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Cantata BWV 140
Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme
Discussions - Part 8

Continue from Part 7

Discussions in the Week of December 3, 2017 (4th round)

William Hoffman wrote (December 6, 2017):
[BachCantatas] Chorale Cantata 140, "Sleepers Awake," Intro.

With Bach's Chorale Cantata BWV 140, "Wachet auf ruft uns die Stimme" (Wake up, the voice calls us), for the rare 27th Sunday after Trinity, the Trinity Time odyssey comes to a close on this affirmative note of caution, joy, and preparation for the new Church Year. Bach’s popular half-hour musical sermon is a hybrid chorale cantata, utilizing verbatim all three stanzas in BAR Form (with irregular Abgesang) of the Philipp Nicolai 1599 chorale.1 It is set in seven-movement palindrome (pyramid) form with a sprightly bouree-like (syncopated French overture-style) opening chorus fantasia https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QIHFfuzKYPI) and closing plain congregational chorale ((https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_8JzjWzL--Q). The second verse, known as the popular “Sleepers’ Awake,” is set as the central (no. 4) aria for tenor and strings (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RLA6IFMNgv0), flanked by pairs of poetic recitatives and symbolic duet (Soul-Jesus) arias (poet unknown, see below, “Cantata 140 Librettist”).

Instrumentally, the work is scored in pastoral style for two oboes, hunting oboe, and bassoon, with strings and continuo. Following the opening tutti chorus, the music varies with a tenor secco recitative, duet with solo violin, tenor chorale aria with strings, bass recitative with strings, duet with oboe and bassoon, and closing tutti plain chorale. The Nicolai chorale text is “enriched with freely-versified insertions” (nos. 2, 3, 5, 6) “in a rich crop of biblical allusions, chiefly drawn from the Song of Songs,” observes Alfred Dürr.2 The Soul-Jesus soprano-bass duets (nos. 3 & 6) are an unio mystica (mystical union) expression from a long-tradition (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l_eZkYorPYg, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e5ymlsTBNvo; see below, “Unio Mystica, Bach”).

Cantata 140 was premiered on the 27th Sunday after Trinity, 25 November 1731, during the early main service of the Nikolaikirche, before the sermon (not extant) on the Gospel, Mat. 25:1-13, by the St. Thomas Deacon Michael Weiß, in place of Superintendent Salomon Deyling, says Martin Petzoldt in Bach Commentary, vol. 1, Trinity Time.3 It was a momentous time for Bach. The previous Sunday, he had presented a reperformance of two-part chorus Cantata 70, “Wachet! betet! betet! wachet!” (Watch! Pray! Pray! Watch!) at the Thomas Church, Pastor Christian Weise officiating, says Petzoldt (Ibid: 693). Two weeks later, on December 4, Bach premiered the final version of Advent Sunday chorus Cantata BWV 36, (Schwingt freudig euch empor” (Soar in your joy up). All three cantatas are joyous and up-lifting.

The appointed Readings in Bach's time for the Last Sunday after Trinity (27th) address the culmination of Trinity Time (source: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV140-D7.htm). These readings reflect solemn Christian themes, observes Paul Zeller Strodach.4 They embody in the concept of omnes tempore (Ordinary Time) the cyclic Church Year, that is the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, as well as the passing of human time to the Eternity of God's Time (the Day of the Lord) “when God's people dwell in peace as the Church Militant becomes the Church triumphant,” says Strodach. The Lessons are: Epistle, 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 (Watch and be sober), Alternative Epistle, 2 Corinthians 5: 1-10 (Assurance of salvation); Gospel, Matthew 25:1-13 (Parable of the 10 Virgins). The texts are found at BCW Readings, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Read/Trinity27.htm.

Cantata 140 movements, scoring, text, key, meter (German text and Francis Browne English translation, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/BWV140-Eng3.htm):

