncertain, cited in Bach Document 5: B 2626.9

Another 1729 date was July 16, the death of Dresden Kappellmeister Johann David Heinichen. He lived in Leipzig in 1709, presenting operas and directing the Collegium musicum. At Dresden his duties included the provision of serenatas (drama per musica) and cantatas for court festivities. Christoph Wolff (JSB:TLM, p.342) notes his death, Heinichen's strong Leipzig connection, and Bach's "esteemed colleague," and the vacant post which Bach's "lack of background in Italian opera rendered him ineligible." Yet, the position was not filled until four years later, December 1733, by Johann Adolph Hasse, another important Bach Dresden connection.

Cantata 174 Provenance

“This cantata probably originally belonged W.F. Bach after which the dispersal of the score and parts can not be completely traced. The score appears in possession of the Berliner Singakademie at the beginning of the 19th century,” says Thomas Braatz’s BCW “Provenance” article (July 25, 2003), <<In 1854 it was acquired by the BB. This report will only attempt to highlight some of the myriad details involved in the NBA KB [1/14: 67ff] analysis of the sources of this cantata. Many aspects of the provenance are unusual, but one fact that is usually open to speculation and difficult to prove (by using paper watermarks, noting the copyists involved, etc.) is here very authoritatively confirmed: the copyist of the original alto part wrote at the end: “Fine d. 5 Junii 1729. Lipsiae.” which means that the cantata was 1st performed on June 6, 1729. The text is based upon “Cantaten | Auf die Sonn- | und | Fest-Tage | durch | das gantze Jahre…Leipzig, 1728, by Christian Friedrich Henrici (Picander), who expressed a hope in the foreword that Bach would set these texts to music.

The fact that Bach left out the 1st 3 lines of the recitative has been understood (by Spitta and confirmed by the NBA editors) as just one indication among many that Bach was working very hurriedly under time pressure. Contrary to Bach’s usual method of composition, the autograph score for this cantata is not entirely autograph. Most of the string parts of mvt. 1 (based upon the 1st mvt. of BWV 1048 – the 3rd Brandenburg Concerto which is dated by Bach: March 24th, 1721) were entered into the score by Copyist 1. Essentially what happened here is that the copyist copied from an original version of the 1st mvt. of Brandenburg Concerto Nr. 3, after which Bach ‘composed in’ the horn parts (similar to ‘Vokaleinbau’ or ‘Choreinbau.’) In addition to J.S. & C.P.E. Bach, there were 6 other copyists involved in copying the original parts (not Anna Magdalena.) J.S. Bach would begin a part (ms. 1-86), such as the Violino 1 Ripieno part, after which C.P.E. Bach would copy ms. 87 to 136. Or, more typically, in another part, Copyist 2 would copy a string part from ms. 1 – 85 and Copyist 2 would finish it.

On the title page of the semi-autograph score, Bach wrote: “J. J. Feria 2. Pentecostes. Concerto à 4 Voci. 2 Corni da Caccia. 2 Hautb. | Taille. 3 Violini. 3 Violi. 3 Violoncelli e Co [ntinuo].” Other marks and titles as follows: “Sinfonia / Baßon e Violone con Cont. / DC. DCapo / Recit. / 3 Violini e | 3 Viole in unisono | Tenor

Aria Violin e Viola, tutti al unisono / Choral / Fine | SDG [with a fancy paraph].”>>

BWV 174 Provenance Addendum (July 7, 2008). << The following is the original statement from p. 99 of NBA KB I/14 written by Alfred Dürr and Arthur Mendel: “Ferner braucht bei der großen Eile, mit der das ganze Aufführungsmaterial hergestellt wurde,* Satz 1 auch in keiner einzigen Stimme ganz aus A oder ganz aus Y geschrieben worden zu sein. *Wie spät das Material fertig geworden ist, zeigt der Vermerk des Schreibers 1 am Ende der Altstimme (B 19): Fine d. 5 Junii 1729, Lipsiae; die Aufführung fand am 6. Juni statt. Auch die Aufteilung der Schreibarbeiten – und zwar die Partitur auf Bach und Schreiber 1 sowie der einzelnen Stimmen auf Schreiber 2 und die übrigen Schreiber – ist höchstwahrscheinlich durch die Zeitnot verursacht.”

[“In addition due to the great haste under which all the performing materials were prepared, it is not necessary to think that any one of the parts for mvt. 1 had been copied completely from source A or completely from source Y. Footnote* Just how late {how shortly before the actual performance] the performing materials were completed is evident from the note by a copyist at the end of the alto voice part: Finished on June 5, 1729, Leipzig {the first day of Pentecost on which festive performances of other cantatas took place in two main churches} ; the performance took place on June 6th {1729 at the morning services}. Also, the division of the copy work with Bach sharing the chore of score creation with Copyist 1 and dividing the copying out of the individual parts between Copyist 2 and the other copyists means, in all probability, that this was caused by being under tpressure of time.”]>>

Score, D-B Mus. ms. Bach P 115, ;

Provenance: J. S. Bach - W. F. Bach (?) - ? - Sing-Akademie zu Berlin - BB (now Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin Preußischer Kulturbesitz) (1854).

