Background Information
Performer Bios

Poet/Composer Bios

Additional Information

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

Cantata BWV 197
Gott ist unsre Zuversicht
Cantata BWV 197a
Ehre sei Gott in der Höhe
Discussions - Part 4

Continue from Part 3

Discussions in the Week of November 5, 2017 (4th round)

William Hoffman wrote (November 6, 2017):
Wedding Cantata BWV 197, “Gott ist unsre Zuversicht”

Bach’s wedding Cantata BWV 197, “Gott ist unsre Zuversicht” (God is our confidence, Psalm 46:1), is a substantial work in several respects. Composed about 1736/37 and lasting 30 minutes in two full parts, it is almost a double cantata with a da capo opening chorus and three arias, as well as plain chorales closing both parts. It has a full orchestra of trumpets and drums, plus two oboes, solo oboe d’amore, bassoon, strings and continuo. One of Bach’s last compositions, it is a hybrid musical sermon based on a partial parody of two arias (alto and bass) from a half-extant Christmas Cantata BWV 197a: no. 3 with oboe d ‘amore and strings, “Schläfert allen Sorgenkummer” (Lull to sleep all worrying cares), and no. 6 with oboe, strings and bassoon, “O du angenehmes Paar” (O you charming couple).

To this Bach composed new music in his most exacting compositional method, contrasting a 2/2 fugal-homophonic chorus with a new galant soprano “slumber” aria in 6/8 siciliano dance style (no. 8), “Vergnügen und Lust” (Pleasure and joy). Bach also fashioned four new recitatives as homilies celebrating a full bridal Mass (couple unidentified). These are three with bass (two accompagnato, nos. 4 and 9 with strings), and a soprano secco recitative (no. 8) preceding the aria. Bach also aded two stalwart, appropriate chorales Cantata 197 in the hymn-laden service: no. 5, Martin Luther’s 1524 Pentecost hymn, “Nun bitten wir den heiligen Geist” (We now beg the holy spirit), stanza 3, “Du süße Lieb, schenk uns deine Gunst” (You sweet love, give us the gift of your grace), and no. 10, Georg Neumark’s 1657 BAR Form hymn, “Wer nur den lieben Gott läßt walten” (Whoever lets only the dear God reign), probably the final, seventh stanza, “So wandelt froh auf Gottes Wegen” (So travel happily on God's way).1

Cantata 197 is a sacred study in the concept of the believer’s confidence in God’s blessings as expressed in Psalms of praise and thanksgiving for a couple and their new household (see below, Notes on the text”). Like its sister Cantata 195, composed about the same time, Cantata 197 is a joyous expression of sacred devotion, in contrast to Bach’s two secular wedding cantatas of intimacy and renewal, BWV 202 and 210 (see below, “Cantata 197 Sacred Emphasis, Trappings”). Reinforcing Cantata 197 are two well-known closing chorales as congregational prayers of union and blessing (see below, “Cantata 197 Chorales”), appropriate for what was a lavish wedding for a distinguished couple, probably with connections to the Saxon Court, given its distinguished chorus and soprano aria in progressive style (see below, “1730s Compositional Mastery”). Besides the two-part cantata, the gala service (see below, “Context of Wedding”) probably included organ chorale preludes and plain chorales settings of four wedding hymns before and after the ceremony and at the concluding blessing. Despite its illusive occasion, Cantata 197 is a work with much distinction and pleasure for both the participants and subsequent audiences (see below, Cantata 197 New Commentary Source).

Cantata 197, movements, scoring, texts, key, meter (anonymous German text and Francis Browne English translation,

