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Cantata BWV 85
Ich bin ein guter Hirt
Discussions - Part 3

Continue from Part 2

Discussions in the Week of September 5, 2010

David D. Jones wrote (September 6, 2010):
Ich bin ein guter Hirt

Today's cantata, what I like to think of as the second in a mini cycle of cantatas with Christ/Shepherd and people/sheep themes, is Ich Bin ein guter Hirt. The particulars of performance and composition can be easily had on the website. As always, my preference is for Gardiner [8] and Stephen Varcoe's majestic, solid bass delivers the opening arioso of this lovely composition with a benevolent, paternal force that roots itself in the soul. Bach's setting of Jesus's incisive and solemnly comforting words is non pereil; Jesus seems to be making the distinction between Himself and the Pharisees abundantly clear. Here are some of Gardiner's tthoughts on this cantata:

"Bach approaches the same pastoral field by a different route in 1725. BWV 85 Ich bin ein guter Hirt is the third of three cantatas on 12 consecutive feast days (the others are BWV 6 and BWV 42) that form a coherent sequence, each a fresh response to the increasing anxiety of the disciples, then and now, at life in the world without Jesus' physical presence. All three feature Johannine themes in contemporary texts, possibly by a single author, compiled the year before and intended by Bach for his first Leipzig Jahrgang of 1723/4. This had to be put on hold, perhaps as a result of the colossal effort which went into the completion of the St John Passion (BWV 245) for Good Friday 1724, obliging him to turn to pre-existing material for some of the cantatas in that post-Resurrection season. Cantata BWV 85 is the culmination of this sub-group, focussing on the image of Jesus as good shepherd, melding the power of the protector with the gentleness of the friend. St John's famous quote, 'I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth His life for the sheep' is set as an opening arioso for bass. Its forty-four bars constitute an intriguing expansion of two thematic germs heard together in the very first bar, the one burgeoning into a wistful, lyrically moulded oboe melody, the other appearing first in the continuo and later as the singer's first phrase."

William Hoffman wrote (September 15, 2010):
Cantata 85: Good Shepherd & Chorales

EASTER 2. Misericordias Domini or the Second Sunday After Easter. It means the "Goodness (literally "tender mercies") of the Lord." It comes from the incipit of Psalm 89/88, "Your love, O Lord, for ever will I sing." This Sunday is also called "Good Shepherd Sunday."

Introit: "Misericordia Domini" (LU 816)
Motet: "Alleluja Serrexit"
"Surrexit Pastor Bonus"
Hymn de Tempore: "Christ Lag in Todesbanden"
Pulpit Hymn: "Christ ist Erstanden"
Hymns for Chancel, Communion & Closing
"Der Herr is mein getreuer Hirt" BWV 112 stanzas

Misericordias Domini [2nd Sunday after Easter, "Goodness/tender mercies"] John 10: 12-16 Good Shepherd BWV 104, BWV 85, BWV 112; JLB-12/4, Aria (T, str.), I am the Good Shepherd (Jn. 10:12)

In Leipzig, Bach composed five sacred "Shepherd Cantatas" with pastoral music Bach for two Easter season services: the Second Sunday after Easter (Misericordias) and Pentecost Tuesday (Pentecost Festival Third Day).

For the Second Sunday after Easter (Misericordias Domini), the three Shepherd Cantatas are based upon the Gospel of John 10: 12-16, "I am the Good Shepherd," and the Epistle Lesson, 1 Peter 2: 21-25, the biblical illusions to one sheep led astray, as well as the Collect, the deliverance from peril. The three cantatas are BWV 104, "Du Hirte Israel, höre" (You Shepherd of Israel, Give Ear), composed in 1724 with an opening pastorale chorus and a siciliana bass aria; Cantata BWV 85, "Ich bin ein gutter Hirt" (I am a Good Shepherd), composed in 1725, with a pastorale tenor aria; and Chorale Cantata BWV 112, "Der Herr ist mein getreuer Hirt," with a pastorale alto aria and a bouree soprano-tenor duet. Cantatas BWV 104 and BWV 85 have the same cycle 1 form with the opening biblical dictum and internal chorale setting, and presumably the same librettist.

Cantata BWV 85, "Ich bin ein gutter Hirt" (I am the Good Shepherd), David Jones in the recent BCW Discussion cites John Eliot Gardiner recording notes: "Bach approaches the same pastoral field by a different route in 1725. BWV 85 Ich bin ein guter Hirt is the third of three cantatas on 12 consecutive feast days (the others are BWV 6 and BWV 42) that form a coherent sequence, each a fresh response to the increasing anxiety of the disciples, then and now, at life in the world without Jesus' physical presence. All three feature Johannine themes in contemporary texts, possibly by a single author, compiled the year before and intended by Bach for his first Leipzig <Jahrgang> of 1723/4. This had to be put on hold, perhaps as a result of the colossal effort which went into the completion of the <St John Passion> (BWV 245) for Good Friday 1724, obliging him to turn to pre-existing material for some of the cantatas in that post-Resurrection season."

