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Cantata BWV 94
Was frag ich nach der Welt
Discussions - Part 4

Continue from Part 3

Discussions in the Week of July 27, 2014 (4th round)

William Hoffman wrote (July 27, 2014):
Cantata 94, "Was frag ich nach der Welt": Intro.

In order to engage the immediate and successful Leipzig congregations with the word of God and the need for salvation during Trinity Time, Bach turns to a popular contemporary hymn, “Was frag ich nach der Welt” (What do I ask for from the world), with its popular melody, “O Gott, du frommer Gott” (O God, thou very God), to address the Gospel parable of the unjust steward (Luke 16:1-9) and the epistle of Paul’s caution against worldly idolatry and apostasy (I Cor. 10:6-13). He elicits a libretto that uses all eight stanzas of the hymn, including an engaging opening chorale fantasia with virtuoso flute; intersperses chorale lines with contemporary, somewhat pietistic words in two sermonettes for tenor and bass that overlap the two texts; creates four extended arias for all voices that paraphrase the chorale with contemporary meaning with engaging oboes and strings, and continually employs a sestina repetition of the motto question, what the believer asks from the world. As usual, Bach closes with two strong settings of the concluding, affirmative hymn in another unique chorale cantata like none other and lasting more than 25 minutes.1

Chorale Cantata BWV 94, “Was frag ich nach der Welt” (What do I ask for from the world), for the 9th Sunday after Trinity was first perfromed on August 6, 1724, and later reperformed about 1732-35, possibly as part of the cycle repeat). “Was frag ich nach der Welt” is the second in the initial series of early Trinity Time chorales found in the chorale cantatas that is not to be found in Bach’s Leipzig hymnbook, Das Neu Leipzier Gesangbuch (NLGB) of (1682).2 It is a more contemporary “Evening Song” hymn similar to Bach’s first chorale Cantata, BWV 20, Johann Rist’s “O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort,” that also has no Bar Form, unlike the other hymns in early Trinity Time, chorale cantatas. It also is classified near the end of hymn books on the theme of “Last Days, Resurrection of the Dead, Eternal Life” and is the only one of Bach’s hymn uses classified as such.

Some of the unique qualities of the work are found in the writings of various commentators. Bach scholar and writer Klaus Hofmann examines in depth Bach’s motive, method, and opportunity. Scholar and translator Francis Browne in his “Notes on the Text,” examines in detail the origin and varied applications of the motto, “What do I ask for from the world.” Writer Eric Chafe discusses Bach’s special use of tonal allegory in Cantata 94 in the concept of paradox and scholar/writer Linda Gingrich examines musical allegory in Cantata 94 and surrounding chorale cantatas.

The Readings are Epistle: 1 Corinthians 10:6-13 (Take heed lest ye fall); Gospel: Luke 16:1-9 (Parable of the unjust steward); German text Martin Luther 1545, English text Authorised (King James) Version [KJV] 1611; full text, see BCW, The Gospel is part of the early-middle Trinity-Time, “Thematic Patterns in Bach's Gospels, ”PART THREE: Paired Parable. Teachings & Miracles,

*Trinity 9: Luke 16: 1-9 - Parable of the unjust steward. “There was a certain rich man, which had a steward; and the same was accused unto him that he had wasted his goods.” *Trinity 10 Luke 19: 41-48 ­ Teaching: “Jesus weeps over Jerusalem And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it.”

The Introit Psalm is Psalm 50, Deus deorum, “The mighty God, even the Lord,” says Martin Petzoldt in BACH Kommentar, Vol. 1, Trinity Sundays.3 The sermon of St. Thomas Pastor Christian Weise Sr. (1646-1731) was preached at the early service but is not extant, says Petzoldt (Ibid.: 206).

Text & Chorale, Was frag ich nach der Welt’

The cantata libretto uses Balthasar Kindermann’s hymn text, “Was frag ich nach der Welt” (Mvts. 1, 3, 5, 8) with Stanza 1 as Mvt. 1 chorale fantasia, Stanza 3 as an interpolation in the tenor recitative, Stanza 5 also as an interpolation the bass recitative, and Stanzas 7 and 8 are set as a plain chorale setting, probably recycled Cantata 64/4 plain chorale for Christmas Third Day Feast 1723. The anonymous librettist(s)put original lines into chorale line interpolations in the Mvt. 3 tenor recitative and Mvt. 5 bass recitatives, as well as reworking three stanzas as original paraphrases in three arias: Mvt. 2, bass two-part aria with continuo (Stanza 2), Mvt. 4, alto free da-capo aria with flute (Stanza 4), and Mvt. 6, tenor free d-capo aria with strings

A more contemporary hymn with variant melody, “Was frag ich nach der Welt,” does not appear in the 1682 New Leipzig Song Book (NLGB) but is found in the Dresden hymn schedules, says Stiller in the <JSB and Liturgical Life in Leipzig>(p. 243), being the only chorale he cites for the 9th Sunday after Trinity. See Kindermann (1636-17-6 BCW Short Biography,

Bach's setting of the melody and text are found in four varied movements of Cantata BWV 94:

