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Cantata BWV 117
Sei Lob und Ehr dem höchsten Gut
Discussions - Part 3

Continue from Part 2

Discussions in the Week of July 7, 2013 (3rd round)

Paul Beckman wrote (July 7, 2013):
Cantata for July 7th

I have two apologies to make this week: First, my Yahoo mail is acting up, so I am posting via reply to my last entry; second, I will have to be relatively brief this week, as I have been preparing a complex case (as an attorney, not a client, fortunately) over the past few days.

So, with the above in mind, a few things to say about our cantata, BWV 117, Sei Lob und Ehr dem hochsten Gut (we will have to visualize all umlauts in the title and elsewhere). The work is a chorale cantata, again per omnes versus, based on a hymn by Johann Jacob Schutz. It was written around 1730 and appears to be either an "ogni tempo" piece, or wedding music. The tune finds its way into the opening, fourth, and last movements,
with the latter being a quite unusual reprise of the first, but in an accommodated fashion.

One of the aspects of the work that I find interesting is the background of the hymn writer. Schutz was an intimate of Spener, the famous Pietist and, under various other influences, ceased to be a practicing Lutheran. Of his published hymns, which are relatively few, "Sei Lob und Ehr" is, by far, the most noteworthy. Perhaps the most common translated English version is "Sing Praise to God Who Reigns Above" (Frances Cox). Winkworth and Jacobi, among others, have also contributed translations, such that numerous compendia from different Christian traditions contain some version of Schutz' tune. In contrast to his other hymns, which seem to me to be on the somber side, "Sei Lob" is more upward-looking, and Bach uses this characteristic to good effect.

BWV 117 is a work that requires anything from 19 to 25 minutes in performance. The range is rather striking, as is the number of recordings, some of which have the cantata paired with rather unusual musical mates (my favorite is Rademann's, which joins Bach to Messiaen's "Resurrection du Christ"). With the variance in tempi, I find that, unlike in some cases, the different approaches can work equally well, as long as slowness does not obscure the dance feel that we see in several of the movements. For example, Gardiner, in a departure from his traditional speed along, is one of the more expansive versions and makes it all work quite excellently. My other favorite is Koopman, whose soloists really shine. Leonhardt, with Herreweghe's assistance, is also good; his usual strange rhythmic emphases don't grate on me as they usually do, and the soloists are a bit more accomplished than is customary.

My final observation has to do with the idea that BWV 117 was used in a wedding. My primary reason for focusing our attention here is that yesterday I attended the nuptials of two good friends. The music was quite well done, although it was contemporary rather than classical. I could not help thinking - and there certainly is no originality to my thought – that a fully expressed work by Bach (we incorporated a couple pieces in our wedding) would have been a remarkable addition to the ceremony. And yet, in 1730, the appreciation for what Bach wrote never came near to matching the greatness of his genius. "Sei Lob und Ehr" is a splendid work - not Bach's greatest, and not full of those revolutionary moments that only he could accomplish - but I wonder if anyone in the congregation "felt" the impact of both Bach's consummate skill and his deep insight into the kingdom of God, and into the nature of God himself. Yet another mystery upon which to ruminate, and for which we have precious little information for our edification.

As usual, the two customary links for the cantata: and

Sunday peace to all of you.

Aryeh Oron wrote (July 7, 2013):
Cantata for July 7th - BWV 117 Recordings

[To Paul Beckman] Thanks for the intro.
In my continuing efforts to improve the content of the BCW and its usability, I am gradually adding options to listen to several recordings directly from the Cantata Discography pages.
Regarding this week's Cantata BWV 117, you can listen to 4 recordings:
[5] Gustav Leonhardt (audio)
[8] Pieter Jan Leusink (audio)
[11] Ton Koopman (audio, 2 parts)
[13] Salamon Kamp (video, 9 parts)
Simply click on the TV image/s below the details of the relevant recording and start listening.