First Part: 1. Chorus da capo, chordal & free polyphony, sinfonia (mm. 1-24), choral insertion [SATB; Tromba I-III, Timpani, Oboe I/II, Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo]: A. (mm. 25-102) “Gott ist unsre Zuversicht, / Wir vertrauen seinen Händen.” (God is our confidence [Psalm 46:1] / we trust in his hands); B. (mm. 103-149) “Wie er unsre Wege führt, / Wie er unser Herz regiert, / Da ist Segen aller Enden.” (As he guides our way / as he rules our heart / there is blessing at the end of everything.); D Major; 2/2 alle breve (
2. Recitative secco with arioso ending [Bass, Continuo]: “Gott ist und bleibt der beste Sorger, / Er hält am besten Haus. / Er führet unser Tun zuweilen wunderlich, / Jedennoch fröhlich aus, / Wohin der Vorsatz nicht gedacht. / Was die Vernunft unmöglich macht, / Das füget sich. / Er hat das Glück der Kinder, die ihn lieben, / Von Jugend an in seine Hand geschrieben.” (God is and remains the one who cares for us best, / He best keeps the house. / He guides our actions from time to time in a wonderful way, / each happily on to where our intent had not thought. / What reason considers impossible, / that is decreed. / He has the fortune of the children, who love him, / from their youth onward written on his hand.); A Major; 4/4 (
3. Aria free da-capo (3/4 slow, 4/4 fast), sinfonia (mm 1-23), [Alto; Oboe d'amore I, Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo]: A. 3/4 (mm. 24-72, 94-154) “Schläfert allen Sorgenkummer / In den Schlummer / Kindlichen Vertrauens ein.” (Lull to sleep all worrying cares / in the slumber / of a child's trust.); B. 4/4 (mm. 73-93) “Gottes Augen, welche wachen / Und die unser Leitstern sein, / Werden alles selber machen.” (God’s eyes, which stay awake / and are our guiding star will themselves do everything.); A Major (
4. Recitative accompagnato [Bass; Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo]: “Drum folget Gott und seinem Triebe. Das ist die rechte Bahn. / Die führet durch Gefahr / Auch endlich in das Kanaan / Und durch von ihm geprüfte Liebe / Auch an sein heiliges Altar / Und bindet Herz und Herz zusammen, / Herr! sei du selbst mit diesen Flammen!” (Then follow God and his desire. / That is the right way / which leads through danger / even finally into Canaan / and through the love of which he has made proof /even to his holy altar / and binds heart and heart together, / Lord! may you yourself be present with these flames.); f-sharp minor to A Major; 4/4.
5. Choral plain [SATB; Oboe d'amore I/II, Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo] : “Du süße Lieb, schenk uns deine Gunst, / Laß uns empfinden der Liebe Brunst, / Dass wir uns von Herzen einander lieben / Und in Fried auf einem Sinne bleiben. / Kyrie eleis!” (You sweet love, give us the gift of your grace, / let us feel the fire of love, / that we may love one another from the heart / and in peace remain of one mind. / Lord, have mercy!); A Major; 4/4 (üße-liebe-aus-bwv-169.html)
Second Part: 6. Aria, four sections (A mm. 9-26, A’ 27-40, A’’ 41-51, A’’’ 52-63), sinfonias (mm. 1-8, 64-71)) [Bass; Oboe I, Violino I/II, Viola, Fagotto obligato, Continuo]: “O du angenehmes Paar, /Dir wird eitel Heil begegnen, / Gott wird dich aus Zion segnen / Und dich leiten immerdar, / O du angenehmes Paar!” (O you charming couple, / you will meet only with pure good, / God will bless you from Sion / and lead you evermore, / O you charming couple!); G Major; 4/4 (
7. Recitative secco with arioso [Soprano, Continuo]: A. “So wie es Gott mit dir / Getreu und väterlich von Kindesbeinen an gemeint, / So will er für und für / Dein allerbester Freund / Bis an das Ende bleiben. / Und also kannst du sicher gläuben, / Er wird dir nie / Bei deiner Hände Schweiß und Müh / Kein Gutes lassen fehlen. / Wohl dir, dein Glück ist nicht zu zählen.” (Just as God's intentions towards you / from your childhood have been faithful and true like a father, / so will he for ever and ever / remain the best of all friends / right to the end. / And so you can believe with certainty / that for you he will / during the sweat and efof your hands / allow no good thing to be lacking. / You are fortunate, your good fortune is not to be counted.); C Major; 4/4.
8. Aria free da capo, [Soprano; Violino solo, Oboe d'amore I/II, Continuo]: A. “Vergnügen und Lust, / Gedeihen und Heil / Wird wachsen und stärken und laben.” (Pleasure and joy / prosperity and good health / will increase and strengthen and refresh.); B. “Das Auge, die Brust / Wird ewig sein Teil / An süßer Zufriedenheit haben.” (The eye, the breast / will always its share / have in sweet satisfaction.);G Major; 6/8 siciliano style (
9. Recitative accompagnato [Bass; Oboe I/II, Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo]: “Und dieser frohe Lebenslauf / Wird bis in späte Jahre währen. / Denn Gottes Güte hat kein Ziel, / Die schenkt dir viel, / Ja mehr, als selbst das Herze kann begehren. / Verlasse dich gewiss darauf.” (And this happy course of life / will last into later years. / For God's goodness has no end, / it gives you much, / more than the heart itself can desire. / Rely on this with confidence.); D Major to f-sharp minor; 4/4.
10. Choral plain, BAR Form [SATB, Continuo (no designated instruments): A. “So wandelt froh auf Gottes Wegen, / Und was ihr tut, das tut getreu!” (So travel happily on God's way / and what you do, do that faithfully!); A’.”Verdienet eures Gottes Segen, / Denn der ist alle Morgen neu;” (Earn your God's blessing, / for it is new every morning); B. “Denn welcher seine Zuversicht / Auf Gott setzt, den verlässt er nicht.” (For whoever places his confidence / in God, he does not abandon.); b minor; 4/4 (

Notes on the Text

The incipit of Cantata 197, “Gott ist unsre Zuversicht” (God is our confidence), is based on Psalm 46, Deus noster refugiam (God is our refuge). Psalm 46 is the Introit setting for the Reformation Festival in Bach’s Leipzig. The text (KJV) is found at “Zuversicht” (confidence) also is a theme found in Bach’s c1728 SATB solo Cantata 188, “Ich habe meine Zuversicht / Auf den getreuen Gott gericht'? (I have placed my confidence / in the faithful God), for the 21st Sunday after Trinity, possible first performance October 17, 1728. Cantata 188 is part of the Picander printed annual church cycle (1728-29), as is Cantata 197a, probably first performed on December 25, 1728. There are no other documented performances of any other Bach works during this period.

