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Musical Context of Bach Cantatas
Motets & Chorales for 8th Sunday after Trinity


Readings: Epistle: Romans 8: 12-17; Gospel: Matthew 7: 15-23

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

Motets and Chorales for the 8th Sunday after Trinity (Trinity 8)

Douglas Cowling wrote (August 28, 2011):


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

Dissertation on Bodenschatz Collection (downloadable)


* The Marenzio motet is an exceptional example of late Mannerist Renaissance style. The madrigalian influences are especially strong.

1) MOTETS for Introit, Before Sermon at mass and vespers for Choir II, and During Communion:
i) "Iniquos Odio Habui" (8 voices) - L. Maurentius (Luca Marenzio)


Text: Psalm 119: 113-117

I hate the double-minded,
but I love your law.
You are my hiding-place and my shield;
I hope in your word.
Go away from me, you evildoers,
that I may keep the commandments of my God.
Uphold me according to your promise, that I may live,
and let me not be put to shame in my hope.
Hold me up, that I may be safe
and have regard for your statutes continually.
You spurn all who go astray from your statutes;
for their cunning is in vain.
All the wicked of the earth you count as dross;
therefore I love your decrees.
My flesh trembles for fear of you,
and I am afraid of your judgements.

2) HYMN OF DAY (de tempore)
"Ach Gott Von Himmel"

3) CHORALES for Pulpit and Communion Hymns:
"Ich ruf zu dir Herr Jesu Christ": Live streaming:

"O Herre Gott dein göttliches Wort"


Trinity 8 Chorales

William Hoffman wrote (September 11, 2011):
As Bach proceeded into the middle Trinity Sundays in his three extant cantata cycles in Leipzig in the middle 1720s, chorales played a central role in his settings. They provided him with important Psalm and communion texts as well as teachings on essential themes of the Reform Church's half year of biblical readings. Bach responded with a varied plethora of settings for the heterogeneous first cycle, used entire chorale texts as the basis for the first three-fourths of his second cycle, and turned back to established, familiar chorales in older texts in his third cycle.

As part of his manifesto and calling for a "well-ordered church music to the glory of God," Bach systematically and intentionally explored and utilized the established Lutheran chorales, usually adhered to the general pattern of prescribed hymn-book service chorale usages in Saxony and Thuringia, and sought out newer hymns and applications in his sacred cantatas. Historically, many Bach commentators and scholars often have criticized the quality of the cantata's poetic texts, including the chorale stanza paraphrases in Cycle 2.

An in-depth examination of Bach's chorale choices and accompanying madrigalian aria and free-verse recitative texts shows a profound understanding, utilization, and synthesis of materials conveyed in these harmonious musical sermons with their growing sense of internal integrity, external engagement, and dramatic appeal - particularly in Bach's hybrid mixture of chorale with recitative, aria, arioso, or chorus.

Besides blending varied texts into a consistency of both complex unity and diversity of textual and musical expression, Bach was able in the chorale cantata cycle, beginning with BWV 178 for the 8th Sunday after Trinity, to achieve a sense of drama, texture and cohesion through the use of two creative, hybrid chorale/choruses with interspersed recitatives flanking a central tenor chorale quartet aria. These are further buttressed by a striking opening chorale fantasia with the canto in the traditional soprano, and closing with a reflective plain chorale. While composing this original, chorale-based cycle in later 1724, Bach was able to develop the ingredients for the dramatic dialogues of collective and individual expression, established in three poetic movements of the St. John Passion (BWV 245) performed earlier on Good Friday that would achieve fruition in the dramatic scena and tableau of the St. Matthew Passion (BWV 244) in 1729.

