Cantata BWV 17Wer Dank opfert, der preiset mich
Discussions - Part 4
Continue from Part 3
Discussions in the Week of August 28, 2016 (4th round)
William Hoffman wrote (August 31, 2016):
Trinity 14: Cantata 17, 'Wer Dank opfert,' Intro.
Chorus Cantata BWV 17, “Wer Dank opfert, der preiset mich” (Who gives thanks praises me, Psalm 50:23) for the 14th Sunday after Trinity 1726 was the last chorus cantata set to a Rudolstadt text and presented by Bach as well as one of his last two-part (albeit abbreviated) cantata compositions. This concise (musical sermon of gratitude features a memorable prelude and fugue opening chorus fantasia, which Bach a decade later parodied to close the Missa: Kyrie-Gloria in g minor, BWV236; the extended, poignant, word-painting closing plain chorale setting of Johann Gramann’s “Nun lob, mein Seel, den Herren” (Now praise, my Soul, the Lord, Psalm 103 paraphrase); the free-verse, sprightly soprano aria with two violins in concertante tonal shape, “Herr, deine Güte reicht, so weit der Himmel” (Lord, your goodness extends as far as heaven); and the charming bouree-style tenor-aria with strings, “Welch Übermaß der Güte / Schenkst du mir! (What an abundance of kindness / you bestow on me!), preceded by an evangelist-style recitative, citing the Gospel (Luke 17-15-16) theme of the thankful, cured Samaritan.1
Cantata 17 was premiered on September 22, 1726 in the St. Thomas Church before and after the sermon of Pastor Christian Weise Sr. (not extant) to the Gospel, Luke 17:11-19 of the healing of the ten lepers and the gratitude of only one, the Samaritan, says Martin Petzoldt in BACH Commentary, Vol. 1, Trinity Sundays.2 The subject-matter of this cantata is derived from the Gospel for the 14th Sunday after Trinity, Luke 17:11-19, which tells of the healing of the ten lepers only one of whom, a Samaritan, thanked God for his cure.
Cantata 17 closes with the plain chorale, Johann Gramann (Poliander) 1525 five-stanza, 12-line Psalm 103 paraphrase Hymn, “Nun lob, mein Seel, den Herren” (Now praise, my Soul, the Lord), Stanza 3 (verses 14-16), “Wie sich ein Vatr erbarmet / Üb'r seine junge Kindlein klein” (As a father feels compassion / for his dear little children). German text and Francis Browne English translation and Bach’s uses, see BCW http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/Chorale136-Eng3.htm. No BCW melody information is available. Gramann (1487-1541) BCW Short Biography, see http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Lib/Gramann.htm.
The simple orthodox Lutheran text acknowledges “divine providence as inherent in the ordering of the universe,” “seen as a grace which has not been merited and is therefore the subject of unceasing thankfulness,” observes Walter Blankenburg in his 1978 liner notes to the Karl Richter recording (Martin Cooper English translation, BCW Recording details, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Performers/Richter.htm#C4; recording, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=izMogpNkdhE. The entire cantata shows Bach at the peak of his creativity, says Blankenburg, besides the opening chorus, “one of the most impressive of its kind”, also the two arias with the theme of the “celebration of the divine majesty,” and the closing chorale, that “forms a peak among the cantatas” Richter recorded for Trinity 6-17.
The 1726 string of two-part Rudolstadt-texted cantatas totaling 18 by Johann Ludwig Bach and eight by Sebastian Bach -- the latter constituting some of Bach’s finest chorus cantatas -- came to an end with Cantata 17. Bach seemed pleased with the Meiningen Court texts that enabled him to spend more than a week composing each of his own works that enabled him a decade later to parody through contrafaction a dozen choruses and arias in the Missae Breves: Kyrie-Gloria, BWV 233-236. This period in 1726 also enabled Bach to return briefly to his favorite Cycle 1 format of chorus cantatas with biblical dicta from which he drew 10 more movements for the Missae. At this point in 1726 in the third cycle, Bach turned almost exclusively to solo and dialogue cantatas, often using borrowed instrumental material. This allowed him to compose another string of intimate, weekly musical sermons similar in format to a dozen intimate Weimar solo cantatas set to texts of court poet Salomo Franck and recycled in the first cycle. Now Bach possibly commissioned texts from his Leipzig student Christoph Birkmann, through the Feast of the Purification, February 2, 1727, when he virtually ceased regular composition of church service cantatas, his basic calling as Leipzig cantor. While Bach had produced two cycles in his first two years in Leipzig, his third cycle took two years to complete as he also struggled to compose and present his great St. Matthew Passion.