The biblical sources of the text are discussed in Frances Browne’s Introduction to Cantata 197 BCML Discussion Part 2 (May 10, 2008,, citing Alfred Dürr.2 <<Dürr says about the text: "As far as we can tell, the text...makes no specific reference to the bridal couple. Proceeding from the opening line of Psalm 46, it urges trust in God (Part I), whose reward shall be God's unfailing kindness and His blessing (Part II). It is striking how often the text speaks of the path along which God will lead the bridal pair (Mvt. 1: Chorus is `He leads us on our way' Mvt. 2: `He directs our activities'; Mvt. 3: `our guiding star'; Mvt. 4: `that is the right path'; Mvt. 6: .. and lead you for evermore'; Mvt. 9: `this joyful course of life'; and Mvt. 10: `on God's ways'). Should we see herein an allusion to the calling of the bridegroom?” [Presumably as a leader of society rather than a coach driver].

“In the second movement, the remark that God has `written on His hand' the good fortune of His children alludes to Isaiah 49.16. In the sixth movement, the words `God shall bless you out of Zion and lead you for evermore' are based on Psalm 128.5, one of the psalms sung during the marriage service. And in Mvt. 7, the words `He will never .... let you lack any good thing' may be understood as a reference to Psalm 84.11. Part I concludes with the third verse of Martin Luther's hymn Nun bitten wir den Heiligen Geist (1524). The chorale that ends Part II, no. 10, is transmitted without text in Bach's original score (the only surviving authentic source), yet there is no doubt that only the seventh and last verse of the hymn Wer nur den lieben Gott läßt walten by Georg Neumark (1641) can be intended. It seems very doubtful whether the re­wording `So wandelt froh ...' (Then journey gladly ....'), transmitted only in secondary sources from Zelter's circle and adopted in the standard modern editions, goes back to Bach. It should probably be regarded as a product of Zelter's editing and is consequently best replaced in performance by the original text, as used by Bach in, for example, Cantata BWV 93, No. 7.”.. [Analysis of the music follows, citing Dürr and W. Gillies Whittaker.]

Movements’ Text Summarized. The two parts and their individual movements are summarized by Melvin Unger3 as follows: Part I, “Exhortation to put trust in God”: no. 1, “God’s sovereign rule brings blessing to us”; no. 2, God is the best manager of our household”; no. 3, “Anxiousness quieted by trust in God’s watchful care”; no. 4, “God’s ways lead through testing to Canaan”; no. 5, “Loving one another: Prayer for divine help”; Part II: no. 6, “Wedding couple promised God’s blessing”; no. 7, God, well-intentioned toward you since infancy”; no. 8, Earthly bliss & satisfaction promised”; no. 9, “Blessed state will last, for God’s love had no end”; no. 10, “Walk in God’s ways & he will continue to bless you.”

Cantata 197 Chorales

For the conclusion of both parts of Cantata 197, Bach judiciously chooses two well-known chorales. The first part closes (no. 5), with Martin Luther’s Pentecost hymn, “Nun bitten wir den heiligen Geist” (We now beg the holy spirit), stanza 3, “Du süße Lieb, schenk uns deine Gunst” (You sweet love, give us the gift of your grace). The Kyrieleis refrain setting of four lines (AABB), four stanzas emphasizes the Great Commandment, to love one's neighbor. Luther's Gradual Song between the Epistle and Gospel lessons in the main service is a contrafaction of the Latin sequence, Veni, sancte spirtus (Come, Holy Spirit), published in the Johann Walther’s 1524 Gesangbuch (5 vv,, Luther added three stanzas about Petencost 1524. The first stanza is German leise, vernacular folk song ending in Kyrie eleison, dating to the early Middle Ages and sung at Pentecost after Veni, sancte spirtus. The pentatonic melody (Zahn 2029) also has old folk origins.4

