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Cantata BWV 84
Ich bin vergnügt mit meinem Glücke
Discussions - Part 4

Continue from Part 3

Discussions in the Week of January 19, 2014 (4th round)

William Hoffman wrote (January 20, 2014):
Cantata 84, Ich bin vergnügt (I am content): Intro.

Cantata BWV 84, Ich bin vergnügt mit meinem Glücke (I am content with my luck), is a deceptively simple work that carries rich contexts, connections and connotations. These range from a possible collaboration with Picander, Bach’s pervasive theme of contentment, and it’s place in Bach’s work history as a solo cantata to the influence of Enlightenment nature, the importance of pre-Lenten Time, and other interesting topics. This Solo Cantata (for Soprano) was composed for the pre-Lenten Septuagesima Sunday, February 9, 1727, in Bach’s third cycle (see Cantata 84 Details, BCW

Cantata 84 explores that Sunday’s Gospel Lesson, Matthew 20:1-16 (The labourers in the vineyard). The other Gospel Readings are the Introit Psalm 38 (O Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger), and the Epistle: 1 Corinthians 9:24-10:5 (Our life is like a race; only one receives the prize) [see BCW Epistle/Gospel Readings,]1

The cantata text is a version of Christian Friedrich Henrici (Picander), Ich bin vergnügt mit meinem Stande, Teil III, Leipzig 1732 (Mvts. 1-4), poet unknown, ?Bach,2 as well as Ämilie Juliane von Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt (Mvt. 5), Chorale Text, “Wer weiß, wie nahe mir mein Ende” (Who knows how near to me is my end!); Stanza 12, “Ich leb indes in dir vergnüget” (Meanwhile I live content in God); Chorale Melody, “Wer nur den lieben Gott läßt walten” [see BCW, [German text and Francis Browne English translation, BCW

The movements, scoring, and opening texts are:

1. Aria (Soprano; Oboe, Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo): “Ich bin vergnügt mit meinem Glücke” (I am content with my luck);
2. Recitative (Soprano, Continuo): “Gott ist mir ja nichts schuldig” (God is for me in no way blameworthy);
3. Aria (Soprano; Oboe, Violino, Continuo): “Ich esse mit Freuden mein weniges Brot” (I eat with joy my little piece of bread);
4. Recitative (Soprano; Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo): “Im Schweiße meines Angesichts / Will ich indes mein Brot genießen” (In the sweat of my brow / I will meanwhile enjoy my bread; and
5. Chorale (SATB; Oboe e Violino I col Soprano, Violino II coll'Alto, Viola col Tenore, Continuo): “Ich leb indes in dir vergnüget” (Meanwhile I live content in God).

The Scoring is: Soloist: Soprano; 4-part Chorus (Mvt. 5, chorale); Orchestra: oboe, 2 violins, viola, continuo.

Score Vocal & Piano [1.25 MB],; Score BGA [1.85 MB],

References are: BGA XX/1 (Cantatas 81-90, Wilhelm Rust editor, 1872), NBA-KB I/7 (Cantatas for the 3rd and 2nd Sundays before Lent, Werner Neumann, editor, 1957, BC A 43, Zwang: K 164; autograph score (facsimile), Berlin, Staatsbibliothek; Provenance [PDF], Thomas Braatz,

Recordings: New & Milestone

Recordings, including the latest YouTube videos, are found at Cantata 84 Details, BCW, scroll down to Recordings (34, Aryeh Oron, January 2014), including many Liner notes and audio-visual recordings of historical excerpts, cantata collections, and new recordings. A new complete series of Bach vocal music is found at Recording No. 29, Bach Siftung (JSB Foundation), with commentary due to be published this year (see (Home/Shop/Books). A performance of Cantata 52, will be held November 21, 2014, with commentary to be published in 2017 [BCW Recording details].

Septuagesima Sunday & Soprano Solo Cantatas

A comparison and contrast of the three cantatas Bach composed for the pre-Lenten Septuagesima Sunday (Third Sunday before Lent) -- Chorus Cantata BWV 144, Chorale Cantata BWV 92, and Solo Soprano Cantata BWV 84 – and their musical qualities and biblical themes are found in Julian Mincham’s Commentary, (revised 2012). The works are: BWV 144, Nimm was dein ist, und gehe hin (Take what is yours and go on your way [Matthew 20:14], Leipzig, 1724); BWV 92, Ich hab in Gottes Herz und Sinn (I have surrendered to God's heart and mind [Paul Gerhardt], Leipzig, 1725); and BWV 84, Ich bin vergnügt mit meinem Glücke (Leipzig, 1727). Here is Mincham’s introduction to Cantata 84:

<<C 84 may also be compared with the only other solo soprano cantata in the cycle, C 52, performed less than three weeks previously. It has often been conjectured that both works might have been written especially for performance by Bach’s wife, Anna Magdalena. The most obvious difference between them is the use of a large sinfonia in the earlier work, itself a clue as to Bach’s intentions. C 52 [BCW, Yahoo Groups,] is essentially an affirmation of faith in God’s powers and protection; some doubts are voiced, but only in order that they be subsequently quelled. C 84 moves the emphasis from an expression of confidence in the Lord to an articulation of personal trust and affirmation; a totally unquestioning assurance, not only in the Lord’s judgement, but also in one’s own. It is as if we have passed through a doubting, even fearful stage of ‘adolescent’ Christianity to arrive at a ‘higher’ level of mature wisdom.

