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Cantata BWV 200
Bekennen will ich seinen Namen
Discussions - Part 4

Continue from Part 3

Discussions in the Week of November 25, 2012

William Hoffman wrote (November 25, 2012):
BWV 200 (sic): Purification, Death & Dying

(*BWV 200 "Bekennen will ich seinen Namen" (1742); "Cantata BWV 200 is actually an arrangement by J.S. Bach of the aria "Dein Kreuz, o Bräutgam meiner Seelen" from the Passion-oratorio "Ein Lämmlein geht und trägt die Schuld" by G.H. Stölzel (Peter Wollny in Bach-Jahrbuch 2008); [BCW Stölzel short biography], performed by Bach on Good Friday, April 23, 1734, in the Thomas Church.)

The theme of death is central to Bach's calling of a well-ordered church music to the glory of God. It is found throughout his compositions, from the earliest "Death and Dying" <omnes tempore> "timeless" thematic organ chorale preludes and memorial service Cantatas BWV 106, "Gottes Zeit is die allerbeste Zeit" (God's Time is the very-best time), and BWV 131 (Aus der Tiefe, rufe ich, Herr, zu dir" (<De profundis>, Out of the depths I call to you). It is manifest throughout his vocal music particularly in the affirmative theme of "Come, Sweetest Death" found in the cantatas presented on the 16th Sunday after Trinity and the related Purification/Presentation Festival focusing on Simeon's Canticle, the <Nunc dimittis> (Luke 2:29): "Nunc dimittis servum tuum/ Domine secundum verbum tuum in pace" ([Now Lord,] let your servant depart/ According to your word in peace). Gospel: Luke 2:22-32 (Simeon canticle prophesies of Christ)

Beginning in Weimar, Bach's settings for these two services, because of their close relationship, were intermingled, used versions of the <Nunc dimittis," or were revised for related purposes. In Weimar, Bach was able to observe both services, Feast of Purification/Presentation and the 16th Sunday after Trinity, in the creation of Cantatas BWV 158 [a], "Der Friede sei mit dir" (Peace be unto you) and BWV 161, "Komm, du Süße Todesstunde" (Come thou sweetest death-hour), respectively. While the original versions are not extant, their Salomo Franck texts survive, as well as the succeeding musical versions, according to the <Neue Bach Ausgabe Kritische Berichte> (New Bach Edition Critical Commentary) I/28.1, "Cantatas for Purification" by Matthias Wendet and Uwe Wolf (1994).

In their personal pietist sermon texts, both Cantatas BWV 158 [a] and BWV 161 address death in the Christian affirmative. The former reflects Simeon's Canticle of praise (<Nunc dimittis>) for the birth of the Messiah and acceptance of death when the 40-day-old Christ Child (Baby Jesus) is presented in the temple. The latter portrays the acceptance of death through the sacrificial suffering and death of Jesus Christ, as affirmed in the later Lukan Parable (7:11-17) of Jesus in ministry raising the dead son of the widow of Nahn.

`World, Farewell'

The original version of Cantata BWV 158 [a], "Welt, ade! ich bin dein müde" (World, farewell! I am weary of you) was composed for the Feast of the Purification, Sunday, February 2, in 1716, which also was the Fourth (and final) Sunday after Epiphany. It began with a Georg Albinus special hymn setting reflective of the <Nunc dimittis>, a nine-stanza Pilgrim Sleep Song based on the Pauline Epistle, 2 Corinthians 5:8: "Wir sind aber getrost und haben vielmehr Lust, außer dem Leibe zu wallen und daheim zu sein bei dem HERRN (We are confident (I say) and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord). The setting of Stanza 1 is a bass chorale aria with violin obbligato and soprano singing the chorale melody (probably just the solo oboe in the original) in G Major.

Welt, ade! ich bin dein müde,
Ich will nach dem Himmel zu,
Da wird sein der rechte Friede
Und die ewge, stolze Ruh.
Welt, bei dir ist Krieg und Streit,
Nichts denn lauter Eitelkeit,
In dem Himmel allezeit
Friede, Freud und Seligkeit.