Trinity 14 Biblical Readings3
Lutheran Church Year, Readings for the Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity: Epistle: Galatians 5:16-24 (Walk in the spirit), Gospel: Luke 17:11-19 (The healing of the grateful Samaritan leper, (see full text, BCW http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Read/Trinity14.htm). The Gospel involves the Thematic Patterns, Part 3, Paired Parable & Miracle (Douglas Cowling): *Trinity 13: Luke 10: 23-37 - Parable of the good Samaritan,  “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead”. *Trinity 14: Luke 17: 11-19 (Miracle of healing of the lepers); The Samaritan leper gives thanks for Jesus’ healing. “ And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off:”  And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, 16] And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan.  And Jesus answering said, “Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine?  There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger.  And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.” Martin Luther German translation 1545, English translation is Authorised (King James) Version [KJV] 1611./
Introit Psalm for the 14th Sunday after Trinity is Psalm 117, Laudate Dominum (Praise the Lord, all ye nations), says Petzoldt (Ibid: 408). This shortest of all psalms (2 lines), the entire text is (KJV): “O praise the Lord, all ye nations: praise him, all ye people. 2 For his merciful kindness is great toward us: and the truth of the Lord endureth for ever. Praise ye the Lord.” Bach also may have performed a polyphonic motet portion of Psalm 70, that is appropriate for middle Trinity Sundays. The Jacob Handl (Gallus) motet “Repleatur Os Meum” (5 voices) is taken from “Opus Musicum”, the composer’s collection of motets for the entire church year, says Douglas Cowling (BCW Chorales & Motets for Trinitity 14, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/LCY/M&C-Trinity14.htm. These works in the Erhard Bodenschatz Florilegium Portense collection owned by Bach were for Introit, before the sermon at mass and vespers and for Choir II, and communion (Handl BCW Short Biography: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Lib/Handl-Jakob.htm). The text: Psalm 70:8-9: “Let my mouth be filled with praise, that I may sing thy glory; thy greatness all the day long. Cast me not off in the time of old age: when my strength shall fail, donot thou forsake me.” The same passage is set in the “Repleatur Os Meum” (8 Voice) of Fattorinus (?).
Cantata 17 emphasizes “mankind’s debt of gratitude for the benefits conferred by God,” says Alfred Dürr in his Cantatas of J. S. Bach.4 “Part 1 tells chiefly of the world-embracing goodness of God, beneficent deeds are everywhere in evidence; and Part II deals with the duty of Christians to thank God for them. These good deeds, however (so we are told in the final recitative [no. 6]), are merely images of the still richer treasures that we are one day to expect in heaven.
Chorale “Nun lob, mein Seel, den Herren”
Cantata 17 closes with the plain chorale, Johann Gramann (Poliander) 1525 five-stanza, 12-line Psalm 103 Hymn, “Nun lob, mein Seel, den Herren” (Now praise, my Soul, the Lord), Stanza 3, “Wie sich ein Vatr erbarmet / Üb'r seine junge Kindlein klein” (As a father feels compassion / for his dear little children). Bach's uses (all plain chorales except BWV 51/4) are: BWV 389 in C Major (Praise & Thanksgiving, Hänssler v. 83), BWV 390 in C Major (Psalm chorale, Hänssler, v.82); Cantatas BWV 17/7 (Trinity 14, S.3), BWV 29/8 in D w/3 tps., timp.; Council, S.1), 51/4 (S. aria, Trinity 15, S.5), BWV 167 (Johns Day, S.5); motet chorales, Cantata BWV 28/2(Sunday after Christmas)=Motet BWV 231=BWV Anh. 160/2 (S.5), Motet 225/2 (S.3).
