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Cantata BWV 29
Wir danken dir, Gott, wir danken dir
Discussions - Part 4

Continue from Part 3

Discussions in the Week of August 20, 2017 (3rd round)

William Hoffman wrote (August 23, 2017):
Town Council Cantata 29: “Wir danken dir, Gott"

For what may have been his ninth new consecutive festive cantata for the annual installation of the Leipzig Town Council, Bach in 1731 composed an almost entirely original, nearly half-hour work of praise and thanksgiving and his best known, Cantata BWV 29, “Wir danken dir, Gott, wir danken dir (We thank you, God, we thank you, Psalm 75:2). While it follows the general form of most of his works for his employer, Cantata 29 also has an opening sinfonia with organ obbligato, trumpets and drums. Then there are the stile antico fugal chorus that became through contrafaction the “Gratias agimus tibi” and the closing “Dona nobis Pacem in his B-Minor Mass; two modern-style arias, “Halleluja, Stärk und Macht” (Alleluia, power and might), and “Gedenk an uns mit deiner Liebe”(Think of us with your love); interspersed with two recitatives; and a popular congregational, closing prayer, “Sei Lob und Preis mit Ehren” (Let there be glory, praise and honour”), Stanza 5 of the Johann Gramann (Poliander) 1540 Psalm 103 paraphrase, "Nun lob, mein' Seel', den Herren" (Now praise, my soul, the Lord).1

Cantata 29 was premiered on Monday, August 27 at the special service of the word in the Nikolaikirche, with the sermon (not extant) of Friedrich Wilhelm Schütz; Romans 13:4: "For he is the minister of God to thee for good.” The printed text for this and the repeat services survives; the other two being: 31 August 1739, Christian Gottlob Eichler; 1 Kings 8:57-58, ”The LORD our God be with us, as He was with our fathers,” and 25 August 25 1749, unidentified preacher, Psalm 82:7-8, "But ye shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes. Arise, O God, judge the earth: for thou shalt inherit all nations.”

The previous eight town council (Ratswechsel) cantatas beginning in 1723 were BWV 119*, 69a, Anh. 4*, 137, 193*, 120*, 216*, and Anh. 3* (* confirmed). Between 1732 and 1739 there is no record of Bach’s town council cantata performances. The 1739 revival of Cantata 29 came during the year when Leipzig celebrated the bicentennial of its official acceptance of the Reformation involving Luther’s preaching on Pentecost Sunday, Leipzig University’s concurrence of the Reformation teachings and a special three-day celebration of the Reformationfest, beginning on October 31. In 1740, Bach premiered another parody council cantata, BWV Anh. 193, "Herrscher des Himmels, König der Ehren" (Lord of Heaven, King of Glory). Like council Cantatas BWV Anh. 4, and Anh. 3, only the texts and parodied music survives, suggesting that this too was a perfunctory piece. In 1741 Bach repeated Cantata BWV Anh. 4, and in 1742 probably repeated Cantata 120. Finally in 1748 Bach presented parody Cantata 69, and in 1749 reperformed Cantata 29, his last documented presentation. There is no record of repeat performances of sacred council Cantatas 119 and 193.

Cantata 29: Allegorical Aspects

In Cantata 29, “Most intriguing to me are the allegorical aspects,” says Linda Gingrich in her Cantata 29 BCML Introduction to Round 3 (5 May 2013), <<The easiest way for me to grasp these relationships is to draw them, so I created a table, incorporating some of those elements. . . . [Movements] Numbers 3 through 7 create a symmetrical inset balanced around Mvt. 5. This kind of structure is called a chiasm, after the Greek letter chi, an X-shape that mirrors around a central point. Bach incorporated this kind of structure across whole cantatas that look to the cross of Christ, such as BWV 78, Jesu der du meine Seele, but it seems unusual to see it here inside a portion of a city elections cantata. Mvt. 3 and Mvt. 7 are connected through a shared textual theme, strength and might be to God's name, from Psalm 75:1, and shared music. There is a tonal ascent from Mvt. 2 to Mvt. 3, a tonal descent to the lowest point, the B-minor Mvt. 5's plea to "remember us," and then a rise back to D. Mvt. 5 is further marked by the pastoral siciliano and its unusual scoring: the organ plays no harmonies under the vocal passages until the repeat of the final three lines just before the da capo. Bach also further sets off the chiastic inset with a sharp stylistic antithesis between the antique Mvt. 2 fugue and the concertante tenor aria [no. 3]. It's also curious that Mvt. 1 and Mvt. 7 use obbligato organ, which may lend some added weight to Mvt. 7/Mvt. 3's honor given to the name of God. I haven't seen an allegorical form quite like this one before. Much food for thought and interpretation!>>