*Movement No. 1, a chorale fantasia chorus opens in D Major in 4/4 time with SATB, flute, strings, and basso continuo, singing Stanza No. 1) the melody as a canto in the soprano;
*Movement No. 3, a chorale with recitative in G Major uses Stanza No. 3); "Die Welt sucht Ehr' und Ruhm" (The world seeks honor and glory), in 3/8 tempo (2 oboes d'amore, tenor, basso continuo), with the tenor arioso introducing the first two verse lines with embellished Fritsch melody, followed by lines of tenor secco recitative in 4/4 tempo, interspersed with the remaining six lines in the style (as a forerunner) of the 1734 <Christmas Oratorio>, BWV 248, interpolated soprano chorale ("Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ") with the bass recitative as Movement No. 7, "Er ist auf Erden kommen arm" (He has on earth come poor);
*Movement No. 5 is a bass aria with basso continuo in G to D Major in 4/4 tempo with a chorale trope (interpolation), as in Movement No. 3, singing Stanza No. 5, "Die Welt bekümmert sich" (The world is troubled); and
*Movement No. 8, the closing plain chorale in 4/4 tempo with tutti forces (as in Movement No. 1 in D Major) uses the last two stanzas: Stanza No. 7, "Im Hui muss sie verschwinden" (In a flash it must vanish) and Stanza 8, "Mein Jesus ist mein Leben" (My Jesus is my life).

The Chorale Melody, “O Gott, du frommer Gott” - Melody 3, Chorale Melodies used in Bach’s Vocal Works,; Melody 3: Zahn: 5206b | EKG: 461. The composer of this melody, the one which Bach most frequently utilized for his settings of Johann Heermann’s (1630) chorale text, but also for many other texts as well, is identified as Ahasverus Fritsch with a date of composition set as 1679. Composer, Ahasverus Fritsch (1679), see Frtisch (1629-1701) BCW Short Biography,

Cantata 94 was one of Bach’s longer-running chorale cantatas, lasting about 26 minutes instead of 20. In addition to an extended opening chorale fantasia, Bach has two extended interpolated chorale stanzas cantos in recitatives, and most significantly, four interspersed, extended paraphrased arias for bass, also, tenor, and soprano.

The movements, scoring, initial text, key signature, and meter are:4

Chorus dal-segno (SATB; Flauto traverso, Oboe I/II, Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo): A. “Was frag ich nach der Welt” (What do I ask for from the world); “ B. “Dich hab ich einzig mir / Zur Wollust fürgestellt,”

(In you alone I / look to find pleasure); C. Du, du bist meine Ruh: Was frag ich nach der Welt! (You, you ,are my peace: What do I ask for from the world!); D Major; 4/4.
2. Aria three-part (Bass, Continuo): A. “Die Welt ist wie ein Rund Schatten” (The world is like smoke or shadows); B. “Wenn aber alles fällt und bricht, / Bleibt Jesus meine Zuversicht” (But when everything falls and breaks, / Jesus remains my ground for confident hope); C. “Darum: was frag ich nach der Welt!” (Therefore: what do I ask for from the world!); b minor, 4/4.
3. Chorale trope (3/8 arioso) and Recitative (4/4 secco) (Tenor, Oboe I/II, Continuo): “Die Welt sucht Ehr und Ruhm” (The world seeks honour and glory); “Ein Stolzer baut die prächtigsten Paläste” (A proud man builds most splendid palaces) . . . ; he concerns himself only with high matters; “Und denkt nicht einmal dran, / Wie bald doch diese gleiten. and does not think once / how quickly these things slip away.); “Dies aber, was mein Herz / Vor anderm rühmlich hält,” (This however which my heart / considers as glorious before everything else); “Was Christen wahren Ruhm und rechte Ehre gibet,” (which gives Christians true fame and real honour); Ist Jesus nur allein, (is only Jesus); Und dieser solls auch ewig sein” (And he shall be this for ever); “Was frag ich nach der Welt!” (What do I ask for from the world!); G Major 3/8 chorale menuet.
4, Aria part da-capo (Alto; Flauto traverso, Continuo): A. “Betörte Welt, betörte Welt!” (Deluded world, deluded world!); B. “Du magst den eitlen Mammon zählen” (You may count on vain Mammon); BJesus, Jesus soll allein / Meiner Seele Reichtum sein” (Jesus, Jesus alone / will be the wealth of my soul.); C. “Betörte Welt, betörte Welt!” (Deluded world, deluded world!); e minor, 4/4
5. Chorale and Recitative (Bass; Continuo): “Die Welt bekümmert sich” (The world is troubled); Was muss doch wohl der Kummer sein?” (But what must this trouble be?); “Im Fall sie wird verachtet.” (It fears the possibility of being despised);Welt, schäme dich!” (World, shame on you!) . . . “Als wenn man ihr mit List / Nach ihren Ehren trachtet” (than when people with cunning / are concerned about its honours). . . ; “Es ist ja besser,”(It is indeed better);Ich trage Christi Schmach,” (that I should endure Christ's ignominy).Es ist ja nur ein Leiden dieser Zeit,” (It is indeed only a suffering of this present time,) . . . ; “ Wenn mich mein Jesus ehrt: / Was frag ich nach der Welt!” (if my Jesus honours me: / What do I ask for from the world!); D Major, 4/4.
6. Aria free da-capo dal segno (Tenor; Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo); A. “Die Welt kann ihre Lust und Freud” (The world's pleasure and joy); B. “Sie wühlt, nur gelben Kot zu finden” (It burrows down only to find yellow excrement); A1. “Die Welt . . . .; A Major; 4/4 (12/8).
7. Aria free da-capo (soprano; Oboe d'amore solo, Continuo); A. “Er halt es mit der blinden Welt” (Let him keep to the blind world); B. “Ich will nur meinen Jesum lieben” (I want to love only my Jesus); A1. “Es halt . . . .; f-sharp minor; 4/4 bouree character.
8. Stanzas 7-8, Choral plain (SATB; Flauto traverso in octava e Oboe I e Violino I col Soprano, Oboe II e Violino II coll'Alto, Viola col Tenore, Continuo); Was frag ich nach der Welt! / Im Hui muss sie verschwinden” (What do I ask for from the world; / in a flash it must vanish). “Was frag ich nach der Welt!

