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Cantata BWV 185
Barmherziges Herze der ewigen Liebe
Discussions - Part 4

Continue from Part 3

Discussions in the Week of June 28, 2015 (4th round)

William Hoffman wrote (June 28, 2015):
Cantatas 185, 24, Intro. & Trinity 4 Chorales

With the reperformance of Cantata 21, “”Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis in meinem Herzen” (I had much affliction in my heart), for the Third Sunday after Trinity in Weimar in 1715, Bach in his first Leipzig Cycle turned from extended two-part works totaling 40 minutes each, to shorter musical sermons composed about eight years earlier in Weimar for his required performances on Sundays every four weeks, using texts of the court poet Salomo Franck (1715). Serendipity enabled him to utilize five Weimar works: Cantata 21 (1713) followed by SATB solo Cantata BWV 185 (1715), “Barmherziges Herze der ewigen Liebe” (Merciful heart of eternal love, Salomo Franck text), paired with new ATB solo/chorus Cantata BWV 24, “Ein ungefärbt Gemüte” (An unstained character, Erdmann Neumeister text, Frankfurt 1714), on a double bill for the Fourth Sunday after Trinity, June 20, 1723.1 The intimate, appealing works, using popular chorales, were performed before and after the sermon of Pastor Christian Weise (1671-1736), at the Thomas Church. Initially, Cantata 185 had been performed in 1715 in the Weimar Scholßkirche, the sermon preached by the general superintendent Johann Georg Layritz (1647-1716)2 and repeated in 1716. Cantata 24 was Bach’s first new composition since assuming his cantor post at Leipzig.

Besides the overall musical form of alternating arias and recitatives and tutti closing chorales with obbligato instruments, Cantatas 185 and 24 have a clear statement of the “Golden Rule” theme of the Gospel for the Fourth Sunday after Trinity. It is found in the last of the four parables for initial Trinity Time Sundays, Luke 6: 36-42 - Parable: Blind leading the Blind while judging others: “And he spake a parable unto them, Can the blind lead the blind? shall they not both fall into the ditch?” The theme is found in Luke 6:38: “For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again” (KJV, Golden Rule). It also is found in Matthew 7:12, quoted as a chorus in Cantata 24. Criticism of the Franck and Neumeister libretti is found in commentators of the early 20th century (see John Eliot Gardiner and Masaaki Suzuki recording liner notes below).

Coincidentally the second movement recitative in both the 15-minute Cantata 185 and 20-minute Cantata 24, closes with a version of the Golden Rule statement in arioso form, respectively: “Denn wie ihr messt, wird man euch wieder messen.” (for as you measure, so will you be measured, alto solo with strings)3 and “Mach aus dir selbst ein solches Bild, / Wie du den Nächsten haben willt!” (Make yourself such an image / As you want your neighbour to have!, tenor solo with continuo).4

Cantatas 185, 24: Weimar Solo Style

While the basic form of both Cantata 185 and Cantata 24 are cast in the general manner of the Weimar cantatas with the emphasis on alternating solo arias and recitatives, with a closing plain chorale, the actual musical treatment is quite different while being based upon quite different texts.4a Cantata 185 has flowing traditional arias and recitatives reflecting the rhetorical textual references and poetry of Franck, beginning with a siciliano-style opening soprano-tenor duet. Cantata 24 has more graphic treatment of the Neumeister text with its sprightly opening alto aria with strings in ľ time, the proclaiming tenor recitative, the striking prelude-and fugue biblical-text Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12) in ľ time placed third, the moody operatic bass recitative (no. 4), and the poignant tenor aria with a pair of poignant oboes d’amore that become a Bach signature in the Leipzig cantatas as exploited in the first cycle, along with biblical dicta.

Another Leipzig cantata signature is Bach’s transformation of an instrumental movement into an aria. This is found in the sprightly opening of Cantata 24, the alto aria with violin, viola and continuo. Originally the fourth and final Allegro movement of the Sonata in B minor for violin and harpsichord, it became a trio aria in free-da-capo, where the melody in the violin is taken up by the voice with a set text. It was composed in Cöthen about 1720, along with the other five usually sonata da chiesa (or “church”), using non-dance four-movement pattern: slow-fast-slow-fast. Later in Leipzig Bach would use movements from concerti in various sacred cantatas, primarily in the enigmatic third and final cycle.

Weimar Sources for Trinity Sundays 4-7

After Cantatas 185 and 24 for the Fourth Sunday after Trinity, there followed Cantata 167 (1715) repeat for John the Baptist (June 24), expanded two-part Weimar chorus Cantata 147 (1716) for the Visitation Feast (July 2), and another expanded two-part Weimar chorus Cantata 186 (1716) for Trinity 7. Bach apparently did not compose cantatas for Trinity 5 and 6 in 1723 with the new Gospel pattern forms of paired miracle-teaching, but instead presented the Weimar expansions (BWV 147 and 186) on feast days during the two weeks before the Trinity Time Sundays. Having no further Weimar Trinity Time works available until Trinity 20 (except Cantata 199 for Trinity 11), Bach turned compose a series of seven new chorus-type cantatas in traditional form, relying on still unidentified Leipzig librettists, for Trinity 8-14.