This hymn serendipitously is listed as one of the recommended hymns Pulpit and Communion Hymns for the omnes tempore 14th Sunday after Trinity in the Neu Leipziger Gesangbuch (NLGB) of 1682. This hymn generally was designated for this Sunday in the hymnbooks, particularly in Leipzig, Dresden and Weißenfels, says Günther Stiller in Johann Sebastian Bach and Liturgical Life in Leipzig.5 For the 14th Sunday after Trinity, the NLGB lists the following: HYMN OF DAY (de tempore): “Erbarm dich mein O Herre Gott” (Have mercy on me, O Lord God), CHORALES for Pulpit and Communion Hymns: "Nun lob mein Seel den Herren”; “Wohl mir das ist mir lieb”; “Durch Adams Fall ich ganz verderbt” (text, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/Chorale045-Eng3.htm), and “Ich dank den Herrn von ganzen Herzen.”
As was the trend increasingly in middle Trinity Time, Bach’s NLGB definitive hymnbook repeats popular hymns introduced earlier in Trinity Time, in clusters of three or four: “Nun lob, mein Seel, den Herren (Trinity 12, 14, 19), Penitential Psalm 51 setting “Erbarm dich meine O Herre Gott” (Have mercy on me, O Lord God; Trinity 3, 11, 13, 14), and “Durch Adams Fall ist ganz verderbt” (Through Adam’s Fall is wholly corrupted; Trinity 6, 9, 12, 13). Now a more positive note is introduced on this Sunday with the addition of two Psalm hymns: “Ich dank dem Herren von ganzem Herzen” (I thank the Lord with all my heart, Psalm 111; NLGB No. 186, a Catechism penitential song from old falsbordone) and “Fröhliche wollen wir Allelujah singen” (Joyously would we sing ‘Allelujah’, Psalm 117, Johann Agricola; NLGB No. 262, “Christian Life and Hope”). Bach set neither omnes tempore lesser-known hymns nor “Erbarm dich meine O Herre Gott,” as a chorale perhaps content with the affirmative expression found in the chorales in Cantata 25, 78, and 17. In the mid-1740s, Bach set Psalm 51 as the paraphrase Cantata "Tilge, Höchester, meine Sünden" (Blot out, Highest, My Sins). For Psalm 51 text and Bach Cantata references, as well as the Psalm 51 paraphrase text, see Psalm 51 BWV 1083 Discussion Part 2, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Vocal/BWV1083-Gen2.htm.
Trinity 14 Cantatas, Chorales
Bach’s three extant cantatas for the 14th Sunday after Trinity, Cantatas BWV 25, 78, and 17, reveal significant use of popular chorale melodies with poetic texts emphasizing iconic teaching of this Trinity Time Sunday. This Sunday involves the paired thematic pattern of the Miracle of healing of the lepers (Gospel, Luke 17:11-19) following the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:23-27) as part of the mini-cycle of the Gospel “Works of Faith and Love,” practical in character and application, says Paul Zeller Strodach in The Church Year.6 These works as well as Bach’s other endeavors related to this Sunday also portray in music the eternal struggles between good and evil, faith and reason, and flesh and spirit -- producing music of high caliber and distinction.
The cantatas range from the 1723 chorus Cantata BWV 25, “Es ist nichts Gesundes an meinem Leibe” (There is nothing healthy in my body, Psalm 38:3), with its instrumental harmonization of the “Passion Melody” (“Befiel du deine Wege/Herzlich tut mich verlangen) found in Cyriakus Schneegass’s Psalm 6 setting “Ach Herr, ich armen Sünder” (Ah lord, I a poor sinner) as proclamation and a popular Trinitarian chorale, Heerman’s “Treuer Gott, ich muß dir klagen (Faithful God, I must lament to you) to make the libretto more palatable; to a striking personal “Jesus Hymn” in chorale Cantata BWV 78, “Jesu, der du meine Seele” (Jesus, by whom my soul), Johann Rist’s 1640 hymn; to another popular hymn in Cantata 17, “Wer Dank opfert, der preiset mich” (Who gives thanks praises me, Psalm 50:23), Johann Gramann’s “Nun lob, mein Seel, den Herren” (Now praise, my Soul, the Lord). Where Catechism Hymns of Penitence played a major role in Bach’s cantatas for the previous 13th Sunday after Trinity, Psalm Hymns dominate the works for the 14th Sunday after Trinity. Bach’s use of chorale melodies was one of a myriad of musical devices in his “tool kit,” so to speak, that he would exploit through invention and transformation throughout his sacred vocal works.
