William Hoffman wrote (October 1, 2015):
Michaelmas Cantatas 219 and 50, Trinity 18 Cantatas & Chorales
Trinity 18 and St. Michael’s Feast
There is no record that Bach composed a cantata for the 18th Sunday after Trinity, September 26, 1723. In all likelihood, Bach concentrated his composing on presenting a work for the important feast of St. Michael and All-Angels, Wednesday September 29. The record lacks documentation but collateral evidence shows that Bach during moveable Trinity Time in his first annual sacred service cycle focused his composition on fixed-date feasts days rather than adjacent Trinity Time Sundays.
Beginning with the Seventh Sunday after Trinity, Bach was able to present his own works for the first three cycles, through the 23rd Sunday after Trinity, with the exception of two cantatas, BWV 96 and 169, for the 18th Sunday after Trinity. Meanwhile, the record shows that on only one Sunday, the 21st Sunday after Trinity, did Bach compose a fourth work in Leipzig, Cantata BWV 188, about 1728, from the Picander printed libretto cycle. This evidence supports the contention that Bach systematically sought to present only three cycles.
Meanwhile, Bach, as did members of the Bach Family, presented significant works on the feast of St. Michael, which in Leipzig was particularly important. This celebration opened the annual Fall Fair, the most important of the three (also Winter at Epiphany and Spring, on Jubilate Sunday after Easter) in this most significant commercial city.
Bach scholars have been unable to determine which work may have been presented on the 1723 St. Michael’s Feast. The most likely candidate may be Cantata 50, “Nun is das Heil und die Kraft” (Now is the salvation and the strength, Revelation 12:10). Bach’s one-movement festive motet for double chorus and orchestra with trumpets and drums, sets the Revelation 12:7-10 text which is the appointed Epistle reading for this celebration.
Francis Browne’s just completed BCW “Note on the Text” (http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/BWV50-Eng3.htm) with his English translation is cited in full:
<<Note on the Text
About BWV 50 there are many questions, few clear answers. No autograph survives and all sources date from after 1750. The text is taken from Revelations 12: 10, part of the readings for Michaelmas (Revelations 12: 7-10). After an account of a battle between a dragon and Michael and the angels, a voice proclaims Michael's victory in the words of our text. The one surviving movement could be either the opening or concluding movement of a more extensive cantata intended for Michaelmas .If this is the case it is generally supposed to date from Bach's first year in Leipzig and would have been performed on September 29th 1723. It is the only cantata that uses a double choir. Because of this and other unusual features scholars have speculated this movement may not be by Bach or that it is a reworking of a Bach original by a later pupil or composer. John Eliot Gardiner pertinently asks: Who other than Bach amongst his German contemporaries could have come up with such an extreme compression of ideas, at the same time giving the impresssion of colossal spatial breadth and majesty.
As usual Julian Mincham gives a clear and perceptive account of the technical issues:
But when he concludes his valuable discussion: We can only lament the probable loss of the remainder of a work that began so commandingly and with so much promise. I am more inclined to agree with W.G. Whittaker:
This is one of the most superb of Bach's choruses, a great masterpiece of the highest order. One is glad that it is a torso, that one may listen to it in its solitary grandeur, not preceded or followed by arias and recitatives, which could only be overshadowed by its colossal stature. (Vol 2, p167)
Except for the most fundamental of Christians the apocalyptic imagery of the biblical text probably seems remote and alien. But some of what Bach's magnificent music expresses here can perhaps be summed up in William Blake's phrase: Energy is eternal delight.
(An appropriately vigorous and joyful performance can be found at: http://allofbach.com/en/bwv/bwv-50/ on the marvellously generous All of Bach website, for which I cannot begin to express my gratitude and appreciation)>>
Next week’s BCML Discussion is Cantata 50 while this week’s scheduled Discussion is the apocryphal Bach Cantata BWV 219, “Siehe! es hat überwunden der Löwe” (Behold! the lion has triumphed), which actually is a Telemann Michaelmas work to an Erdmann Neumeister text, TVWV 1:1328, premiered in Hamburg in 1723.
