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Cantata BWV 21
Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis
Discussions - Part 7

Continue from Part 5

Discussions in the Week of June 21, 2015 (4th round)

William Hoffman wrote (June 22, 2015):
Cantata 21, “Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis" Intro. & Trinity 3 Chorales

Serendipity, ambition, and sheer genius marked Bach’s first three compositions to begin his debut at Trinity Time in Leipzig in 1723, 40-minute, two-part musical sermons embracing both traditional, fugal choral elements and contemporary, operatic-style arias. Each utilized text exploiting bibilical dicta, hymns, and original poetry directed at interpreting the meaning of the Gospel teaching parables and interpretive Epistles. He had began with two extensive two-part sister-works virtually identical in form: Cantata BWV 75, “Die Elenden sollen essen, dab see sat warden” (The wretched shall eat so that they are satisfied), and BWV 76, “Die Himmel erzählen die Ehre Gottes” (The heavens declare the glory of God, Psalm 19:1).

For the Third Sunday in Trinity, June 13, Bach was able to a break, reperforming a unique early work that had established Bach’s enormous talent. Cantata BWV 21, “Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis in meinem Herzen” (I had much affliction in my heart), had taken seven years for Bach to perfect in three venues for various purposes, containing many primary ingredients to be found in his finest vocal works.1 including a poignant oboe in four movements (1, 2, 3, 6b). The 11 movements include an extensive, provocative opening sinfonia, two choral fugue settings (2, 6), two modern Italianate arias (Nos. 3 in 12/8 pastorale-gigue style and No. 5) gigue style, recitative accompagnati solos (Nos. 4 and 7), a dramatic Soul-Jesus duet in 3/8 generic dance (No. 8), chorale in motet style (No. 9), another gigue-style aria in 3/8 (No. 10), and the majestic chorus echoing Handel’s “Messiah,” “Worthy is the lamb” (Rev. 5:12-13), which originally may have been composed for the now-lost second Mühlhausen Town Council cantata of 1709 (BWV Anh. 192).

Cantata 21 Biblical Readings

“Cantata 2l has at its heart the text from the Gospel for the Third Sunday after Trinity: the parable of the lost sheep (Luke l5:1-10),” says the liner notes to the Masaaki Suzuki BIS Vol. 12 recording (see below). “It illustrates the message, 'Joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repents, more than over ninety and nine just persons, who need no repentance.' This parable was told by Jesus, who was with a group of tax collectors and sinners, as a reproach to the discriminatory and critical Pharisees and scribes. Salomo Franck's libretto is from the perspective of one of these sinners who, overwhelmed by the evils of the world, is on the brink of the abyss of despair when he sees the light of Jesus and is filled with joy, praising God.”

The Epistle reading is 1 Peter 5: 6-11 “Cast your cares upon God,” with references in movements Nos. 1-6. The full text of the Gospel and Epistle are found at “Lutheran Church Year Readings for the Third Sunday after Trinity,” The German text is that of Luther’s translation published in 1545, the English is the Authorised (King James) Version 1611. Psalms are cited in the following movements: 2. Psalm 94:19; 6. Psalm 42:11; 9. Psalm 116.7.

The cantata theme is found in the last verse of the Gospel (Luke 15:10): “Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth ”(KJV). The Introit is Psalm 25, Ad te, Domine levavi (Unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul; “Prayer about God’s reign, grace, and protection,” says Martin Petzoldt in Bach Kommantar, Vol. 1, Trinity Sundays.2

Chorale Usage in Cantata 21

Bach’s third Leipzig cycle two-part Cantata, BWV 21 “Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis” (I had much affliction in my heart), was presented on June 13, the Third Sunday after Trinity. Composed in Weimar, it uses two stanzas of the popular chorale, Georg Neumark ‘s 1657 (7 verse) “Wer nur den lieben Gott läßt walten” (Whoever lets only the dear God reign”). It is found in Movement No. 9, chorus (Psalm 116/7), “Sei nun wieder zufrieden” (Be satisfied again now, my soul), quote from Epistle (1 Peter 5:7), followed by the tenor chorale (S. 2) “Was helfen uns die schweren Sorgen?” (What help to us are heavy sorrows), the continued Psalm chorus response, “denn der Herr tut dir Guts” (for the Lord does good to you.). The soprano chorale setting of Stanza 5 concludes the movement: Denk nicht in deiner Drangsalshitze, / Daß du von Gott verlassen seist, (Do not think in the heat of your distress / that you have been abandoned by God).

The< omne tempore> chorale, “Wer nur den lieben Gott läßt walten,” was one of Bach’s favorites and one of his earliest uses in a cantata, perhaps dating to the lost 1709 Mühlhausen Town Council Cantata BWV Anh. 192. Found in the 1682 <Neu Leipziger Gesangbuch> (NLGB) as hymn No. 787 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 service designation found in the Leipzig, Dresden and Weißenfels hymn books of Bach’s time, says Stiller (<JSB & Liturgical Life in Leipzig>: 242). The Neumark melody is found in the plain chorale, BWV 434 in A Major, “Trust in God,” Hänssler complete Bach Edition V.85, and in the chorale prelude Orgelbüchlein, BWV 642, “Christian Life and Conduct.” More about Bach’s extensive use of this chorale, also set to two other texts, “Wer weiß, wie nahe mir mein Ende” (Chorale Cantata BWV 27 for Trinity +16) and “Ich armer Mensch, ich armer Sünder” (Chorale Cantata BWV 55, for Trinity +22) -- neither in the NLGB -- will be found in Chorale Cantata BWV 93 (Trinity 5), as well as Rudolstadt Cantata 88 for the same Trinity 5 Sunday. BCW text and Francis Browne English translation:

Early Trinity Time 1723

Looking back at Bach’s earliest Trinity Time cantatas in 1723, after two extensive, original works, for the next five weeks Bach was able to draw almost entirely on works he had composed originally in Weimar and recycle them in Leipzig. Serendipity enabled him to utilize five Weimar works: Cantata 21 (1713) for Trinity 3, chorale solo Cantata BWV 185 (1715) with new solo Cantata BWV 24 on a double bill for Trinity 4; Cantata 167 (1715) 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 but instead presented the Weimar expansions (BWV 147 and 186) on feast days during the two weeks after the Trinity Time Sundays. Having no further Weimar Trinity Time works available until Trinity 20, Bach turned compose two new chorus-type cantatas in traditional form, relying on still unidentified Leipzig librettists. The reason Bach had no Trinity Time Weimar cantatas for between the 8th and 20th Trinity Sundays (except for BWV 199 on Trinity 11 1714), were two multi-month periods of mourning from September to November 1714, and August to November 1715 for public mourning of Duke Johann Ernst. In 1716 there is no record Bach set Salomo Franck texts for Trinity 8, 12, and 24.