In addition, Bach was able to express sustained thoughts in these mature and seasoned cantatas. The metaphors and images generated in the sacred texts of biblical praise, wisdom and prophetic literature, coupled with the Gospel and Epistle activities and teachings creates, a vivid and compelling musical mosaic of the entire cantata, beyond the traditional naturalistic references such as storms and blood. Just one example is the significance in Cantata BWV 178 of the central, complex Lion/Hero of Judah, found in other Bach works such as the St. John Passion (BWV 245). This could be a comparison and contrast of the Old Testament warrior or stalwart such as Judah Maccabee, David and Samson with the New Testament Prince of Peace, mercy, and grace.

Bach's Use of Chorales

Bach demonstrated both tactical flexibility and strategic consistency in his choice of chorales, particularly in Trinity Time. Günther Stiller devotes a full paragraph in his book on <Bach and Liturgical Life in Leipzig> (1984: 243) to explaining Bach's choice of chorales for the 8th Sunday after Trinity in lieu of the suggested chorales found in the 1682 <Neu Leipziger Gesangbuch> (<NLGB>). Relying on both previous practices and general suggestions in various Lutheran hymn books, Bach choose the Later Trinity Time Psalm 124 paraphrase <Wo Gott der Herr nicht bei uns halt> (If God does not abide in us) for his Chorale Cantata BWV 178 in 1724.

Bach already had chosen a similar themed chorale on the "Word of God and the Christian Church," Luther's setting of Psalm 12 plea for help, "Ach Gott Von Himmel siehe darein" (Ah God, look down from heaven), six weeks prior for the 2nd Sunday after Trinity Chorale Cantata BWV 2. For his third cycle cantata in 1726 Bach relied on an old libretto text with the chorale "O Gott, du frommer Gott" (O God, Thou Righteous God) found in Dresden and Weißenfels hymnals for the 9th Sunday after Trinity.

Bach also had other uses for the <NLGB>-listed chorales for the 8th Sunday after Trinity. Two of the chorales are also listed for the 2nd Sunday after Trinity and were used previously: "Ach Gott Von Himmel siehe darein" and "Ich ruf zu dir Herr Jesu Christ" (I call to you, Lord Jesus Christ), assigned as the Hymn of the Day for the Second, 19th and 21st Sundays after Trinity and as a comhymn on the Sundays after Trinity +5, +6, +8, and +22.

Bach previously used the designated pulpit hymn, Anarg von Wildenfels 1526 8-stanza "O Herre Gott dein göttliches Wort/ Ist lang verdunkelt blieben" (O Lord God, your divine word was for a long time obscured), as a plain chorale to close Cantata BWV 184 for Pentecost Tuesday 1724. Bach used the melody from a pre-Reformation folk song alone in the Neumeister chorale prelude, BWV 1110, before 1710.

The other miscellaneous organ chorale setting, BWV 757: 1700-1717, is not accepted by the NBA or BG, although the <Bach Compendium (BC)> K126 & BWV Verzeichnis (catalog) still list it. The chorale also is found in the NLGB as No. 802 and also designated for Septuagesima Sunday. Francis Browne's notes and translation are found in BCW:

Thus, it appears that Bach in his choice of chorale texts to use in his cantatas -- particularly for the chorale cantata cycle -- was primarily governed by basic expedience and general usage. He also was motivated as well in his creative desire to set the text to particular musical (sermon) treatment as well as to complement the possible emblematic cycle of actual service sermons of the St. Thomas pastor Christian Weiss, Sr., who probably was involved in Bach's cantata texts and the choice of chorales.

Beyond Bach's selection of chorales for the specific service, those he used in his three cantatas for the 8th Sunday after Trinity show considerable application. His Cycle 1 Johann Heermann chorale, "Wo soll ich fliehen hin?" (Where should I fly from here), BWV 136/6 was used in six other cantatas (with two associated melodies), and two organ chorale preludes. The Cycle 2 Justus Jonas hymn in Chorale Cantata BWV 178, <Wo Gott der Herr nicht bei uns halt>, has a popular melody set to four different texts in seven <omne tempore> cantatas, and three plain chorales, two of which were used in the <St. Mark Passion> (BWV 247), and in a recently-discovered organ chorale prelude, BWV 1128. By contrast Bach set the Heermann chorale, "O Gott, du frommer Gott," to four different melodies found in seven cantatas, in five different text settings, and an organ chorale prelude.