For Pentecost Tuesday, the two Shepherd Cantatas, BWV 184, "Erwünschtes Freudenlicht" (Desired Light of Joy) and BWV 175, "Er rufet seinen Schafen mit Namen" (He Calls His Sheep by Name), are based on the Gospel of John 10: 1-11, Jesus as the true Shepherd. Cantata BWV 184 preserves the three Köthen dance-forms: minuet, polonaise, and gavotte. Cantata BWV 175 of 1725 has two pastorales, a newly-written aria, and a parodied aria from Köthen Cantata BWV 173a/7.

Misericordias Domini (Second Sunday After Easter), Chorale usage:
1724: BWV 104/6, Becker "Der Herr ist meine getreue Hirt" (S.1) Weiss?
1725: BWV 112/1, chorale fantasia Meusel "Der Herr ist meine getreue Hirt" (S.1) ppd. until 1731
1725: BWV 85/3, Becker "Der Herr ist" (S.1); 6. Homberg "Ist Gott mein Schild" (S.4)
1726: JLB-12, Und ich will ihnen eninen Hirten erwecken; No. 8, ?chorale (no information available)
1729: P32/5=?BWV 358, Franck "Jesu meine Freude" (S.1)
1731: BWV 112/1-5, Meusel "Der Herr ist meine getreue Hirt" (S.1-6)

The three Easter Chorales Bach used in his Cantatas for Misericordias Domini, Second Sunday After Easter, are described in details in: Bach's Chorals. Part I>: 2 The Hymns and Hymn Melodies of the Cantatas and Motetts, by Charles Sanford Terry (Cambridge University Press, 1915-1921). 3 vols. Vol. 2 [in The Online Lof Liberty]

1. Der Herr ist mein getreuer Hirt, dem ich; Becker, 3 stanzas (mel. Allein Gott in der Höh) <E2> [E2/V(C)H], BWV 104/6(S.1) E2, 85/3(S.1) E2; BWV 112/1-5, E2

The melody of the third movement (BWV 85/3) is Nicolaus Decius' (or Hovesch) "Allein Gott in der Höh sei Ehr," first published, with Decius' rendering of the "Gloria in excelsis," in Valentin Schumann's Geistliche Lieder auffs new gebessert und gemehrt (Leipzig, 1539). The melody was formed by putting together phrases 3-4, 7-8, 11 of the "Gloria paschalis." Its association with Becker's Hymn (infra) is very general.

The melody occurs also in Cantatas BWV 104, BWV 112, and BWV 128. There is a harmonisation of it in the Choralgesänge, No. 12. Bach's version shows slight variations of the original. For the second and third notes following the middle double bar there is early (1545) authority. For his version of the final phrase of the tune in the concluding Choral of Cantata BWV 112 there appears to be none. Organ Works, N. xvi. 39, 40*, 41; xvii. 56, 60, 66; xviii. 4, 5, 7, 11.

The words of the third movement are the first stanza of Cornelius Becker's "Der Herr ist mein getreuer Hirt," a translation of Psalm xxiii, which appeared first in Seth Calvisius' Harmonia Cantionum ecclesiasticarum (Leipzig, 1598), and thence in Becker's Der Psalter Dauids Gesangweis (Leipzig, 1602).


2. Der Herr ist mein getreuer Hirt, halt mir; Meuslin, 5 stanzas (mel. Allein Gott in der Höh) <E2>, BWV 112/1-5(S.1-5) E2 CC (5vv)

A Choral Cantata (BWV 112), on Wolfgang Meusel's (Musculus) version of Psalm xxiii, "Der Herr ist mein getreuer Hirt," first published in the Augsburg Gesangbuch of 1530 or 1531, and again in the edition of 1533.

Meusel was born at Dieuze, in Lorraine, in 1497. In 1512 he entered the Benedictine monastery at Lixheim, near Saarburg. He embraced Lutheranism, and in 1537 became chief pastor of the Cathedral Church of Augsburg. In 1549 he settled at Bern as Professor of Theology, and died there in 1563.

The melody of the opening and concluding movements is Nicolaus Decius' "Allein Gott in der Höh sei Ehr" (see Cantata BWV 85), to which Meusel's Hymn generally was sung.