Cantata 29 movements, scoring, text, key, meter (German text and Francis Browne English translation, BCW

1. Sinfonia [Tromba I-III, Timpani, Oboe I/II, Violino I/II, Viola, Organo obligato, Continuo]; D Major; 4/4.
2. Chorus fugue [SATB; Tromba I-III, Timpani, Oboe I/II, Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo]: “Wir danken dir, Gott, wir danken dir und verkündigen deine Wunder.” (We thank you, God, we thank you and proclaim your wonders.); D Major; 2/2 alle breve.
3. Aria da capo concertante style [Tenor; Violino solo, Continuo]: A. “Halleluja, Stärk und Macht / Sei des Allerhöchsten Namen!” (Alleluia, power and might / be to the name of the Highest.); B. “Zion ist noch seine Stadt, / Da er seine Wohnung hat, / Da er noch bei unserm Samen / An der Väter Bund gedacht” (Zion is still his city, / where he has his dwelling, / where still by our posterity / he thinks of the covenant with our fathers.); A Major; 2/2.
4. Recitative secco [Bass, Continuo]: “Gottlob! es geht uns wohl! / Gott ist noch unsre Zuversicht, / Sein Schutz, sein Trost und Licht / Beschirmt die Stadt und die Paläste, / Sein Flügel hält die Mauern feste. / Er lässt uns allerorten segnen, / Der Treue, die den Frieden küsst, / Muß für und für / Gerechtigkeit begegnen. / Wo ist ein solches Volk wie wir, / Dem Gott so nah und gnädig ist!” (God be praised ! All goes well for us! / God is our confidence, / his protection, consolation and light / guard the town and the palaces, / his wings keep the walls secure / He makes us blessed everywhere, / Faithfulness, that kisses peace, / must for ever and ever / meet with justice. / Where is there such a people as we / to whom God is so near and merciful?); f-sharp to e minor; 4/4.
5. Aria [Soprano; Oboe, Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo]: “Gedenk an uns mit deiner Liebe, / Schleuß uns in dein Erbarmen ein! / Segne die, so uns regieren, / Die uns leiten, schützen, führen, / Segne, die gehorsam sein!” (Think of us with your love, / enclose us in your pity! / Bless those who govern us, / those who guide, protect and lead us, / bless those who are obedient!); b minor; 6/8 siciliano.
6. Recitative secco [Alto] and Chorus [SATB, Continuo]: A. Alto, “Vergiß es ferner nicht, mit deiner Hand / Uns Gutes zu erweisen; / So soll / Dich unsre Stadt und unser Land / Das deiner Ehre voll, / Mit Opfern und mit Danken preisen, / Und alles Volk soll sagen:” (For the future do not forget with your hand: / to bestow your goodness on us; / and so / our town and our land, / full of your honour, / will praise you with offerings and thanksgiving, / and all the people will say:); D Major 4/4; B. Coro: “Amen!”; D Major; 4/4.
7. Aria repeat of 3A [Alto; Organo obligato, Continuo]: “Halleluja, Stärk und Macht / Sei des Allerhöchsten Namen!” (Alleluia, power and might / be to the name of the Highest!); D Major; 2/2.
8. Chorale [SATB; Tromba I-III, Timpani, Oboe I/II, Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo]: “Sei Lob unPreis mit Ehren / Gott Vater, Sohn, Heiligem Geist! / Der woll in uns vermehren, / Was er uns aus Gnaden verheißt, / Dass wir ihm fest vertrauen, / Gänzlich verlassn auf ihn, / Von Herzen auf ihn bauen, / Dass unsr Herz, Mut und Sinn / Ihm tröstlich solln anhangen; / Drauf singen wir zur Stund: / Amen, wir werden's erlangen, / Glaubn wir aus Herzens Grund.” (Let there be glory, praise and honour / to God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit! / who wants to increase in us / what he promised to us in his mercy, / so that we firmly trust in him, / rely completely on him, / in our hearts build on him, / so that our heart, courage and mind / may depend on him for comfort; / therefore we sing at this hour: / Amen, we shall achieve this, we believe from the bottom of our heart.); D Major; 3/4.