/ Mein Jesus ist mein Leben,” (What do I ask for from the world!/ My Jesus is my life); c minor; 4/4.

Textual & Musical Qualities

Textual and musical qualities abound in Bach’s Cantatat 94, finds Klaus Hofmann’s 2003 liner notes to the Masaaki Suzuki BIS complete sacred cantata recordings.5 <<Bach's chorale cantata for the ninth Sunday after Trinity in 1724 (6th August), is based on a hymn of the same name by Balthasar Kindemann (1644) with the melody 'O Gott, du frommer Gott' (Regensburg, 1675). Like the hymn, the reworking of the text by an unknown author relies upon the varied transformation of a single fundamental concept in the form of an antithesis: on one side we have the 'world', on the other the faithful Christian with his heartfelt love for Jesus. The cantata is a single rejection of the world. 'World' in this context means everything earthly, everything material, everything that is not human in terms of emotions and desires. Of selfishness, ambition and the craving for ostentation, of the pursuit of profit, falseness and vanity. The text tells us that all of these earthly things are fragile and transient; salvation lies in Jesus, who embodies the peace of the soul, confidence and refuge, who guarantees true honour and genuine, inner richness.

Bach's cantata must have surprised the connoisseurs among the Leipzig congregation right from the first bars. Prefaced by a single continuo chord, the opening chorus begins with a virtuoso, unaccompanied flute solo; only after that does the rest of the orchestra join in, involving the solo flute in what might be termed a long and lively dialogue from which, however, the wind instrument consistently rises up with solo figurations. Amid this concert activity we hear the first verse of the chorale, line by line, starting with the soprano (with the melody) and accompanied by relaxed, sometimes freely polyphonic and sometimes chordal writing for the alto,

tenor and bass. It is evident from the flute parts of the works in the chorale cantata year that, from July l724 onwards, Bach must have had access to an exceptionally talented flautist for whom, in the months that followed, he regularly composed unusually demanding music. The flute part in the alto aria 'Betörte Welt' ('Deluded world', No.4), too, testifies to the remarkable virtuosity of this unknown player on an instrument that was then still a novelty; at the same time, however, it takes into account his capacity for artistic expression and challenges him with all sorts of harmonic deviations, with diminished and augmented intervals in the melody that allude to the words 'Betrug und falscher Schein' ('fraudulent and false') in the text.

Bach's innovations are many and varied. From a formal point of view, two movements are of especial interest: the tenor solo 'Die Welt sucht Ehr und Ruhm' ('The world seeks praise and fame', No.3) and the bass recitative 'Die welt bekümmert sich' ('The world is sore distressed', No. 5). In each case, Bach's text author has taken the original hymn verse in its entirety and has merely inserted his own, new lines of text between the originals, thereby further developing the concepts presented in the hymn strophe - Bach follows this alternation of original lines and new text on a musical level: the hymn lines are herd with the song melody in various forms, whilst the textual insertions are presented as free recitative declamation. In the tenor solo [No. 3], the hymn lines are moreover embedded in an accompanying texture of two oboi d'amore, in the style of a pleasant, happy minuet, presumably as a characterization of the 'earthly' sphere. In the bass recitative [No. 5], on the other hand, the hymn lines are weighed down by a chromatic bass line, an allusion to the key-words 'Kummer' ('grief'), 'Pein' ('pain'), 'leiden' ('suffer') und 'Traurigkeit' ('sadness ') .

After that, however, Bach again strikes a brighter note - first in a captivating tenor aria (No.6) in which the voice illustrates 'Lust und Freud, das Blendwerk schnöde der Eitelkeit' ('delight and joy... illusions of contemptible vanity') with vigour and brilliant coloraturas, and then in the dance like soprano aria 'Es halt es mit der blinden Welt' ('May he care about the blind world'. No.7) in which the oboe d'more, as so often with Bach, is used in accordance with its name, which is well suited to the words ‘Ich will nur meinen Jesum lieben’ (‘I want only to love my Jesus’). The cantata ends with the last two verses of the hymn, in a simple four-part setting. The attractive major-key melody of the hymn may have contributed to the fact that the words of rejection of the earthly life in Bach’s cantata are not presented in excessively gloomy tones, and to the fact that not a little of the splendour and liveliness of the ‘world’ is contained in the music. The brilliantly effective, worldly music that we find in the opening chorus and, for instance, the tenor aria could not have been written by someone who didn’t also have a profolove for the world! © Klaus Hofmann 2003