Gardiner’s Take on Trinity 14 Cantatas
Here is an overview of Bach’s cantatas for the 14th Sunday after Trinity from English conductor and Bach scholar John Eliot Gardiner:7 <<Cantatas for the Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity, Abbaye d’Ambronay: You sometimes get the feeling that Bach would have understood Beethoven’s inner turmoil, even if the musical language in which it came to be expressed would have seemed partially (and at that time terribly) foreign to him. For the fact is that Bach too experienced, and became expert in expressing, the gladiatorial struggles within the human breast between good and evil, spirit and flesh. His music tells us this and so do the private jottings and underlinings he made in his copy of Calov’s Bible commentary. All through this Trinity season he has been offering us example after example of the stark moral choices that face us every day of our lives. Since his terms of reference and the set texts of these Trinitarian cantatas are of course unequivocally Lutheran, we have quickly got used to the way the human actor is positioned in scenarios of faith and the Fall, sin and Satan. But this does not in any way diminish the humanism of Bach’s basic approach on the one hand, or the audacity of his musical response on the other. Take these three cantatas for Trinity 14, which are all based directly or more loosely on the Gospel reading of the day, the story of Jesus’ healing of ten lepers (Luke 17:11-19).
Cantata 17 Movements, Scoring, Incipits, Key, Meter.8
First Part, 1. Chorus two-part with extended (27 mm) introductory sinfonia & fugue, Choreinbau text insertion [S, A, T, B; Oboe I/II, Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo); A. Wer Dank opfert, der preiset mich” (Who gives thanks praises me); B. “und das ist der Weg, / dass ich ihm zeige das Heil Gottes.” (and this is the way / that I show him God's salvation. Psalm 50:23); A Major, ¾.
2. Recitative secco [Alto, Continuo]: “Es muss die ganze Welt ein stummer Zeuge warden / Von Gottes hoher Majestät / Luft, Wasser, Firmament und Erden / Wenn ihre Ordnung als in Schnuren geht” (The whole world must become a silent witness / of God's exalted majesty / air, water, firmament and earth, while they move in order as according to plumb-lines. Psalm 19:4); closing, “was den Odem hegt, / Will noch mehr Anteil an ihm haben, / Wenn es zu seinem Ruhm so Zung als Fittich regt.” (and all who draw breath / want to have a still greater share in him / when they stir both tongue and wing to his praise.); f-sharp to c-sharp minor; 4.4.
3. Aria in three parts with ritornelli [Soprano; Violino I/II, Continuo’: A. “Herr, deine Güte reicht, so weit der Himmel ist / Und deine Wahrheit langt, so weit die Wolken gehen.” (Lord, your goodness extends as far as heaven is / and your truth reaches as far as the clouds go. Psalm 36:5); B. “Wüßt ich gleich sonsten nicht, wie herrlich groß du bist / So könnt ich es gar leicht aus deinen Werken sehen.” (If I did not already otherwise know how great and magnificent you are, / then I could see this easily from your works.); C. “Wie sollt man dich mit Dank davor nicht stetig preisen / Da du uns willt den Weg des Heils hingegen weisen?” (How could we not praise you continually for this? / For in return you will show us the way of salvation.); E Major; 4/4
Second Part, 4, Recitative secco [Tenor (Evangelist-style), Continuo]: “Einer aber unter ihnen, da er sahe, dass er gesund worden war / kehrete um und preisete Gott mit lauter Stimme / und fiel auf sein Angesicht zu seinen Füßen / und dankte ihm, und das war ein Samariter.” (But one of them, when he saw that he was healed, / turned back and praised God with a loud voice, / and fell on his face at his feet / and thanked him, and this man was a Samaritan. Luke 17:15-16); c-sharp to f-sharp minor; 4/4.
5. Aria three-part with da-capo effect (opening & closing ritornello) [Tenor; Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo]: A. “Welch Übermaß der Güte / Schenkst du mir! (What an abundance of kindness / you bestow on me!); B. “Doch was gibt mein Gemüte / Dir dafür?” (But what does my spirit give / to you in return?); C. Herr, ich weiß sonst nichts zu bringen, / Als dir Dank und Lob zu singen.” (Lord, I know nothing else to bring / but to sing thanks and praise to you.); D Major; 4/4 boure-like.