Notes on Text, Music

The biblical references and allusions in Cantata 29 are cited by Alfred Dürr.2 <<Dürr comments as follows on the text: The unknown librettist sticks with the model established in other similar cantatas that belong to this category (Ratswechsel): to express gratitude for blessing received and pray for continuing blessings in the future. The initial choral mvt. is based mainly upon Psalm 75:2 “Unto thee, O God, do we give thanks, unto thee do we give thanks: for that thy name is near thy wondrous works declare,” but there are also numerous references to other biblical texts. So it is that ‘Zion’ no longer points to the geographical location known as Jerusalem, but rather that place where the Lord can be praised: “Zion ist noch seine Stadt, da er seine Wohnung hat” [“Zion is still his city, where he resides.”] Accordingly the member of the congregation, who is well-versed in the Bible, present at the performance of the cantata would understand “Der Herr…wird zu Jerusalem wohnen ewiglich” “The LORD God of Israel hath given rest unto his people, that they may dwell in Jerusalem for ever” from 1 Chronicles 23:25 to mean ‘Leipzig’ rather than ‘Jerusalem.’ Mvt. 4 has quite a number of biblical references: phrases such as “Gott ist noch unsre Zuversicht” (cf. Psalms 46:2 “Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea”; 62:8 “Trust in him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us”, etc.) or “sein Schutz…beschirmt die Stadt und die Paläste, sein Flügel hält die Mauern feste” (Psalm 122:7 “Peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces”; 36:8 “How excellent is thy lovingkindness, O God! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings”) are also found in the earlier Ratswechsel cantatas BWV 119 (mvt. 2); Anhang 4 (mvt. 3) and BWV 120 (mvt. 4) where the reference is made to Psalm 85:11 “…daß Güte und Treue einander begegnen, Gerechtigkeit und Friede sich küssen” [“Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.”] In mvt. 6, the phrase, “und alles Volk soll sagen: Amen” [“and all the people shall say. Amen”] comes from the 5th Book of Moses (Deuteronomy) 27:15-26.>>.

Cantata 29 closes with the extended plain chorale (Mvt. No. 8) "Nun lob, mein' Seel', den Herren" (Now praise, my soul, the Lord), Johann Gramann (Poliander), five stanzas with text (1530). It is found in Bach's hymnbook, thr Neu Leipziger Gesangbuch (NLGB) of 1682 as No. 261, an omne tempore middle Trinity Time setting of Psalm 103, Bendicta anima mea (love of God), with the Johann Kugelmann 1540 melody (Zahn 8244). In the NLGB it is the Hymn of the Day for the 12th Sunday after Trinity and a Pulpit/Communion Hymn for 14th and 19th Sundays after Trinity. The full text and Francis Browne's English translation are found at BCW The chorale text in mvt. 8 is based on vs. 5, a verse added later (Königsberg, 1548).”

The first stanza of "Nun lob, mein' Seel', den Herren" is found in Cantatas BWV 51/4 and 28/2; Stanza 3 in BWV 17/7 and BWV 225/2, and Stanza 5 in BWV 29/8 and 167/5. Besides Cantata 29/8 with trumpets and timpani in D Major, Bach's uses (all plain chorales except BWV 51/4 chorale aria) are: BWV 389 in C Major (Praise & Thanksgiving, Hänssler v. 83), BWV 390 in C Major (Psalm chorales, Hänssler, Bach Akademie Edition v.82); Cantatas BWV 17/7 in A Major (Trinity +14, 1726, S.3); 51/4 in C Major (S. aria, Trinity +15, c.1730, S.3), BWV 167/5 in G Major (Johns Day, 1723, S.5); motet chorales, Cantata BWV 28/2 in C Major (Sunday after Christmas, 1725)=Motet BWV 231=BWV Anh. 160/2 (S.5), and Motet 225/2 (S.3), each plain chorale line interpolated in an aria in C Major, "Gott, nimm dich ferner user an" (O Lord, be merciful to us).