William Hoffman wrote (July 13, 2013):
Cantata 117: Chorale setting & Later Chorale Cantatas

Bach's undesignated sacred chorale Cantata BWV 117, "Sei Lob und Ehr dem höchsten Gut!" (Let there be praise and honour for the highest good), has certain common characteristics with the other three late general -pure-hymn works composed about 1728-35, Cantatas BWV 97, BWV 100, BWV 117, and BWV 192, as well as some special features.

The quartet reveals Bach's affinity for certain popular, unaltered hymn texts with their dance flavor; their usage in special services of thanksgiving and joy, especially full weddings; and their composer's command of mature, sophisticated technique while embracing more progressive elements of dance, gallant style, and quirky rhythms that suggest a hint of calculated mannerism.

At the same time, each is a unique exploration of Bach's compositional art, particularly Cantata BWV 117, with its emphasis on the concertante blocking of the unique chorale cantata form, its grounding in the Lutheran theology of justification, and its inherent sense of purposeful celebration.

Related Wedding Chorales

The texts of the four works might fit a wedding ceremony in a very general sense as Bach c.1730 created four special four-part harmonizations that were used for "eine halbe Brautmeße," for more modest half-wedding Masses: BWV 250 (Before the Ceremony), BWV 251 (After the Ceremony), and BWV 252 (Postlude, After the Benediction.):

BC B 17, BWV 250-252, Three Wedding Chorales (c.1730):
1. Was Gott tut das ist wohlgetan, BWV 100; 1732-35
2. Sei Lob und Ehr' Dem höchsten Gut, BWV 117, 1728-31
3. Nun danket alle Gott, BWV 192, 1730

Christoph Wolff (JSB: The Learned Musician, p.411) notes that BWV 250-252 are established chorales in half-wedding Masses (without cantatas). These three chorales plus "In allen meinen Taten" as the service chorale prelude constitute the four required in the wedding. These chorales also could have done double duty in full- and half-wedding Masses. Chorale Cantata BWV 97, "In allen meinen Taten" (BCW Discussion, July 14) completes the quartet, composed and dated "1734" in the autograph. All four chorale cantatas, BWV 97, BWV 100, BWV 117, and BWV 192, are pure-hymn settings of all the stanzas as individual movements.

Chorale Cantata 117 Text

Chorale Cantata BWV 117, "Sei Lob und Ehr dem höchsten Gut!" (Let there be praise and honour for the highest good), is even more versatile. It could have been performed at weddings, at the Reformation Festival and other special services, and for the 12th Sunday after Trinity. Its author is Johann Jakob Schütz (1640-1690),

Schütz' 1673 hymn, "Sei Lob und Ehr dem höchsten Gut!," is based on Moses' song of praise in Deuteronomy 32, and was published in his "Christliches Gedenkbüchlein zur Beförderung eines anfangenden neuen Lebens," says Francis Browne, BCW Discussion 2 leader,, May 18, 2008. The full nine-stanza text and Browne's English translation is found at BCW, Browne cites Hans-Joachim Schulze (p.558), ?<Die Bach-Kantaten:Einführungen zu sämtlichen Kantaten Johann Sebastian Bachs> (Leipzig/Stuttgart, 2006) and quotes the Deuteronomy passage:

"Give ear, O ye heavens, and I will speak; and hear, O earth, the words of my mouth. 2 My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distil as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass: 3 Because I will publish the name of the LORD: ascribe ye greatness unto our God" [Authorized Version].

"Schulze notes that the hymn was included among songs of praise and thanksgiving in contemporary and later hymnals, and in some was assigned to a specific date, the 12th Sunday after Trinity," says Browne (Ibid. BWV 117). "Dürr [Ibid.: 785] however notes that the hymn "was customary at weddings, and there is good reason to believe that, like BWV 97, BWV 100, and BWV 192, this cantata was written for a wedding service."