The student should also refer to C 199 (vol 1, chapter 14) a graphic youthful work, the dramatic imagery of which contrasts strongly with the mature acceptance of C 84 [Cantata 199, Mein Herze schwimmt im Blut (My heart swims in blood, for the 11th Sunday after Trinity; 1714, repeat 1723), will be the BCML Discussion next week, beginning January 26).

Many of the cantatas have dwelt upon human weakness and the fact that we may not be capable of living up to God’s exacting standards: we are sinners and so we sin and must repent. But C 84 paints a scene of total acceptance of our lot in life and the assurance of the next.”

Overview: Bach’s 1726-27 Solo Cantatas

The eight Bach solo cantatas of the third cycle, 1726-27, their context and context, are outlined in Klaus Hoffmann’s Liner 2008 notes to the Masaaki Sazuki-BIS recording.3 “Three of the cantatas on this disc [BWV 56, 82, 84] come from Bach’s fourth year in Leipzig, 1726–27, and thus from a period in which the hectic pace of work of his first two years there (when he had to produce a new cantata every week) had given way to a more moderate working style. Now Bach more frequently performed cantatas by other people, and he used the freedom thus obtained to expand the territory that he had hitherto explored in his sacred cantatas. And thus, between July 1726 and February 1727, he composed eight solo cantatas – works in which all of the recitatives and arias are assigned to just one singing voice and in only a few of which a choir is needed for a concluding chorale. The three cantatas from 1726–27 are of this type; the fourth work, BWV 158, has no certain place the calendar of Bach’s cantatas, and thus poses questions for scholars (of which more later).”

Cantata 84: Simple, Pastoral

The characteristics of Cantata 84 include its enlightened thought and pastoral idyll, says Hoffmann (Ibid.):

<<Ich bin vergnügt mit meinem Glücke (I am Content with my Happiness), BWV 84. The text of this cantata, which Bach produced for the church service on Septuagesima Sunday in 1727 (9th February), is connected to the Bible reading for that day – Matthew 20, 1–16, the parable of the labourers in the vineyard. The librettist – probably Bach’s regular collaborator Picander (i.e. Christian Friedrich Henrici, 1700–64) alludes only to a single detail, however: the dissatisfaction of those who have worked all day for a penny, and their envy of those who havereceived the same pay for less work. The thoughts that the poet expounds on this subject are wholly in the spirit of the early Enlightenment as regards moral education and practical application.

His words are in praise of frugality, of modesty with that which God has allocated to us, of satisfaction, of lack of envy towards others and of gratitude towards God. Neither the intellectual sphere nor indeed the language are really typical of Bach: both could easily belong to the following generation. Here the rhetorical pathos of baroque poetry is absent, as are the radicality and artistry of the imagery. The language is simple and terse; it is rational rather than figurative.

For this text Bach wrote music that is less strikingly ‘modern’ but is similarly unproblematic and scarcely requires any explanation. The first aria is a wide-ranging three-part piece with a slightly modified da capo. Alongside the solo soprano, the oboe plays the second main role, and these two per formers compete to present broad, rhythmically agile cantilenas and richly ornamented, often syncopated passages of figuration.

The dance-like second aria is a generic musical depiction of a pastoral idyll with a rustic musical scene – a tribute to the Enlightenment utopia of simple, happy country life. The striking quasi-unison of the oboe and violin in the ritornello, in which the string instrument dodges around the oboe melody in an almost improvisatory manner, is an example of folk-like colour, of artful simplicity. The oboe represents the shawm; the violin’s accompanying figures keep using open strings – at first D, later also G and A – and thus suggest the drone notes of the bagpipes or hurdy-gurdy. In the vocal part, the attractive leaps of an ascending sixth emphasize the folk-like character and simultaneously convey the impression of contented tranquility.

The four-part choral verse ‘Ich leb indes indir vergnuget’ (‘Meanwhile I live contentedly in you’) by Ämilie Juliane von Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt (1686) ends the cantata earnestly and with impressive simplicity.