Chorale "Wo soll ich fliehen hin?"

I. Cantata BWV 136, <Erforsche mich, Gott, und erfahre mein Herz> (Search me, God, and know my heart) (1723) uses Johann Heermann's 1630 penitential 11-stanza hymn, "Wo soll ich fliehen hin?" (Where should I fly from here). The chorale is listed in the <NLGB> as No 523 (for Communion, Trinity 3). It was a general communion hymn and appropriate for Sundays after Trinity in Leipzig (Stiller, <JSB & Liturgical Life in Leipzig>, 1984 Concordia: 128, 246).

Other Bach uses of the <omnes tempore> chorale are found in three cantatas for Trinity Time:
*Chorale Cantata BWV 5 (Trinity 19, 1724);
*Cantata BWV 89/6 (S.7, "Mir mangelt zwar sehr viel" [I do indeed lack many things] Trinity 22, 1723); and *Cantata BWV 199/6 (S. aria, S.3, "Ich, dein betrübtes Kind, / werf alle meine Sünd" [I, your troubled child,/cast all my sins], Trinity 11, 1714, repeated 1723.

Cantata BWV 136 begins with the opening chorus in A Major (later BWV 234 <Missa> contrafaction, <In Gloria Dei patris>) and closes with the plain chorale, No. 6, in B-Minor (S. 9, "Dein Blut, der edle Saft, / hat solche Stärk und Kraft" [your blood, the noble liquid, /has such strength and might].

The associated J.H. Schein 1627 melody is found in organ chorale preludes BWV 646 in E-Minor (<Six Schubler Chorales?, c1746), and the related earlier Miscellaneous Chorale BWV 694. It is listed in the <Orgelbüchlein> (<Ob>) <omne tempore> Catechism (No. 74, Confession) but not set [BCW:].

"A common view is that (Schubler Chorale) BWV 646 comes from a lost cantata (NBA [KB I/18, Dürr 1966]: 158f): it is not known from any earlier MS of organ music, and one can easily imagine a cantata scoring of basso continuo or bassoon for the left hand, violin(s) or oboe da caccia for the right, and tenor for the<cantus>," says Peter Williams, <Organ Music of JSB>, 2nd ed., 2003: 326f.

While the cantata trio-aria origins of the other five Schubler chorales (BWV 645, 647-50) have been found, the source of BWV 646 is not extant. This late Bach E-Minor aria adaptation is one of the few Bach pieces to be traced through source-critical and collateral evidence to a lost Bach cantata.

The Schein melody was originally associated with the text "Auf meinen lieben Gott" (In my beloved God) before 1603. It is found in the <NLGB> as No. 776 as well as in the <OB> No. 136, "Death and Dying," unset. The melody also was used for various verses in Chorale Cantata BWV 5 (Trinity 19, 1724), plain chorale BWV 89/6 (Trinity 22, 1723), plain chorale BWV 163/6 (Trinity 23, 1715, repeated ? 1723), and soprano trio aria BWV 199/6 (Trinity 11, 1714, repeated 1723).