World, farewell! I am weary of you,
I want to go to heaven,
in that place there will be true peace
and everlasting, noble rest
World, with you there is war and strife,
nothing but pure vanity,
in heaven there are forever
peace, joy and bliss.
(Francis Browne BCW English translation)

Subsequently, Bach recycled this chorale aria as well as the succeeding bass recitative, "Nun, Herr, regiere meinen Sinn" (Now, Lord, govern my thoughts) in Cantata BWV 158 for Easter Tuesday (Easter Feast Day No. 3), on April 3, 1725 in Leipzig, adding two movements suitable for Easter Tuesday. It begins with an opening bass recitative, "Der Friede sei mit dir (Peace be with you, Luke 24:36, Christ's greeting to his apostles after his resurrection, and closes with a plain chorale setting of Luther's "Hier ist das rechte Osterlamm" (Here is the rightful Easter-Lamb), to the melody "Christ lag in Todesbanden" (Christ lies in death's bondage).

The last four lines of the 8-line stanza are a refrain, repeated with some textual changes, in all nine stanzas, beginning with the line "Welt, bei dir ist Krieg und Streit" (World, with you there is war and strife) and closing with the two lines, "In dem Himmel allezeit/ Friede, Freud und Seligkeit" (in heaven there are forever
peace, joy and bliss). Here are the first four lines of stanzas 2, 4, and 5, with figurative English translation of Charles S. Terry:

2. Wenn ich werde dahin kommen,
bin ich aller Krankheit los
und der Traurigkeit entnommen,
ruhe sanft in Gottes Schoß.

When to Heaven God shall call me,
All life's trouble pass away,
Perfect peace shall e'er befall me,
In His bless-ed arms allway.

4. Unaussprechlich schöne
singet Gottes auserwählte Schar,
Heilig, heilig, heilig klinget
in dem Himmel immerdar.

Hark how glorious singing
Sounds the far angelic band,
Holy, holy, holy! Ringing
Clear throughout the heavenly strand!

5. Nichts ist hier denn lauter Weinen,
keine Freude bleibet nicht;
will uns gleich die Sonne scheinen,
so verhemmt die Nacht das Licht.

Here on earth are tears and sorrow;
Joy and gladness ne'er abide.
Though the sun shines, each to-morrow
Through the shades of night is spied.

The full 9-stanza German text is found at: (modernized version).
English translation partial, Charles S. Terry, <The Four-Part Chorales of JSB> (London, Oxford Univ. Press, 1964 [reprint with new forward]: 393).

The original text was first printed on a broadsheet for the funeral of Johanne Magdalene, daughter of the Archidiaconus Abraham Teller, of St. Nicholas's Church, Leipzig, who died Feb. 27, 1649, and included in Albinus' book,<Geistlicher geharnischter Kriegesheld>, Leipzig, 1675. The music and text is found in <Das Neu Leipziger Gesangbuch> (NLGB) of 1682, No. 372, Death & Dying (Zahn melody 6531), in Johann Rosenmüller SSATB setting (7 stanzas only), published in <Kern-Sprüchen>, Leipzig 1648.

Bach also uses the first stanza with Rosenmüller's five-part setting in B-Flat Major to close Cantata BWV 27, "Wer Weiss, wie nah emir mein Ende!" (Who knows how near is my end?) (=Anh. 170) for the 16th Sunday after Trinity. The hymn incipit, melody and figured bass are found in <Sebastian Bach's Chorale Buch> c.1740, pp. 234-35 (Death & Dying).

