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Cantata BWV 92
Ich hab in Gottes Herz und Sinn
Discussions - Part 1

Discussions in the Week of January 27, 2002 (1st round)

Thomas Braatz wrote (January 30, 2002):
BWV 92 - The Chorale Melody

For those who might think to themselves, “Where have I heard this tune before?” The answer is in a number of Bach’s vocal works, since he must have had a very high regard for it. Including the present cantata, BWV 92 “Ich hab in Gottes Herz und Sinn,” Bach used the melody 7 times, of which there are two where the melody is the basis for the entire chorale-type cantata [BWV 111 is the other cantata besides BWV 92 where this happens.] Actually Paul Gerhardt’s use of this chorale melody for this chorale text (“Ich hab in Gottes Herz und Sinn”) is the farthest removed and latest important application of this melody to support a chorale text.

Of the great French composers of vocal music in the 16th century, there are two names that usually appear at the top of the list: Janequin and Claudin. It is of the latter that M. Guilliaud in his “Rudiments” (15554) stated that it was Claudin who recreated (“replanté”) French music. Like “Madonna” of the late 21st century, Claudin was so famous that he was mainly known and referred to simply as “Claudin.” In order to find him listed in a music dictionary, you will need to look under “Sermisy” for his full name is Claudin de Sermisy. He was born c. 1495 and died in Paris in 1562. He was a true master of sacred music, in which category he composed, among other things, 70 motets, mainly for 4 voices, but also some for 3, 5, and 6 voices. With the exception of an anonymous SJP published by Attaingnant , Claudin composed the only passion (SMP) that included several vocal parts (up to 4 for the turbae.) But it was through his secular chansons that Claudin achieved recognition throughout Europe. His melodies became so popular that many composers such as Clemens non Papa, J. Handl, and Orlando di Lasso would take these chansons and ‘rework’ them to be included in masses. A similar direction was taken by one of his chansons that made it become one of J.S. Bach’s favorite subjects for treatment in his cantatas, and even, you might have guessed it, in Bach’s SMP (BWV 244).

The chorale melody that Bach used first appeared in a collection of chansons, “Trente et quatre chansons,” published by Attaingnant in Paris in 1529. Claudin was one of the main contributors to this collection that contained many examples of truly outstanding 4-part vocal compositions. One of the chansons has the title, “Il me suffit de tous mes maulx.” [See below for entire text.] It is this melody, not the harmonization thereof, which caught the ear of the Dutch who included it in a famous collection, “Souterliedekens” published in Antwerp in 1540. Here it appears as a contrafacture, specifically with a text that is a rhymed version of Psalm 129.

The next major application of the chanson melody occurs 7 years later. It appears likely, however, that the “Souterliedekens,” and not the original chanson, was used by Margrave Albrecht of Prussia (1496-1568) who supplied an entirely new chorale text that was intended for the occasion of the death of this first wife in 1547. (The Margrave later died of the plague.) The thoughts of illness and death (also the time of the 30-Years War) dominated his thoughts in the chorale text, “Was mein Gott will, das gscheh allzeit.” [See below for entire text.]

It is with this text in mind that Bach composed most of the compositions that use this chorale melody.

BWV 65/7 „Sie werden aus Saba alle kommen” (10th vs. of „Ich hab in Gottes Herz und Sinn“ –Paul Gerhardt)
BWV 72/6 „Alles nur nach Gottes Willen“ (1st vs. of „Was mein Gott will, das gscheh allzeit“ – Margrave Albrecht)
BWV 92/1—„Ich hab in Gottes Herz und Sinn“ (Various vs.–Paul Gerhardt ) a chorale cantata
BWV 103/6 „Ihr werdet weinen und heulen“ (9th vs. of „Barmherziger Vater, höchster Gott“ –Paul Gerhardt)
BWV 111/1—„Was mein Gott will, das gscheh allzeit“ – Various vs.--Margrave Albrecht a chorale cantata
BWV 144/6 „Nimm, was dein ist, und gehe hin“ (1st vs. „Was mein Gott will, das gscheh allzeit“—Margrave Albrecht)
BWV 244/25 SMP (1st vs. „Was mein Gott will, das gscheh allzeit“ –Margrave Albrecht)

Exactly a century after Margrave Albrecht’s text for „Was mein Gott will, das gscheh allzeit“, was published, Paul Gerhardt (one of the most famous chorale text authors after Luther), in 1647, wrote the 12 verses of „Ich hab in Gottes Herz und Sinn“ to the same melody, and as you have seen, at least one other chorale text, „Barmherziger Vater, höchster Gott.” This provides us with the connections to BWV 92 and BWV 103/6.

The chorale melody for Bach remains primarily associated with the text by Margrave Albrecht. It is not clear whether Bach had ever seen or heard Claudin’s 4-pt chanson.

Claudin’s chanson text:

Il me suffit de tous mes maulx,
Puisquil mont livre a mort,
Jay endure peine et travaulx,
Tant de douleur et desconfort.
Que voules vous que je vous face,
Pour estre en vostre grace ;
De douleur mon cueur si est mort.
Si ne voit vostre face.

I’ve had enough of all my problems. I endure pain and troubles, and all of the sadness and discomfort created by you. What I can do to be in your good graces? My heart will die of sadness, if I do not get to see your face. [I am guessing at a lot of this, since I know very little French.]
Is anyone able to give a good translation of this? Kirk?

Margrave Albrecht’s chorale text:

Was mein Gott will, das gscheh allzeit,
sein Will der ist der beste.
Zu helfen dem er ist bereit,
der an ihn glaubet feste.
Er hilft aus Not, der fromme Gott
Er tröst’ die Welt ohn Maßen.
Wer Gott vertraut, fest auf ihn baut,
den will er nicht verlassen.

[Whatever my God wants to happen, let it always happen that way.
His will is the best. He is ready to help that person who believes firmly in Him.
This gentle God, will help you out of times of trouble. He, unreservedly will comfort the world.
Whoever believes in God, and uses Him as a firm foundation, He will not forsake.]