At this point in early Trinity Time, Bach serendipitously took a break from original composition of extended works while seeking a librettist for the new works, initially utilizing, virtually unchanged, intimate solo cantatas by Orthodox librettists Franck and Neumeister with their secular-influenced operatic style, especially da-capo arias, despite the negative comments of Schweitzer and Whittaker (see below in liner notes). “Bach had already adopted this strongly-influenced secular style in the sacred cantatas he composed in Weimar from 1713 to 1717,” says Richard D. P. Jones in his The Creative Development of JSB, Vol. II, Cöthen & Leipzig.5 “Indeed, the Weimar cantatas might well be viewed as more radical in this respect than those of the first Leipzig cycle. Such is the dominant role of the madrigalian verse in the Weimar texts, mostly by Salomo Franck, that 16 of the 22 surviving sacred cantatas of that period lack biblical-texted movements altogether. Where biblical words are present they are set not as a chorus (except in the early and in some ways decidedly retrospective Cantata No. 21 [with four old-style choruses and three “modern” da-capo-type arias]), but as a recitative.”

Biblical & Chorale Sources

“Note on the text” and English translation by Francis Browne: “This cantata was written for the fourth Sunday after Trinity and first performed at Weimar on 14 July 1715, repeated the following year on 5 July, and revised for a Leipzig performance on 20 June 1723. The text, by Salomo Franck, stems from the Gospel for the day, St Luke 6: 36-42, with its admonition, `Judge not, and ye shall not be judged' (v. 37), and its advice to the hypocrite, `Cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother's eye' (v. 42). These verses are paraphrased in the cantata's two recitatives, the first (no. 2) for alto with string accompaniment, the second (no. 4) for bass with continuo support. The chorale melody heard in the opening duet returns to end the work, set in four-part harmony to the first strophe of Johann Agricola's hymn (1529). This hymn was set by Bach in its entirety in BWV 177, where accordingly a translation may be found. (Information from Oxford Composer Companion,” BCW

The Epistle for the Fourth Sunday after Trinity is Romans 8:18- 23 (God’s children await the body’s redemption). The full German text and KJV English version are found at BCW, (The German text is that of Luther’s translation published in 1545, the English is the Authorised (King James) Version 1611). The Introit reading for the 4th Sunday after Trinity is Psalm 112, Beatus vir, God-fearing ability and bliss (Praise ye the Lord (KJV), says Petzoldt (Ibid.: 91). Full text is at

Both Cantatas 185 and 24, speaking with general Orthodox authority and warning, effectively utilize both choruses and chorales. Cantata 185 opens with a duet for soprano and tenor with a trumpet solo playing the melody of “Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ” (I call to you, Lord Jesus Christ). Cantata 24 repeats the Golden Rule dictum as a two-part prelude and fugue chorus (no. 3, Matthew 7:12)): “Alles nun, das ihr wollet, dass euch die Leute tun sollen, das tut ihr ihnen.” (Everything now, that you want that other people do to you you, you should do yourself for them) (Francis Browne English translation, BCW The high trumpet also is found in Cantata 24 where it reinforces the dictum chorus and the closing chorale melody (no. 6), Johann Heerman’s popular 1630 “O Gott, du frommer Gott” (O God, you righteous God).

*Cantata BWV 185 chorale “Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ” (I call to Thee, S.1) played a major role in the Trinity Time services in Leipzig, beginning on the Second Sunday after Trinity as the Hymn of the Day. It is found in the Neu Leipziger Gesangbuch (NLGB 235, Christian Life & Conduct) is one of the most ubiquitous Trinity Time chorales. The Johann Agricola five-stanza chorale is assigned in the NLGB as the Hymn of the Day for the Second, 19th and 21st Sundays after Trinity and as a communion hymn on the Sundays after Trinity +5, +6, +8, and +22. Bach chose “Ich ruft zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ” as the subject of Chorale Cantata BWV 177 (BCW Discussion June 26), for the Fourth Sunday after Trinity, presented in 1732, to fill that service gap in Cycle 2. Bach also uses the first stanza as the closing chorale with violin obbligato (No. 6) in Cantata BWV 185, “Barmherziges Herze der ewigen Liebe” premiered in Weimar in 1715 and repeated in Weimar in 1716, and also in Leipzig in 1723 and 1746-47. During the pre-Cantata Cycle 3 Trinity Time of 1725, a libretto book shows that for the Third Sunday after Trinity, June 17, the entire chorale is printed as a pure-hymn cantata but is not related to Cantata BWV 177. It is also listed as the NLGB Hymn of the Day for the Third Sunday After Epiphany <omne tempore>ordinary time, as well as for Septuagesimae and Sexagesimae Sundays before Lent. The melody of Johann Agricola’s 1529 five-verse hymn appears as a chorale prelude in the Orgelbüchelin (No. 91), BWV 639, in the fifth <omne tempore> listing of 26 after the Catechism, under the heading “Christian Life and Conduct.” Its variant setting is BWV Anh.II 73.

