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Recordings & Discussions of Cantatas: 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

Cantata BWV 37
Wer da gläubet und getauft wird
Discussions - Part 4

Continue from Part 3

Discussions in the Week of May 5, 2016 (4th round)

William Hoffman wrote (May 5, 2016):
Cantata 37, 'Wer da glaubet und getauf wird' Intro., Ascension Cantatas, Chorales

Bach’s Ascension Day Festival musical journey began almost inauspiciously with the intimate six-movement Cantata 37, “Wer da glaubet und getauf wird” (Who there believes and baptizes, Mark 16:15, the gospel dictum), with two oboes d’amore and strings. This 15-20-minute musical sermon focuses not on the actual Ascension but on Luther’s theology, “Justification by Faith Alone” (*Romans 3:28) and disciple commissioning with libretto possibly by St. Thomas Pastor Christian Weise Sr.1 It is in the third cantata form of dictum-aria-chorale aria-recitative-aria-plain chorale in symmetrical, bi-partite form of 3/3 movements, observes Alfred Dürr (Cantatas of JSB: 27, 326).

Cantata 37 has no brass instruments, overt dance-style arias or choruses, unlike its three succeeding Ascension counterparts, Cantatas BWV 128 (1725) and 43 (1726) and Ascension Oratorio, BWV 11 (1735). Yet it has an expansive, engaging opening chorus in lilting motet style that has love/faith mottos repeated in succeeding movements (see John Eliot Gardiner commentary, ‘Lutheran Justification Theme,’ below). The other substantial movement is the bass aria with oboe d’amore obbligato, “Der Glaube schafft der Seele Flügel” (Faith makes wings for the soul). The two chorales reinforce the theological theme: No. 3, Philipp Niccolai’s versatile, and popular love duet, “Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern” (How lovely shines the morning star) with effective word-painting, and No. 6, Johann Kolrose’ Morning hymn, “Ich dank’ dir, lieber Herre” (I thank Thee, Dear Lord) as the closing, congregational prayer. The pleasant tenor aria (no. 2), “Der Glaube ist das Pfand der Liebe” (Faith is the pledge of the love), lacks the vital obbligato part, especially realized by Masaaki Suzuki (see ‘Production Notes,” below).

Cantata 37 was premiered in Bach’s first cycle service cantata cycle on Ascension Thursday, May 18, at the early main service of the Nikolaikirche before the gospel sermon of Superintendent Salomon Deyling (1677-1755) and repeated at the afternoon vesper service at the St. Thomas church after the Epistle sermon of M. Friedrich Gottlieb Krantz (1691-1771) in lieu of Deacon Urban Gottfried Sieber (1669-1741), says Martin Petzoldt in Bach Commentary, Vol. 2, Advent to Trinityfest.2 Neither sermon is extant, says Petzoldt. The gospel was Mark 16:14-20, the Disciples’ commission to baptize and Christ’s Ascension, and the Epistle, Luke’s Acts 1:1-11; Easter Prologue, Jesus’ last promise (baptism by Holy Spirit), and Ascension.

The opening main service polyphonic introit setting involved one of three lesser-known and –set psalms, according to Petzoldt (Ibid.: 885): Psalm 32, Beati quorum, Blessed is her whose transgression is forgiven; Psalm 68, Exsurgat Deus, Let God arise; and Psalm 74, Ut quid, Deus?, O God, why hast thou cast us off forever? Their texts are found on-line at: http://www.biblecloud.com/kjv/psalms/32, http://www.christiananswers.net/bible/psa68.html, and
http://www.christianity.com/bible/bible.php?q=Psalm+74&ver=kjv.

Bach uses two chorales in Cantata 37. No. 3 is the soprano-alto aria setting of Philipp Niccolai’s versatile seven-stanza 1599 hymn, “Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern,” using Stanza 5, “Herr, Gott Vater, mein starker Held” (Lord, God, Father, my strong hero,” primarily for Advent and Annunciation. The text and Francis Browne’s English translation are found at BCW, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/Chorale015-Eng3.htm. No. 6 is a closing plain chorale in A Major, Johann Kolrose’ nine-stanza, eight-line 1535 Reformation Morning hymn, “Ich dank’ dir, lieber Herre” (I thank Thee, Dear Lord), using Stanza 4, “Den Glauben mir verleihe / An dein' Sohn Jesum Christ” (Grant me faith / in your son Jesus Christ). It is found in Das neu Leipziger Gesangbuch of 1682 as No. 191 following the omnes tempore Catechism songs. It was published in 1662 (Frankfort) Praxis Pietatis Melica and the melody (Zahn 5354) has a secular origin, in 1532 associated with the song, “Entlaubt ist uns der Walde” (The woods enfold us), says Charles S. Terry, Bach’s Chorals. Part I.3