The next year in Leipzig, 1724, Bach made up for the lack of Trinity Time Sundays preceding the two summer feast days in his second, chorale cantata cycle with Cantata 7 for the Feast of John the Baptist followed the next day (Trinity 3) with Cantata 135. The next week, he was fortunate that the Visitation Feast and Trinity 4 feel on the same Sunday, July 2. Although Bach was able to compose three Trinity Time cantatas for virtually all of the twenty-plus Sundays, he left only two works for Trinity 2 (BWV 76, 2), Trinity 3 (BWV 21, 135) and Trinity 5 (88, 93). In the interim pre-Cycle 3 1725 Trinity Time, he scheduled performances of other composers for the first Sundays and uRudolstadt texts set to cousin Johann Ludwig Bach and his own works in 1726. In 1728-29 he eschewed any settings of Picander cycle texts for these early Trinity Time Sundays.

Bach’s performance calendar for the Third Sunday after Trinity:

1714-06-17 So - Cantata BWV 21 Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis (1st performance, Weimar)
1723-06-13 So - Cantata BWV 21 Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis (3rd performance, Leipzig)
1724-06-25 So - Cantata BWV 135 Ach Herr, mich armen Sünder (1st performance, Leipzig)
1725-06-17 So - Agricola text only, “Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ” (probably not BWV 177, Tr.4, 1732)
1726-07-07 So - presumed Rudolstadt text only “Wo sich aber der Gottlose bekehret” ?JSB lost
1727-06-29 So – no record
1728-06-13 So – no record
1729-07-03 So – Picander text only, P45 “Lass sie spotten, lass sie lachen”
1735-06-26 So - G.H. Stölzel: “Kommt her zu mir alle, die ihr mühselig und beladen seid.”
Pre-Cycle 3, 1725. A surviving service cantata libretto book provides the texts for five cantatas presented on the Third, Fifth and Sixth Sundays after Trinity, June 17 to July 8, 1725 as well as two feast days. For the Fourth Sunday after Trinity, that coincidentally fell on the Feast of St. John the Baptist, June 24, the Neumeister 1711 text, “Gelobet sei der Herr, der Gott Israel,” is listed, possibly in the Georg Philipp Telemann setting, TVWV 1:596, which survives. For Monday, July 2, the Feast of the Visitation, the Neumeister 1711 setting of the German Magnificant, “Meine Seele erhebt den Herren,” is printed. For the Third Sunday after Trinity, June 17, the full Agricola text of the chorale “Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ” is printed. Bach set the same text as a pure-hymn Cantata BWV 177, for the Fourth Sunday after Trinity, in 1732 and repeated in 1742. BCW text: (Francis Browne English translation).
There are no settings of cantatas for the Third and Fourth Sundays after Trinity in the 1726 third cycle or the 1728 published Picander Cycle: July 7, 1726 (Trinity +3), Rudolstadt text “Wo sich aber der Gottlose bekehret” (no musical setting found); July 14 (Trinity +4), Rudolstadt text “Ich tue Barmherzeges an viel Tausend” (no musical setting found); July 3, 1729 (Trinity +3), P44 Wohin, mein Herz?; and July 10, 1728
07/10/28, Trinity +4 P45 “Lass sie spotten, lass sie lachen”; No. 6, plain chorale “Jesu, meine Freude” (Jesus, my joy), Johann Franck (6 stanzas) 1653, Johann Crüger 1653 melody; S. 6, “Weicht, ihr Trauergeister” (Go away, mournful spirits), ?BWV358 in D Major=??1105, “Jesus Hymn,” Hänssler complete Bach Edition V.84

Cantata 21 Parts Survive

Given its decade-long genesis beginning in 1713, Cantata 21 survives only in a series of 28 parts composed during that period for various services and has prompted various scholars to explore its origins, usages, and adjustments for different services and instruments. The parts set is labeled per ogni tempo or “for anytime,” the German is für jede Zeit. Initially, scholar Paul Brainard developed a construction history in his English 1974 article “Cantata 21 Revisited,”3 and then in 1984 in the German NBA KB I/16. In 1993, Bach theologian and scholar Martin Petzoldt ignited a wave of recent scholarship suggesting a new origin in an October 1713 Weimar memorial service, rather than as a probe in Halle on December 12.4 A version in D minor as another probe piece in Hamburg in 1719, has reinforced the “For anytime” designation, while the 1723 C Minor Leipzig version is the preferred. Masaaki Suzuki has recorded both versions and detailed liner commentary is found below, following John Eliot Gardiner’s notes with movement analysis and historical anecdotes. Readers may listen to YouTube recordings:
Suzuki Vol. 12,
Ensemble Vanitas,

Eric Chafe Cantata 21 studies

Sadly, there are no major studies of Bach’s cantatas by cycle, genre, use, or type, only a scattering of essays. American author Eric Chafe has just released a comprehensive study of Cantata 21, based in part on his two previous studies on tonal allegory and cantata analysis: Tears into Wine: J. S. Bach's Cantata 21 in its Musical and Theological Contexts (New York: Oxford University Press, 14 May 2015, 632 pages), (with Table of Contents). Highlights include: “Draws on extensive research into 17th and 18th century Lutheran theological writings; Presents a fresh interpretation of a well-known and widely-performed work; Provides an in depth exploration of the relationship between J.S. Bach's music and theology; [and] Includes the full text and translation of the liturgical readings that would have accompanied Cantata 21's first performance.”

The best insight into the Trinity Time Cantatas in particular are found beginning in Chafe’s study of tonal allegory. Tonal Allegory in the Vocal Music of JSB (University of California Press, 1991) has a general look at the cantatas in Weimar and some 40 in Leipzig, a surprising number for Trinity Time, as well as other chapters on the St. John and St. Matthew Passions. The topic of tonal allegory may seem a bit arcane but is very applicable in Chafe’s second book, Analyzing Bach Cantatas (Oxford University Press 2000). Much of the focus here is on Trinity Time cantatas: BWV 9, Trinity +6, as a chorale cantata; BWV 21, Tr. +3, individual movements; BWV 60, Tr.+24; book summary, BWV 77 Tr.+13, the 10 Commandments (theology, individual movements). Also there are studies in of the influence of modal chorales such as Luther’s Catechism “Dies sind” die heilge Gebot (BWV 77), “Durch Adams Fall” BWV 21 (modal) & BWV 109 Tr. +21 (I believe, modal), “Ach Gott, vom Himmel” BWV 2 (Chorale Cantata 2, Tr. +2, modal) “O grosser Gott BWV 46 (modal) (Tr. +10).

Turning briefly to tonality in the first four Trinity Sunday cantatas, the emphasis moves from the celebratory, festive Trinity Sunday and First Sunday After Trinity in the sharp keys of G and D to the flat, poignant side and often in the minor, from C Minor (3 flats) to A Minor (no accidentals). At the same time, it is interesting that Bach begins using chorales in Phrygian mode rather than keys. Wikipedia: “The two chorales [closing Parts 1 and 2] in Johann Sebastian Bach's cantata Die Himmel erzählen die Ehre Gottes, BWV 76 [Trinity +2, Cycle 1, 1723], elaborate the Phrygian mode of the original melody, by Matthaeus Greiter (c. 1490-1552) (Braatz 2006),” BCW: The rest of Cantata 76 is in the key of C Major and E Minor, gravitating to the sharp of center.