*Cantata BWV 24, “Ein ungefärbt Gemüte” (An unstained mind of truth), closing chorale No. 6, Heerman, “O Gott, du frommer Gott” (O God, thou very God), NLGB 564, “Christian Life,” Hänssler complete Bach Edition V.83, plain chorale BWV 399 in G Major. BCW text (Francis Browne English translation): Melody uses: BCW,

Trinity 4 1723: Cantata 185 and 24 Double Bill

Bach’s ambitious pattern of presenting two-part cantatas before and after the sermon starting Trinity Time 1723 in his first cycle was modified when for the Fourth Sunday after Trinity, when he was able to revive Weimar Cantata 185 and compose a new solo work, Cantata 24, observes Julian Mincham in his Introduction, Chapter 6 BWV 185 Barmherziges Herze der ewigen Liebe (Merciful heart of undying love), <<It is not difficult to see why Bach began his period of tenure with a series of long, two-part cantatas. As the third choice for the position of Cantor, he must have felt the need to prove himself and he set out to do this by electing to compose himself the five dozen or so cantatas required for each annual church year. Moreover, if his Obituary is to be believed he created five complete cycles! He was not required to do this; it wasn′t part of his contractual agreement. So the works he had presented for the first three services were long and complex (up to fourteen movements) setting a standard which must have placed much pressure upon himself as the originator as well as upon his performers. Indeed, this may be why he abandoned the bipartite structure for much of the first two cycles, reverting to a more concise and tightly-knit form.

Bach seems to have attempted to maintain the two-part format until C 186, the seventh Sunday after Trinity. Thereafter he dispensed with, it except C 70 which concluded the church year. However in this, the fourth week of his appointment, he solves his problem by producing a new cantata, C24, to precede the sermon and an old one to follow it. There can be no doubt (as, indeed there often is) about C 185′s pedigree since it is dated 1715, from Weimer, in Bach′s hand (Dürr p 417).

This is an interesting work because it demonstrates Bach′s preoccupation with the closing chorale and its potential for inclusion in, and structural dictation of, the first movement. This was almost a decade before he presented the great chorale/fantasia second Leipzig cycle, so clearly his mind had been working along these lines for some years. It also show′s Bach′s early partiality to the vocal duet; indeed some of the most original and memorable movements of the second cycle are the duos. Relatively minor changes were made to this work for its use in the first Leipzig cycle, consisting mainly of transposing it into a more suitable higher key (Gm as opposed to F#m) a task which could well have been accomplished by a competent student or copyist. (The Bärenreiter Urtext edition of the cantatas, vol 6, shows both versions).>>

The biblical themes as well as texts in the form of sermons are found in excerpts from three other commentaries on Cantata 185.7 “The theme of compassion” informs Cantata 185 and the modest, chamber-like scale of musical treatment reinforces this positive outlook, says Malcolm Boyd in his essay on Cantata 185 in Oxford Composer Companions: J. S. Bach. “Franck closely follows the text of the Gospel,” says Alfred Dürr in Cantatas of JSB. ‘The call to cultivate compassion [No. 1], the injunction not to judge,” the Golden Rule warning, and the two parables of the mote/beam in the eye and the blind leading the blind (Gospel, Luke 6:36-42) “are reproduced; and the final aria (bass, no. 5), uniting them under the motto “This is the art of the Christian.” Two musical sermons are found in the texts, says Richard D. P. Jones in The Creative Development of JSB. The alto recitative and aria (Nos. 2 and 3, “. . . Erwägt, was euch der Heiland lehret” (consider what your Saviour is teaching you), and “Sei bemüht in dieser Zeit, / Seele, reichlich auszustreuen” (Make every effort in this life / soul, to scatter your seed generously), reflect on the Golden Rule, while the closing bass aria is a sermon on Christian ethics, “Das ist der Christen Kunst: / Nur Gott und sich erkennen” (This is the Christian’s art: to know only God and himself).

Cantata 185: Text Criticism

Criticism of Cantata 185, primarily its text, was found in early 20th century writers W. Gillies Whttaker and Albuquerque Schweitzer, says John Elliot Gardiner in his 2008 liner notes to the 2000 Bach Cantata Pilgrimage Soli Deo Gloria recordngs.8 <<Cantata 185, “Barmherziges Herze der ewigen Liebe” was composed in Weimar in 1715 to a text by Salomo Franck and revived by Bach in Leipzig in 1723 and again in 1746/7. We took the revisions as the basis of our performance. Whittaker’s analysis gets choked by ‘the briars of obstruction’ he sees in Franck’s words, strewn ‘so abundantly in the path of the young composer’,9 while Schweitzer feels that Franck’s ‘bland, lesson-like libretto’ diminishes the beauty of this work.10 I’m not so sure. Bach finds convincing ways to mirror Franck’s harmless paraphrase of the Gospel injunction to ‘be merciful, as your Father also is merciful’. Cast as a siciliano for soprano and tenor with cello continuo, there is a warm glow to this opening duet, with trills on each of the main beats to signify the flickering flame of love, and a plea to ‘come melt my heart’. Agricola’s chorale-tune ‘Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ’ is meanwhile intoned by a clarino hovering above the two amorous vocal lines. The gentlest imaginable accompagnato for alto and strings (No.2), extolling the virtues of charity and the need for forgiveness, almost comes to grief with the words ‘Store up a capital which then one day God shall repay with interest’. The idea behind this clumsy metaphor is further elaborated in the opulent instrumental textures of the central aria for alto, oboe and strings, ‘Sei bemüht in dieser Zeit’ (‘Be at pains in this life... to scatter ample seed’ (No.3), the cantata’s only movement in a major key, for which Bach etches in melodic outline the gestures of the sower while hinting at the rich harvest in prospect. Nathalie Stutzmann’s sumptuous yet transparent contralto seemed just right for this aria, especially in the glowing afternoon light of Tewkesbury Abbey.