Bach composed two free-standing chorales of “Ich dank’ dir, lieber Herre” in different structures, BWV 347 in A Major, and 348 in Bb Major, that may survive from Bach plain settings of Stanza 6, “Dein Wort laß mich bekennen” (Let me confess thy word), that closes Cantata BWV 147a, for the 4th Sunday in Advent 1716 (?BWV 348), and possibly closes (no. 5) the Picander cycle text P-20, “Sei getreu bis in den Tod” (Be faithful unto death) for Septuagesima 1729). It is listed in the Weimar Orgelbüchlein Collection as No. 144, a Morning hymn, but not set.

Cantata 37 is the sole Ascension cantata of the four documented to have been repeated, on May 3, 1731, as part of an Easter season reperformance of Bach cantatas from Cycles 1 and 3. This was possibly the last time Bach systematically presented his cantatas for weekly services. The repeats followed the premiere of Bach’s last original Passion, St. Mark, BWV 247, at Good Friday vespers. It is possible that Bach repeated the chorale cantata cycle No. 2 in the first half of the 1730s, followed by two documented cycles of cantatas by colleague Gottfried Heinrich Stölzel.

Cantata 37 Movements, Scoring, Incipits, Key, Meter4

1. Chorus in motet-like imitation with extended opening sinfonia [SATB; Oboe d'amore I/II, Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo]: “Wer da gläubet und getauft wird, der wird selig warden:” (Whoever believes and is baptised will be blessed. (Mark 16:16); phrygian mode; 3/2 alle breve dance style.
2. Aria da-capo with dal segno [Tenor; Violino, Continuo]: A. Der Glaube ist das Pfand der Liebe, / Die Jesus für die Seinen hegt” (Faith is the pledge of the love / which Jesus cherishes for his own people); B. drum hat er bloß aus Liebestriebe, . . . / Mir dieses Kleinod beigelegt,” (Therefore purely from an impulse of love, . . . / he bestowed this jewel on me); C Major to a minor; 4/4.
3. Chorale (Duet) concerto in canon [Soprano, Alto; Continuo]: “Herr Gott Vater, mein starker Held! . . . / In deinem Sohn geliebt.” (Lord God the father, my mighty champion! … / you have loved me in your son.); 12/8; a minor.
4. Recitative secco [Bass; Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo]: “Ihr Sterblichen, verlanget ihr, / Mit mir / Das Antlitz Gottes anzuschauen?” (You mortals, do you long / with me / to behold God's face?); 4/4; b minior.
5. Aria three-part with ritornelli [Bass; Oboe d'amore I, Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo]: “Der Glaube schafft der Seele Flügel” (Faith makes wings for the soul) B. “Die Taufe ist das Gnadensiegel” (baptism is the seal of grace); C. “Und daher heißt ein selger Christ / Wer gläubet und getaufet ist.” (and for this reason he is called a blessed Christian / whoever believes and is baptised.); b minor; 4/4.
6. Chorale plain [SATB; Oboe d'amore I e Violino I col Soprano, Oboe d'amore II e Violino II coll'Alto, Viola col Tenore, Continuo]: “Den Glauben mir verleihe / An dein' Sohn Jesum Christ” (Grant me faith / in your son Jesus Christ); A Major; 4/4.

Ascension Feast Music, Lessons

Bach’s four extant cantatas for the Feast of the Ascension – BWV 37, 128, 43, and 11 -- exemplify the central liturgical theme of joy, in keeping with Christianity’s three great celebratory Feasts of our Lord’s Godhead – Nativity, Easter (Resurrection), and Ascension [ref. ancient Greek hymn writer Ephrem the Syrian, 4th Century]. The Ascension Feast, known in German as “Himmelfahrt,” on the 40th day after Easter Sunday in Bach’s time also experiencea departure from Jesus’ Farewell Discourses in the gospel readings of John, Chapters 14-16, for the four final Sundays after Easter and Pentecost Sunday.

