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Musical Context of Bach Cantatas
Motets & Chorales for 21st Sunday after Trinity

 

Readings: Epistle: Ephesians 6: 10-17; Gospel: John 4: 46-54

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

Motets and Chorales for the 21st Sunday after Trinity (Trinity 21)

 
 

Cantata 109, Trinity 21 Chorales, Fugitive Notes

William Hoffman wrote (June 28, 2012):
For the 21st Sunday after Trinity in Leipzig, Bach composed four works, the first time since the 16th Sunday after Trinity when he also created a rare fourth cantata with a Picander 1728 published text. This is the final Sunday in Trinity Time when four Bach original musical sermons survive. This significance may be due to the New Testament theme of belief triumphing over doubt, found in all four works that are unique and distinctive examples of Bach's penchant for achieving unity of theme through diversity of music. Meanwhile, the final Trinity Time Sundays summarize chorales central to the <omne tempore> church half-year Christian teachings of the eschatological "Last Things" in the "Completion of the Kingdom of Righteousness"

The increasingly optimistic works and first performances of the four cantatas are:
+Cycle 1, chorus Cantata BWV 109, "Ich glaube, lieber Herr, hilf meinem Unglauben!" (I believe, dear Lord, help my unbelief), October 29, 1723;
+Cycle 2, chorale Cantata BWV 38, "Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir" (Out of deep need cry I to Thee), October 29, 1724, with no record of a repeat performance on October 17, 1725;
+Cycle 3 chorus Cantata BWV 98 with the popular dictum, "Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan" (What God does, that is done well), November 10, 1726; and
+Picander Cycle SATB solo Cantata BWV 188, "Ich habe meine Zuversicht" (I have my confidence), probably October 17, 1728.

For the 21st Sunday after Trinity, "Bach came up with no less than four outstanding works all based on the Gospel account of the healing of the nobleman's son (John 4:46-54), marvelously contrasted and subtly differentiated by mood and instrumentation," says John Eliot Gardiner in the program notes for the Bach Cantata Pilgrimage 2000 Soli Deo Gloria recordings (BCW http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Pic-Rec-BIG/Gardiner-P11c[sdg168_gb].pdf). The supportive Epistle is Ephesians 6:10-17, "Put on the whole armour of God." Among the musical devices Bach uses, beginning with the initial Cantata BWV 109, are contrasting, conflicting instrumental and vocal forces; dialogues between voices representing faith and doubt; and tonal allegory of harmonic exploration and direction as illustrated by author Eric Chaffe.

Among unique cantata movements Gardiner cites are the affirmative pastoral dance moods in BWV 109/5, the alto aria with two oboes, "The Saviour knows yea his own," and the opening tenor aria, "I have my confidence," in Cantata BWV 188. The opening sinfonia of Cantata 188 was adapted from the third movement of the Clavier Concerto in D Minor, BWV 1052.

The basic theme of belief and doubt is found in all four cantatas, says Gardiner. These involve the dialogue and inner struggle in Cantata 109; the hidden granting of faith and the words of comfort and wonder in Cantata 38; the intimate, genial confidence amid human vascillation between doubt and trust in God in Cantata 98; and basic affirmation of belief in Cantata 188.


Cantata 38: De profundis

Familiar chorales assume a major role in the 21st Sunday after Trinity, particularly in chorale Cantata BWV 38. The four designated chorales for this Sunday in Bach's favorite hymnbook, used extensively throughout <omne tempore> Epiphany and Trinity Times, also are given important places in Bach's cantatas. Most significant is Martin Luther's 1524 austere, penitential paraphrase of Psalm 130, <De profundis>, "Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir" (Out of deep need cry I to Thee), found in the <Neu Leipziger Gesangbuch> (NLGB) of 1682 as No. 270 with five stanzas (see Francis Browne BCW English translation, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/Chorale085-Eng3.htm.

Bach's only vocal setting of "Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir" is chorale Cantata 38, using an opening motet chorus for Stanza 1 and in Movement No. 6, a closing four-part plain chorale harmonization of Stanza 5, "Ob bei uns ist der Sünden viel,/ Bei Gott ist viel mehr Gnade;" (Although there is much sin among us, /with God there is much more mercy). The other three stanzas are paraphrased, one in each movement: No. 2, alto recitative; No. 3, tenor da-capo aria; and No. 5, terzette ritornello aria for soprano, alto, and bass.

