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Cantata BWV 93
Wer nur den lieben Gott läßt walten
Discussions - Part 5

Continue from Part 4

Discussions in the Week of June 29, 2014 (4th round)

William Hoffman wrote (June 29, 2014):
Re: [BachCantatas] Cantata 93, “Wer nur den lieben Gott läßt walten”: Intro.

“In its symmetry of design, its effective musical structure, and, above all, its sheer strength of expression,” Cantata BWV 93, “Wer nur den lieben Gott läßt walten” (Whoever lets only the dear God reign) “affords a notably fine example of Bach’s trenchant originality in the composition of the chorale cantata,” says Nicholas Anderson in his Cantata 93 essay in Oxford Composer Companions: J. S. Bach.1 Cantata 93 “is anchored firmly and with unusual consistency” to a popular Georg Neumark chorale assigned to the Fifth Sunday after Trinity in the service designation found in the Leipzig, Dresden and Weißenfels hymn books of Bach's time, says Günther Stiller in Johann Sebastian Bach & Liturgical Life in Leipzig.2

Neumark’s 1640 hymn of consolation, that Bach also used in six varied sacred cantatas and four organ chorale preludes, makes extensive use of all seven text stanzas of the Bar Form AA1B six line hymn, one stanza each to a movement, with text as well as Neumark’s engaging melody found in all seven movements. Using palindrome mirror symmetrical form Bach sets the first stanza verbatium in a complex chorale fantasia in 12/8 pastorale dance style that exploits all four voices and the final summary congregational stanza unaltered with full harmonization and instrumental support, “Sing, bet und geh auf Gottes Wegen” (Sing, pray and go on God's way). The central Stanza 4, “Er kennt die rechten Freudesstunden” (He knows the right hours of joy), is set as an engaging soprano-alto duet in imitation with the cantus firmus in the accompanying unison violins and viola. Later about 1747-8/48, Bach adapted this as a Schübler Organ Chorale trio, BWV 647.

Internally, Bach exploits two new, innovative forms of arioso chorale trope (text and melody) with interspersed secco recitative, beginning with the bass voice of authority and continuo (Mvt. 2) in catechismal question-and-answer style with a chorale line followed by free-verse interpretive recitative. In Mvt. 5, the tenor evangelist declares each chorale line/melody followed with extensive recitative witness. Bach more sparingly uses one or two chorale lines with paraphrasing poetry in the two simplistic internal arias with strings: Mvt. 3, a tenor minuet-like “Man halte nur ein wenig stille” (If we only keep quiet for a little), and Mvt. 6, a soprano free-paraphrase with thematic repetition, “Ich will auf den Herren schaun” (I want to look to the Lord).

Chorale Cantata BW 93 was first performed on July 9, 1724, with a second Leipzig performance, 1732-1733. Only the continuo part of the first four movements survives from the first performance. The second performance may have been part of a repeat of the entire cycle in 1732-33 and Bach scholars are uncertain how much Bach may have revised the music for the reperformance. The text Georg Neumark quotes Mvts. 1, 4, 7) with an anonymous paraphrase ?Picander (Mvts. 2, 3, 5, 6). The Neumark/librettist German text and Francis Browne English translation is found at BCW

Neumark’s chorale (text and melody) is in simple Bar AAB from of two lines for each balanced melodic phrase, the whole being tuneful with rhythmic simplicity. Thus the six lines are paired: A. Stollen = lines 1&2, A1. Stollen = lines 3&4; B. Abgesang = lines 5&6.

Chorale Text: “Wer nur den lieben Gott läßt walten,” Georg Neumark 1657 (7 stanzas, 6 lines), NLGB No. 303, Cross, Persecution & Challenge (Nos. 275-404), EKG 298; Neumark (1621-1681) BCW Short Biography,; Neumark German text and Francis Browne English translation, BCW,

Chorale Melody: Neumark 1640 “Wer nur den lieben Gott läßt walten” (Zahn 2778, EKG 298); “Chorale Melodies used in Bach's Vocal Works,” see BCW Two text and melody variants: Text 2: “Wer weiß, wie nahe mir mein Ende” by Ämilie Juliane von Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt (1686), Text 3: “Ich armer Mensch, ich armer Sünder” by Christoph Tietze (1663)