John Eliot Gardiner on Cantata 21

The background for Cantata 21 and its musical details, as well as anecdotes are found in John Eliot Gardner’s 2010 liner notes to the Bach Cantata Pilgrimage 2000 complete recordings.5 <<I first conducted BWV 21 “Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis” in 1979. It struck me then as one of the most extraordinary and inspired of Bach’s vocal works, and remains so now when I have become much more familiar with all the other cantatas. Crucial gaps in the surviving source material make the genesis of this two-part Weimar cantata a subject of contention amongst Bach scholars. Most would now accept a chronology in which a shorter version probably antedates its first documented outing (Weimar, 17 June 1714 [Trinity 3]) and expands to an 11-movement work ‘per ogni tempo’, possibly for performance in Halle in December 1713 [Friedrich Chrysander source]. It is then revised in Bach’s Köthen years (transposed up tone and perhaps performed in conjunction with his application for the post of organist at the Jacobikirche in Hamburg in November 1720), and reaches its familiar form as the third cantata Bach performed (13 June 1723) on taking up his duties in Leipzig, where it was possibly revived more than once in later years. In every version it is the psalm verses (Nos 2, 6 and 9) that provide the supporting pillars for the whole structural edifice. Their close resemblance to the psalm choruses of his earliest cantatas (BWV 150 and 131) in the sectional switches of tempo and texture point to their having been conceived soon after Bach’s move to Weimar in 1708 (despite the fact that his cantata output there is thought to have begun some five years later), an impression strengthened by the similarity of the dialogue between the Soul and Jesus (No.8) to the Actus tragicus (BWV 106), and of the chorale arrangement in motet style (No.9) to the second and fifth movements of BWV 4. Yet it is precisely the juxtaposition of these earlier styles with two ‘modern’ Italianate arias (Nos 3 & 5) and accompagnati (Nos 4 & 7) that turns this into such a fascinating and pivotal work in Bach’s oeuvre.

It opens with a sinfonia in C minor of miraculous poignancy, the oboe and first violins exchanging arabesques and coming to rest on no less than three pauses replete with gestural pathos. The end result is that even before the voices enter, the idea of ‘Bekümmernis’ (‘affliction’) is firmly established in the listener’s mind, a mood that persists through all six movements of Part I, five of them set almost obsessively in C minor. Bach’s cavalier way of ignoring poetic metre, and his propensity to allow instrumental textures to vie with, and even overwhelm, vocal melody, offered an easy target for the theorist Johann Mattheson. It was specifically his flouting of the accepted conventions of text-setting that provoked Mattheson’s ire on this occasion and led him to go for Bach’s jugular in a scathing attack on the repeated ‘Ich’s’ which precede the fugal presentation of the opening chorus. It seems strange that he should not have grasped Bach’s rhetorical purpose behind this repetition – to underline the sinner’s culpability and the slough of despond from which only God’s comfort can rescue him. This pertains still more to the version of the cantata that Mattheson might have heard in Hamburg (shorn of its opening sinfonia): Bach’s aim is to prepare the listener for the fugal working-out of the penitential text by emphasizing the personal nature of the penitent’s affliction – ‘My heart was deeply troubled’.

Perhaps it was less the thrice repeated ‘Ich’s that irritated Mattheson than the gratuitous repetition of whole phrases both here and in Nos 3 and 8. Yet this is a deliberate and effective strategy: by presenting the voices in fugal succession, Bach builds up a composite portrayal of personal affliction shared out between the singers, the instrumentalists joining in only every three bars to coincide with the words ‘in meinem Herzen’ and to reinforce the mood of disquiet and heaviness of heart. The problem here lies not, as Laurence Dreyfus suggests, in the disproportion given by Bach to the first part of the psalm verse and its sequel ‘in meinem Herzen’, nor that he ‘fails to set [it] with a convincing or audible declamation’. Only a bad performance will allow the instruments to overwhelm the voices or mask the audibility of the words at this point.

The music pauses on the word ‘aber’ [but], in adagio – a bridge to an optimistic section marked vivace, in which God’s consolations are welcomed as refreshment to the afflicted spirit (‘erquicken meine Seele’) in an extended three-and-a-half bar melisma for all voices and instruments. Lest the contrast be too glib or facile, Bach slows the tempo again to andante for a last presentation of ‘deine Tröstungen’ (‘Thy comforting words’) before an implied return to vivace for the ‘erquicken’ phrase with which this opening choral tableau concludes.

Next comes a soprano aria with oboe, still in C minor, ‘Seufzer, Tränen, Kummer, Not’, a tragic lament replicating the gestures of a slow dance in 12/8, in which everything seems to grow out of the rootstock of the oboe’s seven-bar introduction. In its concision and emotional profundity it declares itself the not-so-distant ancestor of Pamina’s ‘Ach, ich fühl’s’ from “The Magic Flute.” Was this one of the scores Mozart studied on his visit to Leipzig in 1789? It seems that at least for one performance Bach assigned the ensuing accompagnato (No.4) to the soprano (the ‘soul’). The tenor aria (No.5) in F minor contains traps for the unwary: if you misread the phrase-structure and allow the melodic stresses to synchronise with the bass-supported harmonies you can end up inflecting an unimportant word like ‘von’ (now that would have been a red rag to Mattheson!) until you realise that Bach has shunted the violins and violas a quaver ahead of the vocal line to augment the Schubertian liquidity of those ‘streams of salt tears’. There is a case for making the adagio which follows the stormy middle allegro section slightly slower than the initial largo, to give enhanced emphasis to the ‘trübsalsvolle Meer’ (‘sorrow-laden sea’), before returning to tempo for the da capo.

Bach now gives us a setting of words from Psalm 42, ‘Was betrübst du dich, meine Seele’, by the solo quartet that draws on the expressive penitential motet style of the preceding generation (Matthias Weckmann, Nicolaus Bruhns and Bach’s older cousin Johann Christoph). This is taken up by the choir and orchestra before an animated fugal presentation of ‘und bist so unruhig’ (marked spirituoso), which only grounds itself with the words ‘in mir’ (adagio). ‘Harre auf Gott’ (‘Hope thou in God’) precedes four exquisite bars of sustained instrumental harmonies over a pedal B flat, allowing the oboe, the true voice of the unquiet spirit throughout this cantata, to tug on the heartstrings, before the voices re-enter affirmatively with ‘denn ich werde ihm noch danken’, given twice. This leads to a permutation fugue ‘dass er meines Angesichtes Hilfe und mein Gott ist’, first by the four Concertisten, then the oboe, then the upper strings one by one, before the whole ensemble joins in, culminating with a majestic adagio and an affirmative (but as we shall see, provisional) C major cadence.

Now follows the sermon and an implied lapse of time as the believer is left to contemplate the moment when God will reveal His salvation. The second part of this astonishing cantata – which constitutes a music-drama all of its own in the way that it moves from earthly tribulation to a vision of eternity – opens in the relative major with a memorable example of Bach’s frequent dialogues between the ‘soul’ (soprano) and Jesus (bass): here as an accompagnato of an almost Mozartian range of vocal expression and harmonic opulence, and leading to a duet (with continuo) of thinly-disguised sexual imagery (No.8). ‘Komm, mein Jesu, und erquicke’, sings the soul; ‘Ja, ich komme und erquicke’, answers Jesus. Devotion and carnality mingle in electrifying conjunction. Only the thinnest of membranes separates this from the love duet between Diana and Endymion in the ‘Hunt’ cantata (BWV 208, No.12) composed in February 1713. There are instances of a feline type of chiding (‘Nein, ach nein, du hassest mich!’), moments of capitulation and a triple-rhythm dance of joy, before a truncated return to the opening music and a euphonious meeting of minds when the two voices move in parallel twelfths. A touching final phrase for the continuo confirms that the union or ‘refreshment’ has duly been concluded.