For the Cantata 38 planned second recitative, No. 4, for soprano, Bach's still-unknown librettist (Streck, Group No. 3), provided an original text using threads from Stanzas 3 and 4 and an added Gospel emphasis. On rare occasions, Bach added an original text to a chorale cantata to provide an equal number of recitatives and arias. The SAB terzette (trio) aria is one of only five found in Bach cantatas, the others being BWV 248v/9, 116/4 (in chorale cantata, "Du Friedefürst," composed four weeks later for Trinity 25), 211/10, and 150/5.

Bach set "Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir" melodies as organ chorale preludes BWV 686-87 in E Major and F# Minor, <Clavierübung III> (Catechism chorale prelude collection) 1737 (Luther 1524 melody), and BWV 1099 (Neumeister Collection, c.1700; Wolfgang Dachstein 1525 melody). The title is listed in the Weimar <Orgelbüchlein> (Little Organ Book) as an <omne tempore> Catechism chorale, No. 67, "Confession, Penitence, and Justification," but not set.

The treatment of the Cantata 38 opening movmenent chorale motet is similar to Bach's later treatment in the <Clavierübung III>, observers Alfred Dürr (<Cantatas of JSB>: 603). It retains the <stile antico> motet style but not the varied character of each line-section text setting differentation.

The hymn, "Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir," is assigned to the 21st Sunday after Trinity "in all the older Leipzig hymnbooks," says Günther Stiller (<JSB & Liturgical Life in Leipzig>: 248). In Bach's <NLGB> it also was designated for the 11th, 19th and 22nd Sundays after Trinity as well as the Fourth Sunday after Epiphany. It also was sung at Catechism and funeral services, including Luther's in 1546. It is still found in many hymnals, often for funerals, translated as "Out of the depths I cry to Thee," by Catherine Winkworth.


Trinity 21 Designated Hymns

The other three designated hymns in the <NLGB> for the 21st Sunday after Trinity are:

"Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ" (I call to Thee, Lord Jesus Christ); also for Trinity 2, 5, 6, 8, 19, 22 and Epiphany 3, 5. For details, see BCW, Trinity 2 Chorales, Hymn of the Day, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/LCY/M&C-Trinity2.htm

"Herr Christ, der einge Gottes Sohn" (Lord Jesus Christ, God's Only Son); also for Trinity 18 and Epiphany 1 and 6; see BCW Trinity 18 Chorales, to be posted.

"Allein zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ" (Alone with Thee, Lord Jesus Christ); also for Trinity 3, 11, 22, 24; Epiphany 3. For details, see BCW, Trinity 11, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/LCY/M&C-Trinity13.htm


Trinity Time Hymns in Cantatas 109, 98, 188

Bach used other popular Trinity Time <omne tempore> hymns for his other three Cantatas BWV 109, 98, and 188:

Cycle 1 Cantata BWV 109, "Ich glaube, lieber Herr, hilf meinem Unglauben!," closes with the Spengler, seven-stanza hymn, "Durch Adams Fall" (Through Adam's Fall), Stanza 7, "Wer hofft in Gott und dem vertraut,/ Der wird nimmer zuschanden;" (Whoever hopes in God and trusts in him/ will never be put to shame;). For details and Bach's uses of the hymn of Christian Life and Belief, see BCW Chorales Trinity 6, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/LCY/M&C-Trinity6.htm, designated (<NLGB>) for Quinquagesima and Trinity Sundays 6, 9, 12, 14. Cantata 109 uses Dürr's Cycle 1 first group six-movement form: dictum, two recitatives and arias, and closing chorale, that was used in middle Trinity Time, and is found in the next Cantata BWV 89, for the 22nd Sunday after Trinity. No text author has been suggested and given its form and use of mostly Old Testament biblical quotations (Isaiah, Psalms), it is not attributed to Bach's St. Thomas Church pastor, Christian Weiss Sr.