6. Recitative secco [Bass, Continuo]: A. “Sieh meinen Willen an, ich kenne, was ich bin: / Leib, Leben und Verstand, Gesundheit, Kraft und Sinn, / Der du mich lässt mit frohem Mund genießen, / Sind Ströme deiner Gnad, die du auf mich lässt fließen.” (Look at my will, I recognise what I am: / body, life and understanding, health, strength and mind, / which you allow me to enjoy and rejoice in, / are streams of your grace, which you make flow upon me.); B. “Lieb, Fried, Gerechtigkeit und Freud in deinem Geist” / Sind Schätz, dadurch du mir schon hier ein Vorbild weist, . . . .” (Love, peace, justice and joy in your spirit, Romans 14:7) / are treasures through which already here on earth you give me a glimpse beforehand / . . . .); b to f-sharp minor; 4/4.
7. Chorale plain BAR Form [SATB; Oboe I/II e Violino I col Soprano, Violino II coll'Alto, Viola col Tenore, Continuo]: A. “Wie sich ein Vatr erbarmet / Üb'r seine junge Kindlein klein:” (As a father feels compassion / for his dear little children); A’ “So tut der Herr uns Armen, / So wir ihn kindlich fürchten rein.” (so the Lord does for us in our poverty / if we revere him simply just like children.); B. “Er kennt das arme Gemächte, / Gott weiß, wir sind nur Staub / . . . .” (He is aware what a feeble race we are, / God knows we are only dust / . . . .); closing, “Also der Mensch vergehet / , Sein End, das ist ihm nah.” (thus man passes away, his end is near to him.); A Major; ¾.
Note on the text
This cantata for the 14th Sunday after Trinity was performed on 22 September 1726. During that year Bach had performed 18 cantatas written by his cousin Johann Ludwig Bach who served at the ducal court of Saxe-Meiningen from 1703 to his death in 1731. Ernst Ludwig (1672-1724), the Duke of Saxe-Meiningen, is said to have written two cycles of church cantata texts. Literary and historical evidence suggests that one of these might be the cycle from which Bach drew in composing Cantata BWV 17 (as well as BWV 39, BWV 43, BWV 45, BWV 88, BWV 102 and BWV 187).
These cantatas and those of Johann Ludwig Bach generally follow a typical pattern: the work is shaped by two corresponding passages from the Bible, one from the Old Testament and one from the New. The text of Mvt. 1 is from Psalm 50: 23; the fourth movement is based on the passage in St. Luke 17:15-16 which tells of the Samaritan who, alone among the ten lepers that Jesus cured, returned to give thanks. The main subject of the cantata is therefore gratitude.
The first recitative refers to Psalm 19:5. As Z. Philip Ambrose notes “Luther translates "Ihre Schnur gehet aus in alle Lande" ("Their line goeth out into every land"). Luther means here "plumb-line." English versions, following another Hebrew reading, have "voice" or "sound" instead of "line." I have translated accordingly.
Contrary to the normal construction of these cantatas, the text of the first aria [no. 3] for soprano is, strictly speaking, not based on 'free poetry' but on another quotation from the Bible (Psalm 36:5): 'Thy righteousness standeth like the strong mountains.' This verse serves for the first part of the aria, which then continues with a 'free' strophe.
The last recitative [no. 6] refers to Romans 14:17. The cantata ends with the third strophe of the hymn “Nun lob, mein Seel, den Herren” by Johann Gramann (1530). (information taken from Oxford Composer Companion :J.S. Bach).
Cantata 17 Summary
In the Oxford Composer Companions J. S. Bach (1999: 519), there is an interesting entry on this work by Konrad Küster, professor of musicology of Freiburg University and a renowned Bach scholar, from which I [Peter Bloemendaal] adopt the following [Cantata 17 BCML Discussions Part 1 (September 30, 2003), http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV17-D.htm].
<<Cantata BWV 17 is the last composition to result from Bach’s encounter with the church music from the ducal court of Saxe-Meiningen, where his distant cousin Johann Ludwig wrote some influential church cantatas, using a standardized text pattern devised by Duke Ernst Ludwig. Johann Sebastian performed 18 of his cantatas in 1726 and integrated some of their stylistic elements into his own cantata style. Following the typical pattern of these cantata texts, the work is shaped by two corresponding passages from the Bible, one from the Old Testament and one from the New. The text for the first movement is from Psalm 50:23; the fourth movement is based on the passage in St. Luke 17:15-16, which tells of the Samaritan who, alone among the ten lepers that Jesus cured, showed his gratitude.