The mood of balm and serenity is prolonged in the extended movement in G minor (No.9), in which three of the four solo voices exchange the words ‘Sei nun wieder zufrieden’, this time from Psalm 116, in blissful fugal phrases against what was evidently one of Bach’s favourite chorales, Georg Neumark’s ‘Wer nur den lieben Gott lässt walten’ Whoever lets only the dear God reign], in the tenor line. It is only after a second strophe that the strings (supported in Leipzig bthe Ripienisten, the oboe and four trombones) join in the chorale, which now passes to the sopranos, whose sentiment is more optimistic: ‘Die folgend Zeit verändert viel / und setzet jeglichem sein Ziel’ (‘the future will transform much / and set an end for all of us’).

A jubilant tenor aria follows, in which the singer deliberately contradicts the continuo’s unequivocal hemiola expressing ‘sorrow’ and ‘pain’ with a downbeat accent on ‘verschwinde’ (‘vanish!’): Bachian humour at its most effective. The ‘B’ section contains a play on words: ‘verwandle dich, Weinen, in lauteren Wein’ – ‘transform your whining into wine’. This idea of ‘transformation’ – of sorrow into joy and of Bach’s modest oboe-and-strings ensemble into a celestial band led by three trumpets and timpani – permeates the final tableau [No. 11] and lifts the believer out of his former gloom. It begins with the passage from Revelation (5:12-13), ‘Worthy is the Lamb that was slain’, so familiar from Handel’s Messiah. (One could well ask whether Handel, with his keen eye for what has been called ‘transformative imitation’, hadn’t seized on it as a useful paradigm for his great closing chorus: there are the same imposing blocks of homophonic declamation and sense of mounting excitement drawing on the most elementary and compelling armaments in the eighteenth-century composer’s locker.) This superlative chorus culminates in another permutation fugue which symbolically reverses the key, instrumentation and rhythmic character of the one that concludes Part I; even if it were added only at a later stage by Bach, it seems absolutely integral to his overall design and to the fulfilment of the structure as a whole. Unlike, say, the instantaneous switch from C minor to C major in the Finale of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, Bach insists that we experience the agonising delay in our release from the inescapable sorrows of worldly life and hear in this modulation how these will eventually be lifted as a result of God’s Trost (comfort) and Erquickung ((refreshment), leading to the time when we see him ‘face to face’.>> © John Eliot Gardiner 2010, From a journal written in the course of the Bach Cantata Pilgrimage

Cantata 21 Musical Synopsis and Two Versions

Here is a synopsis of Cantata 21 and a summary of the two performing versions in the liner notes to Masaaki Suzuki’s 1999 BIS recording (Vol. 12) of the 1723 version:6 <<BWV 21, “Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis, was written when Bach held the post of court organist at Weimar, and it belongs to the earlier days of cantata composition. The circumstances of its creation are complicated; the forms in which the work was performed in Weimar, Hamburg and Leipzig are all different, but we regard it as confirmed that the original was formed in 1713 when Bach was 28, and that its main performance was in the service on the Third Sunday after Trinity (in June) according to the church calendar. On this day in the Lutheran lectionary, the appointed Gospel reading is Luke 15, l-10: 'the parable oft he lost sheep'. Containing Jesus's words which use the image of the shepherd who leaves his ninety-nine sheep in the field and goes searching for the one lost sheep to illustrate greater rejoicing in heaven over one repentant sinner than over ninety-nine just people, the focus of the text is a reproach on the discriminatory views of the pharisees and scribes. The libretto of the cantata (probably by Salomo Franck) takes the viewpoint of the sinner, describing how at the end of this world's sorrow, the soul that accepts Jesus's cure praises God in joy. It is a powerful work in two parts comprising 11 movements.

At the beginning of the work is an instrumental sinfonia (introduction) featuring the oboe. Before long the chorus enters, presenting the word 'Bekümmemis' (affliction, worry) with dejection of heart; in the second half the tempo speeds up with the announcement of consolation. The third movement is a soprano aria with a text using rhetorical repetition of synonyms coupled with typically baroque music for a graphic description. The tenor aria, placed fifth, describes salty tears 'rushing' torrents' and the chorus interjects with a verse from the psalms (movement No. 6), “Why art thou cast down, O my soul?'; with the hope of comfort, the first part ends.

The second part begins with a dialogue between the soul (soprano) and Jesus (bass, movement 7). Both then join to sing a love duet (No. 8); in his youth Bach was fond of such semi-operatic duets. A chorus combining Biblical text and verses of a chorale (or hymn) follows (No.9), guiding the soul to ease. With joyful tread, a tenor aria (No. 10) leads into the finale, a hymn with trumpet (No. 11), with which the cantata ends.>> © Tadashi Isoyama 2000

<< Concerning the Edition of BWV 21. It is common knowledge that, after its debut in Weimar, this cantata was at the very least performed in Hamburg (1720) and Leipzig (1123), and in each of these venues different arrangements for voice and instrument were used. In Volume 6 we presented the entire work in the form in which it was performed in Hamburg and included No.3, No.7 and No.8 in their Weimar forms as an appendix; here we offer the entire work in the form in which it was heard as part of the 1723 cantata series in Leipzig. The varying instrumentation and other changes associated with each period are illustrated in the accompanying table (see page 5); the major differences between the version on Volume 6 and the present recording are as follows:

1) The work is performed in Kammerton in C minor. (The Hamburg version was in D minor). 2) No. 4, No. 5 and No. 10 are not for solo soprano but for tenor. 3) No. 6 and No.9 are arranged to alternate between soli and tutti. 4. A trombone is added to the instrumental parts for No.9.>> © Masaaki Suzuki 2000

Cantata 21 1720 Version and Parts Set

The following is a detailed account of the early origins of Cantata 21, followed by a study of the surviving parts, found in the Masaaki Suzuki Vol. 6 BIS recording of Cantata 21 1720 version.7 <<In the latter part of his tenure as organist at the court chapel in Weimar (1708-17, when he was 23-32 years of age), Bach composed approximately 20 church cantatas to be used in feast-day services. These are filled with youthful sensibility and vitality, and are considered to have been a stepping-stone to the greater Leipzig cantata series, which Bach began in 1723. This recording contains two especially well-known cantatas from Weimar (BWV 21 and 31); Bach himself considered these to be important works, as it is known that he reperformed them on a number of occasions, with some significant revisions to differing performance venues and personnel.