"Author Johann Jakob Schütz (1640-1690), was born in Frankfurt/Main where he was a lawyer and a governmental advisor. He was a mystic; arranged pietistic, devotional get-togethers; later in life he devoted his time to visionary ideas" (BCW Chorale Melodies, <Ibid>).

Chorale Melody

The original associated 1653 text of Johann Crüger (1598-1662), "often sung to this hymn today," says Alfred Dürr (<Cantatas> 2005: 786) is not found in <Neu Leipziger Gesangbuch> 1682 (NLGB) but is found with the text in the (Evangelisches Kirchengesang Buch, No. EKG 233). In Bach's time, newer chorale texts such as Schütz' (not found in the NKGB) were set to popular melodies such as the anonymous "Es ist das Heil," in order that the congregation could sing the chorale while learning the text.

Bach used the anonymous melody, "Es ist das Heil uns kommen her" (Salvation has come to us), Zahn melody Z 4430 (NLGB No. 230, Justification, central doctrine of Protestantism), associated joyous melody. The source is the 15th century French Easter song, "Freu dich, du werte Christenheit," adapted by Paul Speratus (1489-1551) in 1523 to his chorale text of the same name as a belief song.

The Speratus 14-stanza text set to its associated melody was used in Bach's paraphrase chorale Cantata BWV 9 [S.1-12], "Es ist das Heil," (Trinity 6, c.1732-35); Cantata BWV 86/6 [plain chorale, S.11], "Wahrlich, ich sage euch" (5th Sunday after Easter, 1724), Cantata BWV 155/5 [plain chorale, S.12], "Mein Gott, wie lange, ach lange" (Sunday after Epiphany; 1716, 1724), and Cantata BWV 186/6,11 [chorale chorus, S. 10, 9], "Ägre dich, o Seele nicht" (Trinity 7, 1723). Bach uses the associated, anonymous melody in organ chorale prelude, BWV 638, Orgelbüchlein, No. 40 (1713-15), Confession, possibly in association with a performance of Cantata 155. [For details, see BCW, Chorale Melodies used in Bach's Vocal Works,]

Bach's setting of the Johann Jakob Schütz chorale text, "Sei Lob und Ehr dem höchsten Gut!," to the anonymous melody, "Es ist das Heil uns kommen her," is his only use of this chorale, in chorale Cantata BWV 117. This is a pure-hymn cantata setting of all nine verses as individual movements, unaltered or paraphrased

Cantata 117 Music

Bach sets the text in nine movements: an extended, repeated chorale chorus (not the normal opening chorale chorus fantasia), three arias, three recitatives and a plain chorale. He uses the melody in the opening chorale chorus and the closing ninth movement verse, repeating the music set to the ninth and final verse, "So kommet vor sein Angesicht / mit jauchzenvollem Springen" (Therefore come before his face with dancing full of exultation). Dürr (Ibid.: 785) calls this a "concertante" frame with the fourth movement/verse a plain chorale harmonization, "Ich rief zum Herrn in meiner Not" (I called to the Lord in my distress) dividing the work into two parts. Although not marked in the score, this is appropriate for a wedding in which the two parts are presented before and after the pastor's sermon based on a biblical text.

The text of Cantata 117, "through its generally worded message of praise and thanks, lends itself to performance for many varied occasions," say Mariane Helms and Arthur Hirsch (Linda Paula Horowitz English translation) in the Linear noted to Helmust Rilling's complete Hänssler CDs (Vol. 5, c 1985). They also observe that Bach set three verses of the Schütz' nine-stanza hymn (Nos. 2, 5, and 8) as recitatives, possibly because of "the large number of stanzas." "Two recitatives can be found in BWV 97 and one in BWV 112. The late chorale cantatas BWV 177, BWV 137, BWV 129, BWV 192, and BWV 100) contain no chorales."

