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Cantata BWV 102
Herr, deine Augen sehen nach dem Glauben!
Discussions - Part 3

Continue from Part 2

Discussions in the Week of October 30, 2011 (3rd round)

Ed Myskowski wrote (October 31, 2011):
Introduction to BWV 102 -- Herr, deine Augen sehen nach dem Glauben!

Weekly reminder:

This week we continue Trinity season cantatas with BWV102 , the last of three works for the 10th Sunday after Trinity.

Details of text, commentary, recordings, and previous discussion are accessible via:

The link to commentary by Julian [Mincham] is especially recommended as an introduction to listening. If you have not already done so, it is not too late to refer to last weeks essay re BWV 101, especially fine for the general listener, IMO.

The BWV 102 page also has convenient access to notes from the Gardiner and Koopman (notes by Christoph Wolff) CD issues, via link beneath the cover photo.

The chorale text and melody are accessible via links at the BWV 168 page. Francis Browne has recently been adding new commentary on the cantata texts to his interlinear translations, linked via [English 3].

Ed Myskowski wrote (October 31, 2011):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< Details of text, commentary, recordings, and previous discussion are accessible via:
The link to commentary by Julian [Mincham] is especially recommended as an introduction to listening. >
For example:

<The initial writing for the voices is somewhat unusual and is, as always, closely allied to the text. The full choir cries Herr----Lord----(bar 21) and the altos alone deliver the first line of text----You seek commitment and You strike them. Thence follow three bars with a figure like a slow trill on the oboes, hovering around the note of d. Is this the power of God’s eye? Or His smiting of them? Or does it suggest the stubbornness of those who ignore His requirements? There is a pugnacious, determined character to this little idea, which suggests the last of these interpretations, but again one cannot be certain.> (end quote)

Given that music is even less precise than verbal communication, perhaps Bach maintains the possibility of more than one interpretation, especially in the eye (Augen) of God? One might think that life would become more precise with accumulated wisdom. Or not.

Francis Browne wrote (November 1, 2011):
BWV 102 Notes on the text

Notes on the text

The cantata BWV 102 for the 10th Sunday after Trinity was first performed on 25 August 1726. It is one of a series of cantatas(17, 39, 43, 45, 88, 102 and 187) based on librettos that come from the court of Meiningen. Ernst Ludwig, Duke of Saxe-Meiningen (1672-1724) is said to have written two cycles of church cantatas and evidence suggests the Bach used texts from one of these. The texts were written before 1704 and were set by Georg Caspar Schürmann, the kapellmeister at Meiningen, and by Bach's cousin Johann Ludwig Bach who succeeded Schürmann in 1706.They include 'madrigalian' verse for recitatives and arias and so anticipate the new style of cantata texts -a mixture of traditional German church music and contemporary Italian opera -produced by Erdmann Neumeister a few years later.

The gospel for this Sunday is Luke's account of Christ's warning about the coming destruction of Jerusalem (Luke 18 :41-8) The cantata develops this into a general warning about the importance of doing penance in good time. As is customary in the Meiningen cantatas the opening movement is based on a quotation from the Old Testament. In the fifth chapter of Jeremiah the prophet seeks in vain through the streets of Jerusalem for a just man. The quotation ends with the reluctance of people to be converted , and this theme is taken up in the following bass recitative and alto aria. The first part concludes unusually with a bass arioso on a New Testament text - the second chapter of Romans where Paul warns that God's mercy is meant to lead sinners to repentance. In other Meiningen cantatas the New Testament passage begins the second half of the work.

Hans Joachim Schulze points out that the text from Romans is customarily used as the epistle for Days of Prayer and Repentance and that the following aria and recitative give the cantata the character of a sermon on repentance

The cantata concludes with the final two strophes of the hymn So wahr ich lebe, spricht dein Gott by Johann Heermann.

[These notes are only concerned to give some basic information about the text, but I cannot pass by the opening movement without urging anybody who has not heard the opening movement to do so : 'one of the greatest achievements of the mature Bach' says the sage and sober Dürr. Precisely so. Don't miss it.]

William Hoffman wrote (November 2, 2011):
Cantata BWV 102 -- Fugitive Commentaries

Cantata 102: Fugitive Commentary

Bach's two-part chorus Cantata BWV 102 is considered one of his best by various writers, due to its provocative theme of the perils of profane life fusing graphic text and tonal imagery as well as the consistently high level of craftsmanship throughout its seven movements. The observations are found in conductor John Eliot Gardiner's notes on his Bach Cantata Pilgrimage, Eric Chafe's description of tonal allegory, particularly it the first half, and Walter Blankenburg's view of the work as a sermon on repentance, with echoes of the Colonial American theologian Jonathan Edwards.