BWV 21 is a large cantata consisting of 11 movements organized into two parts – notable even among Bach's cantatas for its scale. The circumstances of its composition are convoluted, but Martin Petzoldt's recent analysis8 suggests the following: The original form of the work (movements 2-6 and 9) was produced for a memorial service held on 8th October 1713 at the Church of SS. Peter and Paul in Weimar for the former Prime Minister Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt's wife, Aemilia Maria Haress. In 1714 Bach expanded the cantata to its present 11 movements for performance on the Third Sunday after Trinity (17th June), encompassing in its scope a farewell to Duke Johann Ernst, who was then setting off on a journey to Frankfurt am Main for the sake of his health. This is now referred to as the Weimar version. Subsequently, in the autumn of 1720, when Bach was a candidate for the position of organist at the Jacobikirche in Hamburg, he produced a new manuscript in D minor (which is the basis for the version on this recording). Yet another manuscript. this one strengthening the brass, was created for performance on the appropriate Sunday in 1723 (l3th June), immediately after Bach took up the position of Kantor at the Thomaskirche.

For a detailed discussion of the variations, in the voice parts and in pitch between the various versions, please refer to Masaaki Suzuki's notes in this booklet. . . . The lamenting first part is grounded in D minor while PII, which sings of the joy of salvation, moves through G major to an eventual B major resting place.

The first movement opens with an instrumental Sinfonia, an Adagio assai in D minor. It is a sorrowful piece dominated by the oboe and first violin. The chorus enters with the word ‘Ich; (‘I’) repeated three times in overlapping progression. and moves into the main chorus (number 2, D minor). Following a Vivaldi-like free fugue, the word 'aber' ('but') introduces a shift to a Vivace F major for the latter half of the movement. For all of that, it is no more than a preview of the consolation to follow.

The soprano aria (Molto adagio, D minor) in the third movement itemizes a list of synonymous expressions of the sinner's sorrow and tribulation. A gentle basso continuo underlies the oboe that illustrates the suffering expressed with deep sentiment by the soprano. The soprano builds on this imagery of suffering in the next movements (number 4, a recitative, and number 5, a Largo aria in G minor). The weeping introduced in movement 3 becomes 'streams of salt tears. . . ' and in the middle section, images such as 'storms', 'waves' and 'hell' are vividly illustrated. The chorus closes the first part with a quotation from Psalm 42: 'Why troublest thou thyself, my soul?' (number 6, G minor). In comparison with the opening chorus, this movement begins with a call of consolation and is uplifting both in tempo and in mood.

Part II opens with a dialogue between the soul (soprano) and Jesus (bass). The soul, wandering in darkness, calls to the Lord for help, and Jesus answers, promising light and protection. The two then sing a charming love duet (number 8, F major). Skilful exchanges of' ‘ja' ('yes') and 'nein' ('no') resemble the Italian opera buffa form. At this point, the chorus presents the text of a psalm verse in polyphony, interwoven with a chorale melody (number 9, A minor). Explaining the pointlessness of fear, the chorus exhorts the soul to be contented in this movement initially conceived of as the ending of the cantata.

The soprano aria which was added ('Erfreue dich, Seele' ['Rejoice thee, soul'], number 10, F major), has joyful steps as the return to the fold is sung, and all the shadows of the first aria (number 3) are lost in heavenly light. This moves into the finale, a very lively chorus which calls for three trumpets and timpani (number 11, D major). It begins with a massive Grave, and flows into an Allegro fugue that would not seem out of place in Handel's Messiah. © Tadashi Isoyama 1997

Concerning the Edition of BWV 21. A number of problems attend today's performance of the very broad-scale cantata BWV 21 ('Ich hatte viel Bekümmemis'). The form of this work which we have today is derived from a collection of 28 instrumental part manuscripts resting in the Staatsbibliothek in Berlin, Gemany (St35,+), but at the very least, Bach used these instrumental parts for three separate performances of the cantata. (See table on page 24.) We cannot trace every change Bach made for the purposes of each discrete performance, but it is known that the arias for high voice were sung by a tenor in the l7l4 Weimar performance, whereas in Cöthen in 1720 (the performance was probably in Hamburg), a soprano sang them all, limiting the demand for soloists in both cases to two voices. It is also clear today that in 1723 in Leipzig, solos were assigned to soprano, tenor and bass, requiring that there be three soloists available. Also in Leipzig, all the chorus parts (except No.2) were sung with alternating soli and tutti, and trombones were appended in No. 9.

According to Martin Pctzoldt, there is evidence that the first performance of this cantata occurred sometime before 1714, probably just after its composition in 1713. If this is indeed the case, it appears very likely that the arias for high voice were performed by a soprano at this early performance.

The 1714 performance took place at a service to bid farewell to Duke Johann Ernst. who was traveling to Frankfurt am Main for the sake of his health. At this performance, all the high arias were given to the tenor for reasons relating to the young Duke, but from the fact that all subsequent performances assign the duet between the soul and Jesus to soprano and bass, it can be inferred that this was the original intention, and the l7l4 performance was an exception, At any rate, it is certain that in 1720, when Bach revisited the work as part of his application for the position of organist at the Jacobikirche in Hamburg, the arias were left to the soprano, and in Leipzig as well, the dialogue between the soul and Jesus was taken by soprano and bass.

Determining the exact pitch and key for each performance is another interesting question. At Weimar in 1714, all cantatas without exception were performed with all instruments including oboe tuned to C minor. Since no Chorton (a' = ca.465) oboes exist, this indicates Kammerton (a = ca.415). It is also certain from the instrumental parts still in existence from the 1720 performance that it was played in Kammerron tuned to D minor. The Leipzig rendition was clearly played in Kammerton in C minor, because there is an organ part in B flat minor extant from that performance. (The organ part for Leipzig was normally one tone lower than those of the other instruments.)

After much consideration and consultation, the decision was that for this recording, we would present a version which attempts to portray the full scope of Bach's revisions. That is, we have recorded the cantata according to the D minor manuscripts from the 1720 Hamburg performance during the Cöthen days, but include excerpts from the Weimar edition (1714) in an appendix at the end of the CD. Contained in this appendix are Nos.3 (Aria), 7 (Soul/Jesus Duet Recitative), and 8 (Duet, Tenor/Bass). In addition, a second recording of the full cantata according to the Leipzig edition (1723) will be completed in the near future for inclusion in the framework of Cantatas composed in l723 later in this series. @ Masaaki Suzuki 1997

Trinity 3 and 4 in Leipzig

Bach’s observance of the Third and Fourth Sundays after Trinity in Leipzig shows his continued consistency in the creation of Trinity Time service cantatas and appropriate plain and organ chorale settings. Responding to similar pairings of themes for these two Sundays with the overall concept of Trust in God through humility and mercy, the didactic chorales build on the principals in the first two Sundays after Trinity, emphasizing God’s love and grace for all. Key Trinity Time chorales are used interchangeably, while Bach begins introducing positive, familiar Psalm and Communion Hymns.