The dance element, as befits the general mood of the chorale as well as specific verses, is found in Movement No. 3, the tenor aria of Stanza 3, "Was unser Gott geschaffen hat, / das will er auch erhalten" (What our God has created /he wants also to preserve), in 6/8 pastorale-gigue style, as well as Mvt. 7, the alto aria, "Ich will dich all mein Leben lang, /o Gott, von nun an ehren" (All my life long I want, / O God, from now on to honour you) that has a general dance character in ¾ time.

Subsequently, in pure-hymn Cantata BWV 192, "Nun danket alle Gott," Bach set the all three movements in dance character: opening chorale chorus in ¾ time dance style with a hint of the Lombard-style syncopated, short-long (snap-skip) style on the text "dan-ket," and, says Dürr (Ibid.: 783) in the last two movements, a "ritualized, stylized dance" in the 2/4 soprano bass bi-partite duet and the closing 12/8 chorale chorus "gigue." Style. These elements of dance and quirky rhythm will be found in other late pure-hymn cantatas.


Julian Mincham's Cantata 117 commentary ( offers these comments, in context:

"Thus there are a number of mysteries surrounding both the music and origin of this work. The text, however, is less contentious, being another of that select group of cantatas in which all stanzas of the original hymn tune were set, as written, without paraphrases or additional lines. (NB a list of the nine cantatas which Bach set in this manner may be found at the end of the essay on C 97: vol 2 chapter 59).

"Whether Bach adopted this procedure because of time constraints or problems with librettists is a matter of conjecture. It may, of course, have been an artistic decision through which Bach set himself another of the many stimulating challenges that he seemed to need. But whatever the reason, it is clear that in C 117 Bach had no problems in finding a suitably wide range of movement structures to accommodate the unaltered verses. In C 107 he seems to have found himself somewhat limited, since four of the verses were set as arias and only one as a recitative. In C 117 we find hybrid recitatives and arias for tenor, bass and alto, all with widely varied instrumental accompaniments. Furthermore, Bach went to great lengths to employ his constructional skills to produce a work of balance and unity."

Browne's Cantata 117 BCW Discussion 2 also quotes at length from John Elliot Gardiner's Bach Pilgrimage CD linear notes and W. Gillies Whittaker's Cantatas of JSB II: 460-65), see

Late Chorale Cantatas

Like Bach's first Leipzig wedding Cantata BWV 195, "Der Gerechten muß das Licht immer wieder aufgehen" (On the Righteous Must Light Always Break Anew), Cantatas BWV 100, BWV 117, BWV 192 are score in G Major, the most appropriatekey for horns, while only Cantata BWV 100 actually has horns playing obbligato or chorale melody, as well as the Three Wedding Chorales, BWV 250-252. All four cantatas are scored for the complement of flute, oboes, and strings. Bach easily could have added the horns to the tutti textures of Cantatas 117 and BWV 192 but this would have restricted their reperformance opportunity. All four were composed after Bach's three church-year service cantata cycles, 1723-27, when Bach composed new sacred cantatas for special events, as part of his duties as Leipzig music director, on commission, or to fill an occasional gap in the cycles.

Meanwhile, the record shows that Bach ceased composing his second annual cantata cycle of paraphrased chorales at Easter Season 1725 and composed pure-hymn cantatas as well as chorale cantatas from extant texts to fill the gaps in the cycle at Trinity and Epiphany Times. Pure-hymn Cantata BWV 137 was composed for the 12th Sunday after Trinity, 1725, followed by Cantata BWV 129 in 1726-27 for Trinity Sunday Festival, and chorale Cantata 140 for the 27th Sunday after Trinity in 1731. Also in 1731 Bach completed the pure-hymn setting paraphrase of Psalm 23 in chorale Cantata BWV 112, for Misericordias Domini, Second Sunday after Easter, the so-called Good Shepherd Sunday. It was only his second designated chorale cantata for the Easter-Pentecost season, after pure-hymn Cantata 4, "Christ lag in Todesbanden," probably premiered on Easter Sunday 1707 as his Mühlhausen probe piece.