Discussions in the Week of September 25, 2011

Francis Browne wrote (September 24, 2011):
BWV 94: notes on the text
BWV 94, Was frag ich nach der Welt, was first performed on 6th August 1724 and is one of the many chorale cantatas which Bach included in his second yearly cycle in Leipzig. These cantatas are based on a single chorale: the first and last verses are set unaltered, while the intervening verses may be treated variously. The cantata was revived in 1732-35 and again performed by Bach’s successor [Harrer] after his death in 1750s.
The connection of the cantata text with the readings for the 9th Sunday after Trinity is tenuous. The epistle warns against idolatry and in some of the gospel there is an antithesis between worldly values and Jesus.
BWV 94 is based on a hymn by Balthasar Kindermann published in 1664. It has been often ascribed to Georg Michael Pfefferkorn but the general consensus today is that Kindermann is the author. The phrase Was frag ich nach der Welt is repeated insistently throughout the hymn in a way that suggests it may have been familiar and proverbial for the original audience. The exact words do not seem to be used in the bible. Some eighteenth century hymn books include this chorale in sections dealing with the vanity of the world and for this theme quote Psalm 73:25-6 Psalm 23, Quam bonus Israel!, “Truly God is good to Israel 25-26, Wenn ich nur dich habe, so frage ich nichts nach Himmel und Erde. Wenn mir gleich Leib und Seele verschmachtet, so bist du doch, GOtt, allezeit meines Herzens Trost und mein Teil (Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. 26 My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever; full text, )

Other hymn books give 1 John 2:15 as reference for this theme:

Habt nicht lieb die Welt, noch was in der Welt ist. So jemand die Welt liebhat, in dem ist nicht die Liebe des Vaters. Denn alles, was in der Welt ist (nämlich des Fleisches Lust und der Augen Lust und hoffärtiges Leben), ist nicht vom Vater, sondern von der Welt. (Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world [KJV].) Und die Welt vergehet mit ihrer Lust; wer aber den Willen GOttes tut, der bleibet in Ewigkeit. (And the world passes away with its lust; yet we do the Father’s Will, that remains in eternity.)

But the vanity of the world was a common topic in Baroque poetry. Andreas Gryphius (1616-1664), arguably the most impressive German poet of the seventeenth century, uses the phrase in a striking poem Verleugnung der Welt which is often included in anthologies. Verleugnung der Welt (

The first stanza is :

Was frag ich nach der welt! sie wird in flammen stehn:
Was acht ich reiche pracht: der Todt reißt alles hin!
Was hilfft die wissenschafft/ der mehr denn falsche dunst?
Der liebe Zauberwerck ist tolle Phantasie:
Die wollust ist fürwar nichts alß ein schneller Traum;
Die Schönheit ist wie Schnee'/ diß Leben ist der Todt.

The poem is a sestina where the repetition of the same end words throughout helps to build up a powerful treatment of the world's vanity. In contrast to Kindermann’s hymn, the positive promises of Christianity are hardly mentioned. The phrase Was frag ich nach der welt is also used by Friedrich von Logau (1605-55), a slightly older contemporaryof Gryphius (Sinngedichte, 20.Am Sontage Quinquages). [The Kindermann text and Francis Browne’s English translation are found at BCW, The German libretto of Cantata 94 and Browne’s English Translation, with Notes on the Text, is found at BCW]

To come much closer to Bach, Christiane Mariane von Ziegler (1695-1760) uses the phrase in her Versuch in gebundener Schreib-Art (1728). Fer. 2. Pentec . Bach used this book for the texts of nine cantatas.

Perhaps the phrase was proverbial, perhaps it was given currency by Gryphius. Whatever its origin Kindermann uses these words eleven times in his hymn. Three of the stanzas taken over unaltered by Bach’s librettist begin and end with the phrase.

A comparison of the text of the bass aria second movement with the second stanza of the hymn shows the librettist at work: Rauch becomes Rauch und Schatten; vergehet becomes verschwindet und vergeht. The image of Christ as a starker Fels is changed to the abstract Zuversicht. The expansion of the chorale by added recitative in the third and fifth movements of the cantata confirms this tendency to verbosity and abstraction. The mention of hocherhaben Leuten is expanded in a much longer description of such people that draws upon what Christ said when questioned about John the Baptist (Luke 7:25) and the story of the Tower of Babel. In general Bach’s librettist places greater emphasis on devotion to Christ as a substitute or antidote for obsession with worldly things.

The sixth stanza of the hymn provides the starting point for the text of arias for tenor and soprano. Here the librettist expands the chorale with more forceful negative diction , striking imagery (Kot, Maulwurf) and greater emphasis on the rejection of worldly values (Mir ekelt von der Erden).

Some commentators have felt that Bach’s music is in places inappropriately cheerful and positive for a rejection of life in this world. Perhaps a key to understanding the texts of the chorale and cantata and how Bach has set them is to note how what can seem to us a negative attitude of rejection is outweighed by devotion to Jesus and the promise of eternal happiness.