Unlike most of those in the other cantatas of this type, the opening movement (A major) is not multi-sectional, but rather, since the text is only a short one, it consists of a single, large chorale fugue. It is followed first by a short simple recitative for the alto, and then by a soprano aria with two solo violins, “Herr, deine Güte reicht so weit der Himmel ist”. Contrary tot the normal construction of these cantatas, the text of this movement is, strictly speaking, not based on “free poetry” but on another quotation from the Bible (Psalm 36:6): “Thy righteousness standeth like the strong mountains.” This verse serves for the first part of the aria, which then continues with a “free” strophe. The movement as a whole is given a tonal shape such as might be found in a Baroque concerto movement, with ritornellos in the tonic (E major), the dominant (B major), the relative minor (C# minor) and finally again in the tonic.
With no. 4, “Einer aber unter ihnen”, the second part of the cantata (after the sermon) begins. The biblical text is cast as a simple recitative, not as an aria or arioso (as in all other Bach’s “Meiningen” cantatas except “Gott fähret auf mit Jauchzen”). The reason for this might be that the Gospel “Spruch” (the healing of the ten lepers) is not like the text for a sermon, but a plain biblical narrative which can be entrusted to an Evangelist, here as so often with Bach a tenor soloist. However, cuts off the narrative when the Samaritan gives thanks to Jesus. The tenor aria that follows, “Welch Ubermass der Güte schenkst du mir”, is an individual reflection on what we should offer God in return for his abundance of goodness. Apparently, Bach understood this as a direct allusion to the gospel account of the thankful Samaritan, and the words of the aria might be those of the Samaritan himself and, in a wider sense, of anyone who will avow in solidarity “Ich bin ein Samaritaner”.
After another simple bass recitative, the cantata ends with the third strophe of the hymn “Nun lob, mein Seel, den herren” by Johann Gramann (1530).
When Bach wrote his four “short masses” in about 1738-9, he reused the opening chorus of “Wer Dank opfert” for the concluding “Cum Sancto Spiritu” of the Gloria in the G major “Missa” BWV 236, to which its fugal form is well-suited. He transposed the music down one tone and replaced the orchestral riternello with a homophonic vocal introduction.>>
Trinity 14 Cantatas, Cantata 17
An overview of Bach’s Meiningen/Rudostadt cantatas as well as the biblical theological importance of Cantata 17 are discussed in scholar Klaus Hoffman’s 2009 liner notes to the Masaaki Suzuki BIS complete Bach cantata recordings.9 <<The four cantatas recorded here come from the second half of 1726, a period during which Bach did not always present a new cantata of his own every Sunday, but instead made more extensive use of compositions by other people. Between February and September 1726 he performed a total of eighteen cantatas by a distant relative of his, the Meiningen Hofkapellmeister Johann Ludwig Bach (1677–1731). The reduction in his workload that resulted from the use of works by other composers seems to have given Bach the freedom to devote himself more conscientiously to writing his own cantatas, his attention focusing in particular on the introductory choruses with their large-scale, almost symphonic conception. All four cantatas on this disc reflect this tendency, but three of them moreover testify to Bach’s receptivity to external impulses: in particular the texts of the cantatas by Johann Ludwig Bach seem in an unexpected way to have impressed and inspired him. They come from a cycle of texts for the church year that was first published in Meiningen [Rudolstadt]in 1704, with no mention of the poet’s identity. The cantata texts are all in two parts: they begin with a Bible quotation from the Old Testament, which has a counterpart in a New Testament quotation at the beginning of the second part. These quotations are examined with great theological competence in the texts for the recitatives and arias, and each cantata is rounded off by a chorale verse. This is the pattern followed in BWV 17, 45 and 102 – albeit with the peculiarity that in BWV 102 Bach departs from the section divisions in the libretto, placing the New Testament quotation in the first part of the cantata; the second part thus begins instead with a free aria text. [The other Cantata is BWV 19, “Es erhub sich ein Streit” (There arose a strife, Revelation 12:7), coming BCML Discussion, Week of September 25.]>>
<<“Wer Dank opfert, der preiset mich,” (Whoso offereth praise glorifieth me). The theological theme of this cantata’s libretto is mankind’s gratitude towards God. The gospel passage for the fourteenth Sunday after Trinity – Luke 17:11-19 – tells how Jesus heals ten lepers, but only one of them returns to thank him. The text author hints at this theme by way of the verse, ‘Wer Dank opfert, der preiset mich…’ (‘Whoso offereth praise glorifieth me…’) from Psalm 50, but then focuses on the miracles of the Creation, seeing in them signs of the goodness of God -- reason to give thanks and praise. The second part of the cantata begins with the most important lines from the gospel passage and follows these with the thought that we too receive an ‘Übermaß der Güte’ (‘abundance of good things’) from God and thus owe him praise and gratitude.