Stanza 3 also closes Cantata 169, “Gott soll allein mein Herze haben” (God alone should possess my heart), for 18th Sunday after Trinity, October 20, 1726. The hymn is set as a plain chorale, BWV 385 in A Major, and may have been performed at a Pentecost service (BWV 169/7, 197/5, 385,, Rilling). In addition, Picander's 1728 cantata annual cycle text for the 18th Sunday after Trinity (September 26), "Ich liebe Gott vor allen Dinge" (I Love God Before All Things), also designates Stanza 3 but Bach did not set the libretto. Bach also planned Luther's hymn as a Pentecost service chorale prelude in his Weimar Orgelbüchlein (Little Organ Book), No. OB 45, but did not set it. It also is a setting of doubtful authenticity, BWV deest, in G Major, lasting 15 measures (NBA IV/10, Organ Works from Miscellaneous Sources, ed. Reinmar Emans, 2008), see below, “Context of Wedding.” The text and Francis Browne’s English translation are found at BCW It is found as a designated de tempore Pentecost Hymn in Das Neu Leipziger Gesangbuch (NLGB No. 130) of 1682 and currently is EG 124. It is known as “We Now Implore God the Holy Ghost” (

Georg Neumark’s 1640 omne tempore chorale, “Wer nur den lieben Gott läßt walten” Whoever lets only the dear God reign), was one of Bach’s favorites and one of his earliest uses, perhaps dating to the lost 1709 Mühlhausen Town Council Cantata BWV Anh. 192. The BAR-Form six line (ABABCC), seven stanza hymn (text, Francis Browne English translation, BCW, was published in Neumark’s Fortgepflantzter Musikalisch-Poetischer Lustwald (Jena, 1657). Information on Neumark’s chorale (Zahn melody 2778, EKG 298) is found at BCW,, with sources, alternate texts, and Bach’s uses.

It is found in the NLGB of 1682 as hymn No. 303, “Cross, Persecution & Tribulation”) but not designated for particular services. Bach used the very popular Neumark tune and text in Chorale Cantata BWV 93, for the Fifth Sunday after Easter. The Neumark melody is found in the plain chorale, BWV 434 in A Major, “Trust in God” (,, and in the chorale prelude Orgelbüchlein, BWV 642, “Christian Life and Conduct” ( Schubler Chorale, BWV 647 (, and Miscellaneous Chorale, BWV 690-691 (,

Cantata 197 Sacred Emphasis, Trappings

In contrast to the intimate secular Cantatas 202 and 210, Cantata 197, like its sacred counterpart BWV 195, uses a full ensemble of chorus and orchestra in a bi-partite sacred setting with closing chorales, observes Julian Mincham in his commentary introduction ( <<This ten movement work is the first, and largest, of the three wedding cantatas constructed in two parts. It also contains two chorales. Furthermore the instrumentation, like that of C 195 (see previous chapter), is of a kind usually reserved for large festive occasions such as Christmas or Easter: three trumpets and drums, oboes, strings, bassoon, choir and continuo. Only flutes seem to be missing!

There is little specific mention of the bridal couple, although the cantata’s proportions and orchestration would indicate that they were people of considerable importance. Once again the text takes a different line from Cs 202 and 210 in that the focus here is upon God’s benevolence and wisdom in guiding the couple through life from infancy to death and beyond. It lacks the themes of renewal which may be found elsewhere; here the emphasis is fully upon the journey through life and God’s guidance along the true path. It has, therefore, rather more in common with a number of the religious cantatas than with many of a secular nature.

This is clearly true of the chorales that end the two parts, designed to be performed before and after the wedding ceremony. This structure puts us immediately in mind of a number of the bipartite works from the first Leipzig cycle which are similarly designed e.g. Cs 75, 76, 21 and 147. Whether the wedding guests would have joined in the singing of the chorales is not known.

Dürr dates this as a relatively late work from around 1736/7 although clearly Bach made use of existing movements, principally from the Christmas Day cantata which may have been composed for the celebrations of 1728. What strikes the listener immediately is the range of inventive processes he brought to bear on the many massive opening choruses he composed in the years 1724-36.

Some, like that which begins C 195, are simply bipartite. More often Bach is inclined to take a traditional format, such as the ternary da capo, but to impose different constraints and patterns upon it. Increasingly, he dispensed with the concerto-like recurring ritornello so that the opening instrumental theme came to adopt the dual roles of establishing the mood and character and providing the essential musical material. Where the ritornello theme does return, it is increasingly heard with vocal parts grafted on.>>

1730s Compositional Mastery

Bach’s compositional mastery in the later 1730s is found in the two new madrigalian numbers he composed, along with the two arias he selectively parodied from the Christmas Cantata BWV 193a, “Ehre sei Gott in der Höhe” (Glory to God in the Highest, Luke 2:12) almost a decade before. The opening chorus is a da-capo setting of a biblical incipit (Psalm 46:1), “Gott is unsre Zuversicht,” followed by freely invented poetry (librettist unknown) with long lines that paraphrase biblical texts (mostly from psalms). Bach treats these lines in a the old-fashion rhythm of 2/2 alle breve cut-time. “Within the da-capo ritornello structure, fugue is incorporated in accordance with the venerable psalm quotation, which is set to the headmotive of the fugue subject,” observes Richard D. P. Jones’ compositional analysis5 (