1. Chorus two-part, ritornello structure, opening sinfonia (16 mm) dal segno repeat [SATB; Corno col Soprano [canto], Oboe I/II, Taille, Violino I/II, Violino piccolo, Viola, Continuo]: A. “Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme / Der Wächter sehr hoch auf der Zinne, / Wach auf, du Stadt Jerusalem!” (Wake up, the voice calls us / of the watchmen high up on the battlements, / wake up, you city of Jerusalem!); B. “Mitternacht heißt diese Stunde; / Sie rufen uns mit hellem Munde: / Wo seid ihr klugen Jungfrauen? / Wohl auf, der Bräutgam kömmt; / Steht auf, die Lampen nehmt! / Alleluja! / Macht euch bereit / Zu der Hochzeit, / Ihr müsset ihm entgegen gehn!” (This hour is called midnight; / they call us with a clear voice: / where are you, wise virgins? / Get up, the bridegroom comes; / Stand up, take your lamps! Hallelujah! / Alleluia! / Make yourselves ready / for the wedding, / you must go to meet him!); E-flat major; 3/4 bouree style.
2. Recitative secco [Tenor, Continuo]: “Er kommt, er kommt, / Der Bräutgam kommt! / Ihr Töchter Zions, kommt heraus, / Sein Ausgang eilet aus der Höhe / In euer Mutter Haus. / Der Bräutgam kommt, der einem Rehe / Und jungen Hirsche gleich / Auf denen Hügeln springt / Und euch das Mahl der Hochzeit bringt. / Wacht auf, ermuntert euch! / Den Bräutgam zu empfangen! / Dort, sehet, kommt er hergegangen.” (He comes, he comes, / the bridegroom comes! / You daughters of Zion, come out, / he hastens his departure from on high / to your mother's house. / The bridegroom comes, who like a roe-deer / and a young stag / leaps on the hills / and brings to you the wedding feast. / Wake up, rouse yourselves / to welcome the bridegroom! / There, see, he comes this way.); c minor; 4/4.
3. Aria (Duet, Adagio), free da-capo, opening sinfonia (8 mm) dal segno repeat [Soprano (Soul), Bass (Jesus); Violino piccolo, Continuo]: Sopran: “Wann kömmst du, mein Heil?” (Soul: When are you coming, my salvation?); Bass: “Ich komme, dein Teil” (Jesus: I come, your portion.); Sopran: “Ich warte mit brennendem Öle” (Soul: I wait with burning oil.); Bass: “Eröffne den Saal” (Jesus: Open the hall); Sopran: “Ich öffne den Saal” (Soul: I open the hall); beide: “Zum himmlischen Mahl” (Both: to the heavenly feast.); Sopran: “Komm, Jesu!” (Soul: Come, Jesus!); Bass: “Komm, liebliche Seele!” (Jesus: Come, lovely soul!); c minor; 6/8 siciliano style.
4. Chorale arrangement (Allegretto) [Tenor; Violino I/II e Viola all' unisono, Continuo]. Zion hört die Wächter singen, / Das Herz tut ihr vor Freuden springen, / Sie wachet und steht eilend auf. Ihr Freund kommt vom Himmel prächtig, / Von Gnaden stark, von Wahrheit mächtig, / Ihr Licht wird hell, ihr Stern geht auf. / Nun komm, du werte Kron, / Herr Jesu, Gottes Sohn! / Hosianna! / Wir folgen all / Zum Freudensaal / Und halten mit das Abendmahl.” Zion hears the watchmen sing, / her heart leaps for joy, / she awakes and gets up in haste. / Her friend comes from heaven in his splendour, / strong in mercy, mighty in truth. / Her light becomes bright, her star rises. / Now come, you worthy crown, / Lord Jesus, God's son! / Hosanna! / We all follow / to the hall of joy / and share in the Lord's supper.); E-Flat Major; 4/4.
5. Recitative accompagnato [Bass; Violino I/II, Violino piccolo, Viola, Continuo]: “So geh herein zu mir, / Du mir erwählte Braut! / Ich habe mich mit dir, Von Ewigkeit vertraut. / Dich will ich auf mein Herz, / Auf meinem Arm gleich wie ein Siegel setzen / Und dein betrübtes Aug ergötzen. / Vergiß, o Seele, nun / Die Angst, den Schmerz, / Den du erdulden müssen; / Auf meiner Linken sollst du ruhn, / Und meine Rechte soll dich küssen.” (So come inside to me / you bride that I havechosen for myself, / I have betrothed myself to you / from eternity to eternity. / It is you that I want to set in my heart, / on my arm like a seal / and to delight your grieved eyes. / Forget now, o soul, / the anguish, the sorrow / that you had to suffer / On my left hand you should rest / and my right hand should kiss you.); E-Flat to B-Flat Major; 4/4.
6. Aria da-capo (Duet, Tempo giusto), [Soprano (Soul), Bass (Jesus); Oboe solo, Continuo]: A.Seele: “Mein Freund ist mein,” (Soul: My friend is mine]; Bass: “Und ich bin sein,” (Jesus: and I am yours); beide: “Die Liebe soll nichts scheiden.” (Both: Nothing shall divide our love.); B. Seele: “Ich will mit dir in Himmels Rosen weiden,” (Soul: I want to graze on heaven's roses with you); Bass: “du sollst mit mir in Himmels Rosen weiden,” (Jesus: You will graze on heaven's roses with me); beide: “Da Freude die Fülle, da Wonne wird sein.” (Both: There will be fullness of joy, there will be delight.); B-Flat Major; 4/4.
7. Chorale plain, BAR Form [SATB; Corno e Oboe I e Violino piccolo in octava e Violino I col Soprano (canto), Oboe II e Violino II coll'Alto, Taille e Viola col Tenore, Continuo]: A. Stollen, “Gloria sei dir gesungen / Mit Menschen- und englischen Zungen,”; A’. “Mit Harfen und mit Zimbeln schon. / Von zwölf Perlen sind die Pforten, An deiner Stadt sind wir Konsorten / Der Engel hoch um deinen Thron.”; B. Abgesang, “Kein Aug hat je gespürt, / Kein Ohr hat je gehörtSolche Freude. / Des sind wir froh, / Io, io! / Ewig in dulci jubilo.” (A. Stollen, May gloria be sung to you / with the tongues of men and angels, / with harps and with cymbals. / A’. The gates are made of twelve pearls, / in your city we are companions / of the angels on high around your throne. B. Abgesang, No eye has ever perceived, / no ear has ever heard / such joy. /Therefore we are joyful, / hurray, hurray! / for ever in sweet rejoicing.); E-Flat Major; 4/4.