This time in the late Easter Season marked the transition from established, fixed Easter chorales to omnes tempore and special Ascension and Pentecost chorales, preparing for the close of the de tempore half of the church year, observing the major events in ministry of Jesus Christ on earth, to the final feasts of the three-day Pentecost Festival and closing Trinity Sunday Festival. Thus Bach in his four Ascension Day cantatas used two chorales each in a variety reflecting joy and celebration.

The two New Testament lessons for Ascension Day narrate the fulfillment of Jesus Christ’s redemptive odyssey and the final swing of the great spiritual parabola, beginning with the descent through human birth and kenosis (emptying) on Good Friday, and the reversal beginning with the Resurrection: Gospel: Mark 16:14-20; Disciples’ commission to baptize, Christ’s Ascension; and Epistle: Luke’s Acts 1:1-11; Easter Prologue, Jesus’ last promise (baptism by Holy Spirit), Ascension. The German text of Luther’s 1545 translation published and the English Authorised (King James) Version 1611is found at BCW, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Read/Ascension.htm.

Bach in Leipzig on Ascension Thursday, pulled out all the stops to celebrate holy joy in his musical sermons, using prominent brass instruments in the last three cantatas (BWV 128, 43, and 11), affirmative quotations from Psalms, appropriate double chorales with borrowed, familiar melodies, and four favorite text poets emblematic of his cantata cycles in form and style. The biblical teachings are revealed in both the poetic texts and the chorales. In a period of just over a decade, 1724-35, Bach composed increasingly festive works, with the final two, Cantata 43 and Ascension Oratorio BWV11, having 11 movements each.

The biblical texts and the specific chorale texts guide the four libretti that Bach set. The first Ascension Cantata 37 has no reference to the Ascension and its two chosen chorales reflect the general, timeless mood of thanks and joy that would continue in the three later Ascension works. The other Ascension Cantatas 183, 43, and 11 use Ascension biblical narrative references and four specific Ascension hymns not used elsewhere in Bach’s music. In addition, the three works utilize timeless chorales as well as well-known timeless chorale melodies such as “Allein Gott in der Höh’ sei Ehr” (To God alone on high be glory), “O Gott, du frommer Gott” (O God, Thou pious God), “Ermuntre dich, mein schwacher Geist” (He revives thee, my weak spirit), and “Von Gott will ich nich lassen” (From God will I not depart). Thus Bach at the Ascension Feast was better able to engage his congregation in his musical sermons with special, timeless hymn texts set to familiar tunes.

Ascension Chorale Usages

Bach’s Leipzig Easter Season, Musical Context of motets and chorale settings (BCW, Douglas Cowling) shows the following for Ascension Thursday (Himmelfahrt), 40th Day after Easter): Introit: “Viri Galilaei” (“Ye men of Galilee,” LU 846), Acts 1:11a/b (Epistle), chant; Motet (Psalm): “Omnes Gentes” (Psalm 47, “O clap your hands, all ye people); Hymn de Tempore: “Nun freut euch, Gottes Kinder all” (plain chorale BWV 387); Pulpit Hymn: “Christ fuhr gen Himmel (not set by Bach); Hymns for Chancel, Communion& Closing; “Heut triumphiret Gottes Sohn” (Easter Season); “Du Lebensfürst, Herr Christ” (BWV 43/11, 11/6); “Aus Christi Himmelfahrt Allein” (BWV 128/1); and “Gott fahret auf gen Himmel” (not set by Bach).

Insight into Bach’s use of chorales for the nine-day period called “Ascensiontide” -- from Ascension Thursday through the Sunday after Ascension (Exaudi), the sixth Sunday after Easter, to the Pentecost eve -- is found in Cowling’s commentary to Cantata 37, BCML Discussions Part 3 (November 14, 2010, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV37-D3.htm. <<After forty days of singing "Christ Lag in Todesbanden" as the daily Hymn of the Season, the next nine days used "Nun freut euch" before the Gospel and cantata performance with [“Christ ist Erstanden” replaced by] "Christ fuhr gen Himmel" as the Pulpit Hymn after the cantata.>> However, Bach did not followed the NLGB with the designated de tempore and Pulpit hymns for Ascensiontide in his cantatas composed for the two services, BWV 37, 128, 43, and 11 for Ascension and BWV 44 and 183 for Exaudi Sunday. Bach used the seasonal hymn, the Johann Rist/Johann Schop 1641 “Du Lebensfürst, Herr Jesu Christ” (You prince of life, Lord Jesus Christ), as a plain chorale to close Cantatas 43 and 11 on Ascension Day and Paul Gerhardt’s 1653 “Helft mir Gotts Güte preisen” (Help me praise God’s good) to close Cantata 183, “Sie werden euch in den Bann tun” (They will put you under a ban, Gospel John 15:26) for Exaudi Sunday.