3. Ist Gott mein Schutz und treuer Hirt (mel. Ist Gott mein Schild und Helfersmann (S.4, 7 stanzas, BWV 85/6 E2)

The melody of the concluding Choral (BWV 85/6), "Ist Gott mein Schild und Helfersmann," was published, with Homburg's Hymn (infra), in Hundert ahnmuthig- und sonderbahr geistlicher Arien (Dresden, 1694), a collection from which few melodies have passed into common use.

The melody has been attributed incorrectly to Bach. He has not used it elsewhere and material is not available to enable the originality of his variations of the tune to be tested.

The words of the concluding Choral are the fourth stanza of Ernst Christoph Homburg's "Ist Gott mein Schild und Helfersmann," or "Gott ist mein Schild und Helfersmann," first published, with a different melody, in Part I of Homburg's Geistlicher Lieder (Naumburg, 1659 [1658]).


Easter Season 1731

Cantata BWV 112 (BCW Discussion), "Der Herr ist meine getreue Hirt." Possible Genesis: Bach Compositional Process scholar Robert L. Marshall believes that the opening chorale fantasia (Mvt. 1) of Cantata BWV 112 may have been composed earlier, possible for the 1725 service, since it is a fair or clean copy. Gerhard Herz (Bach Sources, 28, 67) agrees. Marshall surmises (Process 27f) that Bach could have proceeded during Lent with its composition, since the opening movement (Mvt. 1) uses, unaltered, the first verse of the chorale, but laid it aside when the subsequent paraphrased verses were not forthcoming.

First Performance: Beginning on Good Friday, March 23, 1731, with the parodied chorale Passion, St. Mark, BWV 247, Bach resumed presenting his church works weekly. This was the first time in four years, since the second half of 1726, when Bach composed cantatas for the entire Trinity season to complete his third cycle. Cantata BWV 112 was the only new work presented at this time in 1731. The remainder were reperformances from his previous cycles, primarily the first.

This is documented through two surviving church libretto books for the period Easter Sunday to Misericordias Domini (BWV 31, BWV 66, BWV 134, BWV 42, BWV 112) and Pentecost to Trinity Sunday (BWV 172, BWV 173, BWV 184, BWV 194). While the book for the five in-between services from Jubilate to Exaudi is not extant, Kobyashi dates a repeat of BWV 103 to Easter 3 and BWV 37 to Ascension. It is possible that Bach may have used pure-hymn Cantatas BWV 117 and BWV 97 for Easter 5 and Easter 6, since the chorales are appropriate (Stiller) for those Sundays. The repeat for Easter 4/Cantate 1731 is anyone's guess: BWV Anh. 191, lost, Weimar Franck libretto, "Leb ich order leb ich nicht; BWV 166 or BWV 108; or even JLB-14, which Bach repeated in 1743-46.

Thus, as part of his well-regulated church music to the glory of God, Bach in 1731 deliberately chose to repeat his cantatas for the Easter Season, following his presentation of the parodied chorale St. Mark Passion (BWV 247) on Good Friday. Overall, as with the St. Mark Passion (BWV 247), Bach appears to have chosen accessible and engaging works. His reasons for this "revival" may have involved various motivations: to celebrate a season that Bach had initially neglected; to recreate his collaboration with his pastor, Christian Weiss Sr., who may have repeated his emblematic sermon cycle of 1724-1725; and to take up at least one, and perhaps three, important chorales and present them as pure-hymn cantatas (BWV 112, BWV 117, and BWV 97).

Douglas Cowling wrote (September 15, 2010):
William Hoffman wrote:
< EASTER 2. Misericordias Domini or the Second Sunday After Easter. It means the "Goodness (literally "tender mercies") of the Lord." It comesfrom the incipit of Psalm 89/88, "Your love, O Lord, for ever will I sing." This Sunday is also called "Good Shepherd Sunday."
Bach's Chorals. Part I>: 2 The Hymns and Hymn Melodies of the Cantatas and Motetts, by Charles Sanford Terry (Cambridge University Press, 1915-1921). 3 vols. Vol. 2 [in The Online Library of Liberty] >
Many thanks for the link to the online edition of the Terry study. It's remarkable what is now accessible. Terry's admirable biography and study of Bach's orchestra are also now online.

Bach: A Biography [in Google Books]

Bach's Orchestra by Charles Sanford Terry [in Questia = Online Library]

A small point. The designation "Good Shepherd Sunday" is not a contemporary title that Bach would have known. It probably dates to the 19th or 20th century. The new Lutheran, Catholic and Anglican lectionaries have moved the shepherd gospels to the Third Sunday after Easter (Easter 4 in the modern numbering, Easter Day being the first Sunday of the season.)

 

Cantata BWV 85: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Recordings & Discussions of Cantatas: 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

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