Gott ist mein Trost, mein Zuversicht,
mein Hoffnung und mein Leben:
was mein Gott will, daß’ mir geschicht
will ich nicht widerstreben.
Sein Wort ist wahr, denn all mein Haar
Er selber hat gezählet.
Er hüt’ und wacht, stets für uns tracht’,
auf daß uns gar nichts fehlet.

[God is my consolation, hope and life, and I trust Him,
Whatever God desires that should happen to me, let it happen, for I will not resist.
His Word is true, for He has counted every strand of hair on my head. He protects and stands on guard for us,
And He constantly attends to us to make sure that we lack nothing.}

Drum, muß ich Sünder von der Welt
Hinfahrn nach Gottes Willen
Zu meinem Gott, wenn’s ihm gefällt
Will ich ihm halten stille.
Mein arme Seel ich Gott befehl
In meiner letzten Stunden:
Du frommer Gott, Sünd, Höll und Tod
Hast du mir überwunden.

[For this reason I, a sinner, must depart from this world according to His will.
I will go to my God, if it pleases Him, and I will remain calm for Him.
My poor soul I will commit to God in my last hours:
You, gentle God, have helped me to overcome sin, hell and death.]

Noch eins, Herr, will ich bitten dich,
du wirst mirs nicht versagen:
Wenn mich der böse Geist anficht
Laß mich, Herr, nicht verzagen.
Hilft, steur und wehr,
ach Gott, mein Herr, zu Ehren deinem Namen.
Wer das begehrt, dem wird’s gewährt.
Drauf sprech ich fröhlich: Amen.

[There is a final request that I hope that you, Lord, will not deny me:
When I am tormented by the evil spirit, do not allow me to despair, o Lord.
Help, guide and protect me, my Lord, so that I might become an honor to Your name.
Whoever desires this, it will be granted to him. To this I say joyfully: Amen.]

Johan van Veen wrote (February 1, 2002):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< BWV 92 – The Chorale Melody
Exactla century after Margrave Albrecht’s text for „Was mein Gott will, das gscheh allzeit“, was published, Paul Gerhardt (one of the most famous chorale text authors after Luther), in 1647, wrote the 12 verses of „Ich hab in Gottes Herz und Sinn“ to the same melody, and as you have seen, at least one other chorale text, „Barmherziger Vater, höchster Gott.” This provides us with the connections to BWV 92 and BWV 103/6.

The chorale melody for Bach remains primarily associated with the text by Margrave Albrecht. It is not clear whether Bach had ever seen or heard Claudin’s 4-pt chanson.

<third stanza>

Drum, muß ich Sünder von der Welt
Hinfahrn nach Gottes Willen
Zu meinem Gott, wenn’s ihm gefällt
Will ich ihm halten stille.
Mein arme Seel ich Gott befehl
In meiner letzten Stunden:
Du frommer Gott, Sünd, Höll und Tod
Hast du mir überwunden.

[For this reason I, a sinner, must depart from this world according to His will.
I will go to my God, if it pleases Him, and I will remain calm for Him.
My poor soul I will commit to God in my last hours:
You, gentle God, have helped me to overcome sin, hell and death.] >

I think the last two lines should be translated like this:

"You, gentle God, have defeated sin, hell and death for me."

This is a reference to Jesus' death at the cross for man's sins.

Aryeh Oron wrote (January 30, 2002):

The subject of this week's discussion (January 27, 2002) is Cantata BWV 92 – ‘Ich hab in Gottes Herz und Sinn’, according to Vicente Vida's proposed list of cantatas for discussion. In order to allow the members of the BCML preparing themselves for the discussion, I compiled a list of the recordings of this cantata. I put the details of the recordings in the following page of the Bach Cantatas Website:
Cantata BWV 92 - Recordings

There are at least five complete recordings of this cantata - Ramin [1], Richter [4], Leonhardt [5], Rilling [6], and Leusink. If anybody is aware of a recording of this cantata not listed in the page of recordings, please inform me and send the relevant details, so that I shall be able to update the page.

I hope to see many of you participating in the discussion.


The background below is based on several sources (mostly Alec Robertson and W. Murray Young) and something of my own. The English translations are taken from Richard Stokes’ book.

See: Cantata BWV 92 - Commentary

Review of the Recordings

[1] Günther Ramin (1954)
The opening fantasia in this rendition is dignified and truthful despite its technical deficiencies such as unclean playing and singing, and its ‘romantic’ approach. The recording is horrible even for the year in which this performance was recorded, and that makes thing even worse. One has to hear this rendition to comprehend that the message is more important that the means. Gert Lutze has also good intentions and he puts all the expression he can find within himself into his parts. To modern ears it can sound as too much expression. But I am quite sure that for his time his approach sounded absolutely right. The voice of the alto Gerda Schriever is vibrating so strongly without control that I believe that even at that time it irritated many people. Since I know nothing about her, I can only guess that she was far behind her prime when this recording was made. The bass Hans Hauptmann is making the outmost of his par and he certainly understands what is he singing about. The remark I wrote about Lutze can be applied to him as well. No pastoral charm can be found in Erika Burkhardt singing of the aria for soprano. The playing of the oboist, who fails to enter into real interaction with her, does not help her.

[4] Karl Richter (1973-1974)
Richter takes off the opening chorus following Ramin’s route, but he is doing much better. I mean that their approaches are similar, but Richter is better in almost every parameter one could think of: better choir, better orchestra, cleaner passages, and of course better and more balanced recording. It moves ahead with inner conviction, both heart and mind. I also find a kind of captivating gentleness in the playing of the instruments. One cannot hear his rendition without being grasped by it. For the singing of Peter Schreier and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau I have nothing but praises. DFD makes even the problematic second movement moving. Listen carefully to the way he ends it. The picture portrayed by Richter in the aria for tenor is lively indeed. This is a very dramatic performance. The fear is convincingly conveyed through Schreier’s singing of this aria. I am much less impressed with the anaemic singing of Edith Mathis. There is ono chemistry between her and the oboist and I do not think that he is to be blamed. Richter prefers to give the alto parts to the choir rather than to a solo alto singer, and it works, especially when this section of his choir is so good and homogenous. Actually for Mvt. 7 Richter uses the four sections of his choir and of the are doing well. The result is very convincing.