Cantata 140 Music, Text Sources5

The music and textual sources of the movements are described in detail in Paul Horn’s “Foreward” to the Carus 31.40 edition (1980/2015, from the NBA, https://www.carusmedia.com/images-intern/medien/30/3114000/3114000x.pdf). <<BWV 140 Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme is one of the most well known of Bach’s church cantatas. The final movement, the Gloria sei dir gesungen, characterized by Bach’s harmonization, has achieved the greatest popularity. Zion hört die Wächter singen, with its catchy counterpoint, can be heard in numerous scoring variants [http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV140-2.htm] – Bach even transcribed the movement for organ (BWV 645). The cantata is assigned to the 27th Sunday after Trinity and it employs the weekly hymn and the gospel for the last Sunday of the church year.

The three stanzas of the hymn by Philipp Nicolai determine the form of the work: The first stanza begins the sequence of movements with a broadly laid out setting of the chorale for choir; in the second stanza a chorale trio is the main focus [no. 4]; the third stanza concludes the entire work [no. 7] with a succinct chordal setting. Two recitative/duet pairs are interposed between these movements, whose texts refer to the gospel for this Sunday (the allegory of the ten virgins, Matt. 25: 1–13) and primarily from this it takes up the idea of the bridegroom coming to meet his bride. Christ and the faithful souls appear as the “bridegroom” and “bride” in a dialog characterized by mystical passion. Numerous textual allusions from Salomon’s Song of Songs underscore the ancient idea of a “holy marriage” between God and his chosen people, the Lord and his Church, the Lamb and the fulfilled people of God. In this sense, musically, in their compositional technique as well as in the expression of deeply felt bliss, both love duets in movements 3 and 6 are among the highest affirmations of the baroque mysticism of Jesus.

During Bach’s tenure in Leipzig the 27th Sunday after Trinity occurred only in 1731 and 1742. Since Johann Ludwig Krebs (1713–1780), the main copyist of the parts no longer lived in Leipzig in 1742, only 1731 can be considered. The paper used for the parts confirms this dating.[6] The Nicolai hymn in three stanzas, Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme, is first found in his Freudenspiegel des ewigen Lebens (Eternal Life Mirror of Joy; Frankfurt am Main 1599, p. 412–413). The author of the remaining sections of text in the cantata is unknown.>> Ravensburg 1980/2015 Paul Horn / Translation: Earl Rosenbaum>>

Gardiner on Cantata 140

John Elliot Gardiner presents his highly-descriptive, inimitable-style in the 2010 Cantata 140 commentary in his Bach Cantata 2000 Pilgrimage recording.7 <<For all the jaw-dropping surprises and discoveries of this year’s survey of Bach’s surviving church cantatas it was in a way a relief to have confirmation of just how good is the most famous and enduring of them all, BWV 140 Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme, first performed in Leipzig on 25 November 1731. For Whittaker it represents the ‘glorious ripeness of [Bach’s] maturity... it is a cantata without weakness, without a dull bar, technically, emotionally and spiritually of the highest order’. Once again the autograph score is missing, though thankfully a full set of Bach’s manuscript performing parts has survived. Judging by the number of manuscript copies of the score made in the half century after Bach’s death, this cantata bucked the trend and held its place in the repertoire, as well as being among the first to appear in print, in 1847.

The festive, expectant mood that he creates in his opening chorus is probably stronger and more palpable than anything else we have encountered this year. It is based on exploiting the inherent textural antiphony between his two ‘choirs’ of strings (two violins and viola) and double-reeds (two oboes, taille and a separate bassoon part), and on extrapolating the full majesty of the French overture style, double-dotted in triple rhythm. From this a rising syncopated figure emerges, taken up later on by the altos as they lead off with their funky ‘alleluia’ figure and adopted by all the other singers. If anyone in the posh world of classical music ever doubted that JS Bach could also be considered the father of jazz, here is the proof. With its Gregorian origins, Philipp Nicolai’s popular tune and poem (1599) form the bedrock of Bach’s invention. The way that Bach hoists the whole tessitura of his forces in the second phrase is thrilling, an optimistic gesture guaranteed, you would think, to lift the faint-hearted out of their mid-winter blues. As in a number of other cantatas you sense that several time-frames are here being telescoped: an ageless appeal for watchfulness as ‘the Bridegroom comes’, an evocation of the historic Jerusalem, with the night-watchmen doing their rounds, and the contemporary framework of Bach’s Leipzig, a buzzing commercial metropolis, as it prepares for Advent and the Christmas festive season.