In Cantata 37, the chorale duet (no. 3) setting of “Wie schön leuchtet,” a “glance at the whole text, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/Chorale015-Eng3.htm, indicates that the lyric is less a Christmas carol than another Christ and the Soul love story. Is Bach using the coming of the Lover as reference to the coming fire of Pentecost?,” wonders Cowling. As the de tempore half of the church season closes, the love duet between human and divine assume its key role in Bach’s vocal music, and is reinforced with Bach’s use of the oboe d’amore in three of the movements in Cantata 37, the opening chorus, the bass aria (no. 5), “Der Glaube schafft der Seele Flügel” (Faith makes wings for the soul), and the closing congregational chorale stanza, “Den Glauben mir verleihe / An dein' Sohn Jesum Christ” (Grant me faith / in your son Jesus Christ), from the hymn “Ich dank’ dir, lieber Herre” (I thank Thee, Dear Lord).

Personal Themes: Baptism, Faith

Baptism and faith are the personal themes of Bach’s Ascension Cantata 37, reinforced with the use of the intimate, added central chorale aria in the late Easter season cantatas, observes Julian Mincham’s commentary introduction, BCW, http://www.jsbachcantatas.com/documents/chapter-55-bwv-37.htm. <<Although composed for the Ascension, the joint themes of this cantata are those of the significance of baptism as a pathway to salvation and faith as its bedrock. We have noted Bach′s habit of producing small groups of cantatas with certain elements in common. This, for example, is the third of five consecutive works in which he has centrally placed a ′concerto′ version of a chorale, other than the closing one. In C 166 [Cantata Sunday] it was for soprano and continuo, all upper strings combining to provide a muscular obbligato. In C 86 [Rogate], the most energetic and vigorous of the three, it was for soprano, continuo and two oboes d′amore. In C 37 [Ascension] Bach divides the chorale between soprano and alto above a lively continuo line. Perhaps the most bizarre versions are those for tenor and continuo in C 44 [Exaudi] and the ′concealed chorale′ duet from C 172 [Pentecost Sunday] (chapters 56 and 57). It seems that having adopted a particular idea or technique, Bach determines to see how many ways in which it can be presented and manipulated before moving on to a different challenge.

Lutheran Justification Theme

The Lutheran Justification theme is sounded in the opening chorus and repeated throughout, finds John Eliot Gardiner’s 2013 liner notes to his 2000 Bach Cantata Pilgrimage on Soli Deo Gloria recordings.5

<<In the galaxy of high feasts in the church year Ascension is eclipsed by Christmas, Easter and Whitsun, perhaps in part because its celebration is not spread over three days. The Christichurch celebrates Ascension Day as a solemn feast forty days after Easter and three of Bach’s church cantatas for this feast have come down to us, together with one of his three surviving oratorios.

Bach’s first offering, BWV 37 Wer da gläubet und getauft wird, was performed in Leipzig on 18 May 1724 and sets an anonymous text that takes its lead from a statement in St Mark’s Gospel (16:16) that encapsulates the Lutheran theme of justification by faith alone, ‘He that believeth and is baptised shall be saved’. One might have predicted that Bach would assign this opening citation to a bass soloist as vox Domini to announce Jesus’ parting words to his disciples. Instead, he sets it for choir and an orchestra of strings and two oboes d’amore as a corporate statement by the faithful, as though to demonstrate that they had already absorbed its message to ‘go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature’. The natural inflections of Luther’s German text suggest a triple metre [3/2 alle breve], and that is indeed how Bach sets it and we hear it, first in the orchestral bass line, then as sung by the choral basses. There are two other complementary motifs woven into the overall fabric that will resurface later in the cantata: one stentorian (two firm minims that rise by a fourth up to a long holding note) suggesting steadfastness of faith, the other more emollient and graceful, a halfway house between a minuet and a waltz, affirming a more serene side to faith. These three motifs interlock and proceed in calm minims, while a fourth is altogether more animated, propelled forwards by its repeated crotchets and quaver flourishes. It has a certain ambivalence, suggesting the gurgling of the baptismal stream, but also something more insistent, redolent of the chorale melody ‘Dies sind die heil’gen zehn Gebot’ (‘These are the holy Ten Commandments’) that Bach uses in the imposing first movements of two other cantatas, BWV 77 [Trinity 13, 1723] and BWV 101 [Trinity 10, 1724]. Those separate, hammered notes reappear in the melody of the cantata’s closing chorale, in which faith and its proclamation reflect Christ’s commandment to his church, and are reiterated by the bass concertist in the accompanied recitative (No.4). So Bach distributes little motivic hints and reminders to his attentive listeners right across his cantata.