[5] Gustav Leonhardt (1979)
The instrumental introduction to the opening chorus is played beautifully, but what comes afterwards is rather disappointing. This is the most static rendition of them all. Movement, stop, movement, stop, until you get tired of it. I do not see how such approach reflects the message of the text. This approach almost kills the ensuing movement, which is problematic to bring out, despite the heroic efforts of Max van Egmond. If one stops listening to this recording at this point he will loose much. Because now comes the aria for tenor and the level is raising higher, much higher. Equiluz has sense for drama and sensitivity to every word, and the accompaniment given to him by Leonhardt describes the fight against the evil forces so convincingly. I like the voice of Paul Esswood, but I do not feel that he is bringing his wholeness into the performance of the chorale for alto. He sings it plainly. Maybe that is the way it should be done. The aria for soprano is too demanding for the dramatic abilities of the boy Detlef Bratschke. He is not helped by the motionless accompaniment he gets from m the oboist and all the rest. Paroral charm cannot be found here.

[6] Helmuth Rilling (1980)
Rilling’s rendition is more rounded and colourful than Richter’s, and as a result more cheerful. On the other hand it is less magnificent and firm, and therefore less dignified. Both are legitimate ways to praise God with heart and mind. Aldo Baldin is enthusiastic in his eagerness to fight Satan and his forces. But that his more than sheer enthusiasm to this aria, as both Schreier and Equiluz have managed to show us. Even late at her career, Helen Watts is head and shoulders above the competition in the chorale for alto. It is not very demanding technically, and she conveys pure honesty through her singing. The oboes play continuously and strongly and here and there they even cover Watts’ singing. Huttenlocher is very impressive, enjoy singing the long florid phrases and deliver his message with technical easiness. Hearing Arleen Augér in the aria for soprano is a relief and revelation, especially after the relative disappointment, which have been exprerienced with the previous performers of the aria for soprano. She has here her alter-ago in the playing of the oboist (Klaus Kärchner?). The chemistry in the duet between the soprano and the oboe makes this aria most appealing indeed, even memorable.

[7] Pieter Jan Leusink (1999)
I like the lightness of the playing in the introduction to the opening chorus. The fresh singing of the choir adds to the atmosphere of simplicity. Sytse Buwalda is not bad in the chorale for alto and he is getting more supaccompaniment than Esswood had with Leonhardt. Bas Ramselaar is satisfactory in the bass parts, but not as varied, as emotionally deep, and as expressive as DFD or Huttenlocher are. Schoch is better than his usual self in the aria for tenor. Although Holton’s timbre of voice suits perfectly the demand of the aria for soprano, and the playing of the oboes d’amore is charming, she sounds somewhat superficial after Augér.


Personal preferences of the performers:

Orchestra: Münchener Bach-Orchester [4], Bach-Collegium Stuttgart [6], Netherlands Bach Collegium [7], Leonhardt-Consort [5], Gewandhausorchester Leipzig [1]
Choir: Münchener Bach-Chor [4], Gächinger Kantorei Stuttgart [6], Holland Boys Choir [7], Knabenchor Hannover & Collegium Vocale Gent [5], Thomanerchor Leipzig [1]
Soprano: Arleen Augér [6], Ruth Holton [7], Edith Mathis [4], Detlef Bratschke [5], Erika Burkhardt [1]
Alto: Alto section of Münchener Bach-Chor [4], Helen Watts [6], Sytse Buwalda [7], Paul Esswood [5], Gerda Schriever [1]
Tenor: Kurt Equiluz [5], Peter Schreier [4], Gert Lutze [1], Aldo Baldin [6], Knut Schoch [7]
Bass: Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau [4], Philippe Huttenlocher [6], Hans Hauptmann [1], Bas Ramselaar [7], Max van Egmond [5]
Conductor: Richter [4], Rilling [6], Ramin [1], Leusink [7], Leonhardt [5]

My first priority for the complete recording of the cantata is Richter [4].

And as always, I would like to hear other opinions, regarding the above mentioned performances, or other recordings.

And now I am planing to immerse myself into the delights of one of my favourites cantatas. Next week’s discussion is about BWV 18!

Thomas Braatz wrote (January 31, 2002):
[To Aryeh Oron] Whose remarkable insight into understanding the 1st mvt. was it? Alec Robertson's, W. Murray Young's, or yours?
You indicated:
< Mvt. 1 Chorus
Ich hab in Gottes Herz und Sinn
(I have surrendered to God's heart and mind)
This majestic chorale fantasia impresses the listener with the feeling of complete confidence in God. The 1st verse of the hymn is sung and played tutti, the sopranos carrying the canto fermo of the chorale melody, which permeates all the other parts, vocal and instrumental. It is a magnificent opening number. >

Just who said that the chorale melody permeates all the other parts, vocal and instrumental?

I have spent many hours trying to prove this point which stands as a direct contradiction to Alfred Dürr's contention:

"Die Liedweise strahlt demnach -- sofern wir uns nicht auf eine höchst zweifelhafte Jagd nach vagen Anklängen begeben -- nichts von ihrer Melodik auf das sie umgebende Satzgefüge ab." and "Ihre [die Instrumente] Thematik ist unabhängig von der Choralweise." and "Die übrigen Singstimmen haben keinen Anteil an der Choralthematik, sondern verbinden sich mit den Streichern zu einem thematisch einheitlichen Imitationsgefüge...."
["The chorale melody, as long as we do not engage ourselves in a very doubtful activity of chasing down the origin of vague hints of this melody, does not allow any part of its melodic structure to be reflected in the orchestral parts or in the surrounding vocal lines (A,T,B)." "The thematic material of the instrumental ensemble is independent of the chorale melody." "The remaining vocal parts (A,T,B but not the cantus firmus in the soprano) do not share any of the thematic material of the chorale, but instead combine themselves with the strings in order to create a thematically unified imitatory grouping (which stands in contrast to the cantus firmus, the chorale melody sung by the sopranos.)"]