<< The Original Set of Parts:These are strewn over 2 continents of which most of them are under private ownership (USA) as follows: 1. Corno I (lost), 2. Corno II Private, 3. Oboe I Private (Berea OH), 4. Violino I ripieno Tübingen, 5. Oboe II Private, 6. Violino II ripieno Tübingen, 7. Taille London,8. Viola ripiena Tübingen, 9. Violino I concertato Private, 10. Violino II concertato Private, 11. Violino III concertato Private, 12. Viola I concertata BB Tübingen, 13. Viola II concertata Washington, 14. Viola III concertata Private, 15. Violoncello I concertato Marburg/Basel, 16. Violoncello II concertato Private, 17. Violoncello III concertato Private, 18. Soprano Private, 19. Alto Private, 20. Tenore Private, 21. Basso Stanford CA, 22. Continuo Private, 23. Organo (transposed, figured).>> Note: Private, Riemenschneider Bach Institute, Baldwin-Wallace College. Berea OH.<< Parts Set, ripieno facsimile: Viola conc. I, Violino rip. I, Violino rip. II, Viola rip., Organo), D-B Mus. ms. Bach St 57 (Tübingen BB), ; Copyists: Bach, Johann Sebastian; Bach, Carl Philipp Emanuel; Heder, Samuel Gottlieb (main copyist D); Anon. IVa; Provenance: - Ripien parts und Organo: J. S. Bach - W. F. Bach (?) - ? - Sing-Akademie zu Berlin - BB (now Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, Preußischer Kulturbesitz) (1855); Provenance, Viola conc. I: J. S. Bach - W. F. Bach - ? - Auktion Berlin 1827(?) - C. P. H. Pistor - F. D. E. Rudorff (born Pistor)/A. F. Rudorff - F. W. Jähns - ? - W. Westley Manning - Sotheby's (1954) - Olten, Antiquariat Weiss-Hesse - R. Ammann, Aarau - Stargardt (1961) - unbekannter Privatbesitz - BB (now Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, Preußischer Kulturbesitz) (1964).


1 Cantata 174, BCW Details & Discography, Score Vocal & Piano, Score BGA. References: BGA XXXV (Cantatas 171-180, Alfred Dörffel 1888), NBA KB I/14 (Pentecost Monday, Mendel, 1962: 67ff), Bach Compendium BC A 87, Zwang K 178.
2 Martin 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: 1026).
3 Günther Stiller, Johann Sebastian Bach and Liturgical Life in Leipzig, ed. Robin A. Leaver (St. Louis MO: Concordia Publishing, 1985: 247, 241).
4 Eric Chafe, J. S. Bach’s Johannine Theology: The St. John Passion and the Cantatas for Spring 1725 (Oxford University Press, 2014: 532ff).
5 Alfred Dürr, Cantatas of J. S. Bach, revised and translated by Richard D. P. Jones (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005: 364).
6 Cantata 174 Gardiner notes, BCW ; BCW Recording details,
7 Cantata 174 Hofmann/Suzuki notes, BCW ; BCW Recording notes,
8 Hildegard Tiggemann, “Unbekannte Textdrucke zu drei Gelegenheitskantaten J. S. Bach aus dem Jahre 1729,” Bach-Jahrbuch, Vol. 80; 1994: 7-23.
9 Source: Chapter 20, “Life and Works 1685-17450, The Routledge Research Companion to Johann Sebastian Bach, ed. Robin A. Leaver (Abington GB: Routledge, 2017: 516).

Aryeh Oron wrote (June 19, 2017):
Cantata BWV 174 - Revised & updated Discography

Cantata BWV 174 "Ich liebe den Höchsten von ganzem Gemüte" (I love God most high with all my heart) was composed by J.S. Bach in Leipzig for Whit Monday [2nd Day of Pentecost] of 1729. The cantata is scored for alto, tenor & bass soloists; 4-part Chorus; and orchestra of 2 corno da caccia, 2 oboes, taille, 2 violins ripieno, viola di ripieno, 3 violins concertante, 3 violas concertante, 3 violoncellos concertante, bassoon, violone, organ & continuo.

The discography pages of BWV 174 on the BCW have been revised and updated. See:
Complete Recordings (10):
Recordings of Individual Movements (22):
The revised discography includes many listening/watching options as part of the recording details. When you click a link to video/audio, a new window will open above the discography page and the video/audio will start to play.

I also put at the BCW Home Page:
2 audios & 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 174 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):




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