Readings for the Fifth Sunday after Trinity, Epistle 1 Peter 3:8-15 (Be patient in affliction), Gospel: Luke 5:1-11 (The miraculous draught of fishes); German translation Martin Luther 1545, English translation Authorised (King James) Version [KJV], 1611, see

Gospel, PART TWO: Paired Miracles & Teachings
* Trinity 5: Luke 5: 1-11 ­ Miracle: draught of fishes

And he entered into one of the ships, which was Simon's, and prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land. And he sat down, and taught the people out of the ship.
* Trinity 6: Matthew 5: 20-26 ­ Teaching: Agree with your adversary

Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer

thy gift.

The Introit Psalm is Psalm 8, Domine, Dominus noster (O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! (KJV, text, says Martin Petzoldt in BACH Kommentar, Vol. 1, Trinity Sundays.3 Petzoldt describes the readings as Psalm 8 is the Prophecy of Christ, his Kingdom, Suffering, and Splendour; the Epistle as Ready for Responsibility; and the Gospel as Peter’s Fish Foray. Cantata BWV 93 was performed on July 9, 1724, before the sermon at the early service at St. Thomas with the sermon on the Gospel (Luke 5:1-11) delivered by Subdeacon M. Jusus Gotthard Rabener (1688-1731), says Petzoldt (Ibid.), substituting for the first time for Pastor Christian Weise (1671-1736). Rabener, beginning in 1721 as Subdeacon, filled in for Weise who had a recurring loss of voice illness, beginning in 1721 but resumed regular preaching from Easter 1724 onwards, with interruptions, says Alfred Dürr in The Cantatas of J. S. Bach.4

Cantata 93: Special Features

For just the second time in his first seven chorale cantatas in early trinity Time 1724, Bach uses the full compliment of four solo voices -- soprano, alto, tenor and bass -- in arias or recitatives, as he had done at the previous Feast of the Visitation, July 2. The first five works (BWV 20, 2, 135, 177, and 7) utilized alto, tenor, and bass solo voices, perhaps reflecting Bach’s preference for avoiding the canto high voice usually emphasized in four-part chorales and carrying the melody. In Cantata 93, all four voices share fully in the four-part writing in various permutations and combinations of harmonic opportunity.5

Bach’s judicious use of solo voices is particularly impressive and effective in his two troped chorale adaptation movements of two stanzas (Nos. 2 and 5). Here the same male voice, bass or tenor, sings the initial chorale arioso line (text and melody) verbatim in adagio tempo, followed by the poetic response as secco recitative lines. Bach’s model is the “catechismal question-and-answer formula” in which the student learns his lessons, says John Eliot Gardiner in his 2008 liner notes to his 2000 Bach Cantata Pilgrimage Soli Deo Gloria recordings.6 “Although [Cantata 93] belongs to his second cycle and its opening chorale fantasia is appropriately sophisticated, Bach seems to be delving back to his childhood roots, not just on account of this cherished hymn but in the way he structures it in two of the movements (Nos 2 an5), based on the catechismal question-and-answer formula by which he learnt all his lessons. So he takes a stanza of Neumark’s hymn and announces it line by line: ‘What can heavy cares avail us? What good is our woe and lament?’, always lightly embellished by the soloist, and then interrupts it in free recitative by means of an answering text: ‘They only oppress the heart with untold agony and endless fear and pain’, and so on, as in a medieval trope. It means that one needs to be constantly alert to Bach’s free treatment of Neumark’s chorale (or else utterly familiar with it, as was his congregation) in order to follow the astonishing ways he varies, decorates, abridges or repeats it – all for rhetorically expressive ends.” Adding authority is Bach’s use of male voices, the tenor that often functions as the evangelist offering witness testimony, or the bass as the divine authority of Vox Dei or Vox Cristi. A similar practice in the Catholic tradition was the monodist singing monologue, reflecting on the singer’s circumstances, found most effectively in scenas from Claudio Monteverdi’s l’Orfeo and L’incoronazione di Poppea as well as early Italian oratorios.