The opening figure in the oboi d'amore is the one that caused me to consider a connection with the chorale melody, but it was not until I had researched the origin of the chorale melody that the connection became clear. I found the congruent musical pattern at the end of the Stollen (the repeated A section) and at the conclusion of the Abgesang (check the definition of Bar-form.) Bach confuses the obvious connection by resorting to standardizing the chorale to mainly all quarter notes with the exception that he throws in a slight flourish toward the end. I checked all of his 4-part harmonizations of this chorale. They are all rather similar with the quarter-note standardization. This prevents Dürr from seeing what is really there: Bach creates his melodic material from the chorale itself, thus giving the composition a very dense structure with this specific fragment of the chorale melody seemingly appear everywhere. The support for the cantus firmus comes from the cantus firmus itself and serves to underline and intensify it and not simply appear as incidental, unrelated material. The initial theme announced at the very beginning of the mvt. in the oboi d'amore appears no less than 82 times throughout this mvt.! The shape or form of the theme is closer to the original composition of Claudin, to the "Souterliedekens" or to the melody as used by Margrave Albrecht. I have even found the original shape preserved (not the standardized shaping that Bach used) in a Lutheran Hymnal used by the Lutheran Church in North Germany (1966). Now it appears that Bach may have been aware of the original shape or form of this chorale melody, even though he may have been forced to use the standardized version required in the Leipzig churches.

As the musical figure played by the oboi d'amore changes to a new figure in ms. 5 and 6, there is an extremely close resemblance here to the opening bars of the last mvt. (Allegro) of BWV 972, which is Bach's keyboard transcription of Vivaldi's Violin Concerto Op. 3, No. 9 (RV 230). I wish there were some way to include recorded examples to compare these two separate mvts. so that you might be able to make up your own mind about this and also the connection of the chorale melody to its surrounding accompanying material. In this case (which certainly does not happen very often), I believe that Alfred Dürr is 'dead wrong' with his contention.

There is much more to this mvt. than 'meets the ear' upon first listening to it, and there is still more to be discovered there, for instance, the upward-moving, uplifting sequences in ms. 9 - 12. What could they signify? An uplifting after the initial melody allows one to drop down?

Aryeh Oron wrote (February 1, 2002):
[To Thomas Braatz] In some of the earlier episodes of the TV series 'The Sopranos'', one of the members of "the family" (Silvio, I believe) imitated Al Pacino from The Godfather, saying, "Just when I think I'm out, they pull me back in!". This is what I felt reading your message. Immediatly after sending my review of Cantata BWV 92 , I started listening to next week's cantata - BWV 18. I listened to it at my home and in my car while I was driving from one customer to the other. When I came back home ealier today I found your message, and was forcto re-investigate my writing, by listening again to the opening chorus of BWV 92.

Who wrote it? The credit must be paid to Alec Robertson, who wrote in his book: "The chorale melody, sung by the sopranos, permeats all the other parts, vocal and instrumental". After listening again to this magnificient chorus (the most memorable movement of this cantata), I do still concur with Robertson's observation and with your erudite commentary. On the other hand, was not it the same Alfred Dürr who wrote that you can 'feel' the chorale in almost every movement and every moment of a chorale cantata even when you do not actually hear it? I wonder.

Robin Crag wrote (February 2, 2002):
This is one of my favourite cantatas so far :-) (That doesn't say much, though, as more than half the ones I've heard are favourites!)

I love the Bass aria. It seems very joyfull and full of energy! As there are only 2 voices, I can actually listen to all evrything at the same time. (When there are many voices all sounding at once, I find it hard to work it all out.)

The tenor aria reminds me of Wagner's "ride of the valkyries" a little! Obviously, I prefer the Bach. There is a feeling of power here. Listening just earlier, with loud rain outside, it really implied something massive and powerfull!

Aryeh wrote:
< Mvt. 2 Chorale and Recitative for Bass
Es kann mir fehlen nimmermehr!
(I can no longer lack anything!)
The 2nd verse of the chorale is sung at intervals by the bass alone,
interspersed with sections of his recitative. Continuo only accompanies both
parts of this strange and unwieldy number, which, apart from the joy-motif
in the chorale lines, seems to have little musical merit. Bach must have
puzzled by how he should set it.
Mvt. 5 Recitative for Tenor
Wir wollen uns nicht länger zagen
(Let us then falter no longer)
This secco narration paraphrases stanzas 6 to 8 of the hymn. This most
expressive recitative is the only one in this cantata. The tenor says that
we Christians should not be fearful of anguish and pain, since Jesus Himself
endured much more of them. We must be patient and trust God. He ends with an
arioso on the word 'Geduld!' (Patience). >

I find the tenor recitative easier to appreciate, but somehow, it seems relatively similar to other recitatives of Bach. There is something quite strange about the Bass recit.. . Like the little "motif" the continuo line uses again and again. I like it in a funny sort of a way.

The other movements are wonderfull, too, but I can't think of much intresting to say about them, I'd better stop moidering now anyway,

Thomas Braatz wrote (February 4, 2002):

See: Cantata BWV 92 - Provenance

The 1st mvt. gives us an opportunity to observe Bach at work and come to a few conclusions about some of the methods applied in the creative process. Schweitzer was one of the Bach scholars to indicate that Bach would allow himself to be inspired by the text. Certain key words would attract his attention. These words would not be static (abstract nouns, etc.) but would rather tend to imply movement or antithesis that could supply tension or dramatic contrast that would help to establish a problematical situation that would gradually move toward resolution which would be achieved at the end of the cantata. Other words might lend themselves to the possibility of a single instance of word painting that might even be expanded to become an important foundation for the entire 1st mvt. As I have already indicated recently, Bach also allowed himself to be inspired by certain aspects of the choral melody, a melody that only incidentally became associated with the text that he was attempting to portray musically. His purpose in extracting musical figures from the chorale melody served the purpose of unifying all aspects of the composition. The same musical density which Bach attained in his fugues is also present here. A listener will perceive the apparent ease with which everything seems to ‘hang together.’ The effect upon the listener is similar to the effect achieved by a writer who presents a well-written paragraph at the beginning of an article, essay, or book. The quality of the writing, or here the composition, serves to draw the reader or listener in so as to identify the audience with the material more completely in ways that extend beyond a simple array or notes or words.