In giving his marching orders to his disciples, Jesus insisted ‘My kingdom is not of this world’. The instrumental bass line of Bach’s opening movement inscribes a descending line that his congregation would have recognised as the last phrase of Philipp Nicolai’s celebrated Epiphany hymn ‘Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern.’ Bach then makes an audible exegetical point via a full-blown elaboration of this phrase in the third movement, when the Christian soul seems to be in dialogue with itself (soprano and alto exchanging plain and decorated statements over a dance-inflected bass line): at the moment of leaving his disciples, Christ announces the parousia – his return to earth at the end of time promising a new birth, this time for all eternity – and that heavenly life (‘himmlisch Leben’) when we shall see God face to face. Given instances such as these, in which dogma could be made palatable – enticing even – to the listener through the agency of Bach’s music, it is surprising that we have no hard evidence of the praise and thanks that should by rights have been heaped on him by the Leipzig clergy of his day. Perhaps they were simply envious, feeling that by the time they mounted the pulpit to give their sermon he had already stolen their thunder by delivering their message far more eloquently than through words alone. [Thomas Braatz provides an extensive, source-critical analysis of the opening movement in the BCML Cantata 37 Discussion Part 1 (May 30, 2001), http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV37-D.htm.]

All the later movements of this cantata are concerned with the same core Lutheran theme of justification by faith: faith is the ‘pledge of love that Jesus cherishes for His own people’ (No.2), faith ‘provides the soul with pinions, on which it shall soar to heaven’ while ‘baptism is the seal of mercy, that brings us God’s blessing’ (No.5, an aria for bass with a single oboe d’amore doubling the first violins with imagery that Bach captures through its sturdy melody and Morse code-like accompaniment). That doyenne of Bach numerologists, Ruth Tatlow, has calculated that the 283 bars of this cantata correspond to the words of its title when one applies to them the natural order number alphabet (A=1, B=2 etc.) used extensively by contemporary poets and musicians. By this system ‘Wer’ becomes 43, ‘da’ becomes 5 and so on, so that 43+5+70+37+77+51=283. Once you have counted all 250 separate bars in Bach’s score and added in the 33-bar da capo section of the second movement, you have to concede that this is a bit too exact to be coincidental.>> John Eliot Gardiner, 2013

Cantata Series Form, Theology

Cantata 39 shows the form and content of a series of cantata texts by an unknown librettist with theological insight, says Klaus Hofmann’s 2001 liner notes to the Masaaki Suzuki complete BIS cantata recordings.6

<<For the Cantata he composed for Ascension Day 1724, which that year fell on 18th May, Bach once more turned to a text by the unknown poet who had previously provided the words for the cantatas 'Wo gehest du hin? ('Whither goest thou?'; BWV 166) and ‘Wahrlich. wahrlich. ich sage euch' ('Verily. verily I say unto you': BWV 86): the text is arranged according to exactly the same pattern. At the beginning we find some of Jesus' words from the Gospel reading for that day (Mark 16, 14-20) with its description of Christ's ascension: Wer da gläubet und getauft wird, der wird selig werden' ('He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved'). This is followed by an aria (second movement), the text of which alluding to the Biblical quotation speaks of faith as the depository and sign 'der Liebe, die Jesus für die Seinen hegt' ('of the love that Jesus has for his own people). Next comes another strophe from a hymn (third movement. In terms of content, this movement takes up an earlier theme; it is a hymn to the love of God. Like the works for Cantate and Rogate Sundays of 1724. this cantata's second half consists of a recitative, an aria and a final chorale. The recitative text (fourth movement) reveals that its author was a professional theologian: it is a brief summary of Lutheran doctrine with its rejection of justification by deeds. Good works alone count for nothing with God: on the contrary, 'macht der Glaube doch allein, dar wir vor Gott gerecht und selig sein' (faith alone ensures that we are justified and blessed'). The aria (fifth movement), also a typical theologian's text, so to speak, defines the relationship between baptism and faith. Finally, the chorale is a prayer for faith as a gift from God: ‘Den Glauben mir verleihe an dein' Sohn Jesu Christ' ('Lend me faith in your son Jesus Christ').