Bach uses four well-known trinity Time chorales in the five surviving cantatas for the Third and Fourth Sundays after Trinity: Neumark’s “Wer nur den lieben Gott läßt walten” (BWV 21/9), Agricola’s “Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ” (BWV 185/6 and Chorale Cantata BWV 177), Heermann’s “O Gott, du frommer Gott” (BWV 24/6), and “Ach Herr, mich armen Sünder” with the Passion chorale melody (Chorale Cantata BWV 135)

Bach’s cantatas continually adhere to the Gospel teachings as emphasized in the sermons. For the Third Sunday after Trinity, Bach’s two extant cantatas, BWV 21 and 135, reflect the Epistle, 1 Peter 5: 6-11 (God’s humble flock), especially in verse 7: “Cast all your cares upon Him, for he cares for you,” especially Cantata 21 with a direct quotation. The Gospel (Luke 15:1-10 touches on the Good Shepherd theme first found in Second Sunday after Easter (Misericordias Domini) and the Lost Sheep in the Third Day of Pentecost (Whit Tuesday), emphasizing the treasure found in the Parable of the lost sheep and the lost coin.

Bach’s three extant cantatas for the Fourth Sunday after Trinity, BWV 185, 24 and the belated chorale Cantata BWV 177, observe the spirit of the day’s Epistle, Romans 8: 18-23 (Hope in Future Glory), especially verse 9. “All of creation awaits with eager longing for God to reveal his children,” and the Gospel (Luke 6: 36-42), be merciful (compassionate), do not judge, as shown in the parable of the Blind leading the Blind.

Bach also usthree popular early Trinity Time Psalm Chorales found in the NLGB: Psalm 23, both setting of “Der Herr ist mein getreuer Hirt” (The Lord is my Faithful Shepherd); Psalm 46, Luther’s “Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott” (A Mighty Fortress is our God); and Psalm 103, Cyriakus Schneegaß’ “Nun lob’, mein’ Seel’, den Herren” (Now praise, my soul, the Lord).

Further, Bach sets three well-known Trinity Time Communion Hymns: Heermann’s "Wo soll ich fliehen hin"(Where should I fly from here), Hubert’s "Allein zu dir Herr Jesus Christ" (On you alone, Lord Jesus Christ), and Luther’s “Dies sind die heilige Zehn Gebot” (These are the holy 10 Commandments).



Can anyone identify the composer of the motet? 1) MOTETS for Introit, Before Sermon at mass and vespers for Choir II, and During Communion: "Pater Peccavi" (8 voices) - J.B. Pinellus (?); Text: Luke 15: 19 (Prodigal Son) "Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.¹"

2) HYMN OF DAY (de tempore): "Ich ruf zu dir Herr Jesu Christ"
3) CHORALES for Pulpit and Communion Hymns: "Ebarm dich mein O Herre Gott," "O Herre Gott begnade mich," "Wo Soll ich fliehen hin," "Allein Zu dir Herr Jesus Christ," "and others from Confession and Repentance"

4) RESPONSARIES for the Sundays after Trinity: The Vopelius hymn book includes 13 plainsong responsaries for use on Sundays after Trinity. These chants were probably sung ad libitum after the scriptural reading at Matins which was sung each Sunday at 5 am in St. Nicholas Church by Bach's scholarship students under the direction of one of the prefects: "Homo Quidam," "Honor Virtus," "Praeparate corda vestra," "Audi Domine hymnum," "Ne derelinquas," "Supers salutem," "Memento mei" [Liber Usualis p. 1701], "Paucitas dierum," "Omni tempore benedic," "Nos alium Deum." "Spem in Alium," "Tua est potentia," "Aspices Domine de sede," and "Aspices Domine desolata civitas."

Service Chorales, Third Sunday after Trinity (NLGB ), Douglas Cowling ([Many of these chorales are found in Bach’s hymnbook, Das neu Leipziger Gesangbuch of 1682, early under the overall category omnes tempore hymns for the second half of the church year (Trinity Time), under the headings of Psalms and Catechism chorales.

HYMN OF DAY (de tempore) Trinity +3 "Ich ruf zu dir Herr Jesu Christ,” see Chorales in Cantatas for Third & Fourth Sundays Trinity, Cantata BWV 185, chorale Cantata 177. Text, Francis Browne English translation, BCW

CHORALES for Pulpit and Communion Hymns:

"Erbarm dich mein, O Herre Gott" (Be merciful to me, O Lord God), Erhardt Hegenwalt 1524 5 stanzas, melody Johann Walter Gesangbuch 1521 (NLGB 256, for use with the Third, 11th, 14th and 22nd Sundays after Trinity), settying of Psalm 51, Prayer for Forgiveness (penitence). Bach’s uses: plain chorale in BWV 305 in C Major, miscellaneous organ chorale prelude BWV 721; listed in the Orgelbüchelin <omne tempore> Catechism (No. 68, Confession) but not set. Bach also adapted Pergolesi’s< Stabat Mater> (1736) to a German text of Psalm 51 between 1745-47 for Trinity Sunday +11, “Tilge, Höchester, meine Sünden” (Cancel, Highest, my sins), BWV 1083. BCW Discussion, Week of June 24, 2012

"O Herre Gott begnade mich" (O Lord God, pardon me), NLGB 257 Tr.+8, 11+, 13+, 19+, is the Bishop Coverdale setting of Psalm 51 (Prayer for Forgiveness) 5 stanzas; psalm tune, Matthäus Greitter 1525 (Calvin published in 1539). Greitter, cf Trinity +2, “Es wolle Gott uns gnädig sein” 1524 (NLGB 680). English translation:, scroll down to "O Herre Gott.” No Bach use extant.

"Wo soll ich fliehen hin"(Where should I fly from here), Johann Heerman 1630 (11 stanzas). NLGB 102 (Catechism Communion, Trinity Sunday +3,) Chorale Cantata BWV 5 (Trinity +19), Cantata BWV 89/6 (S.7, “Mir mangelt zwar sehr viel” [I do indeed lack many things] Trinity +22), BWV 136/6 (S. 9, “Dein Blut, der edle Saft, / hat solche Stärk und Kraft” [your blood, the noble liquid, /has such strength and might] Trinity +8), BWV 199/6 (S. aria, S.3, “Ich, dein betrübtes Kind, / werf alle meine Sünd” [I, your troubled child, / cast all my sins], Trinity +11. organ chorale preludes BWV 646 (Schubler chorale), miscellaneous BWV 694; listed in the Orgelbüchelin <omne tempore> Catechism (No. 74, Confession) but not set. J. H. Schein 1627 melody originally associated with text “Auf meinen lieben Gott” (In my beloved God) before 1603 (NLGB 776). BCW:

"Allein zu dir Herr Jesus Christ" (On you alone, Lord Jesus Christ), Conrad Hubert 1540 (4 stanzas), melody anonymous 1540. NLGB 178, Hymn of the Day, Third Sunday After Epiphany; Trinity +11, 21, 22, 24. Bach’s uses: Chorale Cantata BWV 33 (33/6 plain chorale, S.4, “Ehr sei Gott in dem höchsten Thron” [Honour be to God on his highest throne, Francis Browne]; plain chorale BWV 261 in D-B Major; Neumeister organ chorale prelude BWV 1100; listed in the Orgelbüchelin< omne tempore> Catechism (No. 70, Confession) but not set. BCW:; NLGB: "and others from Confession and Repentance"

Chorales in Bach Cantatas for Third Sunday after Trinity

For the Third Sunday after Trinity, Leipzig Cycle 2 in 1724, Bach set two chorale Cantatas, BWV 135, “Ach Herr, mich armen Sünder,” for the Third Sunday after Trinity, June 25, and a week later, BWV 10, “Meine Seele erhebt den Herren” (German Magnificat) for the Feast of the Visitation, which fell coincidentally on the Fourth Sunday after Trinity, July 2.