A full BCML discussion of this work (March 10, 2013) is found at http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV219-D.htm. It also includes information on Cantata 51, also appropriate for Michaelmas, as well as German biblical sources and Bach’s use of revelation texts in his cantatas. Further materials are found at BCW, Motets and Chorales for Michaelmas, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/LCY/M&C-Michael.htm.
During the next two weeks BCML Discussions, other materials will be cited involving Bach’s other works for Michaelmas as well as the Bach Family involvement in this feast day and more information on the 18th Sunday after Trinity.
18th Sunday After Trinity
For the 18th Sunday after Trinity, the theme of “Love of God (“Gottlieb,” “Amadeus”) and Neighbor” and two early Lutheran hymns dominate Bach’s two sole, extant, affirmative musical sermons: Chorale Cantata BWV 96, “Herr Christ, der einge Gottessohn” (Lord Christ, God’s Only Son) and alto solo Cantata BWV 169, “Gott soll allein mein Herze haben” (God shall alone my heart have). Both hymns are found in the Reformation’s first Song Book of Johann Walther, 1524: first is the Kreutizger original 1524 Advent chorale for Cantata 96 and the Luther Pentecost hymn and (later) general Gradual Song, “Nun bitten wir den Heiligen Geist” (Now Let Us Pray to the Holy Spirit).
In both highly-appealing Cantatas 96 and 169, Bach uses well-known chorales, dance styles, and special instrumentation with certain literary techniques and musical devices (allusion, motto, parody) to covey a more gentle pietist portrayal of the Gospel teaching in his musical sermons. Yet the musical results are quite contrasting: Cantata 96 is a congregational celebration with a chorale chorus and arias for tenor and bass while Cantata 196 uses one intimate alto voice in proclamation and reflection, preceded by an extensive, introductory orchestral sinfonia with lilting organ obbligato.
Both chorales, with Latin and German folk origins, were mainstays in 20th Century Lutheran Hymn Books. “Herr Christ, der einge Gottessohn” is known as “The Only Son From Heaven,” No. 86 for Epiphany, with resemblance to the Christmas Hymn, “Of the Father’s Love Begotten,” and “Nun bitten wir den Heiligen Geist,” bases on the Latin Hymn, <Veni, Sancte Spiritus>, is known as “To God the Holy Spirit Let Us Pray,” No. 317, with the theme of Christian Hope in the Lutheran Book of Worship (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1978.
The 18th Sunday after Trinity is the final Sunday of the six affirmative paired teachings of miracles and parables in the Trinity Time mini-cycle emphasizing the “Works of Faith and Love,” that is, the meaning of being a Christian, says Paul Zeller Strodach, <The Church Year> (United Lutheran Publication House, Philadelphia PA, 1924: 216). This Sunday’s Gospel (Matthew 22:34-46) is the affirmation of the Great Commandment to love God and its Christian corollary, also to love one’s neighbor as one’s self. It ends the six-Sunday cycle in the thirdquarter of Trinity Time, leading to the final quarterly cycle of the Church Year with its last things (eschatology) couched in symbols of the annual Coming and Sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
There is no cantata performance documented for the 18th Sunday After Trinity in the first cycle that fell on September 26, 1723. This was three days prior to the Feast of St. Michael on September 29, and the beginning of the three-week Leipzig Fall Fair, also when no work is documented. This is the only time when Bach failed to produce cantatas since he began his first Leipzig cycle on the First Sunday after Trinity, May 30, 1723, when the annual term of the Thomas School began. It is possible Bach did present the extant, festive motet Cantata BWV 50, “Nun ist has Heil” (Now Is the Salvation), that is best suited for this important civic/church feast. Complicating matters, Bach had no Weimar cantatas available for repreformance since he had been unable to produce monthly Sunday cantatas because of closed mourning periods during Trinity Time 1714 and 1715. In addition, Bach was unable to present cantatas in Weimar on feast days.