It is surprising that Bach limited himself to such modest instrumental forces - strings and two oboes d'amore in a work for such an important day; normally Ascension Day was marked with trumpets and drums. His restraint was no doubt a result of external circumstances that are unknown to us today. Bach compensates us for any lack of sonic splendour, however, with rich musical imagination. In the opening movement, the words of Jesus are this time not given to the bass alone but to the entire choir. This movement shows traces of the motet tradition, and is conceived in strict counterpoint, the instruments also playing an important part. It expresses a certain earnest joy, which is very well suited to the dogmatic meaning of the text. Bach remains objective, and doesnot lose himself in pictorial or emotional extravagances; only on the word ‘getauf' ('baptized') does he find it impossible, as a child of his time, to resist illustrative coloraturas as an image of the trickling baptismal water.

Unfortunately the tenor aria 'Der Glaube ist das Pfand der Liebe' (Faith is the depository of the love ) shares the fate of the corresponding aria in 'Wo gehest du hin?' ('whither goest thou'), BWV 166 [Cantate], 'Ich will an den Himmel denken' ('l want to think of heaven'): here, too, a solo violin part has gone astray. On this occasion, though, we have no help from an apocryphal organ arrangement; to reconstruct it, we have to place our entire trust in a creative feeling for Bach's style.

For the chorale strophe placed third, 'Heff Gott, Vater mein starker Held' (Lord God and Father, my mighty hero', Philipp Niccolai, 1599), Bach again finds a new solution. He reaches back to a genre established a hundred years earlier by one of his predecessors as Cantor of St. Thomas, Johann Hermann Schein (1586 1630), and sets the strophe as a choral concerto for two voices and basso continuo. The two vocal lines paraphrase, vary and comment the chorale melody, but - and this is the innovation - the basso continuo also participates in presenting the melody; from this the basso continuo derives its own thematic development.

The bass recitative and aria (fourth and fifth movements) hardly require my commentary; in the aria, Bach illustrates the rising up of the soul on the wings of faith with numerous coloraturas. The simple and beautiful final chorale (Johann Kolrose, 1535) acquires its special, festive character from the way the individual lines of the text blossom forth melismatically.>> © Klaus Hofmann 2001

<<PRODUCTION NOTES, BWV37. The only extant materials relating to this work are the original parts housed in the Berlin National Library (Mus. ms. Bach St 100); the original full score has been lost. These parts can be divided into two groups. The first consists of three parts for first and second violins and continuo in transposed form copied by J.A. Kuhnau, Christian Gottlob Meissner and others, and the second comprises eight parts for soprano, alto, tenor, bass, first and second oboes, viola and continuo in the hand of Johann Ludwig Krebs. According to the rescension notice (V12) in the Neue Bach-Ausgabe (New Bach Edition), the first group of parts was used at the time of the first performance, while the second group was written for a second performance given in 1731. In other words, it seems likely that most of the parts used on the occasion of the first performance fell into disuse for some reason (another possibility is that they may have been lent out); the full score was still extant at the time, and the second group of parts was clearly copied from this full score. It may be surmised that the two violin parts remaining in this first group are so-called dublettes (i.e. copies made from the parts of the section Principals), written for the first performance, and are not the scores that were actually used by the principals.

This has important consequences for the second movement, Aria. This tenor aria is supposedly accompanied only by continuo, but detailed examination of the piece reveals that the continuo part in the prelude and the interlude of this piece is extremely simple and sparse. Furthermore, there are frequent exposed fifths between the continuo and the tenor part. It seems improbable that the third movement should then follow on from the second movement accompanied solely by continuo. One can therefore imagine that there might well have been an obbligato part in this aria.