In addition, Cantata 102 motivated Bach to use its opening chorus and two arias as contrafaction in two Lutheran Missa (Kyrie-Gloria); the chorus' initial passage possibly was parodied in the opening crowd chorus of the St. Mark Passion and allegorical and Passion connections are found, such as the four-fold allegory level of eschcatology (last things), and the prophecy of the pending destruction of Jerusalem.

Perspective: John Eliot Gardiner, Bach Cantata Pilgrimage Notes: BCW[sdg147_gb].pdf

Cantatas for the Tenth Sunday after Trinity

"Just once in a while in the course of the Trinity season, with its almost unremitting emphasis on the things every good Lutheran should believe, from the Nicene Creed to the Ten Commandments, the Lord's Prayer, the Catechism and so on, comes a vivid shaft of New Testament history and narrative reference to the life of Christ. Here on the Tenth Sunday after Trinity the Gospel (Luke 19:41-48) tells us how Jesus predicted the imminent destruction of Jerusalem, tying the event in the listener's mind to his own Passion story. That link would have been strengthened in Bach's day by the practice at the Vesper service on this Sunday of reading aloud Josephus' account of the actual sacking of Jerusalem by the Roman emperor Titus in AD70, one that surely resonated in the minds of those whose families had witnessed the razing of numberless German towns during the Thirty Years War.

"Bach's third cantata, BWV 102 <Herr, deine Augen sehen nach dem Glauben!> [1726], has, in contrast to the others, neither the Gospel text nor one of the main hymns of the day as its point of departure. What prompted A B Marx to select this and its predecessor, BWV 101 [Trinity 10, 1724], along with <Ihr werdet weinen und heulen> BWV 103 [Jubilate 1725], with which it shares a similar ground plan, as the three Bach cantatas to be published in 1830 (the first to appear in print since 1708/9![BWV 71])? Composed for 25 August 1726 [BWV 102] it is one of a series of works that Bach based on librettos written some twenty years earlier and attributed to Duke Ernst Ludwig of Saxe-Meiningen. As so often, it is the openinmovement which holds the greatest fascination (Dürr calls it `one of the great achievements of the mature Bach'). Here is a setting of Jeremiah 5:3, `Lord, are not Thine eyes upon the truth! Thou hast stricken them, but they have not grieved; Thou hast consumed them, but they have refused to receive correction: they have made their faces harder than a rock, and they have refused to return'.

"Who could have guessed that Bach would preface this grim text with such a genial orchestral ritornello for two oboes and strings? Is the understatement a deliberate way to point up the contrast with the third, fugal section, describing the hardened faces and giving Bach a fresh crack at conveying `Gottes Zorn' - `God's wrath'? But then Bach in this mood is anything but predictable, even to the extent of blurring the formal divisions of the text, not simply by interpolating instrumental sinfonias but by means of partially disguised textual overlapping. The culminating fugue, for instance, with its dramatic upward hoist of an augmented fourth followed by an exclamatory quaver rest and the more conventional downward slither of its counter subject, then merges into a restatement of the whole text in a truncated musical reprise.

"One senses that Bach lavishes more care than usual on the construction of his themes, not just to paint the words but to replicate the speech rhythm. This in turn encourages a strongly rhetorical delivery; but then he takes one completely unawares by sculpting a fourteen-bar fugato out of an extremely peculiar vocal subject, splitting the first syllable of `schlä-gest' [strike-est]with discrete staccato melismatic groupings separated by rests, until one realises that he is intent on depicting some form of godly clonk on a barely sentient head.

"There are two fine recitatives, one secco for bass (No.2), one for alto with two oboes (No.6), and three arias. First comes a fine lament (No.3) for alto with oboe obbligato: both enter on a long, held, d flat dissonance, a study of a spiritual pariah `cutting himself off from God's grace'. The second, for bass and strings, is headed `arioso' (No.4) and gives the impression of starting midstream. Bach has been criticised for his word-setting here. But while the stress on the `wrong' syllable of `VERachtest' [despise] is `corrected' by the upwards lurch of a minor seventh, the wrong stress on `GEduld' [patience] is no such thing the moment one interprets it as a hemiola: `GNA-de [grace], Ge-DULD'. Midway Bach captures the `frantic impotent battering of the evil-doers against the decrees of the Almighty' (Whittaker) by means of a gripping four-fold repetition of a three-note motif - D flat, C, D flat over a pedal C. As a da capo movement this `arioso' ends part one of this cantata with the rhetorical question `Do you not know that God's goodness draws you to repent?', so inviting the preacher of the sermon to expatiate on the theme of how not to incur God's anger.

