Aryeh Oron wrote (March 23, 2002):
BWV 134 - Background
The background below is taken completely from W. Murray Young’s book ‘The Cantatas of J.S. Bach – An Analytical Guide’. The English translations are by Francis Browne, a member of the BCML.
Mvt. 1: Recitative for Tenor & Alto
Ein Herz, das seinen Jesum lebend weiß,
A heart that knows its Jesus living
The tenor begins by citing that "Ein Herz, das seinen Jesum lebend weiss, / Empfindet Jesu neue Güte." (A heart that knows its Jesus living, / feels the new loving-kindness of Jesus.) Following this, he adds, " ... and writes only in his saviour's praise." The alto voice adds the final Arioso: "Wie freuet sich ein gläubiges Gemüte!" (how a believing soul is happy!)
Mvt. 2: Aria for Tenor
Auf, Gläubige, singet die lieblichen Lieder,
(Up, believers, sing the delightful songs)
Oboe I/II, Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo
In heroic style, the tenor exhorts believers to pay homage to the Lord with songs of thanks. Noteworthy are the high-noted repeats of "Auf, Gläubige" (Up, believers), with interjections of "auf" repeated in a series of ascending tones as the aria develops. Even the text dances with the felicity-motif from beginning to end. The idea of the living Saviour in the title recurs in the last half of the aria (as it will again in the final chorus). The thought and its musical expression make this aria especially memorable.
Mvt. 3: Recitative in Dialogue for Tenor & Alto
Wohl dir, Gott hat an dich gedacht,
(You are fortunate, God has thought of you)
The singers alternately discourse in dialogue about how Christ defends us from the wiles of the enemy (Satan), until even the last enemy (death) is overcome by Him.
Mvt. 4: Aria (Duet) for Alto & Tenor
Wir danken und preisen dein brünstiges Lieben
(We thank and praise your fervent love)
Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo
With the orchestral accompaniment playing a minuet, this long duet (ten minutes in duration) continues the theme of praise and thanks, with the joy-motif apparent in voices and instruments. The long instrumental ritornelli remind the listener of Bach's attention to his composition of the Brandenburg Concerti about this time. The last part of the aria is treated in florid fashion, especially in their runs on the verbs "erwechet" (awakens), "erscheint" (appears), “tröstet" (consoles), and "starket" (strengthens). Here we also find Bach's only reference to the Gospel for the day.
Mvt. 5: Recitative for Tenor & Alto
Doch wirke selbst den Dank in unserm Munde,
(But bring about yourself the thanks in our mouths)
Not in dialogue this time; the tenor narrates the first part, and the alto the last. Both express in turn their thanks to God for His protection against evil, and for His gift of salvation.
Mvt. 6: Chorus
Erschallet, ihr Himmel, erfreue dich, Erde,
(Resound, you heavens, rejoice, earth)
Oboe I/II, Violino I col Soprano, Violino II coll'Alto, Viola col Tenore, Continuo
Seems more a duet for two separate choirs of soprano and bass voices than a chorus in the usual sense. The orchestral ritornelli, before and after the vocal sections, are very long - in fact the whole chorus is much longer than the duet (Mvt. 4) - and again the rhythm is a passepied dance form akin to a minuet. The joy-motif, symbolic of Easter, pervades the whole chorus from the beginning. Note the coloratura runs on "Schar."
The last line emphasizes Christ's triumph; as the melody rises, it betokens Christ's victory, which is the consolation of all believers on this earth.
This is another marvelous chorus which, although derived from a secular cantata, proves that Bach can apply his religious feeling to convert praise for princes into praise for God. The sacred and the secular find common ground in Bach's mystical vision expressed in his music.