William Hoffmann wrote (October 6, 2011): Cantata 94: Tonal Allegory6
<<The following is a summary of Eric Chafe's comments on Cantata BWV 94, "Was frag ich nach der Welt" (What do I ask from the world) [Francis Browne BCW English translation], Tonal Allegory in the Music of JSB (University of California Press, 1991: 179-81)
"A paradox that is typical of Bach's work in general is the cantata that urges rejection of the world in the most worldly terms. A perfect example of this is Cantata 94 . . . :" "a lengthy work in which the full instrumental resources, from the flute down to the basso continuo, participate in a sound spectrum of dance and concerto-like movements to give the most varied picture of the world in both its splendid and false aspects."
This antithesis is emphasized in the first five movements:
1. The opening chorale fantasia in D Major with its "tremendously ascending line for unaccompanied flute" and the soprano chorale, and
2. The bass continuo aria in the relative B Minor, "Die Welt ist wie ein Rauch und Schatten" (The world is like smoke or shadows) in which "the fallen character of the world is represented by an opening arpeggio descent in the basso continuo that constitutes the theme for the piece."
3. G Major Chorale arioso in 3/8, "Die Welt sucht Ehr und Ruhm/ Bei hocherhabnen Leuten" (The world seeks honour and glory/ among people of high rank) with tenor recitative trope in 4/4, "Ein Stolzer baut die prächtigsten Paläste" (A proud man builds most splendid palaces) with extensive modulations downward to C Major and C Minor);
4. The "tortured alto da-capo aria in E Minor, "Betörte Welt, betörte Welt!/ Auch dein Reichtum, Gut und Geld/ Ist Betrug und falscher Schein" (Deluded world, deluded world!/ Even your riches, wealth and cold/ are deceptionand false appearance), with its theological antithesis in the middle B section, Jesus, "Jesus soll allein/ Meiner Seele Reichtum sein" (Jesus, Jesus al/ will be the wealth of my soul), and
5. G Major to D Major Chorale< Die Welt bekümmert sich> (The world is trouble) with bass recitative trope <Was muss doch wohl der Kummer sein?> (But what must this trouble be?), with "a deeper understanding of the world redeemed by Jesus' sacrifice."
Cantata 94 is a descent/ascent type of tonal allegory in the first five movements that "constitute the expression of understanding" involving Luther's "pivot of faith" between Old and New Testament teachings embedded in these five movements, particularly in the tenor and bass recitative tropes, because of "the length of the chorale text, and its perjorative characterization of the world."
"Bach needed to devise a structure to represent both the splendor of the world but that does not cancel out its enticements," says Chafe. Thus, the last three movements contain, respectively:
6. Tenor da-capo gigue-style (12/8) aria as a reminder of "Die Welt kann ihre Lust und Freud" (The world's pleasure and joy);
7. Bass bouree-style (4/4) da-capo aria as "a further warning," "Er halt es mit der blinden Welt,/ Wer nichts auf seine Seele halt" (Let him keep to the blind world/ who takes no care for his soul); and
8. Closing plain chorale (Stanzas 7 & 8) as "a statement of the promise of eternity for those who can resist the world," "Mein Jesus ist mein Leben,/ Mein Schatz, mein Eigentum" (My Jesus is my life/ my treasure, my property).
The final three movements complete the ambitius (circle of fifths) of D Major in a pattern of thirds -- A, F-Sharp and D Major, a "device (that) was possibly intended, like the instrumental and dance styles, to represent a comprehensive presentation of all the facets of worldly life," Chafe suggests.
"Neither here nor in any of the many other similar instances in his work can Bach be considered to reject his own music as too worldly," Chafe concludes. "Nor is it sufficient to say that Bach held (or rejected) the theological view that the world, while fallen, can nevertheless be enjoyed to the full as long as its finite, devalued nature is understood. This view simply separates the composer's religious beliefs from his art (without knowing that this is correct), eliminates the possibility that the composer might have thought deeply about the question himself, and adds nothing to our understanding of his allegorical procedures per se.">>

[Linda Gingrich wrote (October 6, 2011):
< Tonal Allegory in BWV 94
The following is a summary of Eric Chafe's comments on Cantata BWV 94, "Was frag ich nach der Welt" (What do I ask from the world) [Francis Browne BCW English translation],< Tonal Allegory in the Music of JSB (University of California Press, 1991: 179-81) >
There is also evidence that Bach's use of musical allegory extends beyond Cantata 94 and links it to its surrounding cantatas, BWV 178 on the preceding Sunday (8th in Trinity season), BWV 101 on the following Sunday (10th in Trinity season), and BWV 113 on the next Sunday after that (11th Sunday). To give a few examples, BWV 178 consists of 7 movements, BWV 94 of 8 movements, BWV 101 of 7 movements, BWV 113 of 8 movements. The cantatas the precede and follow this group don't show this kind of movement pattern. The chorale melody is suddenly pervasive in the inner movements of these four cantatas, far more than the preceding cantatas show. The key relationships are also closely related, A minor in BWV 178, D major in BWV 94, D minor in BWV 101, b minor in BWV 113, all in tonic-dominant or parallel/relative major-minor relationships. The key relationships in the cantatas that precede and follow this group exhibit different relationships. It's also interesting to note that Chafe identifies tonal movement from sharps to flats as a tonal descent, and vice versa for the ascent; Cantata BWV 101 deals with judgment, certainly an emotional and spiritual descent, and BWV 113 deals with penitence, a spiritual and emotional (ultimately) ascent. It's also interesting that BWV 101 uses a symmetrical structure, a chiasm, very often a cross-like symbol in Bach, making that cantata, in my opinion, the allegorical climax of this four-cantata sequence.
If any are interested, I examined the allegorical relationships between the cantatas in the 2nd-cycle Trinity season in my 2008 dissertation, and a summary was published in the August 2010 issue of the Choral Journal.
What a mind he had! He was able to create cantatas that are fine works individually, met the worship needs of the Sundays for which they were composed, and then on top of that he thought large-scale, creating groups of cantatas! It's a feast for the mind and the soul.]