After a lengthy ritornello (24 mm), alto and soprano begin a long canon on the first two phrases which are repeated three times before the entrance of the bass and then tenor. This develops and lead to a unified, homophonic re-statement of the second line, “Wir vertrauen seinen Händen.” (we trust in his hands), repeated in whole notes, then developed at length in close imitation, uniting fugue and ritornello in “this highly characteristic structure if the 1730s,” says Jones (Ibid.: 320). The grandeur continues in the B-Section, “Wie er unsre Wege führt” (As he guides our way), while Bach reverses the motivic process beginning with a homophonic statement (mm 103) of the first line, followed by close imitative development of all three lines, then a seven-measure ritornello leading to another homophonic-close imitation restatement.

In the newly-composed soprano slumber aria (no. 3), “Schläfert allen Sorgenkummer” (Lull to sleep all worrying cares,, Bach originally planned the text to conform to a parody (new text underlay) of a similar slumber aria in the Easter Oratorio, BWV 2496, “Sanfte soll mein Todeskummer” (Gentle should be the sorrow of my death). When he began to set the new text, however, he saw that the B section had a strong emotional contrast not found in the same section of the music of the earlier aria (, and instead composed a new, progressive setting of the text. Bach cast the new aria in the “singing style of melody in the international galant idiom,” says Jones (Ibid.: 321f). First found in “certain arias from the Picander Cycle . . . the same trend then carries on throughout the 1730s.” “A particularly beautiful late example,” is the new slumber aria, “whose broad oboe d’amore melody, simply accompanied and later taken over by the alto voice, would hardly have been out of place in contemporary opera seria.” The B section tempo changes from 3/4 to 4/4, and the pace increases with the assurance, “Gottes Augen, welche wachen . . . Werden alles selber machen.” “(God’s eyes, which stay awake . . . will themselves do everything.)

Context of Wedding

“Weddings were classified in 3 categories and normcelebrated on Mondays: 1) Full ­ with cantata [Bach¹s Choir 1?]; 2) Half ­with motet [Choir 2?]; 3) Quarter ­ with hymns [Choir 3 or 4?]. There were only 31 full weddings during Bach¹s tenure in Leipzig [at St. Thomas, an equal number at St. Niklaus]. The wedding rite was normally held at the church door while the blessing was at the altar, although it is not clear whether the entire rite was conducted at the front of the church in Bach¹s time,”says Douglas Cowling in his Introduction to Cantata 197, BCML Discussion, Part 3 (February 23, 2009,

The following MUSICAL SEQUENCE FOR WEDDING was compiled by Cowling (Ibid.). It is a service of the word with conjectural music in the 1736/1737 service. The readings included psalms, as found in Cantata 197 performed, in this case Psalm 46 (opening chorus):
Chorale Prelude on First Hymn, “Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan,” Neumeister setting, BWV 1112 (
Hymn: "Was Gott tut,” BWV 250
Chorale Prelude, “In allen meinen Taten,” BWV 367 (,
Cantata ­BWV 197, Part One
Consent [at church door?]
Vows [at church door?]
Exchange of rings [at church door?]
Announcement of Marriage [at church door]?
Cantata ­197, Part Two
Chorale Prelude on “Sei Lob und Ehr dem hoechsten Gut” (melody “Es ist das Heil uns kommen her”), Orgelbüchlein setting, BWV 638 (
Procession to Altar:
Hymn "Sei Lob und Ehr dem hoechsten Gut", BWV 251?
Chorale Prelude on Hymn, “Wer nur den lieben Gott läßt walten,” Kirnberger, BWV 690,; optional, “Nun Bitten Wir Den Heiligen Geist,” BWV deest (doubtful, no. 19).
Hymn: “Wer nur den lieben Gott” (see chorale prelude in hymn), or BWV 434 (,
Benediction [at altar]
Chorale Prelude on Hymn, “Nun denket alle Gott,” “Great 18,” BWV 657 (
Closing Hymn: “Nun Danket Alle Gott,” BWV 252

Cantata 197 New Commentary Source

The most recent source commentary on Cantata 197 is the 2017 Carus score publication, with a forward by Uwe Wolf ( << Foreword. The cantata Gott ist unsre Zuversicht (Rest thy faith on God the Lord) BWV 197 was presumably composed in the latter half of the 1730s for a wedding about which nothing more is known.1 The content of the text is so general that it allows for no deductions regarding the bridal couple and thus the exact occasion of the composition. The unknown author of the text constructed at least parts of the cantata text to correspond to other cantatas by Bach, so that these could be underlaid as parody texts for the respective movements. This is certainly the case in movements 3, 6 and 8. Movement 3 corresponds textually to movement 7 of the “Schäferkantate” BWV 249a (or respectively, its parodies BWV 249 and BWV 249b); however, Bach decided to compose a new movement after all. Movements 6 and 8, on the other hand, are in fact parodies of movements 4 and 6 of the Christmas cantata “Ehre sei Gott in der Höhe” BWV 197a which has only survived in fragmentary form. The text of the cantata focuses on one major topic: trust in God. Movements 1–3 deal with having trust in God; movement 4 contains the summons to also follow God. In the second part – after the marriage – God’s beneficence and blessing is promised to the couple as a reward for their trust in God. The author did not use any texts from the Bible, but his text is naturally full of biblical quotations and references, beginning already with the first line, which is borrowed from Ps 46.