Movements, scoring, initial text, key, time signature:

1. Stanza 1 Chorus two-part with ritornelli, dal segno (SATB); Oboe I/II, Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo: A. “Wer nur den lieben Gott läßt walten” (Whoever lets only the dear God reign, Ps, 103:11); B. “Wer Gott, dem Allerhöchsten, traut, / Der hat auf keinen Sand gebaut” (Whoever trusts in almighty God / has not built upon sand; Ps. 57:3, Sir. 11:23a, Mt. 7:26); c minor, 12/8 time pastorale style. 2. Stanza 2, Chorale trope with melody (quoting lines 1, 2, 3, 5) and Recitative commentary (Bass, Continuo): 1. “Was helfen uns die schweren Sorgen?” (How much do heavy worries help us?); secco “Sie drücken nur das Herz . . .” (They only weigh down the heart . . .); 2. “Was hilft uns unser Weh und Ach?” (How much do our 'woe and alas' help us?); secco “Es bringt nur bittres Ungemach . . . ” (It brings only bitter hardship . . . ); 3. “Was hilft es, daß wir alle Morgen” (How much does it help, that every morning we); secco “mit Seufzen von dem Schlaf aufstehn . . . ” (should get up from sleep with sighs . . .); 5. “Wir machen unser Kreuz und Leid” (We make our own cross and sorrow), secco “Durch bange Traurigkeit nur größer . . .” (only greater through anxious sadness . . . ); g minor, 4/4 3. Stanza 3, Aria song-form, chorale trope lines 1 & 2, dal segno (Tenor; Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo): 1. “Man halte nur ein wenig stille” (If we only keep quiet for a little); A. “Wenn sich die Kreuzesstunde naht” (when the hour of the cross draws near); 2. “Denn unsres Gottes Gnadenwille” (then the merciful will of our God); B. “Verläßt uns nie mit Rat und Tat” (never forsakes us in counsel or deed); E-Flat Major, 3/8 passepied-menuett style. 4. Stanza 4 Chorale Aria all 6 lines (Duetto) in imitation (Soprano, Alto) with instrumental cantus firmus; Violino I/II e Viola all' unisono (C.f.), Continuo): A. “Er kennt die rechten Freudesstunden” (He knows the right hours of joy), A1 “Wenn er uns nur hat treu erfunden” (if he has only found us faithful); B. “Und merket keine Heuchelei” (and notices no hypocrisy); c minor, 4/4; =Schübler Organ Chorale BWV 647. 5. Stanza 5, Chorale (all six lines) and Recitative (20 lines freely versified and interspersed) (Tenor, Continuo): “Denk nicht in deiner Drangsalhitze” (Do not think in the heat of your hardship); Gospel cited (Luke 5:6) before final chorale line: “Hat Petrus gleich die ganze Nacht / Mit leerer Arbeit zugebracht / Und nichts gefangen: / Auf Jesu Wort kann er noch einen Zug erlangen “(Did Peter once the whole night / spend in empty work / and catch nothing? / At Jesus' word he can still obtain a shoal); e-flat minor to g minor; 4/4. 6. Stanza 6, Aria two-part form with ritornelli, dal segno (Soprano, Oboe I, Continuo): A. “Ich will auf den Herren schaun” (I want to look to the Lord); B. Abgesang melody set to free paraphrase “Nach seinem Willen machen kann” (according to his will); Chorale line 5 with melody “[Gott] Er ist der rechte Wundermann” ([God]He is the true miracle worker); “Der die Reichen arm und bloß / Und die Armen reich und groß” (He can make the rich poor and naked / and the poor rich and great); closing, repeat of Abgesang melody set to free paraphrase “Nach seinem Willen machen kann” (according to his will); g minor 4/4. 7. Chorale (SATB; Oboe I/II e Violino I col Soprano, Violino II coll'Alto, Viola col Tenore, Continuo): “Sing, bet und geh auf Gottes Wegen” (Sing, pray and go on God's way); c minor, 4/4. A discussion of Bach’s use of all seven stanzas in Cantata 93, with the Neumark original text and the librettist’s paraphrased text, attributed to Picander, is found in Charles S. Terry (1864-1936), Bach’s Chorales, 3 volumes.7 Terry provided no English translation but describes the chorale as a “consolatory Hymn” in which “All its stanzas (seven) are introduced, but in some cases are subjected to considerable alteration.”