The mood returns in the other two chorale settings, the tenors’ ‘Zion hört die Wächter singen’ (No.4), with its beguiling violin/viola obbligato (with hints of the watchman’s joy and a constant toying with one’s expectations of downbeat/half-bar emphasis) and the plain but gorgeously satisfying final chorale, ‘Gloria sei dir gesungen’. The burnished sound of the horn doubling the sopranos in the flanking choruses is one of the most exhilarating features of these movements, as is the violins’ octave doubling of the hymn tune in the final chorale in glorious technicolour imitation of a two-foot stop on the organ. Flanked by these public, pillar-like outbursts are two fine recitatives, one secco for tenor, the other an accompagnato for bass, and two intimate duets for soand baritone drawing heavily on references to The Song of Soloman. The first of these is a slow siciliano in which the flickering of lamps ‘lit with burning oil’ finds perfect illustration in the arabesques of the violino piccolo. A rich tradition of similarly sensual musical allegories, including fine examples by Bach’s own cousin, Johann Christoph, stands behind this ravishing number. The second duet (No.6), with its oboe obbligato, has a jauntier air. To reflect the union of bride and bridegroom Bach has no compunction in stealing the clothes of contemporary operatic love-duets in his use of chains of suspensions and parallel thirds and sixths.

At this crucial turning point in the Church year, the switch from this last Sunday in the Trinity season to Advent, there seem to be vestiges of pagan mythology lying behind these mid-winter celebrations, of which Bach shows that he was aware. This is the darkest time of the year when the autumn-sown cereals lie dormant in an appropriate state of what plant pathologists call ‘vernalisation’.>>
© John Eliot Gardiner 2010 / From a journal written in the course of the Bach Cantata Pilgrimage

Cantata 140: Motive, Movements

The Cantata 140 Gospel parable (Matt. 25:1-13), Bach’s motive for his setting, the libretto’s “competent poet,” and the individual movements are discussed in Klaus Hofmann’s 2012 commentary in the Masaaki Suzuki BIS complete cantata recordings.8 <<Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme (Wake up, the voice calls to us, BWV 140). The 27th Sunday after Trinity, for which this cantata was written, is the last Sunday of the church year. Such a Sunday only occurs, however, if Easter falls before 27th March. During Bach’s Leipzig period this happened just twice: in 1731 and 1742. This cantata was composed for the earlier of these two occasions, and was performed in the principal Leipzig church, St Nicolai, on 25th November 1731.

The course of the church service on the last Sunday of the church year is conditioned by thoughts of the Last Days. The epistle for this day – 1 Thessalonians 5:1–11, is about preparation for the Last Judgement, but the service centres around the Gospel, Matthew 25:1–13, with the parable of the ten virgins and Jesus’ reminder to his disciples that they should await the hour of his return attentively and judiciously. This popular parable, often depicted in the visual arts too, concerns a wedding and ten virgins, five foolish and five wise, who take their lamps, and go to meet the bridegroom. The foolish ones take their lamps but no oil – a mistake the wise ones do not make. The bridegroom keeps them waiting; they all grow tired and fall asleep. Around midnight there is a shout: ‘Behold, the bridegroom cometh’ – whereupon the foolish virgins see that their lamps have burned out and they have no oil to replenish them. They ask the wise virgins to share their oil, but they refuse. The foolish virgins thus set off to buy more oil, but miss the arrival of the bridegroom. Only the five wise virgins receive him and are invited to the wedding feast; for the five foolish ones the door – i.e. the Kingdom of Heaven – remains shut.

The parable is the subject of the chorale Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme (Wake up, the voice calls to us [Sleepers Wake]), with text and music written in 1599 by the Lutheran theologian Philipp Nicolai (1556–1608). This hymn forms the basis of Bach’s cantata. A contributory factor in Bach’s decision to use it was apparently his desire to add one more piece to the chorale cantata year, which in 1725 had remained unfinished. Evidently Bach had access to a competent poet [see below, “Cantata 140 Librettist”] who expanded the three-strophe hymn by adding recitative and aria texts, thereby turning it into a cantata libretto. He makes numerous allusions to and quotations from the Song of Solomon, and follows the traditional reinterpretation of the Old Testament love poetry as a matrimonial relationship between Jesus and the faithful Soul.

The text must have fascinated and inspired Bach: it gave rise to one of his most beautiful, most mature and, at the same time, most popular sacred cantatas. As in most choruses of this kind, here too the opening chorus has its cantus firmus in the soprano, sung line by line above the orchestra and supported by freely polyphonic writing for the lower voices that uses independent thematic material. These lower vocal parts feature extremely lively declamation, for in- stance at the calls of ‘wach auf!’ (‘wake up!’) or ‘wo, wo?’ (‘where, where?’ ). Meanwhile the orchestral writing is based on its own thematic material, with two types of motif that are particularly striking: repeated chords in a dotted rhythm, and a rapidly ascending scale figure with syncopated accent shifts. The strings and winds continually play these motifs to each other, like a dialogue, varying and continuing them, and thereby accompanying the choir in this motivically dense music.