Bach’s composition opens with an expansive choral movement in da capo form. The festive introductory sinfonia is followed by a fugal exposition with a downright hammering subject head. After the subject has been sounded in all voices, m. 58 sees an initially almost literal repetition of the introductory sinfonia – now, however, with a largely homophonic choir part added. In the orchestral part of the likewise homophonic B-section, Bach makes use of thematic material from both the introductory sinfonia and the fugue subject. The secco recitative with an arioso ending is followed by a contralto aria with strings and obbligato oboe d’amore. In correspondence with the text, the A-section and the written-out da capo are set as a spacious lullaby. The middle section, on the other hand, has an entirely different character: here, a lively 4/4-meter replaces the tranquil 3/4-meter of the A-section; it represents God’s tireless watching and guiding us as our leading star. The first section of the cantata closes with an accompagnato recitative and a simple chorale.

The second section opens with an unusually scored bass aria: the leading instrumental role is played by an obbligato bassoon, accompanied by one oboe and two muted violins ( The basso continuo contributes hardly more than detached eighth notes. In the Christmas cantata BWV 197a, this aria seems to have also been scored for obbligato bassoon but two flutes2 played the parts of the two muted violins one octave higher; the oboe part was still missing there. There is little correspondence between the texts of the original and its parody, although the first line remained almost the same. In the Christmas cantata, it reads “O du angenehmer Schatz” (O you sweet delightful treasure); the word “angenehm” will surely have inspired the principal motive with its galant melodic style and it was presumably for this reason that the text remained untouched (, 1:03:45).

A secco recitative ending in an expansive arioso section precedes the second aria taken from the Christmas cantata BWV 197a. Once again, Bach altered the scoring: an aria for solo oboe d’amore, bass and continuo (, 1:10:31) became an aria for solo violin, two oboes d’amore, soprano and continuo (; the aria was also transposed from D major to G major. The generally joyous character of the aria made it easy to transfer it into another joyous context. Like the first part, the second part of the cantata closes with an accompagnato recitative and a simple chorale; thus both sections display a parallel structure after their opening movements, i.e., secco recitative with arioso ending – aria – accompagnato recitative – chorale.

The autograph score of the cantata has survived, but not the original set of parts. Bach’s score is, , very legible and noticeably complete; even the most of the articulation is notated, albeit with the problem (which occurs frequently with Bach) of interpreting both the length and the allocation of slurs to the notes. What remains unclear is the participation of the bassoon outside movement 6. It should presumably form part of the continuo group.

Only the beginning of the closing chorale of part 1 has text underlay; there is none in the closing chorale of part 2. Whereas completing the text was easy in the first case, it was necessary to search for a suitable verse for the final chorale. There are good reasons for supposing that the last verse of Georg Neumarck’s chorale “Wer nur den lieben Gott lässt walten” was intended, and we have underlaid the chorale with this text. In later copies of the cantata, a rewritten version of this verse is underlaid (“So wandelt froh auf Gottes Wegen”). This would appear to originate in a copy – no longer extant today – from Carl Friedrich Zelter’s “Sing-Akademie.” There are, however, no indications that Zelter still had access to the original parts, so we can assume that this text variant originated with Zelter himself.

The cantata was first published in 1864 in volume 13.1 of the old Bach-Gesamtausgabe (BG), edited by Wilhelm Rust. In the Neue Bach-Ausgabe, it was already published in 1958 in volume I/33, edited by Frederick Hudson. Both editions used the rewritten version of the chorale verse. Uwe Wolf / Translation: David Kosviner / Wolfschlugen, spring 2017

1 Yoshitake Kobayashi, “Zur Chronologie der Spätwerke J. S. Bachs. Kompositions- und Aufführungskalender von 1736–1750.” in Bach-Jahrbuch 1988, p. 39, gives the date of the cantata as 1736/37.
2 This aria, which is only extant in fragmentary form, has been reconstructed by Diethard Hellmann (Carus 31.197)>> [original source: Die Kantate No. 204, ed. Hans Grischkat (Stuttgart-Hohenheim: Hänssler-Verlag, Vorwort (Hellmann, 1964).>>

Cantata 197: Chorus, Arias

The chorus and three arias in Cantata 197 are described in detail in Klaus Hofmann’s 2012 liner notes to the Masaaki Suzuki BIS complete cantata recordings.6 << Gott ist unsre Zuversicht, BWV 197 (God is our confidence). ’In diebus Nuptiarum’ – for a wedding – Bach observes in the title of this score, composed in 1736–37; but he did not specify the identity of the happy couple whose married life began with such a splendid piece of music. Moreover, as was usual, he does not mention the name of the text author either.