The purpose of the Leipzig town council cantata and the possible loss of work Bach may have composed are discussed in Klaus Hofmann’s 2012 liner notes to the Masaaki Suzuki BIS recording.3 <<“Wir danken dir, Gott, wir danken dir” (Unto thee, O God, do we give thanks), BWV 29. This cantata from 1731 owes its existence to the custom, then current in Leipzig as in many other cities, of celebrating the annual so-called council election with a festive church service. This ‘council election’ was no election in the modern democratic sense of the word: council members were appointed for life, and the council itself consisted of numerous smaller groups that succeeded each other in conducting the business of government. In Leipzig, the ceremonial transfer of office always took place on the Monday after St Bartholemew’s day (24th August). The service took place at St Nicolai’s Church.

During his Leipzig period Bach must have provided celebratory music for this service on 27 occasions. Even if sometimes – after an appropriate time had elapsed – he permitted himself some repetition from his earlier election cantatas (the present work served as source material in 1739 and 1749, for instance), a considerable number of these works must have been lost. Today, in full or in part, we have just five election cantatas (the others are BWV 69, 119, 120 and 193); for three others we possess only the texts (BWV Anh. I 3, 4 and 193). The losses are particularly regrettable, as the surviving cantatas show that Bach was especially keen to show the great splendour of his artistry in these works: after all, at the election service he had the entire council in his audience, and presumably the civil servants too – and probably also representatives of the Prince Elector’s regional administration. It was an opportunity for Bach to show how sacred music was flourishing under his direction and to present himself as a composer, and it would seem that in these works – having made a realistic appraisal of his distinguished listeners – the composer sometimes focused on striking effects and also made judicious use of material from already existing compositions.

Both of these comments apply to the brilliant organ concerto movement that opens this cantata from 1731. The solo organ, with its virtuoso motoric writing and varied orchestral accompaniment – the orchestra is of festive proportions with three trumpets, timpani, two oboes, strings and continuo – cannot have left any listener of the period unimpressed. Only Bach’s innermost circle, however, will have known that the piece is actually an arrangement: it is based on the Preludio from his Suite in E major for solo violin (BWV 1006) in an arrangement for organ and string orchestra that Bach had made in 1729 for the wedding cantata Herr Gott, Beherrscher aller Dinge (Lord God, Ruler of All Things, BWV 120a).

In the second movement Bach concentrates on contrast: the chorus (‘Wir danken dir, Gott’ [‘Unto thee, O God, do we give thanks’] – Psalm 75:1) appears archaically in a motet-like setting in the ponderous ‘old’ style of the sixteenth century – although B’s method of intensification (by means of which he gradually introduces trumpets and ultimately allows the theme to be heard in stretta) is thoroughly baroque. Here Bach enthusiasts will recognize the ‘Gratias agimus tibi’ and the ‘Dona nobis pacem’ from the Mass in B minor. According to recent research, the Mass movements and cantata movement all have their roots in a composition that is now lost, with an unknown text. Here too, then, Bach made use of material that already existed.4

These words of gratitude are followed in the aria ‘Halleluja, Stärk und Macht’ (‘Alleluia, strength and power’) by the praise of God in a virtuosic tenor solo with obbligato solo violin. Following on from the aria text in terms of content, the bass recitative is about the devotion of God, who holds his hand protectively and in blessing above the city. With the soprano aria ‘Gedenk an uns mit deiner Liebe’ (‘Think of us with your love’) there follows a sincere prayer for God’s future providence: a musical display piece full of warmth and tenderness in a rocking siciliano rhythm. For long stretches in the vocal sections, Bach does without a continuo accompaniment (thus without the instrumental bass register) – a tactic that effectively contributes to creating a sonic impression of tenderness and charm.

The following alto recitative asks God for future charity, praises gratitude – and surprises the listener at the phrase ‘und alles Volk soll sagen: Amen!’ (‘And all the people shall say, Amen’ – a quotation from Deuteronomy 27:15–26) with a choral unison on the word ‘Amen’. Next we hear an abbreviated form of the aria ‘Halleluja, Stärk und Macht’, now set for alto and organ. The cantata concludes with a song of praise to the Holy Trinity: the final strophe of the well-known hymn Nun lob, mein Seel, den Herren (Now Praise, My Soul, the Lord). Trumpets and timpani give this ending an appropriately festive splendour. © Klaus Hofmann 2012>>

Cantata 29 Movement Analysis

Julian’s Mincham’s detailed analysis of the movements in Cantata 29 offers particular insight into the unique and appealing features of this special cantata ( <<Performed in 1731, C 29 was presented eight years after C 119. It is a more concise work with only one extended chorus, any apparent omission of this kind being fully compensated for by the vigorous opening sinfonia. This is, somewhat surprisingly, the only surviving municipal work which begins thus, Bach’s normal practice being to commence with a chorus although even here he was not entirely consistent; C 120 begins with an alto aria. However, judging by the sheer force and vigour of the opening movement of C 29 one is bound to wonder why Bach did not repeat the practice elsewhere.