In order that you might be able to follow my discoveries without referring to the actual score, I will present the structure of the 1st mvt., beginning with the basic form and then expanding it rather like a telescope, so that the details can be located and studied specifically wherever they appear. By referring particularly to the line numbers of the chorale text with the associated measure numbers, it should be possibly for you, with the help of a recording to notice things that might otherwise escape your attention. I know that this happened to me even with the score in hand.

Let me review quickly Alfred Dürr’s contention (also check the quotations from his work that I translated and submitted recently) by quickly examining his analysis of the mvt. structurally:

Soprano: carries the chorale melody with long note values

Oboes I,II: help to carry the instrumental themes at times pausing, at other times independent of everything else

The following have imitative (fugal-type) entries and use of thematic materials independent of the chorale melody:
Violin I:
Violin II: + Alto voice
Viola + Tenor voice
Continuo + Bass

As I notice from Aryeh’s answer to my question, Alec Robertson perceived more correctly what is really going on in this mvt. He stated that the chorale melody permeates all aspects of this mvt. In other words, the chorale melody is not independent, or does not stand isolated from everything else in this mvt. This is a remarkable insight, that took a lot of study this past week to confirm. Having found the original shape of the chorale melody (not the one currently in use during Bach’s time in Leipzig), was a major step to send me looking for further evidence to corroborate my own findings.

First you will have to understand the basic structure of the common type of chorale text that Bach would harmonize or apply in extended format at the beginning of a chorale cantata. For this the technical term, ‘Barform,’ is used. The barform consists of two sections: 1. the Stollen – the section which is repeated; and 2. the Abgesang – the not-repeated section that concludes the chorale. In the chorale that Bach uses here, the music for the 1st two lines of text is repeated, but the text is not. The text continues. This poses a problem for Bach because a certain word that might be musically colored with word painting in the 1st half of the Stollen before the repeat is taken, most likely will have different words at the same point in the music during the repeat. While this might be acceptable when only the chorale melody is sung where no special coloring or emphasis is possible, the situation changes when Bach attempts to match the music closely to fit the text, but the text changes in the musically repeated section. Musically however the structure is otherwise simple: A, A’, B where A is the Stollen and B the Abgesang. Actually, from a musical standpoint, and Bach must have been quite aware of the fact that there is a further repeat of the A section at the very end, since it simplified his task immensely. Thus we really have an A B A structure which is ideal. To be sure, the A part is repeated so that it should properly read: A, A’, B, A’.

By adding ritornelli, Bach expands the structure so as to enhance the frame structure by having the same music (ritornello) occurring at both ends of the mvt. This is somewhat like providing book ends that will lend support and keep the books on an open shelf or table from falling over.

Now the musical structure begins to look like this (the measure numbers follow and a simple letter code is applied for easy reference later: R = Ritornello; C = Chorale line;G = Bridge):

R1 – Ritornello (instrumental only) 1-16
C1 – Chorale (1st line) 17-22
G1 – Bridge (instruments only) 23-24
C2 – Chorale (2nd line) 25-31
R1 – Ritornello (same as beginning) 32-47
C1 – Chorale (3rd line) 48-53
G1 – Bridge 54-55
C2 – Chorale (4th line) 56-62

[End of Stollen]
[Beginning of Abgesang]

R2 – Ritornello (changed) 63-74
C3 – Chorale (5th line) 75-80
R3 – Ritornello (different) 81-88
C4 – Chorale (6th line) 89-94
R4 – Ritornello (different) 95-104
C1 – Chorale (7th line) 105-110 (same as C1)
G1 – Bridge 111-112 (same as G1)
C2 – Chorale (8th line) 113-119 (same as C2)
R1 – Ritornello (same as beginning) 120-136

Notice Bach’s economy of means! The ‘mileage’ that he obtains from the R1 ritornello is remarkable: these 16 measures are repeated 2 more times as are also the C1, G1, C2 blocks. These leaves only about 40 ms. that are treated differently, which means that almost 100 ms. are accounted for in the repeated sections. In ms. 81-88, this foreshortened ritornello nevertheless is very similar to ms. 7-12 in the opening ritornello with the oboi and violin parts switched.

It is important to refer to each line of the chorale text separately. For this reason I will restate verse 1, line by line, with a reference letter and number and include Z. Philip Ambrose’s English translation.

1st : Ich habe in Gottes Herz und Sinn [I have in God’s own heart and mind]
2nd: Mein Herz und Sinn ergeben. [My heart and mind surrendered;]
3rd: Was böse scheint, ist mein Gewinn, [What seemeth ill is for my gain,]
4th: Der Tod selbst ist mein Leben. [E’en death itself, my living.]
5th: Ich bin ein Sohn des, der den Thron [I am a son of who the throne]
6th: Des Himmels aufgezogen; [Of heaven hath laid open;]
7th: Ob er gleich schlägt und Kreuz auflegt, [Though he strike me and cross impose,]
8th: Bleibt doch sein Herz gewogen. [His heart keeps yet its favor.]

Now that we have identified all the separate parts of this mvt., let us attempt to follow a probable method that Bach employed in composing an introductory mvt. for a chorale cantata such as this one. As an introductory mvt. it becomes the most important element in the entire cantata, as it calls upon all available musicians to participate in a concertante style, not simply doubling instrumental and vocal parts as in the final chorale. This mvt. has to ‘set the stage’ for the entire cantata as it introduces the main themes or motifs and, at the same time, creates a momentum that will need to carry the listener through various stages of emotional reactions until reaching a positive resolution in the final chorale.