Gardiner’s Take on Cantata 84

The possible Bach-Picander collaboration, autobiographical text connections, and Bach’s dynamic music are discussed in John Eliot Gardiner’s Liner notes to his Bach 2000 Pilgrimage recordings.4

<<The engaging five-movement work for solo soprano, oboe and strings, BWV 84,Ich bin vergnügt mit meinem Glücke, is actually labeled ‘Cantata’ (most unusual in Bach’s sacred oeuvre). Most probably it was performed for the first time on 9 February 1727, set to an anonymous libretto but with links to an earlier one that Erdmann Neumeister provided for Telemann’s Eisenach cycle, and, still more closely, to one that Picander would go on to publish in 1728. The actual text that lay on Bach’s desk waiting to be set was once again anchored in the vineyard parable, though this time there is no mention of the disgruntled work-force, only of being ‘content with my good fortune that dear God bestows on me’. Matthew’s Gospel for the day concludes ‘So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few (20:16), implying that the contract of employment holds good regardless of whether other parallel contracts are more favourable to the recipient. Since Bach was alert throughout his career to the danger of dropping behind the going rate for the job before he agreed to a new contract, he might have found the homily of this cantata’s text quite hard to swallow. To be ‘content with my good fortune’ is one thing – just one notch above obediently ‘accepting my calling’ (as in the Calov quote he underlined). But both Neumeister and Picander go a step further, speaking of being satisfied or happy with ‘the station’ bestowed. Was Bach content with the ‘station’ he found himself in Leipzig? Everything we can glean from his troubled cantorship suggests a permanent inner struggle between the desire to do his job to the utmost of his abilities on the one hand (to the glory of God and the betterment of his neighbour, as he would have put it) and, on the other hand, the need to put up with ‘almost continual vexation, envy and persecution’ (as he described it in a letter to a friend). Was it Bach, then, who engineered this change to the text? Hard to say. But even with this shift of emphasis, to look for an unequivocal portrayal of equanimity in the long opening E minor aria would not just clash with everything we might glean from his situation in Leipzig, but would underestimate the ambivalence and complexity of music – especially his music – and its ability to give nuanced depictions of mood. Contentment is perhaps a rather static state of mind, whereas Bach’s music here suggests something dynamic and fluctuating. The florid intertwining of voice and oboe, the prevalent lilting dotted rhythms and expressive syncopations, the way the opening ritornello returns again and again in various guises while the soprano initiates fresh motifs: all these contribute to the enchantment of the music and to its elusive moods – wistful, resigned, elegiac even?

Due to its sheer high spirits, the second aria (‘Ich esse mit Freuden mein weniges Brot’), for solo oboe, violin and continuo, is attractive in a far less sophisticated way. With its upward leap of a sixth it suggests an unconscious kinship to Galatea’s ‘As when the dove’ from Handel’s masque Acis and Galatea. The following string-accompanied recitative (No.4) moves the cantata back towards minor keys, mirroring the text’s calm presentiments of death, and provides a perfect bridge to the concluding chorale: the twelfth strophe of a hymn by Ämilie Juliane von Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt, set to Georg Neumark’s haunting melody.

It bears the rubric a soprano solo e a 3 ripieni, implying that none of the four vocal parts was intended to be doubled by instruments. Accordingly we sang it a cappella and rather quietly. ‘Ich leb indes in dir vergnuget / und sterb ohn alle Kummernis’ (‘I live meanwhile content in Thee / and die, all sorrow laid aside’). I found it very affecting.>>

BCML Previous Discussions

Cantata 84 Background and Recordings are found in Aryeh Oron’s initial BCML Introduction, Week of February 11, 2001,

Textual themes and musical ingredients of the five movements are discussed in Jean Laaninen’s Part 2 Introduction to BWV 84, March 29, 2008, as well as “Fugitive Notes” and further discussion as well as recording notes (see

A range of Cantata 84 topics and interests -- Doctrine, Symbolism and Numerology, Musical Imagery and Texts, are found in the Peter Smaill’s Introduction to BCW Discussions Part 3 in the Week of March 7, 2010

BCW Other topics include congregational singing and unaccompanied chorales.

Contentment and Vocal Types

The theme of Cantata 84, Ich bin vergnügt mit meinem Glücke (I am content with my luck), is quite similar to a secular cantata for the home written about the same time, c.1727: Cantata 204, Ich bin in mir vergnügt (I am content in myself) or “Von der Verngnügsamkeit (On Contentedness), the title of the poet Christian Friedrich Hunold. Ththeme of contentment is central to the cantatas Bach composed for Septuagesima Sunday just before Lenten Time, especially Cantata 84, Ich vin vergnügt mit meinem Glücke (I am content with my fortune; Feb. 9, 1727), which was one of the first settings written for Picander’s church-year cantata cycle published in mid 1728. Cantata 84 “is a sacred treatment of the same theme” of contentment, says David Schulenberg in Oxford Composer Companions: JSB, ed. Malcolm Boyd (Oxford University Press, 1999: 226). Contentment, says Dürr (Ibid.: 906) is acceptance of “the fate that befalls us, or resigning ourselves to the destiny ordained by God,” “one of the favorite recurring themes of the time. In homespun moralizing terms, partly entertaining and partly edifying, the entire text praises contentment and self-sufficiency” [see recent BCW Discussion of Cantata 204 at While both solo soprano cantatas BWV 84 and 204 have various spiritual references, Cantata 204 has a larger orchestra with solo flute and two oboes, more progressive music and an earthly “here and-now” emphasis. It may have been used for a secular wedding celebration in a home, with the emphasis on the couple’s bliss (Glück). Cantata 84 deals more with a divine contentment possibly involving both eternity (Gottes Zeit, God’s time), as well as the contentment of the Virgin Mary in the Magnifcat anima mea (My soul doth magnify the Lord), with connections to the Feast of the Purification, February 2, a fixed Marian feast that occurs at the end of Epiphany Time in the laminal (threshold, transitional) time pre-Lenten period. The soprano voice symbolically can represent the sacred believer with possible maternal overtones whereas the alto in sacred cantatas can be seen as the soul or the bride to the bridegroom Jesus Christ. The tenor voice often serves as a narrator and the bass often represents the voice of Jesus.