In the following recitative [no. 2], the role of narrator passes from the choir to the solo tenor who, with his invocation of the ‘Töchter Zions’ (‘daughters of Zion’), in fact takes an active part in the proceedings. Later, in the second chorale strophe (fourth movement), he will once again take up his role as narrator. Either side of that strophe we find two of the most beautiful love duets in the history of music – not between couples united in earthly love but rather with Jesus as the bridegroom and the faithful Soul as the bride. As if to emphasize that these are no ordinary love duets, Bach has assigned a demanding concertante instrumental part to each of the duets, one for violino piccolo (a violin tuned a minor third higher than usual) and one for oboe, so it becomes clear to the listener that the dialogue is taking place in an artificial, so to speak virtual realm and is not the direct depiction of a real-life situation. The final chorale combines praise of God with a vision of the blessed happiness that awaits the faithful in the heavenly Jerusalem. Bach’s chorale, which has become well-known, is of matchless sublimity.>>
© Klaus Hofmann 2012

Three-Stanza Chorale Cantatas

Bach’s varied settings of the three-stanza hymns as chorale cantatas and his creation of hybrid chorale cantatas, most notably in Cantata 140, show his compositional mastery. Cantata 140 is one of only a trio of three-verse, pure-hymn chorale cantatas composed in the first half of the 1730s (source, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV140-D6.htm, BWV 140 -- Fugitive Thoughts). The other two are: BWV 192, "Nun danket alle Gott” (Now all thank God, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV192-D4.htm), composed in 1730 for a sacred wedding or Reformation Sunday, and BWV 14, Martin Luther’s "War Gott nicht mit uns diese Zeit” (If God were not with us at this time), composed in that nebulous period of 1732-35, to fill a gap in the original 1724-25 chorale cantata cycle, the Fourth Sunday After Epiphany, which did not occur in 1725. So how does Bach treat the challenge of setting these three three-stanza chorales?

In Cantata BWV 140 he composes a seven-movement symmetrical work, allocating the opening and closing stanzas to the same respective positions, and making Stanza 2 the centerpiece chorale adaptation trio. In between he uses highly original yet derivative free-poetry, non-chorale paraphrases in two striking soprano-bass duets (dialogues), as well as two proclaiming (no lyrical ariosi interludes) male recitatives.

In Cantata BWV 192, he simply assembles a straightforward per omnes versus setting, one verse for each movement, providing the essence of a chorale cantata: chorale fantasia, duet aria, and concluding four-part chorale.

In Cantata BWV 19, he places the opening and closing stanzas in the traditional places and expands the middle Stanza 2 into a balanced three-movement paraphrase (poet unknown) woven ina soprano aria, tenor recitative and bass aria — the whole also symmetrical in virtual, succinct palindrome. Well-ordered and regulated!

“Semi-Chorale Cantatas”

Cantatas 140 and 14 display Bach’s varied patterns of invention in what can be called “semi-chorale cantatas,” says Richard D. P. Jones in his study of Bach’s compositional techniques.9 Cantata 140 inserts poetic material between the stanzas while in Cantata 14 the middle stanza is a poetic paraphrase expanded as two arias and an intervening recitative.

Presented in 1731 a week after Cantata 140, Advent chorus Cantata 36 (http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV36-D4.htm) takes a lyrical madrigalian Picander text and adds two chorales. The first is Martin Luther’s six-stanza “Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland” (Now come, saviour of the gentiles): The soprano-alto Stanza 1 canonic duet (no. 2) with oboes d’amore uses the melody in both voices as well as the basso continuo. The bass chorale aria (no. 6) setting of Stanza 6, “Der du bist dem Vater gleich” (You who are equal to the father), uses long notes in ¾ time. The new plain chorale setting closes Cantata 36 (no. 8) with the eighth and final verse, the customary Trinitarian doxology, “Lob sei Gott, dem Vater” (Praise be given to God, the Father).

Closing Part 1 of Cantata 36 is a plain chorale setting of the final stanza of Philipp Nicolai’s 1599 Advent chorale, “Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern” (How beautifully shines the morning star), Stanza 7, Wie bin ich doch so herzlich froh” (How full I am therefore of heartfelt joy). “Wie schön leuchtet,” also a hymn for the 27th Sunday after Trinity, as is "Wachet auf,” was published in the same collection in 1599, also appears in the NLGB under the rubric “Word of God & Christian Church,” and also makes reference to the Song of Songs.

Finally is chorale Cantata 80, Martin Luther’s four stanza “Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott” (A mighty fortress is our God), which evolved during a 20(plus)-year odyssey to become a tour-de-force hybrid, eight-movement work that also has four movements set to the 1715 text of Weimar Court poet Salomo Franck as a chorale interpolation, two recitatives and an aria (http://bach-cantatas.com/BWV80-D7.htm.