`Come thou, sweet hour of death'

Cantata BWV 161, "Komm, du süße Todesstunde" (Come thou, sweet hour of death) is believed thave received its first performance on the 16th Sunday after Trinity, Sept. 27, 1716, in Weimar. It uses throughout the Hans Leo Hassler Passion chorale melody, "Herzlich tut mich verlangen/Befiehl du deine Wege" (Heartily do I long/Commend you your ways, NLGB No. 329, Death & Dying): in the opening alto slumber song in basso continuo cantus firmus with obbligato organ, in the closing four-part chorale (Movement No. 6) with recorders obbligato, set to the Christoph Knoll 1605 associated text, "Der Lieb zwar in der Erden/ Von Würmen wird verzehrt," (The body indeed in the earth, will be eaten by worms), Stanza 4, and "is the source of the themes in the other movements (Cantata BWV 161 Recordings, Suzuki Liner Notes). Here is Francis Browne's BCW interlinear English translation of Stanza 4:

Der Leib zwar in der Erden
(The body indeed in the earth)
Von Würmen wird verzehrt,
(will be eaten by worms,)
Doch auferweckt soll werden,
(but it will be awakened,)
Durch Christum schön verklärt,
(transfigured in beauty through Christ,)
Wird leuchten als die Sonne
(it will shine like the sun)
Und leben ohne Not
(and live without anguish)
In himml'scher Freud und Wonne.
(in the joy and delight of heaven.)
Was schadt mir denn der Tod?
(What harm then can death do me?)

Bach used this chorale melody, known in English as "Oh sacred head now wounded," in his music more often than any other. The original Knoll 11-stanza text is an <omne tempore> Eternity Song (Ewigkeitslied), based on Philippians 1:23-24. Seven stanzas are found at (modernized version). Below each stanza is Charles S. Terry's figurative translation (Ibid.) of the [original German text] of three stanzas.

1. Herzlich tut mich verlangen
nach einem selgen End,
weil ich hier bin umfangen
mit Trübsal und Elend.
Ich hab Lust abzuscheiden
von dieser argen Welt,
sehn mich nach ewgen Freuden:
o Jesu, komm nur bald.

Lord, hear my deepest longing --
To pass to Thee in peace,
From earthly troubles thronging
From trials that never cease.
For Thee my soul is thirsting,
Above earth's dismal gloom,
To reach joy everlasting;
O Saviour, quickly come!

4. Der Leib zwar in der Erden
[Von Würmen wird verzehrt
Aber erweckert] werden,
durch Christum schön verklärt,
wird leuchten als die Sonne
und leben ohn [alle] Not
in Himmelsfreud und Wonne.
Was schadt mir denn der Tod?

Though worms destroy my body
Within its earth-bound grave,
Yet Christ one day shall call me,
And from the darkness save.
Then, clothed in radiant glory,
Before my God I'll sing
Of his great love the story:
O Death, where is thy sting!

11. Hilf, daß ich gar nicht wanke
von dir, Herr Jesu Christ;
den schwachen Glauben stärke
in mir zu aller Frist.
Hilf ritterlich mir ringen,
dein Hand mich halt mit Macht,
daß ich mag fröhlich singen:
[Das Consummatum est.]

O let not death's dark terror
Disturb my faith in Thee;
But keep me from all error,
In faith Thine loyally.
With Thy dear hand to guide me
Death firmly will I face,
To wake, the tomb behind me,
In heaven's appointed place.

Notice Terry's literal use of biblical passages in Stanza 4: "Though worms destroy this body" (Job 19:26) and "Death, where is thy sting?" (1 Corinthians 15:55). Bach obviously was aware of the biblical sources of the chorale text. Notice the contrast with Handel in "Messiah," which sets these two quotes, respectively, in the aria "I know that my Redeemer liveth" and the alto-tenor duet, "O death, where is thy sting?", as well as the Purification Epistle line, "The Lord whom ye seek shall suddenly come to his temple" (Malachi 3:1-4), in the opening bass recitative, "Thus saith the Lord."