1 Service Introit Psalm and sermon preacher, St. Thomas Archdeacon Johann Gottlob Carpzov (1679-1767), are listed in Martin Petzoldt’s Bach Commentary: Theological and Musicological Commentary on the Sacred Vocal Works of JSB; Vol. 2, Sacred Cantatas, Advent to Trinityfest (Internationale Bachakademie Stuttgart, Kassel: Bärenreiter, 2007: 527-32). Included are Petzoldt’s commentary on the sermon (with extended quotations) of Johann Olearius for Septuegesima, from Bibische Erklärung(Biblical Explanation), biblical commentary (5 vols. Leipzig: Tarnoven, 1678-81) known to have been in Bach's personal library [cited in BCW Article, Yahoo Groups, Petzoldt’s discussion of Cantata 84 (Ibid.: 560-70) includes the original source poem of Picander, the Cantata 84 text with biblical quotations and allusions in both poems, and an introduction and commentary on all movements of the text, with references to Olearius’ sermon, as well as the closing chorale.
2A comparison of Bach’s Cantata 84 text and Picander’s poem, with a possibly composer-poet collaboration, is discussed in the BCW Provenance,, [Based on NBA-KB I/7 – Werner Neumann – Bärenreiter, 1957, pp. 30-61; selected and translated by Thomas Braatz, 2010].
3See BCW,, notes,[BIS-SACD1691].pdf]. Hoffmann’s description of Cantata 84 as an Enlightenment pastoral idyll shows a strong influence of nature on Bach as found in Gardiner’s new Bach musical biography, Chapter, 9, “Cycles and Seasons,” in BACH: Music in the Castle of Heaven (New York: Alfred A Knopf, 2013: 290-292 etc.).
4 See BCW,[sdg153_gb].pdf, Recording details, The theme of contentment in Cantata 84 is explored in Chapter 6, “The Incorrigible Cantor,” of Gardiner’s new Bach book (Ibid., FN 3).


To Come: More on Gardiner’s pastoral idyll and contentment as well as the solo cantata in Richard D. P. Jones’ new The Creative Development of JSB: Volume 2, 1717-1750, and the significance of the pre-Lenten “geisma” (days) Sundays and associated chorales.

William Hoffman wrote (January 22, 2014):
Cantata 84 Commentary

Bach’s solo soprano Cantata BWV 84, Ich bin vergnügt mit meinem Glücke (I am content with my luck), shows early Enlightenment influences, including naturalism, chorales with communion context, Septimagesima Sunday pre-penitential prayers as part of the pre-Lenten “Gesima” Sundays, Bach’s sense of contentment, and the solo cantata genre. The BCML Introduction to Cantata 84 is found at:

The Septuagesima Sunday Gospel parable of the laborers in the vineyard (Matthew 201-16) evokes in the text Cantata 84 text the early Enlightenment interests in moral education with practical application as well as the second aria pastoral idyll “with a rustic musical scene,” says Klaus Hofmann in his liner notes to the Masaaki Sazuki-Bis recording.1 The strong influence of nature on Bach is found in Gardiner’s new Bach musical biography,BACH: Music in the Castle of Heaven.2 Gardiner uses the seasonal context of the church year to explore Bach’s first two annual cycles that “allows us to notice how Bach often brings to the surface pre-Christian rituals and forgotten connections that reflect the turning of the agricultural year – the certainty of the land, its rhythms and rituals, the unerring pace of its calendar” (Ibid.: 290). Profoundly influenced by the forests and farms of his native Thuringia, Bach often falls under the arcadian pastoral spell, as does many of the vocal music text writers from Erdmann Neumeister, Salomo Franck, and even Picander to the Hamburgers Gottfried Henrich Brockes, Christian Henirch Postel, and Christian Friedrich Hunold. Particularly evocative is the central, second aria with its ultimate pastoral instrument, the oboe, which forms a continual dialogue with the soprano throughout Cantata 84:

Ich esse mit Freuden mein weniges Brot
I eat with joy my little piece of bread
Und gönne dem Nächsten von Herzen das Seine.
And from my heart do not begrudge my neighbour what is his.
Ein ruhig Gewissen, ein fröhlicher Geist,
A quiet conscience, a cheerful spirit,
Ein dankbares Herze, das lobet und preist,
a thankful heart, that praises and extols,
vermehret den Segen, verzuckert die Not.
Make blessings greater, make troubles sweet

A more graphic account of Bach’s use of text with natural images in found in the c.1713 Weimar Sexagesima Cantata 18, Gleichwie der Regen und Schnee vom Himmel fällt . . . Also soll das Wort, / So aus meinem Munde gehet, (Just as the rain and snow fall from heaven . . . So shall the word / That goes from my mouth). It is a setting of Neumeister’s 1711 pioneering Gotha text, Geistliches Singen und Spielen. It was one of Bach’s first “modern” cantatas, a solo work for soprano, tenor and bass with one of his first four-part closing chorales: “Ich bitt, O Herr, aus Herzensgrund, / Du wollst nicht von mir nehmen / Dein heilges Wort aus meinem Mund” (I pray, o Lord, from the depths of my heart / That you may not take from me / Your holy word from out of my mouth), Stanza 8 of the Catechism Confession chorale, “Durch Adams Fall ist ganz verderbt / Menschlich Natund Wesen” (Through Adam’s fall human nature / and character is completely corrupted). The text also was set by Georg Philipp Telemann, TVWV1:630, in 1719. This Neumeister cantata cycle also has one text, beginning

“Ich bin vergnügt mit meinem Stande,” that also was set by Telemann and may have influenced Picander’s original text for Cantata 84 (see Braatz’s BCW “Provenance,”:, cited at Footnote No. 9 below.

Bach’s Cantata 84 text in two other movements also makes allusions to communion, according to Günther Stiller’s JSB and Liturgical Life in Leipzig,3 since Septuagesima Sunday was not a fasting Sunday in Bach’s Leipzig. The references are: 4. Recitative, “Im Schweiße meines Angesichts / Will ich indes mein Brot genießen” (In the sweat of my brow / I will meanwhile enjoy my bread), and 5. Chorale, “Durch deine Gnad und Christi Blut / Machst du's mit meinem Ende gut” (through your mercy and Christ’s blood / you will make sure that my end is good!”


In Cantata 84 Bach uses the communion chorale text set to the melody “Wer nur den lieben Gott läßt walten” (Whoever lets only the dear God reign): “Wer weiß, wie nahe mir mein Ende” (Who knows how near to me is my end!); Stanza 12, “Ich leb indes in dir vergnüget” (Meanwhile I live content in God); 1686. The text author is Ämilie Juliane von Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt (1637-1706), with the chorale text and Francis Browne English translation,; see her BCW Short Biography, The Chorale Melody “Wer nur den lieben Gott läßt walten” Composer: Georg Neumark (1657), Bach’s uses, BCW:

The Neu Leipziger Gesangbuch des Gottfried Vopelius (NLGB, Leipzig 1682), carries no hymns for Epiphany Time and its ending three Gesima Sundays, only hymns for the Feast of Epiphany and the Marian Feasts of Purification, February 2, and Annunciation, March 25. Instead, the NLGB (p. 293) lists four omnes temporechorales for Septuagesima Sunday: Vater unser im Himmelreich; Ich ruft zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ; O Herre Gott, dein Göttlich Wort; and Es ist das Heil uns kommen her. It notes that the Johann Hermann Schein 1627 Cantional Leipzig Songbook also lists the same four chorales under the NLGB omnes tempore heading Vom Kreutz/Verfolung und Anfechtung (Cross, Persecution and Challenge; Chorales Nos. 275-304). The Schein heading continues for Sexagesima Sunday while Quinquagesima Estomihi Sunday carries the Schein heading Von der Beich und Buß (Confession and Penitence) that is cross-referenced for the NLGB de tempore Passiontide (Lent), Vom Leiden und Sterben Jesu Christi (Suffering and Death of Jesus), Chorales Nos. 61 etc.

Septuagesima Sunday sets the coming penitential tone with its Introit Psalm 38 (O Lord, do not rebuke me in your wrath). It is described as a “Penitential prayer about bearing sins’ heavy burden” (Bußgebet um Erleidegung von der schweren Sündenlast) by Martin Petzoldt in Bach Commentary.4 The full English text of Psalm 38 (King James Version) is found on-line at:

Bach composed three cantatas for each of the three pre-Lent Sundays: Septuageisma (BWV 144, BWV 92, BWV 84), Sexagesima (BWV 18, BWV 181, BWV 126) and Quinquagesima (BWV 22/23, BWV 127, BWV 159). Bach used non-Passion omnes tempore chorale texts in his first two pre-Lent “Gesima Sunday” cantatas: Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan (BWV 144/3), Ich hab in Gottes Herz und Sinn (BWV 92), “Wer weiß, wie nahe mir mein Ende” (BWV 84/5), Durch Adams Fall ist ganz verderbt (BWV 18/5), Erhalt uns, bei deinem Wort" (BWV 126), and Herr Christ, der einig Gottes Sohn (BWV 22/5). In his cantatas for Quinquagesima Estomihi, Bach was able to use Passion chorales for Quinquagesima, in accordance with the hymn schedules of Leipzig and Dresden (Stiller, Ibid.: 238f). The cantatas are: Jesus nahm zu sich die Zwölfe (BWV 22,) Du wahrer Gott und Davids Sohn(BWV 23), Herr Jesu Christ, wahr’r Mensch und Gott (BWV 127), and Sehet, wir gehen hinauf gen Jerusalem (BWV 129). The chorales used in these cantatas are Herzlich tut much verlangen; Christe, du Lamm Gottes; Herr Jesu Christ, wahr’ Mensch und Gott; Jesu, deine Passion; and Jesu, Kreutz, Leiden und Pein.

Epiphany-Gesima Transition Time

In traditional Christian practice Epiphany is the period from the fixed date festival of the Feast Day of Epiphany or the Adoration of the Magi, on January 6, to Ash Wednesday or the beginning of the 40-day Lenten period, reflecting the 40 days of Jesus fasting in the wilderness. The actual Epiphany “season” is a special, mixed, in-between, overlapping, Transitional Time from the joy of Christmastide to the austerity of Lent. In fact and practice, Epiphany is not a church season but a time, based in part on its treatment in Lutheran hymn books and Bach-era chorale settings, beginning with Jesus hymns and ending with Passiontide hymns.

Epiphany encompasses the Sundays following the fixed Feast of Epiphany, varying from three to six Sundays (depending on the occurrence of Easter Sunday one week (Holy Week) after the spring equinox). Epiphany is followed by the three preparatory, pre-Lenten, so-called “Gesima” (Lord’s Day) Sundays: Septuagesima, Sexagesima, and Quinquagesima Estomihi or the Fiftieth Day before Easter in preparation of Jesus crucifixion and death on Good Friday and resurrection on Easter Sunday following the Lenten penitential time of six fixed Sundays involving Quadragesima or 40 days. Thus, Septugesima (70 Days) and Sexagesima (60 Days) are misnomers or numerical generalities, enumerating the days of required fasting before Christ’s resurrection. The initial total 70 days of fasting recalls the 70 years Israel spent in captivity in Babylon.

The three Gesima Sundays were established by Pope Gregory (590-604 AD) to precede the 40 Lenten days. Septuagesima Sunday, the first of the Gesima Sundays or the Third Sunday before Lent, established the pre-Lenten penitential period, observing the cessation of the Christmastide Alleluia and Gloria, with the use of Purple service paraments and vestments of Lent. Actual fasting practices have varied over the years.

Today, the so-called Epiphany Season is recognized and observed in the Lutheran Church as a period of Standard Sundays or Green Sundays (the color of the paraments and vestments). This means that Epiphany time is an “omnes tempore” (all times) period, like the last half of the calendar and church year, called the Trinity Season or the Twenty-some Sundays After Pentecost. These Standard Sundays emphasize the timeless teachings of Jesus Christ, rather than the milestone events in his life. The established, fixed “de tempore” or timely seasons of Christmas and Easter-Pentecost, are preceded by fixed observance periods of reflection and temperance, called Advent and Lent. The “de tempore” seasons of Christmas and Pentecost end, respectively, with the Feasts of Epiphany and Trinity Sunday.5


Cantata 84’s pervasive theme of contentment, also found in the contemporary secular home Cantata 204, Ich bin in mir vergnügt (I am content in myself) presents a striking, seeming anomaly or contradiction in Bach’s historical-biographical situation of 1727. John Eliot Gardiner point out that “the homily of this cantata’s (BWV 84) text (seems) hard to swallow,” given “his recurrent dissatisfaction with the offices in which he found himself, the insufficient respect accorded to him that came to the surface in pay dispute and other perceived slights to his authority.”6

Gardiner finds that Bach’s “not often” intervention to change the original text, Ich bin vergnügt mit meinem Stande to . . . mGlücke (I am content with . . .) “one’s ‘office’ to one’s “lot in life’ changes “the whole polemical thrust” to the “good fortune the Lord confers on me.” Gardiner explains: “Even with this shift of emphasis, to look for an unequivocal portrayal of equanimity in the long opening E minor aria for soprano solo, oboe and strings would underestimate the ambivalence and complexity of music – especially Bach’s music – as a medium capable of giving mixed nuances of mood.”