The large-scale opening chorus, the first words of which allude to Psalm 46, verse 1, is in da capo form. It starts with an introduction from the full orchestra (supplemented by three trumpets and timpani) in the manner of a festive march, which is followed by a brief fugato. The material of the march-like orchestral introduction then returns, now including the four-part choir as well, and it is the choir that then develops the material further, broadly, in free form and with important contributions from the orchestra. The middle part of the movement is dynamically restrained; the trumpets and timpani fall silent (with one small exception) and the choir presents the lines of text in a simple, block setting. Meanwhile the oboes and strings play a scattering of motifs from the main part of the movement.

The three-part soprano aria [no. 3] ’Schläfert allen Sor- genkummer / in den Schlummer / kindlichen Ver- trauens ein’ (‘Put all sorrowful worries to sleep / In the slumber / Of childlike trust’; third movement) is a display piece, a wonderful example of ‘slumber music’ in which falling asleep is constantly depicted by very long notes. Although formally the aria is a trio for voice, oboe d’amore and continuo, the first section surprises us with a string accompaniment that fills out the harmony. The middle part of the aria, which speaks of God’s vigilance, offers a sharp contrast in terms of emotion and musical activity. Lively coloraturas replace tranquil songfulness, but in the end the movement returns to the slumber motifs from the start. Interestingly, the text was apparently written as a parody, intended to be combined with the music of an aria from Bach’s Easter Oratorio, BWV 249. The text of that aria begins in an unmistakably similar way: ‘Sanfte soll mein Todeskummer / nur ein Schlummer, / Jesu, durch dein Schweißtuch sein’ (‘My deathly anguish shall softly / Be merely slumber, / O Jesus, through your napkin’). The reason why Bach ultimately rejected the parody and decided on a wholly new text is clear: the music of the Easter Oratorio offered no opportunity to reflect the emotional contrast in the text between the different parts of the aria.

After the bass accompagnato, supported by the strings, a strophe from Luther’s hymn Nun bitten wir den Heiligen Geist concludes the first part of the cantata. The second part, headed ‘Post Copulationem’, was performed after the marriage ceremony. The two arias in this part, too, are admirable, although here Bach made the process of composition rather easier for himself by having recourse to an earlier work, the Christmas cantata “Ehre sei Gott in der Höhe,” BWV 197a. In that work the aria ‘O du angenehmes Paar’ (‘O you lovely couple’; sixth movement) had begun with the words ‘O! du angenehmer Schatz’ (‘treasure’) and was addressed to baby Jesus in the manger. In the wedding piece, Bach gave the vocal line to the bass and transferred the flute parts to muted violins; he also added an oboe part that adds a playful element with its echo-like entries. Admittedly, however, a little of the Christmassy tone of the original does shine through in the wedding aria.

The theme of the aria ‘Vergnügen und Lust, Gedeihen und Heil’ (‘Delight and desire, prosperity and well-being’ ; eighth movement) begins in siciliano rhythm and develops, especially in the violin, into music of a wide-ranging, flowing character. In the Christmas cantata it was set for bass, oboe d’amore and continuo. For the wedding version Bach gave the vocal line to the soprano, allocated the oboe d’amore part to a solo violin and added an accompaniment of two oboes d’amore to enrich the harmonies. The result is a piece of unusual charm, in its own way unique in all of Bach’s cantata output. At the end of this festive work, which began in such splendour, there is a simple chorale – a strophe from the well-known hymn Wer nur den lieben Gott lässt walten (Whoever lets only the dear God reign) by Georg Neumark (1641) with its exhortation to be devout and to trust confidently in God.>> © Klaus Hofmann 2012

Production Notes: Gott ist unsre Zuversicht, BWV 197 /Ehre sei Gott in der Höhe, BWV 197a

The main source in which BWV 197 has been handed down is the full score in the composer’s own hand preserved in the Berlin State Library (P91). The original parts have all been lost. In his commentary on the work, Klaus Hofmann outlines the relationship between the second half of this cantata and BWV 197a, which has provided the reason for also including that work on the present disc. Unfortunately, in its extant form BWV 197a consists only of a fragment of the fourth movement and the fifth, sixth and seventh (final) movements. This fragmentary score is owned by the Heineman Foundation in New York. However, as the fourth movement was adapted for use in BWV 197 it has been possible to restore it. Our performance of it is based on the restoration of the score made by Diethard Hellmann and published by Hänssler Verlag.
© Masaaki Suzuki 2013