The final aria is for bass and a continuo provided by all the strings at the octave. Its start, drawing on the stock-in-trade of contemporary Scarlattian opera, makes one fear for the worst. But any text containing the word ‘Kunst’ [art] was likely to prod Bach into inventive action, and he does not disappoint, neither in the ingenuity of his solutions to setting unpromising material (including a canon at a beat’s distance between voice and continuo), nor in the gentle, parodistic way he portrays the rhetorical displays of a pompous preacher. Duke Wilhelm Ernst was given to preaching to his entire staff and entourage at the Weimar court and to holding spot-check catechisms. Was he the intended target here? Surely not, though the relationship between him and his Konzertmeister was soon to deteriorate rapidly.>> © John Eliot Gardiner 2008; From a journal written in the course of the Bach Cantata Pilgrimage

Cantata 185: Chamber Music Structure

Weimar Cantata 185 has a chamber music structure that may inhibit its libretto but it still a masterpiece, says Tadashi Isoyama in the 1996 liner notes to Masaaki Suzuki BIS complete sacred cantata recordings.11 <<BWV 185: “Barmherziges Herze der ewigen Liebe” (Merciful heart of eternal love). This cantata was first performed on the fourth Sunday after Trinity (14th July) in 1715. The libretto is by Salomo Franck and is dated 1715. It follows a chamber music structure, and while it sticks to its function as a part of the greater church service, it also shares certain features with BWV 165, the cantata written shortly before it [Trinity Sunday]. The Gospel for this day is the passage which follows after Jesus' famous teaching of 'love thine enemy'. The reading begins with injunctions to forgive and to not judge others and continues, 'For with the same measure that ye mete withal, it shall be measured unto you again’ and ‘Cast out first the beam that is in thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to remove the mote that is in thy brother's eye. Perhaps because the text is very rich in material, Franck's libretto incorporates with few changes the easy flow of Jesus' words, and this has elicited comments such as Schweitzer's 'due to the bland lesson-like libretto [the beauty of this work] is diminished.’ But we are bound to admire the emotional wealth with which Bach's music in fuses the poetry. In that it gives living reality to a potentially dry text. This work may be numbered among Bach's masterpieces. lt is known that there were performances of Cantata No.185 in Leipzig in 1723 and in 1746/47, for which occasions the oboe pail was given to a trumpet (clarino). We see a similar compositional structure, in which the work takes its musical frame from the instrumental presentation of the melody of the final chorale in the Easter Day cantata for the same year, BWV 31. The sources for the present work are the Weimar score (part of which is an autograph) and original parts as well as the score from the Leipzig performances.

The cantata begins with a calm siciliano-like duet (F sharp minor) for soprano and tenor. The theme of the piece is a musical exposition on the concept of' mercy; that the subject is often followed by its mirror form and both voices move in canon probably), symbolizes that God s mercy is reflected in human pity. Then the oboe joins in with the melody of the last chorale and suggests the name of Jesus, the owner of the heart of love, hidden in the text. An elaborately set recitative for tenor follows (second movement) in which Jesus is teaching from the Gospel reading is brought to the human level. The core concept. 'As you measure, so shall others measure unto you' is emphasized in canon. This leads into an alto aria (third movement, Adagio, C major) in which the full-sounding accompaniment expresses the joy of the 'plentiful harvest promised to the compassionate man. The instruments seem almost to be playing a phrase from an oboe concerto. The next movement is a bass recitative which summarizes Christ's words from the second half of the Gospel text. A tone of rigid warning is prominent. The aria in the fifth movement (Vivace, B minor) speaks of 'the Christian's art.’ Bach uses the characteristic motif from the first line of the text as a motto and its repetition seems not only to secure the musical cohesion of the movement, but also to emphasize the weightiness of the words. The concluding chorale (sixth movement, F sharp minor) is the call to Christ of Christians who have made the decision to follow the path of righteousness. Taking the first verse of Johann Agricola's 1529 hymn ‘Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ (I call to Thee, Lord Jesus Christ), Bach sets it for four voices, with a descant-like solo line for the first violin.>> © Tadashi Isoyama 1996