In 1732 (autograph date), Bach composed the pure hymn Cantata BWV 177, "Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ," to provide for the Fourth Sunday after Trinity, possibly as part of a revival of the entire second cycle throughout the year. Between 1732 and 1735, Bach took up the surviving 1724 libretto written for the Sixth Sunday after Trinity and composed chorale cantata BWV 9, "Es ist das Heil uns kommen her," the melody of which was set to the text for pure-hymn Cantata BWV 117, previously composed about 1728-31. Finally, for the Fourth Sunday after Epiphany, 1735 (autograph date), Bach used the extant 1725 libretto for that service to compose chorale Cantata BWV 14, "Wär Gott nicht mit uns diese Zeit."

During this post-church year cycle initial period in Leipzig, as Bach turned to instrumental and other vocal compositions, his selective, new sacred cantatas show his pursuit of three elements, often overlapping: festive celebrations, the four pure-hymn chorale cantatas, and commissioned music for sacred weddings. Bach's motivation was three-fold: supplement his income to support his growing family and interests, explore special areas of a "well-organized church music to the glory of God," and create music that achieves the mastery of his art as well as reach a broader audience. At the same time Bach probably pursued a certain flexibility to enable his new works to find greater performance opportunities.

Pure-Hymn Cantatas

The four pure-hymn cantatas BWV 97, BWV 100, BWV 117, and BWV 192 survive in manuscript without any specific service occasions listed on their respective title pages. Thus, while each could fulfill special services of praise and thanksgiving, they also could find particular places in the church-year, be used "per ogni tempo" for anytime in the church year, and be used in a generic sense for any event. It is possible that Bach conceived all four pure-hymn chorale cantatas as a repertory for weddings as well as other special sacred services such as the Town Council, Reformation Festival, thanksgiving and allegiance services, and, in addition, civic sacred events such as activities at the Thomas School and University Church. These services were part of Bach's responsibilities as Thomas Cantor and Leipzig music director, for which he was paid regular salary or received a civic stipend or private commission.

Examining the four pure-hymn works, Cantata BWV 192, "Nun danket alle Gott," recently discussed, has only three verse-settings and probably was not performed at a church wedding since it could not be divided into two parts. Thus it was most appropriate for the Reformation Festival on October 31, not part of the church year. Within the church year, Cantata BWV 192 was appropriate in Bach's time for the Sunday after Christmas and the New Year's Day Festival.

Julian Mincham wrote (July 15, 2013):
William Hoffman wrote:
< Cantata BWV 192, "Nun danket alle Gott," recently discussed, has only three verse-settings and probably was not performed at a church wedding since it could not be divided into two parts. >
I formed the impression that the wedding cantatas (like the church cantatas) need not necessarily be constructed in two parts. 202 and 210 (the two solo soprano wedding cantatas) don't appear as if they were conceived in that way. Wondered what you thought of this point?

William Hoffman wrote (July 15, 2013):
[To Julian Mincham] Cantatas BWV 202 and 210, as well as 216 and Anh. 196a, are for secular weddings, not in churches, often in homes. None is in two parts. All of Bach's Leipzig sacred wedding cantatas are in two parts: Anh. 14, 34a, 195, 120a, and 197.

Douglas Cowling wrote (July 15, 2013):
William Hoffman wrote:
< Cantatas BWV 202 and 210, as well as 216 and Anh. 196a, are for secular weddings, not in churches, often in homes. >
I think it's more accurate to say that these are secular cantatas for the 18th century equivalent of wedding receptions or social festivities. There was no civil marriage (i.e. a wholly secular ceremony) in the
period: all weddings were religious rites whether they were held normatively in a church or occasionally in a home (the latter was necessary in cities where Lutherans, Calvinists or Catholics were not allowed to have public services).