Assuming that this supposition is correct, the candidates lost the obbligato part among the instruments used in the cantata are violin and oboe - but, to judge from the previously mentioned materials, one may conclude that the violin was the instrument used. It therefore seems highly likely that the obbligato was included in the part used by the principal violinist. But there is no evidence to suggest whether one or two violins were used for the obbligato. We decided on this occasion to restore the obbligato in a version for a single violin. Important hints were provided by the figures indicating the harmonies written in the continuo and transposed for performance on the organ. As is frequently the case, the harmonic figuring was done not by Bach but by the copyist. But considering the nature of the copying errors (for instance the appearance of a meaningless figure 6 where a flat sign would have been expected), the harmonic figuring was clearly done not by the copyist, the copy being made from a version containing the figures. Accordingly, the score may be assumed to be trustworthy in places other than those where obvious copying errors have been made. The violin obbligato part used here was reconstructed by Masato Suzuki, the present author's son.>> © Masaaki Suzuki 2002

The other three works for the Ascension Festival rely on libretti fashioned in collaboration with poets Christiane Mariane von Ziegler (Cantata 128), Meinengen/Rudolstadt text (Cantata 43), and probably Picander (Ascension Oratorio, BWV 11).

Cantata 128

For the second cycle of Ascension Day in 1725, Cantata 128, “Auf Christi Himmelfahrt allein” (On Christ’s Heaven-journey alone), begins with the Ascension chorale as a chorale chorus (with trumpet and two horns), characteristic of the now-abandoned chorale cantata cycle. This is Bach’s only use of this chorale, text of Ernst Sonnenmann after Joshua Wegelin , 1661/1636, three stanzas; and melody “Allein Gott in der Höh’ sei Ehr” (To God alone on high be glory) by Nikolaus Decius, 1526, based on the Latin <Gloria in excelsis Deo> (Glory to God in the Highest).

This opening movement is the only non-chorale cantatas for the 1725 Easter Season to begin with a chorale chorus. For Pentecost Tuesday, Ziegler also began Cantata 68, “Also hat Gott die Welt geliebt” (So has God the world loved), with a chorale chorus. Because both Cantata 128 and 68 begin with chorale chorus incipits on the original scores, they were put into Bach’s Chorale Cantata Cycle 2 at the heirs’ estate division in 1750.

Cantata 128 is in Dürr’s basic first cantata form of alternating pairs of recitatives and arias, with a closing plain chorale. The da-capo alto-tenor duet, No. 4, “Sein Allmacht zu ergründen” (His omnipotence to fathom) is in the dance style of a pastorale-giga. Full details, see BCW, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV128.htm

Cantata 128 closes with, No. 5, Matthäus Habermann (Avenarius) six-stanza 1673 “O Jesu, meine Lust (joy),” using Stanza 4, “Alsdenn so wirst du mich” (Then so will thou me), set to the Ahasverus Fritzsch 1679 melody “O Gott, du frommer Gott” (O God, Thou pious God).

Cantata 43

For the third cycle in 1726, Bach composed an, two-part original work, Cantata 43, “Gott fähret auf mit Jauchzen” (God ascends with shouting). This is Psalm 47:5-6 from the Ascension Day Propers Motet, referring to Christ’s Ascension. Cantata 43 is bi-partite, like Bach’s Leipzig initial new, expansive cantatas early in the Trinity Season 1723 (75, 76, 21, 147), containing 11 movements, with festive brass.

Bach used two hymns appropriate for Ascensioin in Cantata 43: Movements Nos. 5-10, 1726 Rudolstadt six-stanza hymn text “Mein Jesus hat nunmehr” (My Jesus now has more); and No. 11, closing plain chorale, J. Rist’s 1641 Ascension 14-stanza hymn, “Du Lebensfürst, Herr Jesu Christ” (Thou life’s prince, Lord Jesus Christ); using the opening stanza as well as Stanza 13, “Zieh’ uns dir nacht” (Draw us to Thee), using J. Schop 1641 melody “Ermuntre dich, mein schwacher Geist” (He revives thee, my weak spirit).

Cantata 11 (Ascension Oratorio)

Cantata BWV 11, “Lobet Gott in seinen Reichen” (Praise God in His Kingdoms) [Ascension Oratorio] (1735). Beginning with the Christmas Oratorio, BWV 248, for the Christmas Season 1734-35, Bach prmajor oratorios, parodied from previous secular celebratory cantatas, as a Christological cycle observing the major feast days in the earthly mission of Jesus Christ. For Ascension Thursday, May 19, 1735, Bach produced another 11-movement work to a text probably by his oratorio poet, Picander.

