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Cantata BWV 139
Wohl dem, der sich auf seinen Gott
Provenance

Thomas Braatz wrote (November 6, 2002):
BWV 139 - Provenance:

The autograph score disappeared while in W. F. Bach’s possession and has never again surfaced.

The original set of parts came to Anna Magdalena Bach after her husband’s death. That same year (1750) she presented them to the St. Thomas School. They are now in the Leipzig City Archive. The main copyist was mainly Johann Andreas Kuhnau, with some help from Christian Gottlob Meißner (only Alto for mvt. 6.) Bach made corrections and added articulation marks. For a later performance (1732-35), Bach added a figured and transposed Organo part for mvts. 1, 5, 6 and between 1744 and 1747 Altnickol created the Violin 1 part for mvt. 4 only.

The original set of parts is missing the following parts: the doublets for Violino 1 & 2 and a 2nd continuo part that was usually found with cantatas from the Leipzig period. There must have been a 2nd obligato part (woodwind?) for mvt. 2 and likewise an original 2nd obligato part for mvt. 4 (for violoncello piccolo?)

Mvt. 2 – a missing obligato part

Both Alfred Dürr and William H. Scheide have come to the conclusion that mvt. 2 is incomplete: a 2nd obligato part is necessary for presenting completely the themes contained in the ritornello of this aria. That this missing part would call for another violin could not be substantiated by these two Bach scholars.

Since the cover page which normally indicates the instrumentation used in the cantata is not by Bach but rather was a copy of a title page made by Johann Christoph Altnickol in 1750, there is no reason to lend much credence to the information given there. Since the information on the cover page is incomplete (which happens from time to time), it is possible to assume that a 2nd obligato violin is not absolutely necessary and that a transverse flute or oboe might also have been intended.

Mvt. 4 – another missing obligato part

The assumption can be made that the part that Altnickol created 1744-47, when he copied the Violino 1 part for mvt. 4 only, was originally written for a different instrument. This conclusion can be reached by examining Kuhnau’s violin parts that he copied from the score in 1724 (there were not doublets) – there are tacet markings for mvt. 4! As already indicated above, simply determining which instruments are called for in this cantata by looking at the title on the cover page is not a viable method that can be applied in this instance. A closer examination of the part in question reveals that it is not necessarily entirely idiomatic writing for a violin. All the evidence (I can not list all this information here) seems to point toward having this mystery instrument be a violoncello piccolo which Bach was prone to using from 20. Sunday after Trinity 1724 until the 20. Sunday after Trinity 1725. In the later performances of this cantata, it was replaced by different instruments with the latest replacement occurring between 1744-47 when Altnickol copied out the part for Violino 1.

The Reconstructions of the Missing Parts:

Winfried Radeke provided a reconstruction for the missing obligato part in mvt. 2. It appeared 1972 among the parts printed by Breitkopf & Härtel. Another reconstruction of this part was undertaken by William H. Scheide. This part appeared in “Bach-Studien” 5, Leipzig, 1975, p. 136ff.

1st Performance:

This chorale cantata was composed for its 1st performance on November 12, 1724.

The Text:

The librettist is unknown. The cantata text is based upon the chorale by Johann Christoph Rube (1692). Verses 1 and 5 of the chorale provide the basis for both mvts. 1 and 6 of the cantata. The intervening verses (2-4) of the chorale are paraphrased and used in mvts. 2, 4, and 5 of the cantata. The text for the recitative (mvt. 3) is an entirely new creation and makes the direct connection with the Gospel for the 23rd Sunday after Trinity (Matt 22:15-22):
NLT: Then the Pharisees met together to think of a way to trap Jesus into saying something for which they could accuse him.
They decided to send some of their disciples, along with the supporters of Herod, to ask him this question: "Teacher, we know how honest you are. You teach about the way of God regardless of the consequences. You are impartial and don't play favorites.
Now tell us what you think about this: Is it right to pay taxes to the Roman government or not?"
But Jesus knew their evil motives. "You hypocrites!" he said. "Whom are you trying to fool with your trick questions?
Here, show me the Roman coin used for the tax." When they handed him the coin, he asked, "Whose picture and title are stamped on it?"
"Caesar's," they replied. "Well, then," he said, "give to Caesar what belongs to him. But everything that belongs to God must be given to God."
His reply amazed them, and they went away.

The Chorale Melody:

The chorale text by Rube is sung to the melody, “Mach’s mit mir, Gott, nach deiner Güt’” by Johann Hermann Schein (1586-1630.) This chorale melody first appeared in Schein’s “Trostliedlein a 5 Vber seligen Hintritt der Frawen Margariten, des Herrn Caspar Werners Ehelichen Hausfrawen” Leipzig, 1628. [a song of comfort for the husband, Mr. Caspar Werner, on the demise of his wife, Mrs. Margarite Werner – this appeared as a single printed sheet (broadside?) and was not part of any collection.] Bach used this chorale melody elsewhere as the cantus firmus in the soprano of mvt. 2 (duet soprano/tenor) of BWV 156. It also exists as a 4-pt. chorale (probably extracted from a no longer extant cantata) as BWV 377. It makes a significant appearance in a very unusual 4-pt. harmonization as mvt. 22 from BWV 245 (SJP).

 

Cantata BWV 139: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

References: Main Page | Cantatas BWV 1-50 | Cantatas BWV 51-100 | Cantatas BWV 101-150 | Cantatas BWV 151-200 | Cantatas BWV 201-224 | Other Vocal BWV 225-249 | Chorales BWV 250-300 | Chorales BWV 301-350 | Chorales BWV 351-400 | Chorales BWV 401-438 | Geistliche Lieder BWV 439-507 | AMN BWV 508-524 | Vocal Works BWV Anh | BGA | NBA | BC: A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | Sources
Discussions of BWV Numbering System: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

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Last update: ýSeptember 4, 2012 ý10:27:44