While Bach failed to set both chorales, "Wo soll ich fliehen hin?" and "Auf meinen lieben Gott," in the <Orgelbüchelin> early in his career (1710-14), as was the case with most other planned omnes tempore> Trinity Time <Ob> settings, he utilized them extensively in Leipzig in cantatas, plain chorale settings, and major organ chorale preludes. Thus, the planned 164 settings in the <Orgelbüchlein> were Bach's template for a "well-ordered church music," finally achieved in his last 27 years in Leipzig

Chorale <Wo Gott der Herr nicht bei uns halt>

II. Cantata BWV 178, <Wo Gott der Herr nicht bei uns halt> (If God does not abide in us): Justus Jonas 1524 paraphrase of Psalm 124 (<Nisi quia dominus erat in nobis>), "God, the Protector of His People." The associated pre-Reformation melody was first found in the Joseph Klug Gesangbuch 1529 (not extant) and 1535. Later settings include Samuel Scheidt four-part hymn of 1650 and Dietrich Buxtehude's Cantata "Wär Gott nicht mit uns diese Zeit," BuxWV 102 (SATB, 2 vns., bc). The melody is set in Johann Pachelbel's organ chorale prelude, "Wo Gott der Herr nicht bei uns halt."

Bach's Chorale Cantata setting of <Wo Gott der Herr nicht bei uns halt> (If God does not abide in us) was composed in 1724, exactly 200 years after the initial appearance of the Justus Jonas text. The <omnes tempore> chorale is listed in the hymnbooks for "Concerning the Word of God and The Christian Church. It is found in the NLGB No. 698 for the 4th Sunday after Epiphany as well as the 17th, 20th and 23rd Sundays After Trinity.

Other settings of Psalm 124 include: Andre Campra, <Petit Motets>, Book V, 1720; Psalms settings only of the related Psalms in Book 5, called Songs of Ascent (Psalms 120-134) include: < Dixit Dominus> "The Lord said to my Lord," "The Lord is my chosen King," from Monteverdi (also Ps. 127 <Nisi Dominus>, "Unless the Lord builds the house"), as well as Handel and Vivaldi.

Bach set the popular pre-Reformation melody, "Wo Gott der Herr nicht bei uns halt>, to four different texts in four omne tempore works, chorale Cantatas BWV 178 (Trinity 8), BWV 114 (Trinity 17), and BWV 14 (Epiphany 4), and Cantata BWV 73 (Epiphany 3), as well as three plain chorale settings, BWV 256-258, two of which are found in the 1731 <St. Mark Passion> (BWV 247). BCW The melody was set in Johann Pachelbel's organ chorale prelude of the same name, The melody usages are explained in BCW:

Bach also set the melody as an organ chorale prelude, the recently "discovered," fantasia, BWV 1128 (Anh. 71), dating to 1708-10, that is the only extant Bach organ setting. Provenance, BCW:

"It is probable that Bach played this piece himself, but he also may have given it to one of his sons or students to play on July 30, 1724 as a prelude to the Cantata BWV 178 on the same chorale for the 8th Sunday after Trinity. (Organist Ulrich) Böhme believes this is confirmed because in Bach's time the choir and orchestra performed in the lower "Kammerton," whereas the organs at St. Thomas were tuned a step higher in "Chorton," so the pitches g- and a-minor match."

Text No. 1. Jonas: BWV 178/1 (chorus fantasia), 2 (alto recit. w/chorale), 4 (tenor aria), 5 (ATB recit. w/chorale), 7 (plain chorale in A Minor-Major, Stanzas 7, 8); paraphrases in No. 3 (bass trio aria) and No. 6 (bass free-da-capo aria). The Jonas text is identified with Bach's plain chorale setting, BWV 258 in B Minor; recording in Rilling Bach Edition, Hänssler Vol. 82, Psalm Chorales): BCW, No. 9.

The text of BWV 178/2, alto recitative with chorale, Stanza 2, also is found as the text of the second chorale in Part 2 of Bach's 1731 <St. Mark Passion> (BWV 247), No. 26 (NBA) [No. 63, Schmieder], at Mark 14:61, "But he held his peace and answered nothing," when Jesus is questioned before the high priests.

Was Menschen Kraft und Witz anfäht
What human power and intelligence contrive
soll uns billig nicht schrecken;
should not easily terrify us;
er sitzet an der höchsten Stätt,
He sits in the highest place,
er wird ihr'n Rath aufdecken.
he will uncover their plan.
Wenn sies aufs klügste greifen an,
When they attack with the greatest cunning,
so geht doch Gott ein andre Bahn,
then God goes another way:
es steht in seinen Händen.
It is in his hands.

