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Musical Context of Bach Cantatas
Motets & Chorales for 17th Sunday after Trinity


Readings: Epistle: Ephesians 4: 1-6; Gospel: Luke 14: 1-11

Dates in the lifetime of J.S. Bach, including works composed for the event

Motets and Chorales for the 17th Sunday after Trinity (Trinity 17)

Douglas Cowling wrote (April 15, 2012):


Jürgen Grimm, "Das neu [?] Leipziger Gesangbuch des Gottfried Vopelius
(Leipzig 1682)",
Berlin: Merseburger, 1969.
ML 3168 G75

Otto Riemer, "Erhard Bodenschatz und sein Florilegium Portense"
Schünigen: Kaminsky,1927
ML 410 B67R4

Partial Index of Motets in ³Florilegium Portense² with links to online scores and biographies:

Dissertation on Bodenschatz Collection (downloadable):


? No motets are listed for Trinity 17. Given the repetition of hymns across the mid-Trinity season, the motets for the preceding and succeeding Sundays may have been sung.

? Below the chorales, a note suggests additional hymns about the Ten Commandments: see Trinity 18.

1) MOTETS for Introit, Before Sermon at mass and vespers for Choir II, and During Communion:


2) HYMN OF DAY (de tempore)

³Nun freut euch lieben Christen gemein² [also Trinity 12, 13 &18]


³Wo Gott der Herr²


Cantata 148: Chorales, Texts, Etc.

William Hoffman wrote (April 8, 2011):
Following the unified, somber yet uplifting chorale-driven four meditations on death in the 16th Sunday after Trinity, Bach in his three extant cantatas for the 17th Sunday after Trinity again seeks unity through diversity in his choice of texts, hymns and corresponding musical treatment. Timing in the Trinity Time of thematic Christian teaching is crucial as the temporal calendar year and Trinity Time begin transitioning towards their cyclic conclusions.

Flexibility, unity through diversity, and a renewed need to proclaim and teach infuse the Cantatas BWV 148, "Bringet dem Herrn Ehre seines Namens" (Bring to the Lord the Honor of His Name); Cantata BWV 114, the hymning "Ach lieben Christen seid getrost" (Ah, dear Christians, be comforted); and Cantata BWV 47, "Wer sich selbst erhohet, der soll erniedriget werden" (Whoever exhalts himself, he shall be abased).

The 17th Sunday after Trinity is the penultimate Sunday of the six affirmative paired teachings of miracles and parables in the Trinity Time mini-cycle emphasizing the "Works of Faith and Love," that is, the meaning of being a Christian, says Paul Zeller Strodach, <The Church Year> (United Lutheran Publication House, Philadelphia PA, 1924: 216). This Sunday's Gospel (Luke 14:1-11) uses both a healing miracle and a parable to show the righteousness of the Lord and his judgments. These lead to next Sunday's Gospel affirmation (Matthew 22:34-46) of the Great Commandment to love God and its Christian corollary, and also to love one's neighbor as one's self, ending the six-Sunday cycle in the third quarter of Trinity Time.

The affirmative facets of the Christian character in this Sunday's Gospel involve proactive care for all living things beyond passive observance of the law primarily motivated by pride in self and place. This is demonstrated in Jesus' Sabbath miracle healing and his concomitant parable of the guests and their place at a wedding where humility instead of pride leads to honor from the host and respect from the other guests.

That Bach had a special interest in this cantata trilogy of reflections on the Lucan gospel teaching of Healing on the Lord's Day and the Parable of Humility is shown through his careful selection of poetic texts and chorales with biblical and theological references and his subsequent reprisals of all three cantatas with changes. Meanwhile, all three cantatas are representative of the special character of each of his three respective annual church cycles composed in Leipzig between 1723 and 1727, as well as Bach's quest for well-ordered cantatas as musical sermons through effective texts and expressive music.

All three cantatas show Bach's intense interest in the principal ingredients of poetic text, chorale hymns, and appropriate music. At this point in Trinity Time, there had been a succession of three months of Sunday didactic cantatas without festive holidays and communal celebration. Now the proximity of the 18th Sunday after Trinity to the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels, of the symbolic defeat of evil, on September 29, would inaugurate the Leipzig Fall Fair celebrating the harvest and the approach a month later to the final church year festive observance of Reformation Day on October 31, about one month before the beginning of the new church year of Advent in December and the onset of winter.

Bach could have been excused for being a bit anxious, wanting to use brass instruments and effective choruses to anticipate the coming changes as well as the eschatology (end times) of the church and civic year. Thus, for Cantata BWV 148, Bach chose a solo high trumpet for the opening chorus, and used a horn in the opening chorale fantasia of Cantata 114. For the opening chorus of Cantata 47, Bach composed elaborate interplay between solo voices and chorus as well as instruments in the orchestra.