Cantata 24: Trinity 4 2nd Musical Sermon Questions

The second of the two musical sermons for the Fourth Sunday after Trinity, 1723, raises various speculative questions about its form and purpose, and Bach’s motivations, says Julian Mincham’s Introduction to Cantata 24, Chapter 5 BWV 24 Ein ungefärbt Gemüte, <<A number of speculative questions arise with the consideration of C 24. It is the fourth work of Bach′s first Leipzig cycle and it is clearly much slighter than any of the first three cantatas which were all constructed on a grand scale, in two complementary sections, encompassing either eleven or fourteen movements. C 24 has just the six and it opens modestly with a lightly scored alto aria. The one chorus (disregarding for the moment the closing chorale which maintains the principle of added independent instrumental parts) is concise and compact. Might one assume that Bach, who had clearly hit the ground running at the start of his appointment, was now finding that the weekly rehearsal and presentation of massive works was putting too great a strain upon his young performers, his congregations or even himself?

A glance at the established schedule of performances, however, tells us that such speculation is premature. This Fourth Sunday of Trinity 1723 was graced with no less music than on each of the previous three weeks because Bach presented two cantatas, Cs 24 and 185, at the same service (Dürr p 417). In effect, he was continuing the established practice of the two-part structure simply by cobbling two shorter ones together, one newly composed, the other resurrected. The preparation of the performances wohave required no less effort than those of the previous three weeks since these two cantatas contained a total of twelve movements, one more than C 21 and roughly commensurate with the fourteen in each of Cs 75 and 76. Clearly we must not jump to rash conclusions about Bach′s inability to cope with his self-imposed programme.

There is one further point of legitimate speculation. C 24, presumably the first work that Bach composed anew after beginning his duties at Leipzig, is structured differently from Cs 75, 76 and 21; it begins with an aria and places its one chorus centrally. In the half dozen works of the second Leipzig cycle Bach deliberately set out his stall to demonstrate the sheer range of styles, structures and techniques which his congregations could expect over the coming months. Might he have been doing something similar here, near the beginning of this introductory cycle? The first two cantatas begin with a chorus, the third with a sinfonia, the fourth with an aria and the fifth with a duet. There is a mixture of secco and accompanied recitatives. Choruses may be compact and extended and arias may be supported by ritornello only or a variety of obbligato instruments. Stylistically, the music may be intimate and chamber-like or boldly operatic. In less than half a dozen works Bach demonstrated the extensive range of possibilities of what, technically and artistically, might constitute his vision of ′well regulated′ church music.

Nevertheless, C 24 still comes across very much as a chamber music piece, requiring only the instrumental support of strings, continuo, two oboes and a solitary trumpet. And if only because it seems to have been the first cantata that Bach fully composed after beginning his appointment at Leipzig, it is a significant piece.

The key to an understanding of this cantata lies within the two recitatives that abut the central chorus. The theme is essentially two sided: one part expresses God′s honesty and the positive outcomes that eventuate when the uncorrupted Christian′s mind allows itself to be encompassed by His goodness. The other is the almost ferocious and venomous attack on the hypocrites who turn from Him and wear the devil′s clothes. The central chorus expresses the simple and unambiguous golden rule: do unto other as you would wish them do unto you.

Cantata 185 and 24 Text Commentaries

Two more commentaries on the texts of Cantatas 185 and 24 are found in the OCC:JSB and Dürr sources cited above. Cantatas 185 and 24 embrace “two of the most respected authors of this type of devotional liturgical poetry, Franck and Neumeister, observes Alberto Basso in OCC: JSB (Ibid.: 150f). “The juxtaposition of these two texts, which differ greatly in structure, was surely not fortuitous; rather it seems to have been done purposely in order to compare two district compositional models.” From a different perspective, Dürr (Ibid.: 420) suggests Bach chose the Neumeister text “Perhaps Bach still had not found a suitable librettos for his Leipzig church music. The content is nor so closely linked to the Gospel as Franck’s texts for Cantata 185, and lacks its warmth. It is striking for its typically baroque exaggeration of Jesus original injunctions . . . .”

Cantata 24: Textual Weaknesses?

The strange opening line of Cantata 24, “Ein ungefärbt Gemüte von deutscher Treu und Güte’ (‘an unstained mind / of German truth and goodness’), suggests both an element of chauvinism as well as a weak libretto of Erdmann Neumeister, according to Gardiner in his Bach Cantata Pilgrimage notes (Ibid.) <<How is one supposed to take the opening lines of BWV 24, “Ein ungefärbt Gemüte von deutscher Treu und Güte’ (‘an unstained mind / of German truth and goodness’)? Perhaps the words are no more selectively chauvinistic than the seventeenth-century English habit of identifying with Israel as the chosen people. The Gospel for the day, after all, is ‘judge not, and ye shall not be judged’ (Luke 6:36-42), advising the hypocrite to ‘cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother’s eye’. Bach’s music in BWV 24 has no surface gloss: you have to work your way under its skin and not to get irritated (as Gillies Whittaker evidently did) [Ibid: I: 553) by the ‘dry, didactic statements and crude denunciations of the failings of mankind’ of Neumeister’s text.