The text of the tenor aria (BWV 178/4), Stanza 4, "Sie stellen uns wie Ketzern nach (They persecute us as heretics), also is found as the first chorale in the <St. Mark Passion>, BWV 247, No. 3(7) just before Mark 14:6, when Jesus admonishes his disciples for complaining about the woman anointing him with oil at Bethany:

Sie stellen uns wie Ketzern nach,
They persecute us as heretics,
Nach unserm Blut sie trachten;
and thirst after our blood;
Noch rühmen sie sich Christen auch,
they boast that they also are Christians
Die Gott allein groß achten.
who greatly esteem only God.
Ach Gott, der teure Name dein
Ah God,your precious name
Muss ihrer Schalkheit Deckel sein,
has to be a cover for their wickedness,
Du wirst einmal aufwachen.
One day you will wake up to this.

[Francis Browne new translation of Jonas' 8-stanza text in BCW:]

Text No. 2. "Ach, lieben Christen, seid getrost"(Ah, dear Christians, be comforted); authors: David Spaiser (Verse 1, 1521) and Johann Gigas (Verses 2-6, 1561): Chorale Cantata BWV 114, Trinity +17 (1724): No. 1, chorale fantasia; No. 4 soprano aria w/chorale), and No. 7 (plain chorale in G Minor-Major, S.7). The text also is associated with Bach's plain chorale setting, BWV 256 in A Minor/Major, recording in Rilling Bach Edition, Hänssler Vol. 79, Passion Chorales): BCW, No. 6, Track 30.

Text No. 3, Martin Luther "Wär Gott nicht mit uns diese Zeit" (Were God not with us this time), Bach set belatedly to the associated Jonas melody in Chorale Cantata BWV 14, from his Cycle 2 text for the <omne tempore> 4th Sunday after Epiphany, 1735. Bach also set the text to the Jonas melody as plain chorale BWV 257, also in A Minor/Major. It is listed as the setting for Stanza 2 of the Jonas text in the St. Mark Passion, BWV 247/26(63) in the recording in Rilling Bach Edition, Hänssler Vol. 79, Passion Chorales): BCW, No. 6, Track 37.

Text 4: "Herr, wie du willst, so schick's mit mir" (Lord, as you will, so deal with me); author: Kaspar Bienemann (1582), 3 stanzas, the first being the opening chorale chorus with recitative in Cantata BWV 72, for the 3rd Sunday after Epiphany 1724.

Chorale "O Gott, du frommer Gott"

III. Cantata BWV 45, <Es ist dir gesagt, O Mensch, was gut ist (It is told to you, O man, what is good), composed in 1726, closes with the plain chorale, No. 7, "O Gott, du frommer Gott" (O God, Thou Righteous God) based on the 1630 8-stanza text of Johann Heermann. The chorale is listed in NLGB as No. 564 for early Trinity Time ("Christian Life") but is not one of the recommended hymns for a particular Sunday. Francis Browne's translation of the chorale text is found in BCW: Bach set Stanza 2: "Gib, daß ich tu' mit Fleiß, Was mir zu tun gebühret" (Grant that I may do diligently what it is my duty to do), utilizing the melody of Ahasverus Fritsch (1679).