In all three cycles, Bach took a particular interest in setting and enhancing effective music to the poetic texts while harmonizing popular <omnes tempore> Trinity Time chorales to support the teaching and energize the congregations at St. Thomas and St. Nikolaus. All three cantatas open with intricate large-scale choruses and close with effective chorale harmonizations emphasizing specific words in the chosen verses. All three cantatas have appealing internal dance-style da-capo solo arias with elaborate solo instruments: BWV 148/2 is a 6/8 gigue for tenor and violin, "I hasten the teaching of life to hear"; BWV 114, in addition to the gigue-style vivace opening chorus in 6/4, shows progressive Lombard "Scottish-snap" rhythm in the ¾ time A section, "Where will . . . my spirit the refuge be?" for tenor and flute, as well as the vivace B section in 12/8 time; and BWV 47/2, "Who a true Christian will be called," is in pastoral style 3/8 time for soprano and obbligato violin, substituting an organ in reperformances in 1736-39 and about Sept. 3, 1742.

The other two cantatas also were reperformed in Leipzig: Cantata 148 between 1732 and 1735 with text alterations and Cantata 114 between 1740 and 1747 with a possible reperformance of the entire chorale cantata cycle on October 17, 1734. In addition, Chorale Cantata 114 was copied from the St. Thomas parts set in September 1755 by former Bach student and Prefect Christian Friedrich Penzel, probably for a performance on Trinity 17, October 5, 1755. There is no record of Bach sons, Friedemann and Emmanuel, performing any of these cantatas (148, 114, 47) or materials from them that they inherited, in Halle or Hamburg. For the record, only a score copy of Cantata 148 survived in the estate of Emmanuel, Friedemann's score and the St. Thomas parts of Chorale Cantata 114 survive; and both the score and parts set of Cantata 47 survive, apparently transmitted through Friedemann.

Cantata 148

Apparently for his inaugural 1723 Leipzig cycle on September 19, Bach utilized an early draft of a Picander six-stanza sacred poem, quite different from the 1725 published version and constructed differently with no opening dictum and no fichorale text. Picander emphasized turning away from worldly temptation and pursuits in favor of "essential principles of faith," says Masaaki Suzuki in his complete cantata notes, BCW,[BIS-CD1081].pdf. Since the Picander text has little to do with the day's Gospel, Bach chose for the opening chorus appropriate passages from Psalms 29:2 and 92:8-9, a Sabbath Song of Praise.

The textual disparities have caused disputes among Bach scholars regarding the first performance date of Cantata 148, as shown in the BCW Cantata 148 template: Another inaugural date suggested is September 23, 1725, during Cycle 2a Trinity Time addendum to Cycle 2 when Bach presented only a handful of original works mostly for special occasions. Suffice is to say the following:
1. There is source-critical evidence that Bach previously may have used Picander poetry in Cantatas 25 and 138 for Trinity 14 and 15 as Bach continued to struggle to find acceptable texts from a great variety of sources in the heterogeneous first cycle. This involved established and acceptable Weimar-era published poets (1710-17) and still-undetermined and unpublished contemporary Leipzig poets writing new libretti to fit Bach's two basic cantata structures of biblical words, alternating recitatives and arias, and closing chorale.
2. There is no other cantata Bach could have presented on this Sunday in 1723; meanwhile there is still no evidence as to what cantatas Bach presented on the succeeding Sunday Trinity 18 (September 26), as well as the St. Michael's Festival three days later on Wednesday, September 29. This is the first and only gap in Bach's Cycle 1 cantata production that began on the First Sunday after Trinity, May 30, 1723. It is possible that Bach may have encountered his first conflict with the Leipzig Town Council over his choice of cantata texts prior to publication in monthly texts books for main services.
3. There is no original manuscript score and parts set for Cantata 148, only a score in the hand of son-in-law Johann Christoph Altnikol (1720-59), copied after 1756, probably from the original score, that was found in the 1790 estate of son Carl Philipp Emmanuel. There also are indications that between 1732 and 1735 the Picander-style poetic text of Cantata 148, which contains no closing chorale, only music, again was altered, possibly for a reperformance in 1732.

Cantata 114

The struggle for suitable cantata texts continued in the succeeding, homogeneous second chorale cantata cycle of 1724-25. Bach scholar Arthur Hirsch in his doctoral dissertation suggests that Bach relied on four different authors: The initial writer(s) produced poetry of inferior quality for the first nine Sundays after Trinity. Then an author-adapter first found in the Cycle No 1 three Pentecost Festival parodies of BWV 66 and 134 was used sparingly only for Trinity 10, 11, and 20.