Cantata 197 Provenance

Autograph Score (Facsimile), D B Mus. ms. Bach P 91 is found at Bach Digital, The scribes are Sebastian and Emmanuel Bach, about 1736/37. The provenance is: J. S. Bach - C. P. E. Bach - ? (before 1788) - Sing-Akademie zu Berlin (after 1811?) - BB (now Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin Preußischer Kulturbesitz) (1855). Emmanuel’s Estate Catalog of 1790, p. 70 [8] shows his listing: "Trauungs-Musik: Gott ist unsre Zuversicht etc. Mit Trompeten, Pauken, Hoboeund Basson.” Emmanuel is presumed to have owned the parts set (not extant). Score title page (Emmanuel): Cover, “Trauungs Cantate / a / 4 Voci / 3 Trombe / Tamburi / 2 Hautb. / 2 Viol. / Viola / Bassono conc. / e / Cont. / di / J. S. Bach.”; First Page, “J. J. In dieb[us] Nuptiarum . Concerto à 4 Voci. 3 Trombe Tamburi. 2 Hautb. 2 Violini Viola | e Cont[inuo].”

Sacred, Secular Wedding Cantatas

Bach sacred wedding music of joy and thanksgiving involves six works, five of which are extant: BWV 196,“Der Herr denket an uns und segnet uns” (The Lord thinks of us and blesses us), c.1708; BWV 34a, “O ewiges Feuer, o Ursprung der Liebe” (O eternal fire, o source of love), c1727; BWV 120a, “Herr Gott, Beherrscher aller Dinge” (Lord God, ruler of all things), 1729 (incomplete); BWV 192, “Nun danket alle Gott” (Now all thank God), 1730; BWV 195, “Dem Gerechten muss das Licht immer wieder aufgehen" (For the righteous person the light must always rise again, Psalm 97:11), of 1736-49; and BWV 197, “Gott ist unsre Zuversicht” (God is our confidence, Psalm 46:1), of 1736/37. One sacred wedding cantata exists only in it text: Cantata BWV Anh. 14, “Sein Segen fließt daher wie ein Strom” (His blessing flows like a stream, Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 39:22), 12 February 1725, for a distinguished Leipzig couple with connections to the Saxon Court (,, At the same time, Bach composed a 1725 secular wedding serenade, BWV Anh. 196, “Auf! süß-entzückende Gewalt” (Up! Sweet charming authority), also for a couple with Saxon Court connections, which survives only in its text, while one number may have been made into a contrafaction in the B-Minor Mass, as is possible in the four arias found in BWV Anh. 14. Bach’s other three secular wedding cantatas — all for solo soprano (?Anna Magdalena) — are: BWV 202, “Weichet nur, betrübte Schatten (Köthen); BWV 216: Vergnügte Pleißenstadt (1728, incomplete); and BWV 210, “O holder Tag, erwünschte Zeit (?1729/1738-41). Although pure-hymn chorale Cantatas 99, 100, 117, and 192 are setting of hymns found in weddings, recent scholarship suggests that Bach may have composed them between 1731-34 for the Weißsenfes Court for special sacred main services of praise and thanksgiving.


1 Cantata 197, BCW Details & Discography, Score Vocal & Piano,; Score BGA, References: BGA XIII/1 (wedding cantatas, Wilhelm Rust 1864), NBA KB I/33 (wedding cantatas, Frederick Hudson, 1958), Bach Compendium BC B 16, Zwang K 198. Sheet music, Breitkopf & Härtel piano-vocal (1966, BGA), Carus-Verlag (2017, NBA), Carus-Verlag.
2 Alfred Dürr, Cantatas of J. S. Bach, ed. & trans. Richard D. P. Jones (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005: 752).
3 Melvin Unger, “ Handbook to Bach’s Sacred Cantatas: An Interlinear Translation with Reference Guide to Biblical Quotations and Allusions Lanham MD: Scarecrow Press, 1996: 688-693).
4 Luther’s Works, vol. 53, Liturgy and Hymns, ed. Ulrich S. Leupold (Philadelphia PA: Fortress Press, 1965: 263f.
5 Richard D. P. Jones, “The Creative Development of Johann Sebastian Bach, Vol. II, 1717-1750: Music to Delight the Spirit” (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013: 281).
6 Klaus Hofmann, Masaaki Suzuki notes,, “Liner Notes”; recording,, 35:00.
7 Entry: Bach Digital.


To Come: Music of sorrow: Cantatas, Motets, and Eschatological Chorales


Cantata BWV 197: Gott ist unsre Zuversicht for Wedding (After 1735 / c1742 / 1736-1737 / 1739)
Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements
Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

Cantata BWV 197a: Ehre sei Gott in der Höhe [incomplete] for Christmas Day (1728?)
Details & Recordings
Discussions: 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


Back to the Top

Last update: Monday, November 20, 2017 06:40