I've always assumed that a Bach wedding celebration was filled with family recitals and concerts.

William Hoffman wrote (July 15, 2013):
[Continue of his former message]
Secular Cantatas, Volume 3

Durchlauchster Leopold BWV 173a
Weichet nur, betrübte Schatten BWV 202
Schwingt Freudig euch empor BWV 36c
Wedding Quodlibet (fragment) BWV 524
Joanne Lunn, Hiroya Aoki,
Makoto Sakurada, Roderick Williams

Bach Collegium Japan,
Masaaki Suzuki

Two of the works on this disc were composed for weddings. Weichet nur, betrübte Schatten is a charming and gracious garland of recitatives and arias for soprano solo and the Quodlibet is an unceremonious composition which was probably intended for a private family function.

The Quodlibet may have been a collaboration between several of the wedding guests. Compositions of this kind belong to a tradition which combines musical quotes from songs, toasts, market traders' calls, proverbs and puns.


William Hoffman wrote (July 15, 2013):
Cantata 117: Chorale Setting & Fugitive Notes

Bach's pure-hymn chorale Cantata 97, "In allen meinen Taten" (In all my deeds) is one of his lesser known works, with fewer recordings. This is due perhaps to its length -- more than half an hour in one part -- with nine varied yet repetitious musical movements that may seem too subdued and overwritten with didactic texts. After the usual opening chorus and pairs of arias and recitatives come three successive arias.

While the author, Paul Fleming, was a talented poet with great experience, his hymn of Trust in God under the category of Christian Life and Conduct seems too straight-jacketed: The humble and submissive believer confronts a series of challenges on life's journey that are met with God's goodness. The solitary individual encounters a litany of troubles, challenges, harm, injury, sin, guilt, "weakness and bonds," affliction, doom, and accident. Each stanaffirms, usually in its second half, God's counsel, favor, pleasure, grace, patience, comfort, surrender, command, trust, and right counsel.

The opening lines of Flemming text are: "In allen meinen Taten / laß ich den Höchsten raten" (In all that I do / I am led by God's counsel). It is found in Bach's <Neu Leipziger Gesangbuch> (NLGB) of 1682 under the heading, "Christian Life and Conduct, Trust in God" No. 239, following the Catechism "Justification" category of <omnes tempore> hymns. See text and Francis Browne BCW English Translation;

In the face of this dualistic catalog of pitfalls and affirmations, Bach takes an affirmative stance. Cantata 97 has a fine introduction and closing hymn, positive music in different dance styles, varied instrumental accompaniment, and a lovely and quite versatile chorale melody, "O Welt, ich muß dich lassen" (O World, I must leave you). In the four bi-partite arias Bach repeats the final three lines continuously. Because it is classified as a general sacred work for special occasions, listeners may not be able to find relevant substance, yielding instead -- like an operagoer -- to suspension of belief and to acceptance of the immediate situation over verisimilitude and substance

Bach's only setting of the text, "In allen meinen Taten," and its original Johann Quirsfeld 1679 associated melody (NLGB, Zahn 2276, EKG 292), is found in plain chorale BWV 367 in C Major, 11 measures, simple non-BAR (stollen-abgesang) form. It is the version set to the first nine stanzas that Bach used, with six short lines in each stanza and the associated melody. The original chorale with its own melody was one of four presented at Leipzig wedding Masses in Bach's time. It was sung before the service, with "Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan," says Günther Stiller, <JSB and Liturgical Life in Leipzig> (St. Louis: Concordia, 1984: 94). Plain chorale, BWV 367 is a simple setting, perhaps dating to 1725, composed prior to 1730 when Bach provided a festive brass and drums setting of the other three wedding chorales, BWV 250-252, for the Wedding Mass as prelude, after the sermon, and benediction

Versatile Chorale Melody

The melody, "O Welt, ich muß dich lassen," is found in the opening French Overture setting of Cantata BWV 97, following the original instrumental Grave introduction, in the Vivace fugue in the soprano voice. The melody also is used in the closing (Movement No. 9) plain chorale setting with two violins and viola obligatto in 12 measures, non-BAR form, "So sei nun, Seele, deine" (Therefore, my soul, be true to yourself). Bach's uses of this melody are described in Cantata BWV 97, BCW Discussion No. 1, and the Chorale Melodies (Ibid.)