Meanwhile, Bach came to rely on two different, still-unknown authors alternating for the Cycle No. 2 second half of the 1724 Trinity Time. It is possible that Bach also encountered complaints from the Town Council concerning theatrical elements in the cantata texts, such as dramatic chorale trope insertions into arias. Instead, as in Chorale Cantata 114, for most of the reminder of the chorale cycle until Easter 1725, Bach generally relied on the basic, familiar format of straightforward opening chorale fantasia and closing harmonized chorale with poetic hymn-text paraphrases using original music in the internal arias and recitatives.

Cantata 47

For the third and final heterogeneous cantata cycle of 1726-27 Bach seems to have exhausted the use of reliable old 1704 Rudolstadt texts and Georg Christian Lehms 1711 Darmstadt texts while increasingly recycling instrumental concerti and parodied cantata music. Before turning again to the usually-acceptable and always-available Picander, Bach for his cantata for the 17th Sunday after Trinity (October 13, 1726) turned to another long-standing published poet, the late Johann Friedrich Helbig's 1720 Eisenach texts.

Helbig, like Neumeister, also had provided Georg Philipp Telemann with annual cycles of ready-made and published cantata texts. Unfortunately, the Helbig text - Bach's only use of this poet's work - has been condemned as the worst! To quote John Eliot Gardiner in his 2000 Bach Cantata Pilgrimage recording notes: "At times it descends into pure doggerel " (BCW,[sdg159_gb].pdf). Perhaps Bach was serving up a dose of their own medicine to the conservative, pietist members of the Leipzig Town Council. After this, Bach rarely composed further cantatas, occasionally relying on almost entirely on Picander, who published an entire cycle in mid 1728 from only nine Bach cantatas are extant.

Chorale Usages for Trinity 17

Bach found the high ground with his use of chorales. He relied on popular traditional and newer published hymns. His conflicts were solely with the Leipzig Town Council, involving non-religious issues, primarily his job conditions. Church matters were the exclusive purview of the ordained members of the Leipzig church consistory (ruling council). Bach's use of popular chorales is no exception in his Trinity 17 Cantatas 148, 114, and 47. Closing Cantata 148, the Trinity Time chorale "Wo soll ich fliehen hin/Auf meinen lieben Gott" is one of Bach's most used settings with various interrelated texts and melody variants. Chorale Cantata 114 is a setting of "Ach lieben Christen seid getrost" (Ah, dear Christians, be comforted); and Cantata 47 closes with the chorale "Warum betrübst du dich, mein Herz?" (Why Are You Afflicted, My Heart?).

"Auf meinen lieben Gott"

Bach closes Cantata BWV 148, "Bringet dem Herrn Ehre seines Namens" (Bring to the Lord the Honor of His Name) with a harmonization of the Jacob Regnart 1607 chorale melody, "Auf meinen lieben Gott" (In My Loving God), later set to the Johann Heermann 1630 11-stanza text, "Wo soll ich fliehen hin?" (Where Should I Flee Hence?). Lacking the text setting, Bach scholars have debated which specific stanza of the two hymns Bach used in Cantata 148. Just about any verse would be effective to close Cantata 148 and Gardiner (Ibid.) actually uses the first verse of "Auf meinen lieben Gott" "with its appropriate vow of submission to God's will."

The six-stanza chorale "Auf meinen lieben Gott" is found in the <Neu Leipziger Gseangbuch> (NLGB) 1682 of Gottfried Vopelius as No. 299 in a J. H. Schein 1638 four-part setting under the heading "Persecution, Tribulation, and Challenges." "Wo sol lich fliehen hin? is hymn No. 182 in the NLGB as a penitential Catechism Hymn and is listed a sone of the hymns to be sung on Trinity 3 . Bach's uses are for the Chorale Cantata 5 for Trinity 19 in 1724, and to close Cantata 136/6 for Trinity 8 in 1723 and Cantata 89 for Trinity 22 in 1723. For Bach's uses of the hymns see BCW, For important further information, see BCW,

"Ach lieben Christen seid getrost"

Turning to Chorale Cantata 114, "Ach lieben Christen seid getrost" (Ah, dear Christians, be comforted), Gardiner is impressed with Bach's chorale melody setting: "What is immediately striking about its chorale fantasia opening, a 6/4 movement in G minor marked vivace, is that it has at its core the same stirring [1524] chorale melody by Justus Jonas used so memorably in [1724 Trinity 8 Chorale Cantata] BWV 178 `Wo Gott der Herr nicht bei uns hält' [If God the Lord Not With Us Stay] yet treated here very differently." Instead of a "belligerent" "diatribe against hypocrites and false prophets," Gardiner fithis text setting "is far more nuanced" with the opposite moods of comfort and caution found in Johannes Gigas' six-stanza 1561 paraphrase of Psalm 124, God as the Peoples' Protector. This is set to Bach's two contrasting melodies: a variant of the assertive hymn tune supported by a solo horn and Bach's original, soothing accompaniment. "Ach lieben Christen seid getrost" is assigned to the 17th Sunday after Trinity in the Leipzig and Dresden hymn schedules, says Günther Stiller's <JSB and Liturgical Life in Leipzig> (Concordia: St. Louis, 244).