Cantata 140 Librettist

So, who is the “competent poet” librettist of Cantata 140 (Movements 2, 5, and 6?). Could it be a poet-scholar, someone with considerable literary knowledge such as Leipzig University philosophy and law professor August Müller (BWV 205 dedication, Picander libretto) or Thomas School rector (1730-34) and classical scholar Johann Matthias Gesner (BWV 209 dedication, Anh. 210). Remember Gesner's Quintilian description of Bach directing a large choral work (BD No. 432). Or, could it be Picander? He possibly was the librettist of Cantata BWV 36, "Schwingt freudig euch empor," which has two choral arrangements, a duet and an aria, for Advent Sunday in 1731, one week after BWV 140. Cantata BWV 36 and BWV 140 are among only four documented Bach cantatas first presented in 1731 and yet the text of neither is found in Picander’s published poetry. Perhaps this was due to Bach’s inclusion of the chorale stanzas, giving Cantatas 36 and 140 hybrid, pastiche texts. Picander also is thought to have been the librettist of Bach’s Oratorios for Easter, Christmas, and Ascension, but here also, Bach had a hand in altering and diluting the poetic texts. Meanwhile, Bach treaded the contrasting boundaries of sacred and secular, chorale and dance, literary and biblical, capellmeister and cantor, stile antico and stile moderno.

Unio Mystica, Bach

While Picander had a pietist-devotional penchant in his poetry, a more-learned scholar is probably the case in the libretto of Cantata 140, someone with the knowledge of biblical verse, theology and the blend of secular-sacred in the Petrarchian unio mystica. As pointed out above by John Elliot Gardiner, the parallel, satisfying third and sixths in Bach’s music are evidence of this, as well its “rhythmic articulations of mystical union,” observes Isabella van Elferen in her study of mystical love and music.10 Dialogue in the poetic form of the Song of Songs provides the dialectic framework for mystical love in all its aspects, also found in the musical duet: “anticipation of eschatological union with Christ, desire for the heavenly bridegroom, awareness of one’s own unworthiness, and the resulting impossibility of transcendental mystical fusion,” says Elferen (Ibid.: 238), with the paradoxical sense of the sweetness-bitterness of love.

Theologically, the Lutheran concept of the participation in the sacrament of communion involved a “foretaste of the feast to come,” of eschatological unio mystica, such as the Philipp Nicolai (1556-1608) Communion Hymn, “Wächterlied” (Watchman’s Song), “union with Jesus in festive manner,” says Elferen (Ibid.: 167). From the 12th century tradition of the“Tagelied” [“Day(break) Song”], the Reformation tradition of Johann Walther, and finally Nicolai’s bittersweet bridal mysticism, where joy and sorrow, sweet and bitter, go hand in hand.

With a library replete with the writings of devotional theologians, Bach employed musical conventions of key, tempo, harmony, instrumental symbolism and voice types to shape new poetic passages, particularly allusions to Song of Songs, to complement Nicolai’s text, says Elferen. The first duet in Cantata 140 (no. 3), “Wann kömmst du, mein Heil?” (When are you coming, my salvation?), shows “the soul’s aching desire for the bridegroom,” she suggests (Ibid.: 275), like the wise virgins in Matthew’s parable, prepared for the coming of Christ. In the key of c minor, 6/8 tempo, the duet frames the dialectic question-and-answer form of a worldly love dialogue, with the violin representing love, the foundation of Communion, expressing the “desire of union with Jesus on the Last Day,” beyond his Passion suffering and sacrificial death. The second duet (no. 6), Seele: “Mein Freund ist mein,” (Soul: My friend is mine], “celebrates not desire but the joy of the now united lovers,” she says (Ibid.; 280), in B-Flat Major, 4/4 time, with the accompanying oboe.

Theology

Theology in Cantata 140 is discussed in Peter Smaill’s commentary (August 19, 2008, (http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV140-D6.htm): <<Certainly BWV 140 deals with "Last Things", for the Epistle for the day from 1 Thessalonians 5: 1-11 is about being prepared for the Last Day. So, although the main literary impulse is from the Parable of the Ten Virgins, there is in its mystical language a distinct ontological gaze to the City of God. As previously remarked, the image of Jerusalem grows ever stronger in the few late choral works of Bach, here and in the Ratswahl Cantatas, culminating in the B Minor Mass where the four of the source Cantatas talk of Jerusalem. This is the word, "Jerusalem" with which Dürr fortuitously finishes his review of the Cantatas of the Church Year [Ibid.]

But there are other reasons for considering that Bach did not just view "Wachet auf" as the infill in a long season of Trinity Sundays, but as a glorious cadence to all his Cantatas. There is the unusual writing of the Chorale in minims. The chorale text, as mentioned before, if centre aligned, forms the written image of a chalice. A further delightful coincidence lies in the mystical language. For while Bach's Cantatas begin with BWV 150 (https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/BachCantatas/conversations/messages/39410), which talks of "Christians on the thorny paths", this closure to the church year transforms the rosebush image to "You shall feed with Me among heaven's roses / There shall be the fullness of joy and gladness."