The popular melody, "O Welt, ich muß dich lassen," is quite versatile, both in Bach's time and the 20th century, in its various guises and multiple personalities using two variant melodies and four texts (in Bach's works):

Associated Chorale Melody 1: "O Welt, ich muß dich lassen" (O World, I must leave you). Composer: Heinrich Isaac (1490); Zahn melody No. 2293b (see BCW, Chorale Melodies used in Bach's Vocal Works, "O Welt, ich muß dich lassen / Nun ruhen alle Wälder," ; prepared by Thomas Braatz & Aryeh Oron, April 2006 - January 2009).

For the record, there four texts with two variant melodies, as found in Sebastian Bach <Choralbuch [SBCB] (c.1740; Zahn (Z) melody; Sibley Library, Robin Leaver, Alternative Settings) are:

"O Welt, siehe hier dein Leben", SBCB 51, Z 2293b, Passion
"Nun ruhen aller Wälder," SBCB 154, Z 2293, Evening
"In allen meinen taten," SBCB 203, Z 2282, Trust in God
"Kommt her ihr Menschenkinder," SBCB 269, Z 2293, Miscellaneous (not used by Bach)

Bach sets the melody to three texts in 11 plain chorales, finds Thomas Braatz' "Name that tune!" BCW Discussion 1, Part 1, Week of March 11, 2001: Braatz also cites 10 chorales in the EKG (Evangelisches Kirchen Gesangbuch) c.1975 with 10 contemporary chorales in various categories: One for protection of one's place (to the secular origin of the melody at Innsbruck), two for children's funeral songs, two general death songs, two for Passion-tide, three evening chorales, and "In allen meinen taten." Citing and translating the final six stanzas of Paul Fleming's original hymn omitted by Bach and the NLGB, Braatz says: "Quick summary: it's all about the protection he [the traveler] will receive from Christ, an angel, and God as he encounters difficulties on his journey and asks for protection of his loved ones."

The genesis of Bach's Cantata BWV 97 took 10 years (1725-35), as described in BCW Discussion, Part 2, Week of October 5, 2008: "The genesis of Bach's Cantata BWV 97 developed in three stages over almost a decade. It began at Easter Season 1725 during the composition of the chorale cantata cycle. Stage 2 occurred during the renewed cantata presentations from Advent 1730 to Trinity Sunday 1731. Stage 3 in 1734-1735 brought its final form." Apparently, in the first two stages Bach planned a chorale cantata possibly for the Sunday after Ascension (Exaudi,) with the opening chorus and bass aria composed in 1725 and set aside; he added Movements 3, 4, 5, and 8 and a closing chorale (? BWV 392) in 1731, also for Exaudi; and in 1734 he began the final version, revising the first two movements, finishing the tenor aria (No. 4) notated in Lombard Style, composing new arias (Nos. 6 and 7), and a new closing chorale (No. 9) with obbligato strings.

This final version of Cantata BWV 97 may have been presented on Exaudi Sunday, April 22, 1735. Soon after, "Bach performed the entire [Stölzel "String Music cantata] cycle which ran from the first Sunday after Trinity 1735 until the Trinity Feast Day 1736" [Is there another cantata cycle by Gottfried Heinrich Stölzel that belonged to Bach's performance repertoire? by Andreas Glöckner (Leipzig) [from the Bach-Jahrbuch 2009]; Thomas Braatz BCW translation,

Subsequently, Bach decided that 1725 Cantata BWV 128, opening with the chorale chorus, "Auf Christi Himmelfaht allein," to a Marianne von Ziegler text, was sufficient for Exaudi Sunday in his second cycle. He then used Cantata BWV 97 for occasional sacred services, with reperformances in 1735-40, and c.1740-47.