Bach opens with an aria for alto, a stately minuet-style piece with unison violins and violas that produces its own unusual chemistry in evoking an ‘unstained mind’. The tenor recitative which follows is an exemplary mini-sermon in its own right, taking as its theme ‘honesty [as] one of God’s gifts’, since ‘by nature our hearts are wont to consort with naught but evil’. As the motto for his concluding arioso he exhorts us to ‘emulate the dove and live without deceit and malice’. ‘Do as you would be done by’, in effect. This is certainly the burden of the central movement and the moment when Bach brings out his big guns to ram the point home: for the first time in the cantata we hear the chorus, with a clarino atop the full string band, in a perplexing double exposition of the axiom ‘Alles nun, das ihr wollet, dass euch die Leute tun sollen, das tut ihr ihnen’ (‘Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them’). It is given first as a swinging triple time ‘prelude’, then as a double fugue (still in triple time) marked vivace allegro, presented first by the four concertisten and then by the full choir. Its theme is smooth, its counter-theme broken, jumpy, nervy even. As a way of announcing his choir (it even starts after a silent quaver beat) it is neither what one would expect nor easy to pull off. It took many goes in rehearsal before we arrived at an even passably satisfying reading, basing it on an alla breve proportion for the fugue.

A fire-and-brimstone attack on hypocrisy follows as a bass accompagnato (No.4) with savage chordal stabs by the strings. After eighteen bars these give way to a more emollient plea, ‘may dear God spare me from it’, given in an arioso. A gentle piece (No.5) for twin oboes d’amore and tenor exhorting us to constancy and truth precedes an extended chorale, Johann Heermann’s ‘O Gott, du frommer Gott’, its eight lines split by watery or pastoral interludes for the oboes and strings (and a pulsated clarino line in low tessitura). It ends with a plea for ‘ein unverletzte Seel’ (an unsullied soul) ‘und rein Gewissen’ (and a clear conscience). How different from the tortuous penitential exclamations of last Sunday’s cantatas!>>

Cantata 24: Small Scale with Symmetry

Bach’s first solo cantata composed for the first cycle in Leipzig and the first on a double bill before and after the sermon, has a small scale compared to its predecessors and a symmetrical form with an unusual chorus at its center, says Tedashi Isoyama in his liner notes to Masaaki Suzuki’s BIS complete sacred cantatas.13 <<BWV 24: Ein ungfärbt Gemüte (An open mind). BWV24, a cantata for the Fourth Sunday after Trinity (in 1723 this was 20th June), was performed after the initial presentations of BWV75 and 76 and a repeat performance of BWV 21 (which is to say that, dating from Bach's taking of office. it was the third cantata composed). Compared with its predecessors, its scale is small, beginning with an aria and having a chorus in the middle, it has a symmetrical structure. Alfred Dürr guesses that for its premiere, it was presented together with the previously composed BWV 185, which dated from the Weimar period.

The Gospel appointed for this day (Luke 6: 36-42) presents a teaching about being merciful and not judging others. Erdmann Neumeister's libretto, which is based on this text, revolves around the idea of Christians' 'Tun und Handel' (deeds and behaviour) emphasizing the importance of 'Treu und Güte' (truth and goodness) This text is perhaps too didactic, but the advice do unto others as you would have them do unto you' is surely relevant even to this day. Bach sets this line to a powerful chorus which forms the core of the cantata.

The orchestration is simple,calling for two oboes/oboes d'amore with strings and continuo. ln the autograph parts for Nos.3 and 6, a notation for a wind instrument called a 'clarino” can be found; further explanation of this can be found in Masaaki Suzuki s notes on performance.

The cantata opens with an F major [free da-capo] alto aria in 3/4-time. The subject played by the strings, which was taken from the violin sonata BWV 1014, suggests 'ein ungefärbt Gemüte' ('An open mind'). Both then and now this is an aria that encompasses German values. Following a tenor recitative which expounds on the meaning of sincerity (No. 2), a chorus in G minor based on a passage from St. Matthew's Gospel develops. It gives an image of many individual people joining their voices; there is a good contrast between the homophonic first half and the double fugue (Allegro e Vivace) in the second half. In the double fugue, the theme 'Alles nun' ('Therefore all things') and the powerful advice 'das tut' ('do ye even') are simultaneously combined.

No.4 is a bass recitative that strictly censures hypocrisy. It is written in dramatic accampagnato style. Moving on to ‘sincerity and truth’, the tenor sings anew in an aria in A minor (No.5). The polyphonic intertwining of two oboes d'amore and continuo is lovely, and the meaning of the words is treated elaborately. After this, the work winds up with a chorale in F major praising God, the source of all. The style of this piece, in which each line of the chorale is joined to the next by instrumental passages, originated with former Kantor Johann Kuhnau>> [Bach’s predecessor]. © Tadashi Isoyama 1998

<<On Trumpets: Among the approximately 200 cantatas which survive for us today, about half include either trumpet or horn in their orchestration. If we consider this proportion, it is somewhat surprising that of the 27 cantatas composed in the first of Bach's Leipzig years, 1723, a full 20 call for trumpet or horn.