1 BWV 94 Details & Discography,
2 BACH'S HYMN BOOK: Jürgen Grimm, "Das neu [?] Leipziger Gesangbuch des Gottfried Vopelius (Leipzig 1682)", Berlin: Merseburger, 1969. ML 3168 G75 (Douglas Cowking).
3 Petzoldt, Martin. Bach Kommentar: Theologisch Musikwissenschaftlicke Kommentierung der Geistlichen Vokalwerke Johann Sebastan Bachs; Vol. 2, Die Geistlichen Kantaten vom 1. Advent bis zum Trinitatisfest; Internationale Bachakademie Stuttgart (Kassel: Bärenreiter, 2007: Trinity +9 commentary, 191-94; Cantata 94 text 2000-07 & commentary 2007-10).
4 Scoring, Soloists: Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bass; 4-part Chorus; Orchestra: transverse flute, 2 oboes, 2 violins, viola, organ, continuo. Score Vocal & Piano [2.29 MB,; Score BGA [2.94 MB], References: BGA: XXII (Church cantatas 91-100; Wilhelm Rust, 1875, NBA KB I/19 (Cantata for the Tr.+9; Robert L. Marshall 1989, Bach Compendium BC A 115, Zwang K 82.
5[BIS-CD1321].pdf; BCW Recording details.
6 BCML Cantata 94 Discussions Part 3,


To Come: Chorales for the 9th Sunday after Trinity; other Commentaries (Summaries) from Alfred Dürr, David Humphryes (Oxford Composer Companions: J. S. Bach), and W. Gillies Whittaker (and maybe others), as well as Bach’s Trinity +9 performance schedule, and Cantata 94 Provenance involving Prefect Christian Penzel.

Aryeh Oron wrote (July 27, 2014):
Cantata BWV 94 - Revised & updated Discography

The discography pages of the Chorale Cantata BWV 94 “Was frag ich nach der Welt” for the 9th 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 transverse flute, 2 oboes, 2 violins, viola, organ & continuo. See:
Complete Recordings (11):
Recordings of Individual Movements (10):
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 94 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.

William Hoffman wrote (July 27, 2014):
Cantata 94, Commentaries, Trinity+9 Chorales

Bach’s contemporary chorale Cantata BWV 94, “Was frag ich nach der Welt” (What do I ask for from the world), can be seen through the eyes of various commentators as a contrast between the real world of wealthy, cosmopolitan Leipzig, and the spiritual world of the believer struggling to live in the world and pursue salvation through God’s freely given. On another level, the music and text of this challenging and gratifying work creates both a sense of its own musical world of contrasts and a greater world of spiritual meaning.

BCML contributor and Bach scholar Peter Smaill begins the discussion proper as the leader of Part 2 (July 23, 2006, with contrasts and distinctions: <<Denouncing the “smoke and shadow” of the world, it is a typical baroque reflection on “Sein und Schein”- image and reality; the delusion being the false pomp and vanity of the world, the reality is Jesus, “my life, my treasure, my property, to whom I have quite surrendered myself”.

John Eliot Gardiner, in his programme notes to the 1999 recording,1 ponders the question as to whether any specific plutocratic individual was intended by the text of the Recitative BWV 94/3, which translates as follows:

“A proud man builds the most splendid palaces,
He seeks the highest post of honour,
He clothes himself of the best
in purple, gold, in silver, fine linen and velvet.”

The shock of the asceticism implied by this Cantata to the prosperous bourgeois of Leipzig gathered in the Thomaskirche must have been considerable, given the prosperity of the town at that time, the “marketplace of Europe”. Wolff goes on:2

“Beginning around 1700, the city experienced a period of unprecedented growth and affluence. The prosperous, proud and influential merchant families, many of them prominently represented on the three-tiered City council, were struck by a real building fever. By 1710 the Romanus, Apel and Hohmann families had set the standard for opulent new edifices with ornate facades…. The grandest [of art collections] among them, [were] Johann Christoph Richter’s art cabinet in his Thomaskirchhof mansion (with four hundred works by Titian, Raphael, Lucas van der Leyden, Rubens , and others) and Gottfried Winckler’s collection (with paintings by Leonardo, Giorgone, Veronese, Tintoretto, Rubens, Hals, Breughel, Rembrandt and others).”