There are two other settings of the Jonas' Psalm hymn, "If God the Lord Not With Us Stay," in the NLGB as No. 326, "Death and Dying," that Bach uses in his <St. Mark Passion>: Stanza 4 is No. 7(3) and Stanza 3 is No. 63(26). Both verses are directed at those who pass judgment or bear false witness. The musical sources are two of three plain chorale settings, BWV 256-258. It also is a designated hymn for the 17th Sunday after Trinity in the NLGB. For Bach's uses of the hymn "If God the Lord Not With Us Stay," see BCW, For the original Jonas text, see Francis Browne's translation, BCW,

"Warum betrübst du dich, mein Herz?

To close Cantata 47 in 1726, Bach harmonized the 11th and final stanza of the anonymous, before 1563 chorale, "Warum betrübst du dich, mein Herz?" (Why Are You Afflicted, My Heart?), beginning with the text "Der zeitlichen Ehrn will ich gern entbehrn" (Worldly honour I shall do without completely). It is found in the NLGB as No. 275, is an <omnes tempore> "Of the Cross: Persecution and Tribulation," for Trinity 7, 9, and 15. Details of Bach's uses of thus hymn are found in BCW,, involving Cantata 138, a 1723 hybrid chorale cantata. Francis Browne's translation is found in BCW,

Other Trinity 17 Chorales

The NLGB lists two chorales and one theme designated for the 17th Sunday After Trinity: "Nun freut euch lieben Christen g'mein," NLGB 231, and "Wo Gott der Herr nicht bein uns halt," and the <omnes tempore> hymns on the Ten Commandments of Luther's Catechism, particularly "Dies sind die heiligen Zehn Gebot," "Mensch wilt du leben seliglich," and "O Mensch wiltu vor Gott bestahn," Nos. 170-172, that are designated to be sung on the Third Sunday after Trinity. Details of Luther's "Nun fret euch"
Are found in BCW, It is designated in the NLGB for Trinity 12, 13, 17, 18, and 27 as Catechism Communion Hymn and fort general use as a Communion Hymn in all the main services. Further information is found in BCW,

There are three other Trinity 17 performances in which Bach had chorales available:
1. For Trinity 17, Sept. 19, 1728, the Picander published cycle lists no chorale setting for the Cantata P-60, "Stolz und Pracht ist der Welt," which Bach did not set.
2. On Sept. 25, 1735, Bach probably performed a Stözel two-part cantata as part of the cycle "Saitenspiele des Hertzens" (Music Playing of the Heart), text by Benjamin Schmolck, with two chorale settings not identified.
3. About Sept. 23, 1736; Bach may have performed Stözel's two-part cantata "Des Menschen Sohn ist auch ein Herr über den Sabatt" from the cantata cycle "Das Namenbuch Christi," (Book of Names of Christ), Schmolck text, No. 59. No musical source with chorale is extant.

Final Note

One final note on Bach's use of biblical quotations noted related to the service's Gospel or Epistle lesson. The Bach NLGB hymnal designates the hymns on the theme of the Ten Commandments for this Sunday. It is possible, particularly with Bach's substitution of the Psalm 29 and 92 quotations in the opening chorus of Cantata 148 replacing lines Picander's original poetry, that Bach not only wanted to emphasize the Gospel teaching but also to use references to the Commandment sins of coveting good and bearing false witness. In addition, the entire mini-cycle on the "Works of Faith and Love," from the 12th to the 18th Sundays after Trinity focuses on the overarching Christian principle of Jesus' Great Commandment to love God and the neighbor as the self.

Besides selecting the chorale melody and verse to be used in each chorale, Bach for the text settings probably chose specific biblical passages that reinforced the Sunday Gospel and Epistle lessons, as well as the actual main service sermon to be delivered after his "musical sermon" cantata. The chorales and texts were chosen to fit into the various movements in the overall structure, usually -- and particularly in Cantatas 148, 114, and 47 for the 17th Sunday after Trinity -- in the established form of opening chorus, alternating arias and recitatives, and closing four-part chorale.


Musical Context of Bach Cantatas: Table of Motets & Chorales for Events in the Lutheran Church Year

Lutheran Church Year: Main Page and Explanation | LCY - Event Table | LCY 2000-2005 | LCY 2006-2010 | LCY 2011-2015
Sundays & Holidays in the Lifetime of J.S. Bach | Performance Dates of Bach’s Vocal Works
Readings from the Epistles and the Gospels for each Event | Motets & Chorales for Events in the LCY
Discussions: Events in the Lutheran Church Year: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Readings from the Bible

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Last update: ýAugust 23, 2012 ý13:22:55