Although found in the 1684 New Leipzig Songbook as a hymn for early Trinity Time, Bach also used variant melodies and texts settings for the Christmas and TrSunday festivals (see below). The popular 1630 Heermann hymn text originally set to an unknown pre-Reformation secular tune, spawned Bach settings of four melodies in six other cantatas (BWV 24/6, BWV 71/2, BWV 64/4, chorale cantata BWV 94, BWV 128/5, BWV 197a/7=398, and chorale Cantata BWV 133), two plain chorales (BWV 399, 1125), sacred Schemelli Sacred Song BWV 465, and organ chorale Partita (Variations) in E-Flat Major, BWV 767. The plain chorale BWV 399 is found in the Rilling Bach Edition, Hänssler Vol. 83, Christian Life). Bach librettist Picander in his 1728 cantata cycle designated the Heermann text stanzas as plain chorales closing cantatas for Trinity 9, 12 and 14. Melody uses, associated texts of five authors and settings are found in BCW,

Melody No. 1. Bach's use of the Heermann text to the original pre-Reformation melody is found in the c.1736 Schemelli Song, "Ich freue mich in dir" (I rejoice in you), based on the 1697 4-stanza text of Kaspar Ziegler, as well as the early (1702-07) Chorale Partita BWV 767, "O Gott, du frommer Gott." It is found in the early <Orgelbüchelin> as No. 96, Christian Life and conduct, but was not set by Bach.

Melody No. 2. Bach's use of the later anonymous c.1670 melody to the Heermann text is found in three different uses:
*Soprano canto in tenor aria, "Soll ich auf dieser Welt" (Shall I in this world), in 1708 Mühlhausen Town Council Cantata BWV 71, No. 2,
*Closing chorale chorus with trumpet, "O Gott, du frommer Gott," No. 6, in 1723 Cantata BWV 24, <Ein ungefärbt Gemüte> (An unstained mind of truth), for the 4th Sunday after Trinity, 1723 to an Erdmann Neumeister text; and
*Plain chorale, BWV 399 in E Minor-G Major, c.1730, recorded in the Hänssler Rilling complete Bach Edition Volume 83 (Christian Life & Hope).

Melody No. 3. Bach's use of the Fritsch 1679 melody is found in BWV 45/7 (cited above) set to the Heermann text, as well as four other texts in the following music:
*Text 3/2: "Was frag ich nach der Welt" (Why should I still question this world?), 8 stanzas of
Balthasar Kindermann (1644); used in Cantata BWV 64/4 (S.1)= BWV 94/8 (S.7, 8), plain chorale in D, Christmas 3, 1723; Chorale Cantata BWV 94 (Trinity 9, 1724); and plain chorale BWV 398=BWV 197a/7, variant of BWV 64/4 without separate basso continuo;
*Text 3/3: "O Jesu, meine Lust" (O Jesus, my pleasure), Matthäus Avenarius (1673), 14 stanzas; set as plain chorale in G Major in Cantata BWV 128/4, S. 4, "Alsdenn so wirst du mich Zu deiner Rechten stellen" (Since than you will place me at your right side);
*Text 3/4: "Gelobet sei der Herr, mein Gott" (Praise be to the Lord, my God) Johann Olearius (1665), 5 stanzas; set as pure-hymn Chorale Cantata BWV 129 (Trinity Sunday, 1726, c.1743-46, C.1744-46); found in NLGB 564 (early Trinity Time);
Text 3/5: "Ich freue mich in dir" (I rejoice in you) Ziegler 1697 text also set to Fritsch 1679 melody as found in the closing plain chorale, Cantata BWV 197a, Christmas 1727, in D Major; S. 4, "Wohlan, so will ich mich
An dich, o Jesu, halten
" (Come then, I want to cling to you, o Jesus); as well as the recently-discover Dietel plain chorale, BWV 1125 in D Major, "O Gott, du frommer Gott," "probably from a lost cantata" (BCW:

Melody No. 4, "Ich freue mich in dir," date of composition and composer unknown, set to the Ziegler text, was first published in1738, by Johann Baltahasar König; Bach's use in Chorale Cantata BWV 133/1, 6 in D Major (Christmas 3, 1724; ?repeat); S. 4, see previous paragraph.

Thus, Bach's varied chorale usages form a large and varied tapestry.


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 Bachs 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: September 11, 2011 12:47:52