"Just in case he declines the prompt, Bach, as so often, does the job for him, but in an unusual fashion: he allocates a dislocated figure to the tenor soloist [No. 5], one that recalls the `du schlä-gest' fugato theme from the opening chorus, as the first of several ingenious means to startle the presumptuous and errant soul (`du allzu sichre Seele!') with its representative, the flute, and, of course, the listener. But it is not until the middle section that the prospect of God's anger dislodges the flute's serenity, which is now replaced by a flurry of (fear-injected?) semiquavers.

"Persistent and pleading three-note motifs and a change of instrumentation (a pair of oboes now to replace the flute) characterise the final accompagnato (No.6), suggesting penitence and even the chance of an eleventh-hour reprieve, which is formalised as a collective prayer in the final chorale set to the melody `Vater unser im Himmelreich' (`Our Father, who art in Heaven'). Bach thought highly enough of this cantata to use movements of it again in two of his short Masses (BWV 233 and 235), and Carl Phillip Emanuel revived it several times in Hamburg during the 1770s and 80s" [copyists H. Michel, S. Hering].

© John Eliot Gardiner 2008, From a journal written in the course of the Bach Cantata Pilgrimage

Tonal Allegory

Cantata 102 is a descent or catabasis cantata, with "deeper flat keys to emphasize the urgent need to repent in the present life," says Eric Chafe, <Tonal Allegory in the Music of JSB>, 1991: p. 208f). The emphasis on minor keys in the movements, with their cautionary texts, means the "work is completely admonitory":

1. Chorus
Herr, deine Augen sehen nach dem Glauben!
Lord, your eyes look for faith!
Du schlägest sie, aber sie fühlen's nicht;
You strike them but they do not feel it.

2. Recitative [Bass]
Wo ist das Ebenbild, das Gott uns eingepräget,
Where is the image that God has stamped upon us,
Wenn der verkehrte Will sich ihm zuwiderleget?
if our perverted will sets itself against him?

3. Aria [Alto]
Weh der Seele, die den Schaden
Alas for the soul, that of its shame
Nicht mehr kennt
is no more conscious

4. Arioso [Bass]
Verachtest du den Reichtum seiner Gnade,
Do you despise the riches of his grace,
Geduld und Langmütigkeit?
patience and forbearance?

Second Part

5. Aria [Tenor]
Erschrecke doch,
Feel fear then,
Du allzu sichre Seele!
you soul who are all too confident!

6. Recitative [Alto]
Beim Warten ist Gefahr;
In waiting there is danger;
Willst du die Zeit verlieren?
do you want to waste your time?

7. Chorale
Heut lebst du, heut bekehre dich,
Today you live, today be converted,
Eh morgen kommt, kann's ändern sich;
before tomorrow comes, things could change

Hilf, o Herr Jesu, hilf du mir,
Help, oh Lord Jesus, help me
Dass ich noch heute komm zu dir
so this day I may come to you

(Francis Browne, BCW

The great opening chorus "depicts the unfelt blows by a staccato fugue theme," says Chafe, whose views are reflected in Gardner's comments above. The fourth line, another fugal theme of "hard-heartedness of the unrepentent" has two tritones (discordant minor fourth intervals) on the words "härter" (harder) and "Fels" (rock): "Sie haben ein härter Angesicht denn ein Fels" (They have a face harder than a rock).

The "severest points" of Cantata 102 are found in the succeeding No. 2 bass recitative (B-Flat Major to B-Flat Minor [five flats]), the preacher deploring the dark heart, and No. 3 alto aria in F Minor, the Soul's "lament" in the "tortured expressive sphere."

Movement No. 4, the bass arioso framed in E-Flat Major that closes Part 1 brings no relief or moving pivot: "persistent" leaps of a seventh" (another egregious interval), "(sometimes in descending sequences) in several variants of the first theme" lead to the third theme in the fourth line: "Du aber nach deinem verstockten und unbußfertigen Herzen/ häufest dir selbst den Zorn auf den Tag des Zorns" (But you with your stubborn and impenitent heart/ are heaping upon yourself anger in the day of anger) "all represent man's despising God's gift of grace (the E-Flat itself, perhaps). In fact, Cantata 102 is the classic example of Bach's choosing tonal anabasis in conjunction with the flat-minor key sphere to depict the gravity of the human condition."