Bach would investigate the true nature or origin of the chorale melody, since this would be his primary source for musical material that would be used in various ways throughout the mvt.: to underscore the melody, but also to set groups of instruments or voices against each other (the basic meaning of ‘concerto.’) In his library (verified by the listing of books in his estate at the time of his death), he would consult books such as Wagner’s “Leipziger Gesangbuch” [“The Leipzig Hymnal”] which is not what we would consider to be the type of hymnal with which most of us would be familiar. On the contrary, this was, most likely, a rather thorough study of all existing chorale texts and melodies used in the Lutheran Church at his time. It consisted of 8 volumes! Here Bach might have been able to track down the original form or shape of a melody such as Margrave Albrecht’s use of Claudin’s chanson in the chorale, “Was mein Gott will, das gscheh allzeit.” And even if Claudin’s original, secular chanson or the Dutch contrafact in the “Souterliedekens” had not been included there, Bach still would have noted the slightly different conclusion in Margrave Albrecht’s use of the melody, when compared to the standardized Leipzig version that he was required to use. The original melody had notes with varying time values or even entirely different notes. It is here, in the original chorale melody form that Bach finds the source of inspiration for the opening melodic phrase in the cantata. Perhaps Bach was even attempting to reunite the differing versions by deliberately choosing a phrase from the original, and not from the version commonly used in Leipzig. In any case, he was ‘tapping into’ Claudin’s original conception and found something worthwhile that had somehow become lost in the endeavor to ‘even out’ and standardize the melody. The variant musical figure that I am referring to is found at the end of the Stollen and again at the end of the Abgesang: D, C#, D (E), C#, B, F#. The phrase comes down a half step, but then moves back with a higher grace note in parenthesis, before coming back down. The final F# is the first note in the chorale that would follow right after the 1st time through the Stollen or after the Abgesang when returning to the next verse. Claudin’s original has this conclusion: D, C#, B, A#, B, F# which is the same as Bach’s opening figure in the oboi d’amore parts.

It is very likely that Bach ‘tried out’ or ‘played around with’ the feasibility of using this original figure before he even wrote down a single note on the score. There is evidence from Bach’s private music students, that he would take a chorale melody and improvise filling in the other parts with imitative, fugal entries of the type found here. The relationship of the accompanying musical figures to the chorale melody is very direct indeed when they are derived from the chorale melody itself. Instead of beginning the mvt. by providing a prelude consisting of a shortened-note figure based on the opening notes of the chorale [which would be like giving the congregation the notes they would be singing shortly,] Bach here instead finds a more interesting figure already supplied by the original composer of the melody, but long forgotten, at least in Leipzig. As already indicated, this key figure appears a total of 82 times in the vocal as well as the instrumental parts. After it is stated first by the oboi d’amore, it is repeated once more by the strings + bc, but then the oboi d’amore take off on a new, upward ascending figure beginning in ms. 3. Where does this come from and to what does it relate? The answer is found in ms. 91-92 in the 1st violin part at a point in this mvt. where the choir is singing “aufgezogen” [“the verb the represents Christ’s ascending into heaven”] at the end of the 6th line. This is Bach involved in word painting, but before we delve more deeply into this, remember to listen for Bach’s quotation of a Vivaldi concerto in the oboi in ms. 5-8. This joyful tune comes from the opening bars of the last mvt. (Allegro) of BWV 972, which is Bach's keyboard transcription of Vivaldi's Violin Concerto Op. 3, No. 9 (RV 230).

As with the word painting phenomenon already observed with “aufgezogen,” it is also possible to observe Bach seizing upon key ideas in the text, not only for applying a daub here or there where it can only relate for a short moment to the word actually being sung, but also on a much grander scale as it might affect whole sections of a mvt. or even continue through other mvts. of the cantata. Schweitzer has already pointed out, how important Bach considered the representation of movement in music, particularly the upward and downward movement of notes in scale passages or interval leaps. Perhaps the most important representation is the “Christ’s ascension motif” which occurs when the cantus firmus sings “des Himmels auf [gezogen]” [“being pulled or moved up to heaven” – this assumes the verb ‘heraufgezogen’, but this can also be read as “opened up” (as one would a curtain.)] In any case, we are asked to look upward toward heaven. From the chorale melody, which moves upward scalewise, Bach takes his cue here for including this not only in the immediately preceding ritornello to introduce the direction (the oboi ascend on dotted quarter notes from ms. 85 to 88,) but in numeroother instances: 1st violins (9-12, 40-43, 128-131) with a remarkable instances occurring in ms. 71-73, where the upward mvt. is then continued for 2 additional ms. 73-75 in the bc. In ms. 85-88 the pattern is switched to the oboi. [The NBA KB has an example of one of Bach's 'doodles.' Here he writes out, in some extra space at the bottom of the score, only the long notes for the ascending instrumental line, before he continues composing it on the next page. He is thinking of 'heraufgezogen' which will be sung after this ritornello.] Now consider also the vocal bass part in ms. 78-80 which moves swiftly upward in a series of 16th notes. This upward-streaming 16th note pattern is reiterated by the oboi d’amore in ms. 9-11, 34-35, 40-42, 71-74, 81-82, 92-93, 97-104, 111-112, 122-123, 128-133, and by the violins in ms. 13-14, 44-45, 54-55, 85-88, 91-92, and the bc in ms. 80.

There are sections in this composition which, if you listen carefully to feel the music, you will begin to feel yourself being uplifted musically. Everything seems to conspire in those moments to pull you upwards – a remarkable feeling!

However, there is a contrasting movement that wishes to remind us incessantly of the mankind’s fall. Where does all of this come from? Consider again the chorale text, verse 1: Man’s downfall occurs, causing the encounter with evil, being ‘struck’ and having to carry one’s own cross to the point of death. All of this translates into a downward motion. At the same time Vivaldi’s joyful motif is being sounded by the oboi, the bc in ms. 5-6 begins a 3-note descending scale figure containing ¼ notes followed by 1/8 note rests, a figure repeated two more times. The violins 1 & 2 have a two-note figure that jumps up a third with an 1/8 note rest following (3X), but the viola has descending interval figures, leaps downward at the intervals of a ¼, a 1/5, and even an augmented 7th! Now we need only think of BWV 637, an organ chorale prelude which has the pedal play this drop exactly the same way, an interval drop followed by a rest. The name of the chorale in question is “Durch Adams Fall ist ganz verderbt” [“Through Adam’s fall everything has been spoiled.”] The violins have this motif in ms. 7-8, 38-39, 126-127; the violas in ms. 5-6, 26-27, 36-37, 57-58, 67-69, 114, 124-125; and the bc in ms. 21, 26, 52, 57, 75-77 109, 114.