*Chorale Cantata BWV 135 “Ach Herr, mich armen Sünder” (Ah Lord, poor sinner that I am), (NLGB 655); text (6 stanzas), Cyriakus Schneegaß (1597), based on Psalm 6 (Prayer for Help in Time of Trouble); melody, Hans Leo Hassler “Befiehl du deine Wege” (Herzlich tut mich verlangen, Passion chorale) 1601; Bach usage: chorale Cantata BWV 135 (Trinity +3) 1724. Bach did not set the hymn as Orgelbüchlein Catechism chorale prelude No. 73, “Confession, Penitence, and Justification” but did set the melody in the possibly very young Bach miscellaneous organ chorale prelude BWV 742. BCW text, Francis Browne English translation:

*Chorale Cantata “Meine Seele erhebt den Herren” (German Magnificat, Mary’s Canticle) for the Feast of the Visitation, July 2; text, Luke 1:46-55, possibly arranged by Martin Luther, anonymous melody (9 stanzas and German Lesser Doxology), see BCW Discussion, December 16, 2012.

Trinity Time Psalm Hymns

Of the five Psalm Hymns associated with early Trinity Time in the 1682 <Das Neu Leipziger Gesangbuch> three were set by Bach:

NLGB 251, 252. Two settings of Psalm 23 (The Lord Our Shepherd) are used in Bach cantatas for the Second Sunday after Easter (<Misericordias Domini) but are found in the Trinity Time <omne tempore section>, both using the German Mass Gloria melody, “Allein Gott in der Höh’ sei Ehr’” (To God alone on high be glory), of Nickolaus Decius (1522). Neither communion hymn is designated for a particular service in the church year but often are sung during <omne tempore> services, such as the Third Sunday in Trinity where the Gospel lesson relates to lost sheep. NLGB No. 665, “Der Herr ist mein getreuer Hirt, hält mir,” (The Lord is my faithful shepherd, he hold me) Wolfgang Meusel, (1530), 5 stanzas, Chorale Cantata BWV 112; and NLGB No. 666, “Der Herr ist mein getreuer Hirt, dem ich” (The Lord is my faithful shepherd, in whom I) Cornelius Becker (1598), 3 stanza, opening chorale fantasia, BWV104/6(S.1), and soprano aria, BWV 85/3(S.1). BCW:

NLGB 253. Sebald Heydens, Psalm 91, “Wer in dem Schutz des Höchestein ist” (1638), no Bach setting.

NLGB 254. Luther’s popular Reformation hymn, “Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott” (A Mighty Fortress is our God) (4 stanzas) is a setting of Psalm 46, God is with us [Emmanuel]. In the NLGB 670, it is found under “The Word of God & Christian Church”; Hymn of the Day, Trinity +23; communion hymn, Trinity +27, and for Lent 2+, 3+). Bach’s uses are the Chorale Cantata BWV 80 (Reformation, 1730), as well as plain chorale settings, BWV 302=247/112 (St. Mark Passion, S.4), BWV 303=?80a/6 (Trinity 3 1715, S.2)=?80b/1 (1723, S.1), BWV 80/8 (S.4). One miscellaneous Chorale Prelude exists, BWV 720 while the hymn incipit listed in the Orgelbüchelin (No. 116, “Psalm Hymn,” is not set).

NLGB. 260. Cornel Becker, Psalm 91, “Wer sich des Höchestein Schirm vertraut,” no Bach setting.

NLGB 261, “Nun lob’, mein’ Seel’, den Herren” (Now praise, my soul, the Lord), Johann Gramman 1525, 5 stanzas is a setting of Psalm 103, Love of God, with the Johann Kugelmann 1540 melody. Bach uses (all plain chorales except BWV 51/4) are: BWV 389 in C Major (Praise & Thanksgiving, Hänssler v. 83), BWV 390 in C Major (Psalm chorale, Hänssler, v.82); Cantatas BWV 17/7 (Trinity +14, S.3), BWV 29/8 in D w/3 tps., timp.; Council, S.1), 51/4 (S. aria, Trinity +15, S.5), BWV 167 (Johns Day, S.5); motet chorales, Cantata BWV 28/2(Sunday after Christmas)=Motet BWV 231=BWV Anh. 160/2 (S.5), 225/2 (S.3). BCW:


1 Cantata 21 Details and Discography, BCW
2 Petzoldt, 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: 69).
3Brainard, in Studies in Renaissance and Baroque Music in Honor of Arthur Mendel, ed. Robert L. Marshall (Kassel & Hackensack NJ: Bärenreiter, 1974: 231-42).
4 Petzoldt dismisses the Halle probe performance (BJ 1993: 31-46) as does Peter Wollny (BJ 1994: 25-39), but Alfred Dürr leaves the question open (BJ 1995: 183-4). Two other studies at this time are Christoph Wolff’s “Die betrübte und wieder getröstete Seele”: Zun Dislog-Charakter der Kantate “Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis,” BJ 1996: 139-45, and Joshua Rifkin, “From Weimar to Leipzig: Concerttists and Ripienists in Bach’s Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis,” Early Music 24 1996: 583-603
5 Gardiner’s Cantata 21 notes,; BCW Recording details,[sdg165_gb].pdf.
6 Liner notes, Suzuki Cantata 21 recording,[BIS-CD1031].pdf; BCW Recording details 1723 version, Vol. 12,
7 Liner notes Masaaki Suzuki Cantata 21 recording, Vol. 6,[BIS-CD851].pdf; with Recording details of 1720 version,
8 Petznoldt, “Die kräfftige Erquicknung unter der schweren Angst-Last”: New possible origin of Cantata 21, Bach Jahrbuch 79 (1993): 31-46.
9 Sources: * BACH'S HYMN BOOK: Jürgen Grimm, "Das neu [?] Leipziger Gesangbuch des Gottfried Vopelius (Leipzig 1682)", Berlin: Merseburger, 1969. ML 3168 G75 * BACH'S MOTET COLLECTION: Otto Riemer, "Erhard Bodenschatz und sein Florilegium Portense"; Schünigen: Kaminsky,1927. ML 410 B67R4.


To Come: Synopsis of Cantata 21 commentary from BCML previous discussions.

William Hoffman wrote (June 23, 2015):
Cantata 21, Commentary:

Depending on their particular perspective, various writers in English have found attractive elements and deep meaning in Bach’s so-called “for anytime” chorus Cantata 21, “Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis in meinem Herzen” (I had much affliction in my heart), Psalm 94:19, Deus ultionem, “O Lord God, to whom vengeance belongeth” (KJV) with its emphasis on Psalm passages beginning with the plight of the human condition in the face of God, and the closing, triumphal, eschatological Revelation 5:12-13, in poetic paraphrase” “The lamb that was slain is worthy to receive / power and riches and wisdom and strength and honour and praise and glory. / Glory and honour and praise and power be to our God for ever and ever. Amen. Alleluia!.”