The opening chorus of the cantata for 22nd September 1726 is once again large in scale and wide in range, but it is also a musically taut, thematically unified structure. From a formal point of view the instrumental introduction plays a crucial role: it prepares the way for the choir’s fugal theme which - with its lively coloraturas inspired by the word ‘preiset’ (‘glorifieth’) - characterizes the entire movement. Around 1738, Bach reused this opening chorus, in a significantly modified form, in the Gloria [Cum sancto spiritu] of his Mass in G minor, BWV 236.
With its beautiful, poetic opening text (after Psalm 36:6), the soprano aria (third movement) is set as a vocal-instrumental quartet in which the vocal line and violins seem to encourage our gaze to follow the passing clouds. The tenor recitative (fourth movement) with its quotation from the gospel is for a few bars reminiscent of the Evangelist’s passages in Bach’s Passions. The textual content of the tenor aria (fifth movement) closely resembles that of the soprano aria; both arias are accompanied by strings alone. The tenor aria, however, has fewer con tra puntal elements; instead, it is more lyrical and, in its praise of God’s Übermaß der Güte’ (‘abundance of good things’), is more intimate than its predecessor. It comes as a surprise that the final chorale (Johann Gramann, 1530) strikes a note of transience - but at Bach’s time thoughts of one’s own demise were never far away. © Klaus Hofmann 2009>>
Gardiner on Cantata 17
<<The outstanding feature of BWV 17 Wer Dank opfert, der preiset mich, composed in 1726, is not its multi-sectional opening choral fugue, exhilarating and florid though it be. Nor is it the soprano aria with two violin obbligati in E major, nor yet even the bourre-like concluding tenor aria, which follows a narrative recitative that sounds as though it could have been lifted straight from a Passion oratorio. It is rather the extended final chorale ‘Wie sich ein Vat’r erbarmet’, the third verse of Johann Gramann’s hymn Nun lob, mein Seel den Herren. This is a triple-time version of the central movement of the great double-choir motet Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied BWV 225 and is every bit as poignant here as in the motet (which is nowadays thought to date from around this same period, of 1726/7), with wonderful word-painting for the ‘flower and fallen leaves’ and ‘the wind [which] only has to pass over it’. We did it softly and a cappella, the music spreading like a delicate scent through the vaulted abbey.
Though St Bernard founded it at the start of the ninth century, Ambronay only developed its current architectural form during the fifteenth century, since when it has had a stormy history of pillage and destruction. It has a dazzling white luminosity that suits this music well, and made one yearn to undertake a tour of more of France’s southern abbeys, priories and cathedrals. © John Eliot Gardiner 2006, From a journal written in the course of the Bach Cantata Pilgrimage>>
Bach’s performance calendar for the 14th Sunday after Trinity, shows three original works but no documented reperformances of these:
1723-08-29 So - Cantata BWV 25 Es ist nichts Gesundes an meinem Leibe (1st performance, Leipzig)
1724-09-10 So - Cantata BWV 78 Jesu, der du meine Seele (1st performance, Leipzig)
1725-09-02 So – no performance recorded
1726-09-22 So - Cantata BWV 17 Wer Dank opfert, der preiset mich (1st performance, Leipzig)
1727-09-14 So - no performance recorded
1728-08-29 So - Picander text only, P-57, closing chorale, O Gott, du frommer Gott, ?BWV 399.
1734-09-11 So - Stölzel’s “Ich bin der Herr, dein Artz.”