If Bach does indeed use an emphatic triad to depict the Trinity on the 27th Sunday, there it is in the opening intonation of the chorale in BWV 140/1; and if the unity of Father and Son is expressed by an ostentatious octave, then consider the "high pitch of the chorale melody in the soprano, and its octave doubling in the violino piccolo, this setting uses earthly means in an inimitable manner to give symbolic shape once more to the bliss anticipated by the Christian in the heavenly Jerusalem" (Dürr).>>

Provenance: Surviving Parts Set

The surviving parts set of Cantata 140 and other information are discussed in Thomas Braatz’s “Provenance” (December 26, 2002; BCW http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Ref/BWV140-Ref.htm). <<The autograph score was lost early on. There is absolutely no information about its whereabouts beginning with the distribution of cantatas after Bach’s death. The original parts [D-LEb Thomana 140, Bach-Archiv Leipzig, https://www.bach-digital.de/receive/BachDigitalSource_source_00003263] found their usual way to the St. Thomas School through the bequest of Anna Magdalena soon after Bach’s death. Missing from this group of parts are the violin doublets and possibly a doublet of the continuo part as well.

A number of copies were made, one of which was a copy of the score by Christian Friedrich Penzel (very likely only a copy of the parts at the St. Thomas School) and is dated the 10th of August 1755 [P 1141, https://www.bach-digital.de/receive/BachDigitalSource_source_00002089]. However, the fact that the Corno part is missing in this score might point to a copy directly from Bach’s score, since there are other instances where Bach did not have the Corno in the score but a Corno part was found among the original set of parts.

The copyists involved in the original set of parts are Johann Ludwig Krebs (who copied the greatest number of parts), copyists [Johann Gottlob Haupt (Main Copyist E), and Anon. L79-81] and J. S. Bach, who completed certain parts [bassoon, https://www.bach-digital.de/rsc/viewer/BachDigitalSource_derivate_00012648/dleb_thom140_page051_r_.jpg], added the figured bass to the b.c., made corrections and added articulation marks. [Provenance: J. S. Bach - A. M. Bach (1750) - Leipzig, Thomasschule (1750) - Leipzig Bach-Archiv (1985, Dauerleihgabe seit 1951).]

Text: A question comes to mind, a question that still remains unexplained: Did the librettist already complete this text during the year of the chorale cantatas (1724/25)? This particular liturgical Sunday did not occur during this year, hence this cantata text could have been written at that time, but the cantata’s music not composed until 1731.

Date of 1st Performance: Since the 27th Sunday after Trinity occurred only twice during Bach’s tenure in Leipzig: 1731 and 1742, Alfred Dürr, using the various methods available to him (watermarks, handwriting analysis to determine which copyists were involved, etc.), narrowed down these two options to leave only one: November 25, 1731. It does not appear that Bach performed it a second time in 1742 (this despite the fact that he would not have to compose a new cantata for such a Sunday that rarely occurred.) This assumption can be made because none of the parts show evidence that the parts had been used a second time.>>

The Philipp Nicolai (1556-1608) Short Biography is found at, BCW http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Lib/Nicolai.htm. His two most popular hymns are, "Wachet auf" and "Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern.” Both hymns were published in 1699 in a series of meditations that he called "Freudenspiegel" (Mirror of Joy). Nicolai described "Wachet auf" as the"Voice at Midnight, and the Wise Virgins who meet the heavenly bridegroom.").

NLGB Trinity 27 Assigned Hymns

For the rare 27th Sunday after Trinity, Bach's hymnbook, Neu Leipziger Gesangbuch (NLGB) lists four assigned hymns, including both of Nicolai's joyous meditations, "Wachet auf" and "Wie schön leuchtet," as well as the popular Trinity Time hymn, "Nun freut euch lieben Christen g'mein" (Now rejoice, dear Christians all), and the Reformation battle cry, Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott: (A Mighty Fortress is our God)

Hymn of the Day, "Wachet auf ruft uns die Stimme," Philipp Nicolai (NLGB 315, God's Word & Christian Church), refers to Matthew 25:1-7 (Gospel), Zahn melody 8195a. In 1746, Bach arranged the BWV 140/4 central trio chorale aria for tenors, violins and basso continuo (Stanza 2) as the first of the six organ preludes, BWV 645, in the published Schübler Chorale Collection (Orgelbüchlein IV, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m56ywkYy8Zw). The hymn is found in the Lutheran Book of Worship, "Wake, awake, for night is flying" (Catherine Winkworth), LBW 30, Christmas.