Cantata 93 Overview

The significance of Cantata 93 is explored in Julian Mincham’s overview commentary.8 <<Readers who are working through these cantatas in order must, by now, be wondering just what further ingenuity Bach can contrive in his continuing experiments with the chorale cantata. In C 93 he has, as we have come to expect, devised yet another approach to the opening chorus. But his real innovation, at least at this stage of the current cycle, is the interleafing of chorale phrases/motives into every single movement.

The words 'at least this stage of the current cycle' are important because this is a device which Bach had experimented with in his twenties. C 4, a work composed a decade and a half earlier uses not only insertions but a complete stanza of the chorale as the text for every movement. Bach seems to have regarded this work highly since he performed it several times for Easter celebrations, in the first Leipzig cycle and later, in somewhat enigmatic circumstances, as the forty-first cantata of this cycle (see chapter 42).

The setting of complete verses from the chorale for every movement was a technique that absorbed Bach's attention from time to time; indeed the very next cantata of this cycle, C 107 uses the identical principle and, unlike C 4, even as a recitative.

Chorale. The chorale upon which C 93 is constructed was written by Georg Neumark and Bach seems to have been particularly attracted to it. Malcolm Boyd (p 521) lists its use in six other cantatas (27, 84, 88, 166, 179 and 197) although this is its only appearance in this cycle. In C 93 Bach presents a simple harmonization, notably less chromatic than the version used in C 179 from the first cycle.

The intense usage of phrases from the melody throughout this cantata may have left Bach inclined, for reasons of balance, to close the work with as plain and unostentatious a version as possible. After its (almost) remorseless appearances in every movement, it might have seemed an overstatement to have concluded with a more flamboyant arrangement. A reflective, unpretentious utterance seems eminently appropriate.>>

Unit in Diversity, Compositional Techniques

Bach’s “Unity in Diversity,” and compositional techniques and theological emphasis are examined in Peter Smaill’s commentary (July 1, 2006).9 <<BWV 93, "Wer nur den lieben Gott laesst walten," in which every number is attractive, continues the Bach approach to the great second cycle - unity in diversity. Having in the first five experienced the cantus firmus switch through each of the voices, SATB, then SA in BWV 10 (I agree and like the interpretation, reflecting the "lowliness of the handmaiden"), what could Bach do next?

In BWV 93/1 he creates a new variant, giving the chorale homophonically to all the voices, but the monotony that could ensue is avoided by the ritornello and the fugato, SA, then TB, which precedes.

Undoubtedly this Chorale by Neumark is a Bach favourite, for he sets it many times for voices (refer BCW chorales site) and also for organ (BWV 690/1), several of the settings displaying daring harand the organ works both charming in very different ways.

It is a much varied Cantata from its predecessors, not just because of the Chorale treatment, but because of the simple directness of the Tenor aria, BWV 93/3; and the lightness of the "Freudenstunden" ("joy-hours") duet, BWV 93/4. So intimate is the style, reminiscent of some of the works in the Anna Magdalena book, that Spitta thought it originally for domestic use!

A glimpse at the theology of BWV 93, however, gives an entirely different slant. It is about the Sovereignty of God, which is a Calvinist emphasis, and explicitly Calvinist at the point in BWV 93/3 when the T aria states: "Gott, der die Auserwaehlten kennt" ("God, who the elect knows") ..... followed by a swipe in true Calvinist fashion at the image of the rich, pleasure-seeking complacent man in BWV93/5, much discussed in the last round of commentary on this Cantata on the BCW. By BWV93/6, the S aria, the librettist weaves in the sentiments of the Magnificat, heard in BWV 10 in the prior week, namely the deposition of the rich in favour of the poor.

The Chorale rounds off with a further hint of predestination, "Verricht das deine nur getreu" (Perform only what is thine faithfully). The theme throughout, resignation to divine will, couples the Sovereignty emphasis with stress on Providence. Calvin is at odds with baroque ideas of Fortune. Everything is down to God. One of his specific images is that " each shower is evidence of His favour. Calvin pleads here strongly that Christian people ought not to speak of Fortune as doing this or that, but should always say, "So God pleased"".