While Bach’s motives for emphasizing content may be questioned – ranging from his own inner peace to practical need to compose effective music with text – the actual changes in Picander-Henrici’s text, Bach’s opportunity and method, have evoked a range of explanations. The traditional judgment has been that Bach was simply trying to improve on Picander’s perfunctory wordsmithing. As Günter Stiller (Ibid.: 287) explains, “the editing of the Henrici texts provided ‘improvement and added depth’ for them,” citing Paul Brausch.7 Says Stiller, “Concerning the radical revisions of the text for Cantata 84, Brausch states that Henrici’s “Philistine conception of contentedness has been revised on the basis of a genuine, heartfelt spirit of being resigned to the will of God” (Ibid.: 287). 8

A side-by-side comparison of Bach’s Cantata 84 text and Picander’s original text with commentary is found in Thomas Braatz’s Cantata 84 Provenance Article.9 A collaboration or radical improvement are the choices. Says Braatz: The questions that must be raised here are: Was there a collaborative effort by Bach and Picander, an effort that culminated in such a wide divergence between both libretti as has not yet been observed elsewhere in any other Picander texts that Bach set to music? or is it also possible that Bach or some other unknown librettist is responsible for what might appear to some as a better version of the text than that supplied later by Picander despite his attempts to improve it over time?”

Picander’s text choice for the closing chorale and Bach’s use of a different text to the same melody are explained in Braatz’s “Provenance.”: <<For the final chorale, Picander chose the final, seventh verse of Georg Neumarck’s chorale, “Wer nur den lieben Gott läßt walten” while Bach, maintaining the use of the same chorale melody, has chosen the 12th verse of the chorale, “Wer weiß, wie nahe mir mein Ende” by Ämilie Juliane von Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt and first published in 1686. This is a chorale text which was still missing in the Wagner hymnal, Leipzig, 1697 and possibly one still not widely known among the members of Bach’s congregation.>>

Solo Cantatas with Closing Chorale

The four-part chorale that closes Cantata 84 has the distinction of being one of five Bach solo cantatas that ends with a four-part chorale, along with BWV 169, 56, 55, and 52. This might be described as “modified” solo cantata, suggests Richard D. P. Jones in his new book, The Creative Development of JSB, Volume 2.10 While the chorales “may be viewed as a concession to sacred style,” they show two aspects of secular solo-cantata genre: “demanding writing for solo voice” (Ibid.), and use of obbligato instruments. This shows Bach insisting on writing demanding music, even while weaning himself from weekly sacred composition, battling the Town Council and Thomas School reactionaries, and the coming two years creating his St. Matthew Passion in collaboration with poet Picander.


1See BCW,, notes,[BIS-SACD1691].pdf].
2Gardiner, Chapter, 9, “Cycles and Seasons” (New York: Alfred A Knopf, 2013: 290-292 etc.).
3Stiller, Editor Robin A. Leaver (St. Louis MO: Concordia Publishing House, 1985: 84).
4Theological and Musicological Commentary on the Sacred Vocal Works of JSB; Vol. 2, Sacred Cantatas, Advent to Trinityfest (Internationale Bachakademie Stuttgart, Kassel: Bärenreiter, 2007: 527).
5Primary source is Keeping Time, the Church’s Years, Using Evangelical Lutheran Worship, Vol.3 (Minneapolis MI: Aubsburg Fortress, 2009).
6Gardiner, Chapter 6, “The Incorrigible Cantor” (Ibid. 197).
8Brausch, Die Kantate: Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der deutschen Dichtungsgattung,Dissertation, Heidelberg, 1921.
Stiller’s Footnote 37 to his Chapter 2, “Prolegomena to Bach’s Creativity, b) The Will to Proclaim.”
9 Based on NBA KB I/7, Werner Neumann, Bärenreiter, 1957, pp. 30-61; selected and translated by Thomas Braatz, 2010; BCW Another die-by-side comparison of the

Bach and Picander texts related to Cantata 84 is found in Martin Petzoldt’s (FN 4,Ibid.: 560-63).
10Jones, 1717-1750, “Music to Delight the Spirit” (Oxford University Press, 2013: 170).

Luke Dahn wrote (January 22, 2014):
[To William Hoffman] As mentioned in William's commentary, Cantata 84 closes with a chorale setting of Georg Neumark's tune "Wer nur den lieben Gott lässt walten." There are six other extant 4-part chorale settings of this tune (BWVs 88.7, 93.7, 166.6, 179.6, 197.10, 434), at least four of which were composed prior to Cantata 84 from 1727.
For those who are interested, I've created two PDF files of the seven 4-part chorale settings of this tune, the first of which retains the original keys of the chorales and the second of which has all the settings transposed to the same key (A minor) for easier comparison. The settings are in order of composition date with the exception of BWV 434 (placed at the end), the date of which is unknown.

The seven settings in original keys:
The seven settings in A minor:

Douglas Cowling wrote (January 22, 2014):
Luke Dahn wrote:
< The seven settings in A minor: >
This is a terrific teaching tool. Ever since my harmony teacher told me as a teenager not to resolve 4/3 suspensions to the dominant, I have been mesmerized by Bach's creative manipulation of The Rules.