Although it is common knowledge that, in Bach's time, the horn and trumpet were played by the same musician, even now there are still many opinions as to what sort of instrument was used. For example, in movements 3 and 6 of BWV 24, there is a part given the name of 'clarino'. Since the mid-l7th century, this term has been used not to refer to an instrument, but rather to indicate the highest register of the trumpet family; No. 3, since the mid-l7th century, this term has been used not to refer to an instrument, but rather to indicate the highest register of the trumpet family; No. 3, however, requires many notes which cannot be played by a standard natural trumpet, so if a trumpet indeed played that part, it could only have been a slide trumpet. But it is difficult to imagine that Bach planned this fast-paced piece for a slide trumpet, intending the length of the mouth pipe to be adjusted during the performance. In addition, the motifs which appear in No. 6 point to the registration of a horn.

In response to this, Bach Collegium Japan trumpet player Toshio Shimada, through a process of trial and error, came up with the idea that something like a corno da caccia in B flat, which is required for Cantata 143 - an instrument like a small horn with a slide - might be suitable; he thus built one. It appears very likely that the original of the instrument in question had characteristics of both trumpet and horn.>> Masaaki Suzuki 1998

Fourth Sunday after Trinity, Bach’s performance calendar

1715-07-14 So - Cantata BWV 185 Barmherziges Herze der ewigen Liebe (1st performance, Weimar)
1716-07-05 So - Cantata BWV 185 Barmherziges Herze der ewigen Liebe (2nd performance, Weimar)
1723-06-20 So - Cantata BWV 24 Ein ungefärbt Gemüte (1st performance, Leipzig) + Cantata BWV 185 Barmherziges Herze der ewigen Liebe (3rd performance, Leipzig)
1724-07-02 So – Visitation (4.So.n.Trin.) - Cantata BWV 10 Meine Seel erhebt den Herren(1st perf., Leipzig)
1725-06-24 So - ? G. P. Telemann: Cantata Gelobet sei der Herr, der Gott Israel, TVWV 1:596 (1st performance, Leipzig)
1726-07-14 So - J.L. Bach: Cantata Ich tue Barmherziges an vielen Tausend, (?1st perf., Leipzig; Lost)
1727-07-06 So – no performance recorded
1728-06-20 So – Picander cycle begins, P-46 Gelobet sei der Her, der Gott (text only)
1732-07-06 So - Cantata BWV 177 Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ (1st performance, Leipzig)
1735-07-03 So - G.H. Stölzel: Einer ist euer Meister, Christus, Mus. A 15:240 + So ihr bleiben werdet an meiner Rede, Mus. A 15:239 (?)
(c 1742-06-17 So) - Cantata BWV 177 Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ (2nd performance, Leipzig)
(1746-1747) - Cantata BWV 185 Barmherziges Herze der ewigen Liebe (4th performance, Leipzig)

Provenance manuscript distribution of early Trinity Time Cycle 1. It appears that in 1750 the score and parts set usually were alternately divided and distributed to Freidemann and Emmanuel. In only one instance did both share materials, Cantata 147, which Friedemann performed (first movement only) in 1752 in Halle. The primary sources are the Breitkopf Catalog of 1761 and the Emmanuel estate catalog of 1789: Estate division:

Trinity 1, Cantata 75, Friedemann score, parts set lost (?Friedemann); score of Cantata 75a (nos. 2-7) to Emanuel.
Trinity 2, Cantata 76, Emmanuel score, parts set to Friedemann; Cantata 76 a (Part 2) score to ?Friedemann, then Breitkopf Catalog 1761.
Trinity 3, Cantata 21, parts set to Emanuel “per ogni tempo” in catalog; score lost (?Friedemann).
Trinity 4, Cantata 185, score and most parts to Emanuel (Cantata 24 score and parts to Friedemann, 3rd cycle)
John, Cantata 167, parts set to Friedemann, score lost (?Friedemann).
Visitation, Cantata 147, Friedemann parts set, Emanuel score in catalog.
Trinity 5 & 6, no music composed.
Trinity 7, Cantata 186, score to Emanuel, parts set lost (?Friedemann).

The BCW “Musical Context of Bach Cantatas, Motets& Chorales for 4th Sunday after Trinity” is listed at 2) HYMN OF DAY (de tempore) "O Herre Gott begnade mich"; 3) PULPIT HYMN: "Herr Jesu Christ, dich uns wend," Translation:; 4) CHORALES for Pulpit and Communion Hymns: "Wo soll ich fleihen hin," "Allein zu dir Herr Jesu Christ," And "others from [the] Confession and Penitence [section]" [Justification, Nos. 230-233].

Service Chorales, Fourth Sunday after Trinity (NLGB). The hymns above are for the Third Sunday after Trinity. HYMN OF DAY (de tempore) Trinity +4, "O Herre Gott begnade mich" (O Lord God, have mercy on me, NLGB 257 Psalm 51). Trinity +3, CHORALES for Pulpit and Communion Hymns: "Herr Jesu Christ, dich uns wend" (NLBG 314, Word of God & Christian Church). See: Trinity +1 Pulpit Hymn (also found in Geneva Psalter 652) Translation:; "Wo soll ich fleihen hin" (NLGB 182, Catechism), "Allein zu dir Herr Jesu Christ" (NLGB 178, Catechism), And "others from [the] Confession and Penitence [section]" [Justification, Nos. 230-233].