1. Sinfonia. Connections between this ebullient movement for trumpets, drums, oboes, strings, continuo and organ solo and its model for unaccompanied violin (BWV 1006) are not immediately apparent. Certainly the original had all the impetus and energy of the later arrangement but it obviously lacked the decibels and ultimate impact. Bach had already arranged this movement to provide a sinfonia to open part 2 of the wedding cantata C 120a two or three years previously but there he had not called upon the trumpets and drums (see chapter 77). Nevertheless the continuo, upper strings and doubling oboes would appear to have been retained, the trumpets now marking the rhythm and important cadence points.

The organ becomes a concerto soloist carrying the main melodic line, as originally conceived, throughout. In fact, apart from the first and last bars it is an uninterrupted flow of semi-quavers creating the effect of an unstoppable moto perpetuo. Whilst it follows the expected Bachian processes of sojourning through a series of related keys (principally Bm, G major and Em: unusually there is no early establishment of the dominant key of A major), there is no opening or closing ritornello such as one expects from Bach’s concerto movements based upon Italian models. He could have provided one, of course, and there is precedence for this in the final movement of the triple concerto for flute, violin and harpsichord in Am. But that was a much longer, more intense movement. In this cantata Bach obviously felt that there was no need to extend the dimensions of a piece which already lasted for a little over three minutes.

The initial violin composition was in E major but both arranged versions are transposed down to D, the better to accommodate the wind instruments. However, the fingerprints of the idiosyncratic string writing remains e.g. the cavorting around the (original) open string (bars 13-16 and 63-6) and the bowing across the strings (from bar 43). Nevertheless, the transformation of material conceived for a single string instrument into a fully orchestrated concerto movement is so successful that it is unlikely that anyone hearing the latter for the first time would suspect the existence of the former.

2. Chorus. The expected chorus will be familiar to all as the concluding movement from the Bm Mass. The texts of all the municipal celebratory works traditionally revolve around praise of and thanks to God for providing us with the means of effective government. In this cantata there is not one verse that neglects to mention God and our relationship with Him, a clear sign of the ways in which religion permeated all aspects of life in Bach’s time, including the politics of the day.

But whereas most of the main choruses from the other council cantatas were vigorous, energetic and ebullient, that from C 29 is dignified and restrained. The text simply declares—-we thank You God and declare Your works of wonder. Perhaps it is the natural sense of awe and humility with which Christians may view His great works that inspired Bach’s imagination in this case.

It has been suggested that Bach took this chorus from an earlier lost work but as there is no evidence one way or the other, there is little to be gained from pursuing the point. Students will find the comparisons of the C 29 version with the later one for the Mass, illuminating. The essential structure is unchanged and the sense of architectural grandeur arising from the layering of one part upon another undiminished. One does, however, need to note the enhanced bass countersubject (bars 5-6 of the alla breve adaptation) which imparts a sense of natural flow and elegance lacking in the cantata version. Bach’s use of the instruments, however, remains the same, oboes and strings doubling the voices in motet style and the restrained use of the trumpets: first one, then two, then all three building to a climax of awesome intensity.

Bach latterly viewed this movement as an appropriate ending to the most commanding religious work in his output, so he must have thought highly of it. It would seem that in the context of the municipal cantata he saw it as a means of depicting God’s great works on earth and in heaven. No doubt if some of the local politicians interpreted it as a reflection of their own value and reputations, Bach would have kept his counsel. Satisfied customers may well generate further well paid commissions!