Thank you

William Hoffman wrote (January 23, 2014):
[To Luke Dahn] Is it possible to date Bach's free-standing plain chorales, BWV 250-435, through internal compositional evidence, such as the greater inner-voice complexity, to about 1730?

Luke Dahn wrote (January 23, 2014):
[To William Hoffman] That's a good question. I really don't think there is enough of a detectable chorale style evolution to date chorales with any kind of confidence. Of the six settings of Neumark's "Wer nur den lieben Gott lässt walten" tune whose dates we know, for example, the earliest setting (BWV 179.6 from 1723) has the most complex inner voices and is the most chromatic, with the possible exception of BWV 434. (By the way, I just love the delicious dissonance on beat 2 of the final measure in 179.6 -- B/F-natural tritone in upper voices with F-natural/E bass/alto crunch in combination.)
There are probably other BCML members who can comment on this topic more lucidly than I can.

There may be other ways of exploring contextual possibilities of the BWV 250-438 chorales. Thomas Braatz privately reminded me that BWV 434 originally had no text. In my file, I simply added the text (verse 1 of Neumark's text) supplied by editors of the BGA. Thomas suggested that that particular Neumark verse does make perfect sense, however, since Bach's setting paints the text quite beautifully. (I'll let him provide details if he wishes.)

If and when an isolated chorale from the CPEBach-Breitkopf collection seems to be a version of a chorale from a known source, it may be possible to ginsight as to which came first through a thorough comparative investigation of the two chorales. For example, Chorale #14 in the Breitkopf collection seems to be a version of BWV 184.5. They're in different keys and two phrases are reworked with inner parts being switched much of the way. Through a thorough comparison, it seems to me that BWV 184.5 is a revision of Chorale 14 and not the other way around, and it's possible (though this is conjecture) that Chorale 14 came from another version of BWV 184, which Dürr believes may have existed. My theory goes against the suggestions of the NBA editors, so I hesitate to have too much confidence. But at any rate, I think there may be ways of at least exploring contextual possibilities through thoroughly examining the music. I don't know if complexity is, in and of itself, sufficient.

But others may have more input on this matter.

Juliam Minmchm wrote (January 24, 2014):
For those who, like myself, like to compare Bach's works with similar themes if only to note just how inventive he is when setting identical or similar material, it is instructive to compare 84 with 204. Both are cantatas for solo soprano and both have themes of inner personal contentment. The latter is a shamefully neglected cantata.

Douglas Cowling wrote (January 24, 2014):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< For those who, like myself, like to compare Bach's works with similar themes if only to note just how inventive he is when setting identical or similar material, >
Last week, I attended a performance of Cantata 30, "Freue Dich" -- a real treat with the version with brass. I remember thinking as the chorale, "Freu dich sehr", was sung in duple time with those wonderful trumpet cadences, "How many people here realize they are hearing 'Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring' utterly transformed?" Almost an inside joke between me and Bach.

William Hoffman wrote (January 25, 2014):
The C.P.E. Bach cantata, "Ich bin vergnügt in meinem Stande," will be performed February 8 with the Thomas School Choir in Leipzig as part of CPE Bach*1714 Anniversary Year, Details are found in the C.P.E. Bach Complete works edition,

Andrew Talle (Peabody Conservatory); ABS Notes No. 13, Fall 2010: 5 (2010 ABS Conference Reports: “Bach’s Cantata Performances in the 1730s – New Findings, New Perspectives” Peter Wollny (Bach-Archiv, Leipzig).

Peter Wollny's presentation dealt with a newly discovered cantata by C. P. E. Bach, "Ich bin vergnügt in meinem Stande," which was also performed for the occasion by a student ensemble. This piece is the earliest known vocal composition by C. P. E. Bach, who was 19 or 20 when it was premiered, and bears many resemblances to the cantatas of his father. Wollny believes that J. S. Bach arranged for its performance in one or more of Leipzig's main churches around 1733/34. The text is taken from a 1728 publication by Christian Friedrich Henrici (a.k.a. Picander) from which J. S. Bach himself drew the nine cantata texts that constitute the apparently fragmentary Picander-Jahrgang. He argued persuasively that the newly discovered C. P. E. Bach cantata can be understood as a part of the Picander-Jahrgang (Septuagesimae, P-19). Indeed, it seems entirely plausible that J. S. Bach -- in part for pedagogical reasons -- would have offered his sons and gifted students opportunities to present their own works in the context of Leipzig's liturgical life, reserving his own compositions for the larger feast days.

William Hoffman wrote (January 25, 2014):
C.P.E. Bach Complete Works Edition,

Mike Mannix wrote (January 31, 2014):
[To Douglas Cowling] My favourite JSB ‘inside joke’. Visiting Handel House Museum in London and translating Brook Street as Bach Strasse. It’s not very funny, but amuses me.


Cantata BWV 84: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

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