There are a number of instances where these motions, upward and downward, occur simultaneously. Bach probably derived great satisfaction in having such a confluence of contrary ideas, since they connected and interrelated on a theological level. Now he was able to emulate this in music as well.

Thomas Braatz wrote (February 5, 2002):
BWV 92 - The Recordings

I listened to Ramin (1954) [1]; Richter (1973-4) [4]; Leonhardt (1979) [5]; Rilling (1980) [6]; Leusink (1999) [7]

[1] Ramin:
1st mvt. is slow and deliberate with dignity, but beyond that the problems with this recording are almost too many to enumerate, beginning with the technical recording aspects (slight wow and flutter, equipment unable to capture the sound without distortion), the poor intonation in the upper instruments (oboi d’amore and strings), lack of precision in playing and singing, and ending with a rather belabored feeling that makes the listener feel glad when the mvt. is over. Even at that point, a grandiose ritardando at the conclusion puts the final touch on this interpretation. At least the cantus firmus is strong, but there are a number of wobbly voices (vibrato) in the choir. Mvts. 2,6: the bass, Hauptmann, has a disturbingly fast vibrato and takes breaths in the middle of the melismas/coloraturas. Mvts. 3,5: the tenor, Lutze, slides to some notes and quite obviously strains to reach the high notes. Mvt. 4: the alto, Schriever, is much too operatic for a simple chorale. Mvt. 7: intonation and precision problems are evident in the choir. Mvt. 8: the soprano, Burkhardt, is an operatic soprano well past her prime and should not have been singing Bach. The voice, with a wide vibrato, is shaky. She attacks some notes with a Glottisanschlag and swoops up to others. This is absolutely unbearable. The final chorale, Mvt. 9, has an immense ritardando at the very end. There are sloppy attacks. This is the Thomanerchor at its worst!

[4] Richter:
Mvt. 1. Richter takes a perfect tempo and seems to make every aspect of this mvt. sound just right. There is a reserved, melancholy beauty in the treatment of the oboi d’amore. The strings actually ‘sing’ their melodic sequences, and the bc demonstrates how a bass line should be treated: gentle at times, reacting sensitively to whatever is happening in the other parts, and at the same time adding a firm foundation as needed. There is much variation in how Richter has the bc played: sometimes very legato, but at other times punctuating the notes. Compare this to the more insistent bc in the Rilling recording, or the rather boring, insensitive treatments in the Leonhardt and Leusink recordings. Also listen carefully to the cantus firmus! It is a strong, firm, steady, legato line that is sung with conviction by the sopranos. It never wavers from its intensity as it relentlessly pursues its determined course all the way to the end of the mvt. The cf is not wobbly like Rilling’s, nor is it understated as with Leusink. Listen for the marvelous manner in which the bc engages in a dialogue with itself (in the ritornello that directly follows “des Himmels aufgezogen.” Here Bach repeats the musical pattern in the high range, then in the low range of the bc. This pattern continues for 9 ms. Mvt. 2,6: DFD has a memorable voice that sets a standard for excellence that very few voices in our time have even begun to approach. Mvt. 3,5: Schreier is simply the best for this type of dramatic aria. He is musically and vocally in control of everything, expression as well as the vocal technique required in this aria. Mvt. 4: This is a very satisfying treatment of the alto voice with all of the altos singing the part. Mvt. 7 Here is a weak mvt. with several problems: the organ is too shrill, there are serious intonation problems nevertheless (or perhaps just because Richter overemphasizes the organ,) and the voices do not sing the recitatives well together. Mvt. 8: Mathis gives an overwrought, operatic version of this otherwise wonderful aria. There is an incongruity between her vocal presentation and the actual musical content: the delicate, ‘pizzicato’ strings. She is the worst soloist in this recording and vies with Burkhardt to take the ‘honors’ of being at the very bottom of the list of all sopranos who have recorded this aria.

[5] Leonhardt:
Mvt. 1: Imagine that during Bach’s time, a band of players from a nearby village had been invited to accompany the church choir in one of the lesser churches in Leipzig. The previous evening, the band had been engaged to play at a farm festival dance. There they played until very late into the night, and perhaps had more than just a few beers during their breaks. Early Sunday morning these country bumpkins, suffering from more than just a slight hangover, remember their commitment to play in church. Somehow they manage to assemble just in time for the service. The conductor, one of those that Herr Bach did not get along well with, has a bright idea: In order to make sure that the band would stay together while playing, he suggested that they all tap their feet on the first and fourth beat of the 6/8 time signature indicated fothis piece. This worked out so well that even the choir members joined in by adding a strong accent on the ‘one’ and ‘four’ of each measure. They knew full well that Herr Bach would not like this, since he frowned upon this crude practice, but they had fun nevertheless emphasizing the strong beat followed by two weak ones. From this wonderful experience with Herr Bach’s dour church music, evolved a new form of dance: the waltz. 275 years later a conductor discovered this connection and decided that this was the way Bach had always wanted his cantatas to be performed. Mvts. 2,6: van Egmond’s half-voice, barking at times, whispering at other times, is ill-suited for this type of music. This is not a strong singing voice. His voice seems to create the impression that singing is actually taking place while the actual sound and volume are very weak indeed. Mvt. 3,5: Equiluz almost always has difficulty with arias that demand an angular treatment with leaps sung with a full voice. Somehow the demands made upon Equiluz’ voice are greater than the vocal capabilities that he possesses. In the recitative, he definitely recovers and is back to his usual excellence. [Harnoncourt Doctrine in bc.] Mvt. 4: Esswood has the usually intonation problems compounded by the oboi d’amore that are terrible as well. These oboe players never did learn how to master their instruments over a 20-year period. It makes one wonder about their commitment to the music that they are playing. Didn’t they care, or did they simply not have a sensitive musical ear for this type of thing? Mvt. 7, 9: All you can hear is thrust, thrust, boom, boom, bang, bang. If Claudin were to hear his chanson performed in this manner, he would have turned over in his grave. Mvt. 8: Bratschke’s intonation is ok, but there is not much else available here in the way of expression.