Sermon of Repentance

On a more pragmatic and literal chord, Bach scholar Walter Blankenburg points out that Bach divided the so-called Rudolstadt-published text after the bass arioso admonition, instead of opening the second part: "It may well be that this represents a reference to the sermon for the Sunday in question," "a persistent call to repentance" ("Bach's Cantatas for the Middle Sundays After Trinity," Archiv Production notes, 1978). This Movement refers to the Sunday Epistle, Romans 2:4-5," with its "marked Old Testament affinities":
"4 Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? 5 But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the dayof wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God;" (King James Version).

(For Americans, this tone might smack of Jonathan Edwards' Calvinist sermon, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God," the epitome of the "First Great Awakening" revival in New England, starting in 1733.)

Much later in the late 1730s, Bach used the three choicest lyric movements in Cantata BWV 102 in affectively appropriate movements of two of the four <Lutheran Missae (Kyrie-Gloria, BWV 233-36)>: The opening chorus, "Herr, deine Augen sehen nach dem Glauben!" (Lord, your eyes look for faith!) is the opening <Kyrie/Christe eleison> (Lord/Christ have mercy), of the Missa in G Minor, BWV 235; and in the Gloria of the Missa in F Major, BWV 233, the movement, <Qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis> (Who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us) comes from the alto 6/8 free da-capo trio aria, No. 3, "Weh der Seele, die den Schaden/ Nicht mehr kennt" (Alas for the soul, that of its shame/ is no more conscious), while the movement <Quoniam to solus sanctus> (For thou alone are the Holy One) comes from the tenor trio aria, No. 5, "Erschrecke doch,/ Du allzu sichre Seele!" (Feel fear then, you soul who are all too confident!

Passion Connections

As to other uses of the lyric music in Cantata 102 and 10 other cantatas for the movements in the four Lutheran Missae, it is possible that the initial passages from the opening choruses of three early/middle Trinity Time cantatas, BWV 102, 179, and 187, also were parodied in the narrative as antagonists' turbae choruses in the "lost" <St. Mark Passion>, BWV 247, first performed in 1731. The possibly corresponding materials are: Cantata BWV 102 (Trinity 10, 1726 ; also Missa BWV 235 Kyrie), "Herr, deine Augen sehen nach dem Glauben!" (Lord, your eyes look for faith!) adapted in BWV 247/3(2b), "Ja nicht auf das Fest, dass nicht ein Aufruhr im Volk werde" (Not on the feast day, lest there be an uproar of the people, Mark 14:2b, KJV); BWV 187 (Trinity 7, also 1726; also Missa BWV 235 Cum sancto), "Es wartet alles auf dich" (Everything depends on you), adapted in BWV 247/108(35b), <Gergrüßet seist du, der Juden König> (Hail, King of the Jews, Mark 15:18b); and BWV 179/1 (Trinity 11, 1723; also Missa BWV 236 Kyrie), <Siehe zu, dass deine Gottesfurcht nicht Heuchelei sei> (See that your fear of God is not hypocrisy), adapted in BWV 247/116(39d), "Er hat andern geholfen, und kann ihm selber nicht helfen" (He helped others, himself he cannot save; Mark 15:31b). This is the thesis of Ortwin von Holst (1967), citation from Alfred Dürr, NBA KB II/5 (BWV 244, 247): 259. More about parodied turbae in BCW 247 Discussion to come, April 1, 2012.

The Gospel for the Tenth Sunday After Trinity, Luke 19:41-48, begins with Jesus' weeping over the pending destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, found only in Luke, 19:41-44. In all three synoptic Gospels, there are two further references to the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, in the so-called "Eschatological Discourse: Prophecy of the Destruction of the Temple" (Matthew 24:1-2, Mark 13:1-2) and Luke 21:5-6) and the curtain of the temple torn in two at Jesus' death (Matthew 27:51, Mark 15:38, and Luke 23:45b), as well as Jesus admonition to the Daughters of Jerusalem not to weep for him but for themselves, at the beginning of the Road to Golgatha, the <Via Crucis> (Way of the Cross), found only in Luke 23:27-30.