3. Tenor aria. The contrast of styles between the second and third movements of this work borders upon the extreme. The tenor aria is entirely Italianate in spirit, style and technique, its three melodic lines (violin obbligato, tenor and continuo) bringing to mind some of the major-key sonatas for violin and keyboard. They obviously share the same three-part texture but there is also an equivalence of style and character, despite the fact that the sonatas almost certainly predated the cantata by several years. (This is to assume that there had been no earlier, lost version of the latter). The fecundity of invention of the twenty-bar ritornello theme is remarkable, another example of Bach’s ability to create a melody by allowing it to grow like an opening flower. . . . The technical advantage of such a structure is that virtually any the phrases may be extrapolated and developed as episodes to separate the vocal sections, thus allowing for the maximum of flexibility in the construction of a lengthy movement.

How this melody might relate to the words is less clear, although we know from much of his cantata output from the mid to late 1720s that Bach often derived his musical shapes directly from textual images. Here the verse begins with an Alleluia followed by the extolling of the strength and power of the Almighty and these two ideas form the basis of the A section of a conventional da capo aria. The B section, from bar 93, reminds us of Jerusalem (Zion, or in this case a possible metaphor for Leipzig itself) where He still dwells, keeping our forefathers’ covenant. The middle section commences with a striking new vocal phrase, but the violin obbligato replicates the material from the ritornello theme, albeit now largely within the context of minor keys. It appears that Bach was inspired more by general images of might and protection on this occasion. Certainly the music, despite the minimal resources required to perform it, has a power, authority and drive that commands attention. Bach apparently thought highly of this aria for reasons that will become apparent.

4. Bass recitative. The secco bass recitative praises God further as our shield, light and comfort. It is a conventional sentiment set in minor modes, perhaps in order to lend it authority and to prepare for the coming aria. There is a brief moment of quaver movement in the continuo line at the mention of His buttressing our walls (bar 6) but otherwise Bach simply allows the narrative to unfold. He does, however, contrive to end with an unambiguous musical question—-where else might be found such a nation of people whom God so abides and graces?

5. Soprano aria. The recitative aside, the soprano aria is the only movement which is predominantly minor-mode. Set in a gently lilting 6/8 time, the dotted rhythms almost suggest the rocking of a lullaby. It is a personal, almost pensive piece moving the focus, as Bach so often does, from the extrovert communal acts of faith and devotion to the personal and private world of the individual. But whilst being genuinely reflective, the music is neither sad nor gloomy. Indeed, it moves confidently to the relative major key even before the singer enters adopting the established ritornello melody. It is a conventional da capo structure, the A section a universal calling upon the Lord to remember and embrace us lovingly and with compassion, the B section becoming more explicit—-bless those who govern, guide and lead us as well as all who follow obediently. The oboe has a rather curious and quite unique role in that it doubles the first violins in the ritornello section and elsewhere the vocal line, except in the last dozen bars of the B section where it has its own independent melody, partially mirroring that of the voice. Bach’s reason for doing this is unclear. It is unlikely that the oboe is intended to be viewed as a light which the obedient should follow; it seems to trail rather than guide the soprano. Might the interaction of voice and oboe symbolize those of us who follow both God and his elected political custodians on earth? It does suggest a musical representation of an interaction between leaders and those led.

The other unusual aspect of this movement is the removal of the continuo line under the voice, except in those last bars of the middle section when the flute gains its independence. Again, this is too much of a coincidence not to be significant. This practice of suspending or removing a strong bass line occurs only occasionally in Bach and may have been adopted from Vivaldi slow movement models. It has also been suggested that it symbolizes an unworldliness or spiritual dimension. It is possible that Bach intended to evoke both the mystical aspects of the relationship between God and Soul and the consequent unity of spiritual and worldly realms under the auspices of God-protected good governance.

This may seem to be an improbable scenario; but Bach’s mind was certainly complex enough to have encompassed and conceived of it.

6. Alto recitative. The alto recitative is noteworthy for the entry of the choir, in octaves, to pronounce the closing ‘amen’. Bach very seldom writes for his four-part choirs in octaves or unison and the impact must have been powerful. In this movement the singer prays, on behalf of us all, for God to remember to dispense prosperity whereupon the city, and indeed the country, should respond with praise, sacrifice and amens!