Cycle 3 chorus Cantata BWV 98 begins with the popular dictum, "Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan" (What God does, that is done well), Stanza 1. One of Bach's favorite hymn tunes returns as an opening chorus following the chorale Cantata BWV 99 for the 15th Sunday after Trinity in 1724, and preceeding the 1732-34 undesignated pure-hymn Cantata BWV 100, BWV 100, that reuses the opening of Cantata 99 for the 15th Sunday after Trinity, also the Sunday appropriate for undesignated Cantata BWV 100. Cantata 98 has no designated closing chorale but it is possible to repeat the opening chorus set to the final Stanza 6. The unknown librettist may be Picander. For details of Samuel Rodigast's newer hymn of trust and guidance (not in the <NLGB>), see BCW, Trinity 15 Chorales, Trinity 15B, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/LCY/M&C-Trinity15.htm, and Cantata 100 Discussion 2, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV100-D2.htm. In lieu of a closing chorale in Cantata 98, the final extant movement, the alto da-capo aria, uses the opening line dictum sung to the varied melody of the popular general chorale by Christian Keymann (1658), "Meinen Jesum, laßt ich nicht" (My Jesus, I will not let go).

Picander Cycle SATB solo Cantata BWV 188, "Ich habe meine Zuversicht" (I have my confidence), was probably introduced on October 17, 1728. It closes with the anonymous text, "Auf meinen lieben Gott" (Of my loving God) appearing in Lübeck before 1603, set to the Jacob Regnart 1574 secular song melody, "Venus, du und dein Kind" (Venus, you and your child [Cupid]). It is found in the <NLGB> as No. 299 under the heading "Persecution, Tribulation and Challenge." It also is listed in the <Leiziger Kirchen-Andahten> of 1694 as the hymn the day for this Sunday and was still listed in the Dresden hymn schedules for this Sunday in 1750, says Stiller (<Ibid.> 246). The Dresden hymn schedules also suggest general "Hymns of Lament and Comfort" for this Sunday, including "Auf meinen lieben Gott" and "Was Gott tut."

Various other hymns using the alternate text of "Auf Meinen lieben Gott" have used the popular hymn of repentence melody, "Wo sol lich fliehen hin? (Where shall I flee hence?). All these are explained in the BCW Chorale, "Wo soll ich fliehen hin/Auf meinen lieben Gott", http://www.bach-cantatas.com/CM/Wo-soll-ich-fliehen-hin.htm. Bach uses these variants in various <omne tempore> Trinity Time Cantatas BWV 5, 89 (Trinity 22), 136; 163, 199, 148; and untexted organ chorale preludes in BWV 646 (Schubler Chorale from a lost cantata) and BWV 694.


Other Bach Trinity 21 opportunities:

+On October 26, 1727, there was no performance during the mourning period of Sept. 7, 1727, to Jan. 8, 1728, for deceased Saxon Queen Christiane Eberhardine.

+ On November 17, 1734, chorale Cantata BWV 38, may have been reperfromed, possibly as part of performance of the entire second cycle.

+On Trinity, November 6, 1735, Bach probably performed a Stözel two-part cantata, now work identified, as part of the cycle "Saitenspiele testeddes Hertzens" (Music Playing of the Heart), text by Benjamin Schmolck, with two chorale settings not identified.

+About October 28, 1736, Bach may have performed Stözel's two-part cantata, "Die Schläge des Liebhabers meinen es recht gut" from the cantata cycle "Das Namenbuch Christi," (Book of Names of Christ), Schmolck text, No. 63. No musical source with the presumed chorales is extant.


Reperformances

There is no evidence that any of Bach's four cantatas for the 21st Sunday after Trinity - BWV 109, 38, 98, and 188 -- were reperformed in his lifetime. One, chorale Cantata BWV 38, "Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir," was presented in 1770 by Christoph Friedrich Penzel, cantor and one of Bach's last students. As St. Thomas prefect in 1755, he had copied and performed 10 mostly middle Trinity Time chorale Cantatas (BWV178, 94, 101, 113, 137, 33, 99, 114, 129, and 140). Penzel's manuscript source in 1770, when he selectively presented some eight cantatas (BWV 97, 157, 159, 106, 158, 112, 25, 38), was primarily Friedemann Bach, who charged to have copies made of the chorale cantata scores he possessed, while Penzel continued to access Leipzig publisher Breitkopf for copies of the other cantata manuscripts.

 

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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