The librettist picks up on just this sort of divinely-ordained weather image, perhaps reflecting intense heat of the July week in which this cantata was performed in 1724:

"Think not in thy heat of affliction,
when lightning and thunder crack
and thee a sultry storm doth anxious make,
that thou by God forsaken art" (BWV93/5)
"After rain he gives sunshine
and appoints for everyone his final end" (BWV 93/5)

Cantata 93 Summary

A summary of Cantata 93 is found in John Eliot Gardner’s 2008 liner notes to the 2000 Bach Cantata Pilgrimage (Ibid.) <FOOTNOTES

1 Nicholas Anderson, Oxford Composer Companions: J. S. Bach, ed. Boyd, Malcolm (Oxford University Press: New York, 1999: 521).
2 Stiller, Günther. Johann Sebastian Bach and Liturgical Life in Leipzig, ed. Robin A. Leaver (Concordia Publishing: St. Louis, 1985: 242).
3 Petzoldt, Martin. Bach Kommentar: Die geistlichen Kantaten des 1. Bis 27. Trinitas-Sontagges, Vol. 1; Theologisch Musikwissenschaftlicke Kommentierung der Geistlichen Vokalwerke Johann Sebastan Bachs, Internationale Bachakademie Stuttgart (Kassel: Bärenreiter, 2004; Trinity +5 commentary 109-112, text 112-116, 4 Dürr, “Introduction: Development of the Bach Cantatas,” revised and translated by Richard D. P. Jones (Oxford University Press, New York, 2005: 27). 5 Cantata 93, BCW Details & Discography,
Score Vocal & Piano [1.77 MB],; Score BGA [2.34 MB], References: BGA: XXII, 71 (Cantatas 91-100, Wilhelm Rust, 1875), NBA KB I/17.2 Cantatas Trinity +5, Reinmar Emans 1993), Bach Compendium BC A 104, Zwang: K 79.
6 Gardiner notes,[sdg141_gb].pdf; BCW Recording details,
7 Terry, Bach’s Chorales,, click on “Bach’s Chorals, vol. 2 The Hymns and Hymn Melodies of the Cantatas and Motetts,” scroll down to & click on “Cantata XCIII.: Wer nur den lieben Gott lässt walten. Fifth Sunday after Trinity (? 1728).” Source: Johann Sebastian Bach, 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. June 27, 2014.
8 Julian Mincham: The Cantatas of Johann Sebastian Bach: A listener and student guide, Revised 2014; Home Page,
9 Peter Smaill, BCML Discussions, Part 2,


To Come: Chorales and Liturgy for the 5th Sunday after Trinity.

William Hoffman wrote (July 4, 2014):
Cantata 93, Trinity +5 Chorales & Liturgy

See: Motets & Chorales for 5th Sunday after Trinity

Aryeh Oron wrote (July 18, 2014):
Cantata BWV 93 - Revised & updated Discography

The discography pages of the Chorale Cantata BWV 93 “Wer nur den lieben Gott läßt walten” for the 5th Sunday after Trinity on the BCW has been revised and updated.
The cantata is scored for soprano, alto, tenor & bass soloists; 4-part Chorus; and orchestra of 2 oboes, 2 violins, viola & continuo. See:
Complete Recordings (25):
Recordings of Individual Movements (13):
The revised discography includes many listening/watching options to recordings directly from the discography pages, just below the recording details.

I believe this is the most comprehensive discography of this chorale cantata. If you are aware of a recording of BWV 93 missing from these pages, or want to correct/add details of a recording already presented on the BCW, please do not hesitate to inform me.


Cantata BWV 93: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

Recordings & Discussions of Cantatas: Main Page | Cantatas BWV 1-50 | Cantatas BWV 51-100 | Cantatas BWV 101-150 | Cantatas BWV 151-200 | Cantatas BWV 201-224 | Cantatas BWV Anh | Order of Discussion
Discussions of General Topics: Cantatas & Other Vocal Works | Performance Practice | Radio, Concerts, Festivals, Recordings


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