[The Maasaki Suzki recording may be found through YouTune at click on “Suzuki” icon or red timer and move to far right to begin sinfonia.]

Eric Chafe focuses on the biblical and theological heart of this extended complex, two-part work that evolved over seven years from the materials for two cantatas emphasizing “the joy of heaven” in its initial 1713 Weimar memorial service and whose theme goes far beyond the Third Sunday after Trinity Gospel (Luke 15:1-10) of the Parable of the Lost Sheep and the Epistle (1 Peter 5:6-11), to “Cast your cares upon God.” As a contrasting musical expression of old motet style and new operatic expression, it probably became the probe piece for Bach’s unsuccessful attempt to become the organist at the Jacobskirche in Hamburg in 1719.

“It is highly probable that the 1714 expansion of the work [for Trinity 3 in Weimar] was carried out with the aid of one or more poetic and theological sources,” Chafe says in chapter on Cantata 21 in Analyzing Bach Cantatas (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000: 42f. While poetic and musical elements strongly suggest the author was Weimar Court Poet Salomo Franck, collaboration probably involved the use of three Psalm passages and 10 inferences, and the popular Georg Neumark “Cross and Persecution” chorale (NLGB 303), “Wer nur den lieben Gott last walten” (Whoever lets only the dear God reign), as well the 18-strophe poem from Passion-hymn writer Johann Rist’s Himmlische Lieder, das dritte Zehn (1642) which centers on tribulation and trust.

Bach Passion metaphorical-symbolic elements found in Cantata 21 are based on the word “Fluten” (flutes), observes Thomas Braatz in Cantata 21, BCW Discussions Part 5 (3/12/2005, These involve: “1) Metaphor standing for God's love and affection in bestowing an unending stream of mercy and kindness” – fließen (flowing), “2) The immeasurable number of repentant tears” – zerfließen, and “3) A picture representing the world's dangers and its transitory nature -- "Ach wie flüchtig" ["O how fleeting"] the world is. Michael Franck’s 1652 13-stanza (NLGB) “Death and Dying” hymn, “Ach wie flüchtig, ach wie nichtig”(Ah how fleeting, ah how insubstantial), is one of the pillars of the Bach’s family motets embracing the Lutheran tradition of the acceptance of death as the way to God, with other death metaphors such as sleep and shadow.

“This profoundly expressive and beautifully proportioned piece is justifiably considered among Bach’s finest contribution to the Lutheran cantata,” says Nicholas Anderson in Oxford Composer Companions: J. S. Bach,ed. Boyd, Malcolm (Oxford University Press: New York, 1999: 231). “The work is striking both for its vivid imagery and for its sections of impassioned dialogue but, notwithstanding its compound origins, it also reveals a masterly organization of musical ideas, a cohesive strength, and a dramatic intensity hardly inferior (though on a smaller scale) to that of the two great Passions and the B minor Mass.”

Alfred Dürr, who particularly singles out the old motet-like choruses (nos. 2, 6, 9, 11) and the modern recitatives (nos. 4, 7) and arias (nos. 3, 8), says that the preferred version in the 1723 Leipzig for the Third Sunday after Trinity, “which may have been heard several times during Bach’s cantorship at St. Thomas” (Cantatas of J. S. Bach, revised and translated by Richard D. P. Jones (Oxford University Press, New York, 2005: 409).

“In the richly diverse structure of Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis, three chief elements are amalgamated: a monologue of the soul (nos. 3-5) closely related to that of [soprano solo] Cantata 199 [Trinity 11, 8/12/1714]; a dialogue between Christ and the Soul (nos. 7-8), which might be viewed as a successor to Actus tragicus, BWV 106/6-7; and selected Psalm verses sung in motet-style choruses (nos. 2, 6, 9) . . ., says Richard D. P. Jones in The Creative Development of Johann Sebastian Bach, Vol. 1, 1695-1717, “Music to Delight the Spirit “ (Oxford University Press: New York, 2007: 250.

Chafe provides an expansive musico-theological view of Cantata 21, particularly based on Martin Petzoldt’s 1993 findings of the early source in 1713, “Die kräfftige Erquicknung unter der schweren Angst-Last”: New possible origin of Cantata 21, Bach Jahrbuch 79 (1993): 31-46. His thesis is: “Cantata 21 represents the patterns of traditional hermeneutics and the spiritual goal that those patterns were created to attain: the believer’s progression from scripture, history, and the physical world to a ‘spiritual’ view of existence center on his hopes for a future life.” “The designation ‘per ogni tempo’ should undoubtedly, therefore, be understood as an indication of the ‘universality’ of its theological message.”

Unlike theologian-scholar Petzoldt, who finds Cantata 21 better related to Jubilate Easter Sunday 3, moving from tribulation to joy, Chafe thinks Cantata 21 is best related to the Second Sunday after Epiphany, with Christ’s first miracle of turning water into wine at the wedding feast at Cana and Jesus’ telling his mother that his “hour has yet to come” (John 2:4) meaning his Passion and sacrificial death, with the imagery in Cantata 21 of tears and flowing. Chafe finds Cantata 21’s three-stage process of tribulation, momentous changes, and triumph “is substantially indebted to the story of the wedding at Cana” (Ibid.: 48).

Chafe has just published his expanded Study of Cantata 21 and related Weimar cantatas, Tears into Wine: J. S. Bach's Cantata 21 in its Musical and Theological Contexts (New York: Oxford Univ. Press):, Table of Contexts:

Introduction: Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis: Stages of Revelation

Part One: The Theological Context
1. Tears into Wine: Liturgical and Related Questions
2. Per ogni tempo: Text interrelatedness in Cantata 21
3. Inner and Outer Revelation: Johann Arndt and Philip Nicolai
4. "Arndtian Pietism" and "Spiritual Orthodoxy": Joachim Lütkemann, Heinrich Müller, Christian Scriver

Part Two: Music and the Foretaste of Eternity
5. Music and the Praise of God
6. Christoph Raupach and Johann Mattheson
7. Breakthrough and Foretaste: The Way to Heaven

Part Three: Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis
8. Spiritual Sorrow: Part 1
9. Ascent of the Soul: Part 2

Part Four: Cantatas for Weimar 1714
10. Perspectives on the Incarnation: Cantatas 61, 63, 152
11. The Way of the Cross: Cantatas 182 and 12
12. Descent and Indwelling: Cantata 172

Appendix A. Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis: text and translation
Appendix B. Gospel and Epistle readings for the third Sunday after Trinity
Appendix C. Gospel and Epistle readings for the second Sunday after Epiphany

Aryeh Oron wrote (July 11, 2015):
Cantata BWV 21 - Revised & updated Discography

The discography pages of Cantata BWV 21 “Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis” for the 3rd Sunday after Trinity on the BCW have been revised and updated.
The cantata is scored for soprano, tenor & bass soloists; 4-part chorus; and orchestra of 3 trumpets, 4 trombones, timpani, oboe, 2 violins, viola, bassoon, organ & continuo. Numerous recordings have been added to this discography since the last revision; the number of recordings of individual movements has been doubled! See:
Complete Recordings (42):
Recordings of Individual Movements (93):
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 21 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 21: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7

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 05:51