The eschatological reference to the prophecy of the destruction of the Temple can be associated with the so-called "Four-Fold Allegory" (Douglas Cowling, BCW April 10, 2009, BWV 244 Discussion). Beyond the literal, allegorical, and moral levels is the fourth, the Anagogic" or spiritual level, also referred to as the "Eschatological" level involving "signs before the end" and the "end times." It relates ultimately to the relationship of the soul to God with implications found in Cantata 102 to the use of tonal allegory to depict human frailty in the face of the end times.

Jesus' personal warning to the Daughters of Jerusalem is effectively portrayed in the St. John Passion, "Zerschmettert mich, ihr Felsen und ihr Hügel" (Crush me, you rocks and you hills), BWV 245b. This graphic tenor da capo aria with pulsating strings is a reference to Luke 23:30 (KJV): "For then they shall begin to say to the mountains, Fall on us ; and to the hills, Cover us." It was found in the 1725 second SJP version, as No. 11, when Peter weeps bitterly at his denial of Christ, and may have originated in the lost Weimar-Gotha Oratorio Passion of 1717, BC D-1. Showing the influence of Weimar Court poet Salomo Franck and the Brockes Passion text, it was removed from the third SJP version c.1730.

Douglas Cowling wrote (November 2, 2011):
Cantata BWV 102 & the Missae

William Hoffman wrote:
< In addition, Cantata 102 motivated Bach to use its opening chorus and two arias as contrafaction in two Lutheran Missa (Kyrie-Gloria); >
A couple of intriguing questions about the connection between cantata and missa ...

Like other cantatas used as musical sources for the missae, BWV 102 was revived in the 1730's, presumably around the time of the composition of the masses. Was this a "test-run" of the music as Bach worked on the masses?

The use of several movements of this cantata in two masses suggests that the four missae may have been conceived as a group.

Bach's use of the "striking" motif in the cantata's opening chorus is oddly reused for "Christe eleison":
(Musical examples:

The disconnect is so striking [groan] that one wonders if Bach did not consider consistent word-painting important. We see the same disconnect in the Christmas Oratorio: the depictions of instruments in the opening "Tönet ihr Pauken" have disappeared in "Jauchzet Frohlocket", and Hercules' continuo snakes are gone in "Bereitet Dich, Sion."

Uri Golomb wrote (November 2, 2011):
There are several cases in the Missae where Bach either ignores a previous word-painting (keeping the music the same despite the absence of the word he painted) or "erases" a word-painting which was a prominent feature in the original work. in this sense, Douglas's two examples are different. As Douglas writes, "the depictions of instruments in the opening "Tönet ihr Pauken" have disappeared in "Jauchzet Frohlocket"," - but they are still
there in the music, just not related to the new words. On the other hand, in "Bereite dich Zion", Bach does change the music: the musical depiction of the writhing snakes is still there, but the vocal line above them is quite different, reflecting the new words and the new affect.

In the case of the Missae, I find that Bach often smoothes the rough edges of the originals - that is, the Missa version is often gentler, less angular than the original cantata version. I write about this in more detail in my
article on the Missae:

Ed Myskowski wrote (November 4, 2011):
William Hoffman wrote:
< Cantata 102 is a descent or catabasis cantata, with "deeper flat keys to emphasize the urgent need to repent in the present life," says Eric Chafe >
I like to entertain the possibilities of alternate spiritual systems (probably unknown to Bach), along the lines of *repent or repeat*.


< (For Americans, this tone might smack of Jonathan Edwards' Calvinist sermon, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God," the epitome of the "First Great Awakening" revival in New England, starting in 1733.) >
Americans (especially California residents) might also enjoy the sideline that the First Great Awakening followed a significant New England earthquake in 1727, documented along with aftershocks for several years, by the minister of Newbury, MA. Not necessarily so much that he was promoting church attendanece, as that he was literate, but not mutually exclusive.

< Much later in the late 1730s, Bach used the three choicest lyric movin Cantata BWV 102 in affectively appropriate movements of two of the four <Lutheran Missae (Kyrie-Gloria, BWV 233-36)>
Thanks for the details, too much to absorb on a first reading. Does Whittaker tabulate all the relations among the Lutheran Missae and earlier cantatas? A quick impression of Wills post is that there is a heavy weighting to Trinity cantatas, which in turn suggests that Bachs selections may have been much more spiritually motivated than my my occasional suggestion that he was preserving favorite compositions. Not mutually exclusive, however.


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Cantata BWV 102: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements
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