The NLGB (p.297) lists the following hymns for the Fourth Sunday After Trinity: Hymn of the Day: “Dies sind die heilige Zehn Gebot” (These are the holy 10 Commandments), Martin Luther text (12 stanzas); melody, German folk hymn, ‘In gottes namen faren wir” (In God’s name we are traveling). NLGB 170, Catechism), Pulpit and Communion Hymns: Tr+4, +6, 13+, 18+; also First Sunday after Epiphany). Bach’s uses: trumpet melody in opening chorale chorus, Cantata BWV 77, “Du sollt Gott, deinen Herren, Lieben” (Thou shalt love the Lord thy God, by Richard Stokes), Trinity +13; plain chorale BWV 298 in G Major (Catechism); Orgelbüchelin first Catechism chorale (No. 61), BWV 635; Clavierübung Catechism chorales BWV 678 (canon), BWV 679 (fugue) in G Major. Text:, Book 2.

Bach did not set the alternate 10 commandment hymns, Martin Luther’s “Mensch willtu leseliglied” (NLGB 171, Catechism) and Johann Hermann Schein’s “O Mensch willtu von gott bestehen” (NLGB 171, Catechism).


1 Cantata 185 BCW Details and Discography,; Cantata 24, BCW Details and Discography,
Source: Petzoldt, Martin. Bach Kommentar: Die geistlichen Kantaten des 1. Bis 27. Trinitas-Sontagges, Vol. 1; Theologisch Musikwissenschaftlicke Kommentierung der Geistlichen Vokalwerke Johann Sebastan Bachs, Internationale Bachakademie Stuttgart (Kassel: Bärenreiter, 2004: 96, 100).
3 Cantata 185 BGA score vocal& piano,; full score
4 Cantata 24 BGS score vocal & piano,; full score,
4a NBA source for Cantatas for the 4th Sunday after Trinity (185, 24, 11); NBA KB 17/1, Yoshitake Kobyashi and Kirsten Beißwenger, 1993.
5 Jones, The Creative Development of Johann Sebastian Bach, Volume II: 1717-1750. “Music to Delight the Spirit” (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013: 120).
6 Mincham, Julian. The Cantatas of Johann Sebastian Bach: A listener and student guide, Revised 2014; Home Page,
7 Commentaries on Cantata 185: 1) Oxford Composer Companions: J. S. Bach, ed. Boyd, Malcolm (Oxford University Press: New York, 1999: 59); 2) Dürr, Alfred. Cantatas of J. S. Bach, revised and translated by Richard D. P. Jones (Oxford University Press, New York, 2005: 417); and 3) Jones, Richard D. P. The Creative Development of Johann Sebastian Bach, Vol. 1, 1695-1717, “Music to Delight the Spirit “ (Oxford University Press: New York, 2007: 280).
8 Gardiner notes,[sdg141_gb].pdf; BCW Recordings details,
9 Whittaker, W. Gillies. The Cantatas of Johann Sebastian Bach (Oxford University Press: London, 1958: I: 79.
10 Schweitzer, Albert, Johann Sebastian Bach (Leipzig: Breitkopf & Härtel: 1911; paperback ed. New York: Dover, 1966). Gardiner’s source cannot be found. Schweitzer says, similarly (II: 140): Cantata 185 “is somewhat impaired by a dry, didactic text.” The Isoyama/Suzuki liner notes on Cantata 185 quoted below are the same source as in Gardiner’s notes.
11Cantata 185 liner notes,[BIS-CD801].pdf; BCW Recording details,
12 The Cantatas of Johann Sebastian Bach: A listener and student guide, Revised 2014; Home Page,
13 Isoyama notes, Cantata 24,[BIS-CD931].pdf; BCW Recording details,

Aryeh Oron wrote (July 13, 2015):
Cantata BWV 185 - Revised & updated Discography

The discography pages of Cantata BWV 185 “Barmherziges Herze der ewigen Liebe” for the 4th Sunday after Trinity on the BCW have been revised and updated.
The cantata is scored for soprano, alto, tenor & bass soloists; 4-part chorus; and orchestra of oboe, 2 violins, viola, bassoon & continuo. See:
Complete Recordings (11):
Recordings of Individual Movements (2):
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 185 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):


Cantata BWV 185: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

Recordings & Discussions of Cantatas: Main Page | Cantatas BWV 1-50 | Cantatas BWV 51-100 | Cantatas BWV 101-150 | Cantatas BWV 151-200 | Cantatas BWV 201-224 | Cantatas BWV Anh | Order of Discussion
Discussions of General Topics: Cantatas & Other Vocal Works | Performance Practice | Radio, Concerts, Festivals, Recordings


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Last update: Sunday, May 28, 2017 07:16