Against this background of unparalleled wealth Bach sets out the rival attractions of a life of faith and the challenging theme of treasure in heaven.>>

Under the Discussion heading “Outstanding Questions,” BCML contributor Julian Mincham points out that “Cantata 2nd cycle chorale fantasias-- of the first 13 cantatas (up to BWV 78) only two are set in the major (BWV 20 and BWV 94),” both having contemporary hymns. As the cycle progresses, Bach turns more to the major in the second half de tempore period.

(Select) Quotations from selected Commentaries (Peter Smaill):
<<Alex Robertson:
As in all the cantatas for this Sunday, the librettists do not come to terms with Christ’s commendation of the unjust steward, who is advised to make friends with Mammon.
W. Gillies Whittaker:
(BWV94/1) The emptiness of the world is revealed to us in this delightful fantasia; the serene figure of Christ floats in the heavens above. The number opens with a plucked continuo note senza l’Organo (the continuo is pizzicato throughout). The flauto traverse then ascends solitarily in detached semiquavers indicative of the transitoriness of earthly things. Blissful semiquaver triplets in both violin 1 and flute tell of bliss in Christ.
In setting this text, Bach seems to have felt an exceptionally strong sympathy with it; and nowadays the impression might arise that a world that produces such splendid compositions should not be disdained so unreservedly as the baroque poet would have us believe.>>

Francis Browne in the conclusion of his “Notes on the Text” of Cantata 94 makes this observation: “Some commentators have felt that Bach’s music is in places inappropriately cheerful and positive for a rejection of life in this world. Perhaps a key to understanding the texts of the chorale and cantata and how Bach has set them is to note how what can seem to us a negative attitude of rejection is outweighed by devotion to Jesus and the promise of eternal happiness.”

In his discussion of Cantata 94, Dürr3 makes this observation: “For in his textual interpretation, the baroque composer did not as a rule shrink from using a state of affairs denied or rejected in the text as a stimulus for his musical invention.” For example, in the closing soprano aria, Mvt. 7, “Er halt es mit der blinden Welt” (Let him keep to the blind world) in bouree character, Dürr observes: “Bach’s music characterizes only individual concepts (such as ‘world’), not what is asserted about them in the text.” “What the music here responds to is the type ‘world’, not its specific characteristics such as blindness, wickedness, and so fourth. And. No psychological role is demanded of the music, such as seeking to evoke in the listener a disgust of the world. Movements like this aria should caution us against evaluating his art for its textual representation rather that for its purely aesthetic, musical value.”

Trinity 9 Chorales4

See: Motets & Chorales for 9th Sunday after Trinity

Provenance: Prefect Penzel: Reception History5

In his new "Notes on the text," Francis Browne examines the baroque usage of the phrase, "Was frag ich nach der Welt" (What do I ask from the world), BCW: He also writes that Cantata 94 "was revived in 1735 and again performed by Bach's successor after his death in 1750s." This relates to a fascinating chapter in the immediate reception history of Bach's service works in the decade following his death in 1750.

One of Bach's last students, Christian Friedrich Penzel (1737-1801), apparently began presenting Bach's chorale cantatas in Leipzig in the summer and fall of 1755, as the Thomas Choir's Perfect, in the interim following the unexpected death of Bach's brief successor, Johann Gottlob Harrer (b.1703) and the extended succession and tenure of Johann Friedrich Doles (1715-1797). Harrer also may have performed Bach’s Cantata 94 before his death. See short BCW biography of Penzel:

Harrer died on July 9, 1755, and Penzel as chorus perfect "filled in as director of the choruses until the official assumption of the Cantor's post by J.F. Doles," says Alfred Dürr in Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart (MGG)6 On July 23, Penzel began copying out the full scores of the appropriate chorale cantatas from the parts sets in the possession of the Thomas School.

Penzel's extensive copying, presumably for performance, continued until at least 1770. They began with Cantatas BWV 178 and BWV 94, for the 8th and 9th Sundays after Trinity which in 1755 fell on August 3 and 10 respectively. Penzel is thought to have made the score copies 8-14 days prior to the Sunday performance. "He either copied or compiled in score form twenty-four of Sebastian's cantatas, seventeen of them during his time in Leipzig while he was the temporary director of the choir," says Gerhard Herz, JSB in the Age of Rationalism and Early Romanticism.7 Following Cantatas BWV 178 and BWV 94, Penzel copied out six scores for Cantatas BWV 101, BWV 113, BWV 137, BWV 33, BWV 99, and BWV 114 through the 17th Sunday after Trinity (October 5, 1755), omitting cantatas for Trinity 14 and 16 (BWV 78 and BWV 8). Penzel copied other scores in Leipzig from other sources during this time (BWV 211, BWV 126, BWV 140, BWV 133, BWV 41, BWV 125, BWV 177, BWV 129, and BWV 149, as well as BWV 150, BWV 142, BWV 62, 236, BWV 106, BWV 97, and BWV 236.

The only documented Penzel performance, from a church textbook, was for Septuagesima Chorale Cantata BWV 126, "Erhalt uns herr, bei deinem Wort" (Preserve us Lord, by thy word), for the 200th anniversary of the Augsburg Peace, Thursday, Sept. 25, 1755, at St. Thomas and St. Nicklaus churches in Leipzig.