Interestingly, John Eliot Gardiner has championed Cantata BWV 97, performing it during his 2000 Bach Cantata Pilgrimage for the Sunday before Ascension Thursday (Rogate) in the Easter Season. His liner notes are found at Cantata BWV 97 BCW Details & Discography, , in Recording No. 5,[sdg144_gb].pdf.

Fugitive Notes:

The presumed original instrumental version of the opening French Overture of Cantata BWV 97 is found at BCW, , Siegbert Rampe (Conductor) Review: Early Overtures. Bach overlaid the original version for two oboes, bassoon, strings and continuo witthe soprano singing the melody in long notes and the three lower voices singing imitative texture derived from the instrumental music, also played in the interludes between the six short text lines. This he also had done in the 1725 adaptation of the fugue from the opening of the Orchestral Suite No. 4 in D Major, BWV 1069, opening Cantata BWV 110 for Christmas Day.

It is presumed that the remaining four two-part arias and da-capo duet in Cantata BWV 97, with their dance character, were derived from the same regal Köthen Court orchestral suite. This Bach had done in Cantata BWV 194, for a December 1773 church and organ dedication at Stormthal, then for a Trinity Sunday Festival. Again, Bach could have preserved most of the instrumental accompaniment but modified the melody (not a chorale tune) to fit the vocal text and voice singing the chorale stanza lines, including repetition. The five movements are in keys related to B-Flat Major in tonal allegory anabasis and voice-range ascension. The movements, dance style, and voice with accompaniment are:

No. 2, 6/8 gigue, bass with continuo;
No. 4, 4/4 allemande, tenor with solo violin and continuo;
No. 6, 4/4 slow gigue, alto with strings and continuo;
No. 7, ¾ sarabande, soprano-bass free da-capo duet with continuo;
No. 8, 2/4 bouree, gavotte or rigaudon, soprano with two oboes and continuo.

The overall movement structure shows a distinctive hybrid form and can be divided into two parts:
Part 1, Introduction and chorus, bass aria, tenor recitative, tenor aria, alto recitative, alto aria; Part 2 soprano-bass duet, soprano chorale, and closing plain chorale. Part 1 is a typical cantata form: opening chorus followed by alternating three arias and two recitatives; Part 2 form of two successive arias is found in other chorale cantatas, particularly BWV 137 with internal movements that are all arias.

Bach's use of Lombard manner is notated in No. 4, tenor aria with solo violin in Köthen style, "Ich traue seiner Gnaden" (I trust in his grace)>. Called "Scottish Snap" and used by various Baroque Era composers, Lombard Style refers to the systematic use of short-long figures in syncopated passages, using slurs and dots in quirky rhythms. Bach composed in this manner in the 1730s, primarily in festive works for the Dresden court where it was particularly popular, in 17 cantatas and parodied sacred oratorios, says Herhard Herz in "Lombard Rhythm in Bach's Vocal Music," <Essays on JS Bach (Ann Arbor MI: UMI Research Press, 1985: 252f). Herz notes the "rhythmically tortuous" and difficult-to-sing aria, BWV 97/4, with the score autograph date of 1734.

Four of these festive cantatas, BWV 213-215 and 206, will be discussed as Festive Music for the Electoral House of Saxony, BCW, in September and October.


Continue on Part 4

Cantata BWV 117: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

Recordings & Discussions of Cantatas: Main Page | Cantatas BWV 1-50 | Cantatas BWV 51-100 | Cantatas BWV 101-150 | Cantatas BWV 151-200 | Cantatas BWV 201-224 | Cantatas BWV Anh | Order of Discussion
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Last update: Sunday, May 28, 2017 05:27