7. Alto aria. This gives Bach the perfect opportunity to proceed, without break, into the Alleluiahs of the following alto aria. Furthermore, he does something which is unique within his canon of cantatas. Instead of composing a new movement, he repeats the A section of the tenor aria but dispenses with the opening ritornello. Whether this was a time-saving device cannot be determined but one is inclined to think not. There are plenty of opportunities for Bach to cut corners in his commissioned works and weekly cantata programmes but he seldom does so. Furthermore, the text of this aria is the same as the first two lines of that for tenor, the A section of whose aria had begun and ended in the tonic key. Thus it became perfectly possible to hijack the section and repeat it in a way that made musical, textural and dramatic sense. But now Bach does not make use of the original repeat, another indication that his principle motivation was not labour saving. The truncated aria is transposed from A to D major and the violin obbligato part is given to the organ, virtually unaltered but for a few of embellishments. Thus he contrives to make it sound different from the earlier aria but the general theme of praise for the might and power of the Lord is, nevertheless, reinforced.

8. Chorale. The cantata concludes with an exceptionally long chorale of twelve phrases. A simpler and lower (in pitch) version may be found concluding C 17 (vol 3, chapter 24). In C 29 the first four and last two phrases are reinforced by the addition of trumpets and drums. Some of the chorales ending municipal cantatas are low-key and contemplative e.g. C 119. This, however, is assertive in its pledge and petition—-praise the Father, Son and Holy Ghost that we may receive mercy from, and trust in, Him—-let us sing—-for we shall receive it if only we believe.

This is a work of confidence, not only in its mature compositional procedures but also in the expression of municipal pride. The text is conventional and lacks inspiration; nevertheless Bach takes us on a journey which celebrates both divine and secular authority. It also allows us a few moments in which to meditate upon our own responses to the spiritual and physical worlds that govern us.>>


1 Cantata 29 BCW Details & Discography, Score Vocal & Piano,; Score BGA, References, BGA V/1 Cantatas 21-30, Wilhelm Rust, 1855), NBA KB I/32.2 (occasional sacred cantatas, Christine Fröde, 1994: 14), Bach Compendium BC B 8 | Zwang K 183. Provenance, Thomas Braatz, see BCW; Bach Digital, Score, D-B Mus. ms. Bach P 166,; provenance, J. S. Bach - C. P. E. Bach (1790: 71) - G. Poelchau (1805) - BB (jetzt Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin Preußischer Kulturbesitz) (1841). parts, D-B Mus. ms. Bach St 106,; scribes, J. S. Bach, J. L. Krebs, C. P. E. Bach, J. L. Dietel, J. G. Haupt (= Main copyist E), Anon. Vf; provenance, J. S. Bach - C. P. E. Bach - Sing-Akademie zu Berlin - BB (now Berlin, Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Musikabteilung) (1855).
2 Updated source: Alfred Dürr, The Cantatas of J. S. Bach (Oxford University Press, 2005: 733.
3 Klaus Hofmann notes, Suzuki-C52c[BIS-SACD-1981-booklet].pdf, BCW Recording details,
4 See Joshua Rifkin, liner notes to B-Minor Mass recordings and Christine Fröde, NBA KB 32.2: 41f, 51ff.

Aryeh Oron wrote (September 6, 2017):
Cantata BWV 29 - Revised & updated Discography

Cantata BWV 29 "Wir danken dir, Gott, wir danken dir" (We thank you, God, we thank you) was composed by J.S. Bach in Leipzig for the Inauguration of the Leipzig Town Council of 1731. The cantata was performed in Leipzig two more times on the same event of 1739 and 1749. The cantata is scored for soprano, alto, tenor & bass soloists; 4-part Chorus; and orchestra of 3 trumpets, timpani, 2 oboes, 2 violins, viola, organ obbligato & continuo.

The discography pages of BWV 29 on the BCW have been revised and updated. See:
Complete Recordings (27):
Recordings of Individual Movements (139), on 8 pages, a page per a decade, starting at:
Recording of the Sinfonia (Mvt. 1) transcribed for organ by A. Guilmant (12):
Recording of the Sinfonia (Mvt. 1) transcribed for organ by M. Dupré (69):
The revised discography includes many listening/watching options as part of the recording details. When you click a link to video/audio, a new window will open above the discography page and the video/audio will start to play.

I also put at the BCW Home Page:
2 audios & 2 videos of the cantata. A short description below the audio/video image is linked to the full details at the discography pages.

I believe this is the most comprehensive discography of this cantata. If you are aware of a recording of BWV 29 missing from these pages, or want to correct/add details of a recording already presented on the BCW, please inform me.

You can also read on the BCW the recent discussion of the cantata in the BCML (4th round):




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


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Last update: Monday, September 11, 2017 15:24