Pulpit Hymn: "Nun freut euch lieben Christen g'mein" (Martin Luther 1524), often is known by the alternate title "Es ist gewißlich an der Zeit" (It is certainly time) appears in the NLGB (No. 232) as a Catechism "Justification" hymn following Catechism Communion hymns. "Nun freut euch" also appears in the NLGB as assigned hymns for Trinity 12 (Communion), Trinity 13 (*Hymn of the Day), Trinity 17 (Hymn of the Day) & Trinity 18 (Communion). For text and translation, see http://www.musicanet.org/robokopp/Lieder/nunfreut.htm

Communion Hymns

"Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott: (A Mighty Fortress is our God) in NLGB 255 (Zahn melody 7377), also is the Assigned hymn for Trinity 23 (Pulpit) and Lent 2 and 3. For details, see Motets and Chorales for the Third Sunday after Trinity, BCW, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/LCY/M&C-Trinity3.htm.

Wie schön leuchtet den Morgenstern Philipp Nicolai; NLGB 313 (God's Word & Christian Church, Psalm 45, and Song of Salomon (Zahn 8359), also is assigned to Epiphany 2 (Hymn of the Day) and Trinity 20 (Communion Hymn). Bach set it as Chorale Cantata BWV 1 (Annunciation 1725). Other Bach uses are: Cantatas: BWV 1/1, BWV 1/6, BWV 36/4, BWV 37/3, BWV 49/6, BWV 61/6, BWV 172/6, BWV Anh 199/3; Plain Chorale: BWV 436, Organ Chorale: BWV 739

The chorales of the Last Sunday in Trinity Time deal with important Christian themes, especially God's Word and the Christian Church and its related theme of The Church Militant with its Psalm Hymns (both under the heading of "Persecution & Tribulation", NLGB Nos. 275-304). In addition there is the category of Eternity, best exemplified by "O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort" (O Eternity, thou word of thunder), under the general NLGB heading of Judgement Day, Resurrection of the Dead, and Eternal Life (Nos. 390-96). These hymns were found in the Sunday main services during later Trinity Time.

FOOTNOTES

1 Cantata 140 Details & Discography, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV140.htm. Score Vocal & Piano, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Scores/BWV140-V&P.pdf; Score BGA, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3sj-NKqR0tw. References: BGA XXVIII (Cantatas 131-140, Wilhelm Rust 1881), NBA KB I/27 (Late Trinity cantatas, Alfred Dürr, 1968), Bach Compendium BC A 166, Zwang: K 184.
2 Alfred Dürr, Cantatas of J. S. Bach, trans. & ed. Richard D.P. Jones (New York: Oxford Univ. Press: 2005: 651).
3 Martin Petzoldt, Bach Kommentar: Die geistlichen Kantaten des 1. Bis 27. Trinitas-Sontagges, Vol. 1; Theologisch Musikwissenschaftlicke Kommentder Geistlichen Vokalwerke Johann Sebastian Bachs, Internationale Bachakademie Stuttgart (Kassel: Bärenreiter, 2004: 706).
4 Paul Zeller Strodach, The Church Year: Studies in the Introits, Collects, Epistles and Gospels (Philadelphia PA: United Lutheran Publication House, 1924: 263).
5 Other Commentary: Julian Mincham Cantata 140 essay, http://www.jsbachcantatas.com/documents/chapter-55-bwv-140/; Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wachet_auf,_ruft_uns_die_Stimme,_BWV_140; Helmut Rilling lecture, http://www.drmm.net/wksu/lc/bach140.html.
6 Alfred Dürr, Zur Chronologie der Leipziger Vokalwerke J. S. Bachs. Mit Anmerkungen und Nachträgen versehener Nachdruck aus Bach-Jahrbuch 1957, Kassel, 1976, p. 53f. and p. 104
7 Gardiner BCW liner notes, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV140.htm, no. 47; BCW Recording details, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Performers/Gardiner-Rec3.htm#P12; Recording, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NkSK9tEUTxU, BCW Recording details: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Performers/Gardiner.htm#C2.
8 Hofmann notes, BCW http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Pic-Rec-BIG/Suzuki-C52c%5BBIS-SACD-1981-booklet%5D.pdf; BCW Recording details, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Performers/Suzuki-Rec3.htm#C52.
9 Richard D. P. Jones, The Creative Development of Johann Sebastian Bach, vol. 2, 1717-1750, “Music to Delight the Spirit” (Oxford & New York: Oxford University Press, 2013: 282f).
10 Isabella van Elferen, “Spiritual and Mystical Love in Vocal; Music,” Mystical love in the German Baroque: Theology, Poetry, Music, Contextual Bach Studies 2 (Lanham. MD: Scarecrow Press, 2009: 227); further details, see Thomas Braatz's notes (http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV140-D2.htm, December 25, 2002).

———————

To come: The 24th to the 26th Sundays after Trinity, Cantatas and Chorales; and the plain chorales and sacred songs of End Times: Life Eternal (Justification), preceded by the Catechism hymn-prayers of Morning, Evening, and Grace at Meals.
See: Musical Context: Motets & Chorales for 21st Sunday after Trinity

 

Cantata BWV 140: Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme for 27th Sunday after Trinity (1731)
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Last update: Tuesday, January 09, 2018 09:28