Cantata BWV 62 and Missa BWV 236 were copied in 1761 for his unsuccessful probe to succeed his father as sexton at Oelsnitz. Finally, in 1765, he became cantor at Merseburg until his death in 1801. In 1767-70, he copied out Cantatas BWV 97, BWV 157, BWV 158, BWV 159, and BWV 25 froFriedemann Bach sources. His manuscript collection (including instrumental music) was inherited by his nephew Johann Gottlob Schuster (1765-1839), who sold most of it to Franz Hauser in 1833; the remainder was acquired by the Leipzig publisher C.F. Peters.


1 Gardiner notes, see
2 Christoph Wolf, Bach: The Learned Musician, (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2000: 239).
3 Dürr, Alfred. Cantatas of J. S. Bach, revised and translated by Richard D. P. Jones (Oxford University Press, New York, 2005: 472f).
4 BCW Musical Context of Bach Cantatas, Motets & Chorales for 9th Sunday after Trinity,
5 BCML Discussions Parts 3,
6 Music in History and the Present, 1994-2007): 1022 (Biography).
7 Herz, translation, original 1935 dissertation), in <Essays on JSB> (Ann Arbor MI, UMI Research Press, 1985: 33), cited in William Hoffman, "Early Bach Reception History: Music Transmission Before 1800" (manuscript, 1994, p. 15).

Luke Dahn wrote (July 29, 2014):
William Hoffman wrote:
< The Chorale Melody, “O Gott, du frommer Gott” - Melody 3, Chorale Melodies used in Bach’s Vocal Works,; Melody 3: Zahn: 5206b | EKG: 461. The composer of this melody, the one which Bach most frequently utilized for his settings of Johann Heermann’s (1630) chorale text, but also for many other texts as well, is identified as Ahasverus Fritsch with a date of composition set as 1679. Composer, Ahasverus Fritsch (1679), see Frtisch (1629-1701) BCW Short Biography, >
There are 8 extant four-part chorale settings by Bach of "O Gott, du frommer Gott, (melody #3), though two of these eight are nearly identical (BWV 197a.7 and BWV 398). Though the tune is generally referred to as "O Gott, du frommer Gott" and is generally attributed to Ahasverus Fritsch, Thomas Braatz has informed me that "the NBA KB III/2.2 states that the secular melody for the above is by Adam Krieger (1657) and was adapted by Ahasverus Fritsch (1679) for the sacred 'Die Wollust dieser Welt'." Among the extant four-part chorales, only two other melodies were set more often ("Befiel du deine Wege" and "O Welt, ich muss dich lassen").

Here are the 8 settings, in order of performance date (as known):
1) BWV 64.4 - 27 December 1723
2) BWV 94.8 - 6 August 1724
3) BWV 128.5 - 10 May 1725
4) BWV 45.7 - 11 August 1726
5) BWV 129.5 - 8 June 1727
6) BWV 197a.7 - 25 December 1728? (or 1727 or 1726)
7) BWV 398 - Date unknown
8) Dietel 113 (BWV deest) - Date unknown (no later than 1735)For those interested, these 8 settings have been aligned and put into the same key for easy comparison at the link below. The document also contains full textual information.

As has been mentioned already, BWV 94.8 from the cantata under current discussion is a setting of the 7th and 8th verses of Balthasar Kindermann's hymn "Was frag ich nach der Welt." From a harmonic standpoint, there is little that strongly distinguishes it from the other settings. Only two relatively insignificant harmonic moments stand out as unique: the tonicization of V (a V/V chord) at the pickup into the second phrase (only BWV 45.7 shares this feature) and the submediant (vi) harmony that appears in bar 7 beat 3 where every other setting has a first inversion tonic chord. In actuality, a surprising amount of consistency underlies the harmonic content of these 8 settings. The more interesting discrepancies that distinguish these settings are the variations in their presentation of the hymn tune itself and the amount and type of figuration.

Comparing BWV 94.8 to BWV 64.4 might produce more interesting results since BWV 64.4 was written less than eight months earlier than BWV 94.8 and was probably the earliest of the extant chorale settings of this tune. While BWV 94.8 does not stand out from among the 8 settings, BWV 64.4 does, primarily in its presentation of the tune. It is unique among the 8 settings at two striking moments: The cadence of phrase 2 is truncated, ending on beat 2 of bar 4, and the end of phrase 4 establishes a prominent agogic accent on G# (tonicizing the dominant A). BWV 94.8, then, marks the first deviations from the version of the tune as presented in BWV 64.4, deviations that remain consistent in all later settings.
(Parenthetically and unrelated to BWV 94.8, Bach also begins modifying the start of the final phrase with BWV 129.5, a modification that remains consistent in BWVs 197a.7, 398 and Dietel 113. Instead of beginning with sol-sol, the phrase begins sol-la.)
These kinds of modifications to hymn tunes begs one general question in my mind. What was the "norm" of this tune against which Bach was working? Which version, BWV 64.4 or BWV 94.8, is more consistent with that "norm"? Naturally this assumes that there was a norm, which may not necessarily be the case. In the instance of "O Gott, du frommer Gott," the question becomes even more challenging to answer since the tune does not appear in the popular Vopelius hymnal and is apparently difficult to find among others. I would be very interested in seeing the tune as presented in any other contemporary hymnals. (Anyone?)


Cantata BWV 94: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

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