[6] Rilling:
Mvt. 1: Rilling rushes this mvt. slightly. It feels as if he is constantly attempting to keep the tempo from slowing down. Here all the vocal parts are clear and well-balanced. The cf in the sopranos is somewhat wobbly due to the vibratos present there. This is unfortunate, since this cf should be strong and clear without any special coloring. Richter gives the best example of what the cf should sound like. The bc has an insistent bassoon that disturbs the steadiness of the bass line, particularly when it is in the higher range. Mvt. 2,6: Huttenlocher does not move the listener with his affectations. His fast vibrato serves only to distract from the music and text. The aria actually begins to sound like a parody of a Bach aria. Mvts. 3,5: Baldin sounds quite strained in this demanding aria. In the recitative he does well in the soft parts, but continues to strain towards the high notes where he uses too much vibrato. Mvt. 4: Watts is much too operatic for singing a simple chorale melody. She wants to make an opera out of it. Her voice is way past its prime. This is evident in her inability to control her voice properly. Mvt. 7: The choir has intonation problems. It is rather unusual to hear Rilling’s choir singing so poorly. Mvt. 8: Augér ‘nails’ this aria by exhibiting the necessary tenderness lacking in all the other recordings. The final chorale still has some intonation problems.

[7] Leusink:
Mvt. 1: Leusink demonstrates a reluctance to move away from the Harnoncourt/Leonhardt mold. The bc, as usual, is too heavy and insensitively played. It simply plods along with heavy accents here and there. The only bright spot here is the excellent sound and playing of the oboi d’amore. The choir exhibits its usual antics. The cf is clear, but not strong. The other voices tend not to blend with each other. There are also intonation problems in the final chorale. Mvts. 2,6: Ramselaar has a clear, somewhat uninteresting half-voice that engages in sotto voce singing throughout. Mvts. 3,5: Schoch manages to give a reasonable presentation, but without very much in the way of expression. There is a dead quality in his voice at times. Mvt. 4: Buwalda’s singing will never do for the text that demands much more commitment on the part of the singer. Mvt. 8: Holton, as usual with her half-voice, hast little in the low range and generally lacks expression. It sounds really silly for her to engage in special flourishes and embellishments as a great artist might, when she should be thankful that she can get the notes right.


Excellent: Richter (1,4,7,9); DFD (2,6) Schreier (3,5); Augér (8)

Good: Rilling (1); Baldin (3.5) Equiluz (3,5)

Fair: Leusink (1); Ramin (7,9); Rilling (7,9); Hauptmann (2,6); Ramselaar (2,6); Huttenlocher (2,6); Lutze (3,5); Schoch (3,5); Holton (8); Bratschke (8)

Poor: Leonhardt (1,9) Ramin (1); Leusink (7,9); van Egmond (2,6); Buwalda (4); Esswood (4); Schriever (4); Watts (4); Mathis (8); Burkhardt (8)

Santu de Silva (Archimedes) wrote (February 9, 2002):
For a more simplified- -perhaps oversimplified- -description of bar-form, listen to Hans Sachs coaching Walther for the prize song in Die Meistersinger! It is one of my favorite moments in Wagner opera.


Hermann Max, three cantatas

Lex Schelvis wrote (May 14, 2006):
This morning I attended a concert in the Concertgebouw Amsterdam (one of the better places to hear Bach) by Das Kleine Konzert & Rheinische Kantorei, director Hermann Max. They played a cantata by Johann Ludwig Bach: 'Die Weisheit kommt nicht in eine boshafte Seele', the Motette 'Der Geist hilft unserer Schwachheit auf" (BWV 226), and 'Ich hab' in Gottes Herz und Sinn' (BWV 92). The big surprise for me was the composition by Johann Ludwig, everybody always told me he was a minor composer, but I don't agree, now that I've heard this cantata. I should have known, Bach probably played 18 cantatas by his cousin in 1726, so he really must have liked the music. (I still don't like the Luke Passion though.)

For the interested ones: only this week the concert is on internet:

Go to, click on 'Luisterkamer' left on the screen, then 'Radio-archief' on the right side of your screen, then on 'Zondagochtend Concert'.

Neil Halliday wrote (May 19, 2006):
Lex Schelvis wrote:
<"Go to, click on 'Luisterkamer' left on the screen, then 'Radio-archief' on the right side of your screen, then on 'Zondagochtend Concert'.">
Thanks for the link. I liked the final chorus of the JLB cantata, but the rich texture of JSB's double choir motet BWV 226, beautifully rendered by Max's forces, is obviously the work of a greater composer.
I compared Max's BWV 92 with Rilling's recording [6].

BWV 92/1. The opening movement flows nicely, without the hint of rigidity that I hear in Rilling's performance, and despite the pointed articulation of Max's period strings, which is not my preferred mode of expression. Max's full choir sound is as pleasing as Rilling, in this beautiful music. Tempo is the same as Rilling.

BWV 92/2. Rilling uses harpsichord for the recitative/arioso bits and organ for the chorale bits, in this movement that Robertson describes as "scrappy". This helps maintain interest, in contrast to the sameness of the organ registration all through, in the Max realisation.

BWV 92/3. I find Max's period strings show some loss of clarity and strength in the exciting writing for strings, in comparison to Rilling's modern strings.

BWV 92/4. Pleasing in both performances.

BWV 92/5. Max has improved on the scrappy short secco recitative accompaniment pioneered by Harnoncourt, simply by holding the chords fa longer time.

BWV 92/6. Both interesting performances; Rilling's is more vigorous with more impact.

BWV 92/7. Rilling makes a more substantial movement of this, by allotting the chorale sections to the full choir thus forming a contrast to the intervening B,T,A, and finally S recitative sections, as opposed to the wholly OVPP approach of Max. Once again, Rilling uses the organ in the `chorale' sections, and harpsichord in the `recitative' sections. Robertson considers this movement to be much more satisfying the "scrappy" second movement.

BWV 92/8. This "exquisite" (Robertson) soprano aria, with oboe and pizzicato strings, is lovely in both performances.

BWV 92/9. Both fine performances. The pointedness of the choral articulation in Max's full choir performance is not overdone.


Continue on Part 2

Cantata BWV 92: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

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