Given the close thematic relationship in the texts of the Purification/Presentation Feast and the 16th Sunday after Trinity, Bach had no hesitation to reperform Cantata BWV 161, "Komm, du süße Todesstunde" (Come thou, sweet hour of death), at Purification (February 2), about 1735, presenting the same music with Salomo Franck published text, with some customary instrumental changes. The original sources of both Cantata BWV 161 and BWV 158 [a] are not extant and are not in Bach's hand but are designated for the Feast of the Purification.

Bach's use of Simeon's Canticle as well as hymn texts with the theme of "Death and Dying" are found in cantatas for both Purification and the 16th Sunday after Trinity, beginning in 1723 in Leipzig. On the 16th Sunday after Trinity (September 12), Bach introduced Cantata BWV 95, "Christus, der ist meins Leben" (Christ is my Life), for the 16th Sunday after Trinity, using the <Nunc dimittis> in Luther's German chorale paraphrase, "Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin" (With peace and joy I journey therein) in a plain chorale setting at the end of the opening complex chorale chorus movement. See "Motets and Chorales for the 16th Sunday after Trinity, BCW

Cantata BWV Anh. 157

Sometime between 1724 and 1735, Bach may have presented Cantata BWV Anh 157, "Ich habe Lust zu scheiden" (I have delight in parting) on the Feast of Purification. The score and parts set in an unknown hand was listed in the Leipzig Breitkopf publisher's catalog of 1761 and attributed to Bach, who wrote out only the autograph harpsichord part, probably between 1724 and 1735. Details are found in BCW,

The music is presumed on stylistic grounds to be by Georg Philipp Telemann and performed in Hamburg in 1724. Two Telemann cantatas using the incipit and possibly based on identical Neumeister texts are catalogued as TVWV 1:833 for Purification and TVWV 1:834 for the 16th Sunday after Trinity. The closing plain chorale, BWV Anh. 157/5 is stanza 1 of the Burmeister/Ahle Death and Dying Song, "Es ist genug,/ So nimm, Herr, meinen Geist" (It is enough,/ therefore, Lord, take by spirit), which Bach set as a plain chorale to close dialogue Cantata BWV 60, "O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort" (O eternity, thou word of thunder) for the 24th Sunday after Trinity in 1723.

Purification Cantatas Transmission

The significant loss of the original sources of cantatas Bach performed on the Feast of Purification/Presentation makes it difficult to determine when they actually were performed. As noted above, the original sources of Cantatas BWV 158, BWV 157, and BWV 161 are not extant. It is quote possible that after Bach revised the works for further performance, the original scores were disposed of or suppressed. Bach student and later St. Thomas prefect Christian Friedrich Penzel copied Cantatas BWV 158, and BWV 157, c.1755-70. His source may have been Friedemann Bach, who made his father's manuscripts available for copying at a price. Purification Cantatas BWV 83, BWV 125, and BWV 82 were part of the regular estate division of the church-year Cycl1, 2, and 3, respectively.

Ed Myskowski wrote (November 25, 2012):
Introduction to BWV 200 -- Bekennen will ich seinen Namen

Weekly reminder:

This week we continue discussions of cantatas for feast days with BWV 200, the last of five works for the Feast of Purification of Mary. Details of text, commentary, recordings, and previous discussion for this week are accessible via:

The commentary by Julian Mincham, music examples included, is especially recommended as an introduction to listening.

The BWV 200 page has convenient access to notes from the Gardiner, Koopman (notes by Christoph Wolff), Suzuki, and Leusink (and more!) CD issues, via link beneath the cover photo.

There is no relevant chorale text or melody this week. Francis Browne has recently added new commentary on the cantata texts to his interlinear translations, linked via [English 3]. We can expect these to continue, not necessarily weekly. Douglas Cowling and William Hoffman are also posting relevant to chorales and other music for the Lutheran Church Year, accessible via LCY pages

I do not always take the time to check all links before posting. Special thanks to the folks who provide timely corrections.


Cantata BWV 200: Details & Complete Recordings | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

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Discussions of General Topics: Cantatas & Other Vocal Works | Performance Practice | Radio, Concerts, Festivals, Recordings


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