Other Trinity 18 Opportunities
For the 18th Sunday after Trinity in 1725, which fell on September 30, one day after the Feast of St. Michael, Bach probably presented no cantatas. This was typical during Trinity Time 1725 when he probably presented only a handful of works for special events or to fill gaps in the previous two completed cantata cycles. No cantata is documented for the earlier feast day although Bach had available works from the two previous cycles as well as motet Cantata BWV 50, and works of Telemann that he had used at the beginning of Trinity Time in June 1725. In all likelihood, Bach had taken a break from weekly cantata composition, turning instead to the publication of keyboard Partitas for sale at the fair, the revisions of some of his organ chorale preludes, some occasional secular cantatas on commission, and the search for texts/music for his third cycle. This began on the first Sunday in Advent, Sunday, December 2, 1725, probably with the parodied Cantata BWV 36(d), “Schwingt freudig euch empor” (Swing Joyfully Into the Air).
Alto Solo Cantata 169
For the next 18th Sunday after Trinity, October 20, 1726, near the end of the third cycle, Bach used previous material now found in the Clavier Concerto BWV 1053 for Cantata BWV 169, “Gott soll allein mein Herze haben” (God shall alone my heart have). It is the second of six cantatas for solo voice, four of which use existing instrumental concerto music, for the shortened final quarter of Trinity Time. While the lack of choral writing (except for closing chorales), the reuse of music, and the perfunctory, cut-and-paste libretti all suggest Bach’s flagging interest in periodic composition, his actual adaptation and response to the motto-like text from the opening statement shows considerable invention as well as transformation resulting in a greatly-engaging and –pleasing work about the love of God and neighbor. See John Eliot Gardiner’s Bach 2000 Cantata Pilgrimage notes for Trinity 18, BCW, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV169.htm, Recordings No. 20.
Chorale “Nun bitten wir den Heiligen Geist”
Cantata 169 closes with an emphasis on the Second Commandment to love one’s neighbor, as found in the third verse of Luther’s 1524 “Nun bitten wir den Heiligen Geist” (Now Let Us Pray to the Holy Spirit): “Du süße Liebe, schenk uns deine Gunst” (You sweet love, grant us your favour). Luther’s four-stanza Gradual Song between the Epistle and Gospel lessons in the main service is found as a designated <de tempore> Pentecost Hymn in the NLGB No. 130. For further information, see Wikipedia:
Other Bach Trinity 18 Opportunities
+For the 18th Sunday after Trinity on October 5, 1727, there was no performance during the mourning period of Sept. 7, 1727, to Jan. 8, 1728, for deceased Saxon Queen Christiane Eberhardine.
+On October 9, 1735, Bach probably performed a Stözel two-part cantata as part of the cycle “Saitenspiele des Hertzens” (Music Playing of the Heart), text by Benjamin Schmolck, with two chorale settings not identified.
+About Sept. 30, 1736, Bach may have performed Stözel’s two-part cantata “Der Herr hat mir eine gelehrte Zunge gegeben” (The Lord Has Given Me a Learned Tongue) from the cantata cycle “Das Namenbuch Christi,” (Book of Names of Christ), Schmolck text, No. 59. No musical source with chorales is extant.
Cantatas BWV 96 and 169 for the 18th Sunday After Trinity are positive contrast to the “Lutheran theological themes in this tail end to the liturgical year [that] frequently deal with Armageddon, with the Second Coming or with the promised ‘abomination of desolation’,” says Gardiner. “So far it has eluded scholars whether Bach actively sought out cantata librettos that he deemed suited to solo vocal treatment for the six cantatas for solo voice he composed in the run-up to Advent 1726, and to what extent he might have intervened in their construction, or whether their texts were clerically imposed on him and, with their emphasis on individual piety, left him no option but to treat them as solo works.”
Further information on Motets and Chorales for the 18th Sunday After Trinity is found at BCW, Musical Context of Bach Cantatas: Motets & Chorales for 18th Sunday after Trinity