Picander 1728 Trinity 14 Text. Picander’s cantata text P-57, “Schöpfer aller Dinge” (Creator of all things) for Trinity 14 (Sept. 29, 1728) in the published cycle closes with the plain chorale, “O Gott, du frommer Gott”(O God, Thou very God), in the 1630 8-stanza text of Johann Heermann. The chorale is listed in NLGB as No. 202 for Trinity Time ("Christian Life") but is not one of the recommended hymns for a particular Sunday’ however, Picander’s published third cycle has settings also for Trinity 9 and 14. Bach composed one free-standing chorale, BWV 399. Francis Browne's translation of the chorale text is found in BCW: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/Chorale013-Eng3.htm. Full details are available at BCW, “Musical Context of Bach Cantatas Motets & Chorales for 8th Sunday after Trinity,” http://www.bach-cantatas.com/LCY/M&C-Trinity8.htm.
Stölzel’s 1734-35 Cycle. Bach presented Stölzel’s two-part Cantata “Ich bin der Herr, dein Artz” (I am the Lord, thy healer) for the 14th Sunday after Trinity, Sept. 11, 1734. The cantata has chorales closing in both parts; Part 2 begins with dictum, No. 5, “Opfere Gott Dank, und bezahle dem Höchsten deine Gelubde” (Offer God thanks, and pay the Highest thy vow); part of annual cycle “Saitenspiele des Hertzens” (String Music of the Heart). More research should determine the chorales presented.
1 Cantata 17 Details & Discography, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV17.htm. Score Vocal & Piano [1.80 MB], http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Scores/BWV017-V&P.pdf; Score BGA [2.51 MB], http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BGA/BWV017-BGA.pdf. References: BGA II (Cantatas 11-20, Maurice Hauptmann, 1852), NBA KB I/21 (Trinity 14, Wedrner Neumann, 1919), Bach Compendium BC A 131, Zwang K 151.
2 Martin Petzoldt, Bach Kommentar: Die geistlichen Kantaten des 1. Bis 27. Trinitas-Sontagges, Vol. 1; Theologisch Musikwissenschaftlicke Kommentierung der Geistlichen Vokalwerke Johann Sebastan Bachs, Internationale Bachakademie Stuttgart (Kassel: Bärenreiter, 2004: 416).
3 Source material, Cantata 25, BCML Discussions Part 4 (September 6, 2015), http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV25-D4.htm.
4 Dürr, Alfred. Cantatas of J. S. Bach, revised and translated by Richard D. P. Jones (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005: 531).
5 Günther Stiller, Johann Sebastian Bach and Liturgical Life in Leipzig, ed. Robin A. Leaver (St. Louis: Concordia, 1984, 252).
6 Paul Zeller Strodach, The Church Year: “Studies in the Introits, Collects, Epistles and Gospels” (Philadelphia PA: United Lutheran Publication House, 1924: 216).
7 Gardiner notes, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Pic-Rec-BIG/Gardiner-P07c[sdg124_gb].pdf; BCW Recording details, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Performers/Gardiner-Rec2.htm#P7.
8 German text and Francis Browne English translation and “Note on the text,” http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/BWV17-Eng3.htm.
9Klaus Hofmann notes, BCW, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Pic-Rec-BIG/Suzuki-C46c[BIS-SACD1851].pdf; BCW Recording details, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Performers/Suzuki-Rec3.htm#C46.
Peter Smaill wrote (September 1, 2016):
[To William Hoffman] Will's masterful assembly of the scholarship relating to this Cantata leaves little more to be said. But I'll try....
In a sense the biblical texts and the glosses on them in the recitatives and arias are orthodox Lutheranism. However the emphases in the 1726 libretto ( by The Duke of Saxe- Meinigen) are oddly biased to nature- worship, a tendency to extol the Beauty of creation.
Thus the passages on leaves, trees and wind etc., and in this Cantata no mention of Jesus ( at least not directly). The suggestion is perhaps of Deism, but other Cantata texts set be JL Bach at Meiningen are perfectly Lutheran so it is an occasional facet rather than a permanent one.
The Duke's fanciful imagination based on the phenomena of creation is perhaps at its most extreme when, in the course of his own Trauermusik, the funeral oration calls on Christians to have their ears pierced( like bullocks being led to slaughter). It's an amazing use of anthropomorphism!
Elsewhere he develops the obrigkeit concept of service to the lordly superior, tending to confirm Ducal authorship. And if my memory serves aright, the texts are in an unusual metre ( alexandrines) not found in other text sources for Bach's cantatas.
Cantata BWV 17: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements
Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4