Giving Cantata 11 its oratorio character, four movements (Nos. 2, 5, 7, 9) set biblical narrative recitative with passages from the Ascension Gospel and Epistle lessons, as well as Luke’s Gospel, 24:50-52, Christ’s Ascension at Bethany and the disciples return to Jerusalem.

The Ascension oratorio has two chorale settings, as do Bach’s other Ascension cantatas, a central plain setting of the Ascension chorale, No. 6, “Du Lebensfürst, H.J.C.,” using Stanza 4, “Nun lieget alles unter dir” (Now lies everything beneath Thee); and a closing tutti chorale chorus, No. 11, Gottfried Sacer’s 1697 seven-stanza Ascension hymn, “Gott fähret auf gen Himmel” (God Ascends to Heaven), using Stanza 7, “Wenn soll es doch geschehen” (When will it happen), set to the anonymous 1557 melody, “Von Gott will ich nich lassen” (From God will I not depart).

Picander, Stölzel Cycles

For Ascension 1729, Picander’s published cantata text, P-36, “Alles, alles Himmelswärts” (All, all heavenward [ascending]), also has texts for two chorales, Movements Nos. 2 and 7. The first is Stanza 1 of Luther’s 1524 Pentecost hymn text, “Komm, heiliger Geist, Herre Gott” (Come Holy Spirit, Lord God). Bach in 1729 did harmonize the associated, anonymous melody to Stanza 3 in his Motet BWV 226, “Der Geist hilf unsre Schwachheit auf” (The Spirit upholds our weakness), as the motet’s second movement. The Picander Ascension cantata text closes with Stanza 3 possibly set to Bach’s free-standing harmonized chorale, BWV 415, V. Herberger’s 1613 five-stanza Passion hymn, “Valet will ich dir geben” (Farewell, I shall bid to you) to M. Teschner’s 1613 melody.

On Ascension Thurday, May 10, 117 36, Bach performed Stölzel’s cantata “Es wird ein Durchbrecher vor ihnen herauf fahren,” Mus. A 15:186, as well as “Seid ihr nun mit Christo auferstanden” [Not extant], as part of the String Cycle. A year or two later, Bach on Ascension Day performed an unknown cantata from the Stölzel “Names of God” cycle.

Provenance, Festival Works

While Bach focused less energy on composing cantatas for the Easter/Pentecost Season with its three day festivals for Easter and Pentecost, he observed tradition by composing four original works for the one-day festival of Ascension, as well as substantial cantatas for Trinityfest, St. Michael’s, and the Reformation, as well as the Marian feast of Purification. In his estate distribution to his heirs, all the Ascension Festival scores and parts sets survive, indicative of his sons Friedemann and Emmanuel being interested in these works as cantors, respectively, in Halle (1746-64) and Hamburg (1768-88). Friedemann in particular performed his father’s cantatas for festivals in accordance with the latter’s Halle position, while most were from the first and third cycles and none in the demanding chorale cantata cycle with elaborate opening fantasias. Utilitarian Friedemann chose Cantata 43 and made some revisions from the parts set, presenting after 1750 a complete performance and a separate performance of the first three movements, although the specific services are not recorded. This information is found in Peter’s Wollny’s article, “Wilhelm Friedemann Bach’s Halle performances of Cantatas by his father, ” in Bach Studies 2, ed. Daniel Melamed (Cambridge University Press, 1995: 209ff).

FOOTNOTES

1 Cantata 37, BCW Details and Discography, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV37.htm. Score Vocal & Piano [1.68 MB], http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Scores/BWV037-V&P.pdf, Score BGA [2.09 MB], http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BGA/BWV037-BGA.pdf. References: BGA VII (Cantatas 31-40, Wilhelm Rust, 1857), NBA I/12 (Ascension cantatas, Alfred Dürr, 1960), Bach Compendium BC A 75, and Zwang: K 70. Commentary: Albert Schweitzer I:461ff, W. Gillies Whittaker I:655-59, Alec Robertson 140f, W. Murray Young 84 f., Konrad Küster 235, and Stephen Crist (OCC:JSB) 518f.
2 Petzoldt, Bach Kommentar: Theologisch Musikwissenschaftlicke Kommentierung der Geistlichen Vokalwerke Johann Sebastan Bachs; Vol. 2, Die Geistlichen Kantaten vom 1. Advent bis zum Trinitatisfest; Internationale Bachakademie Stuttgart (Kassel: Bärenreiter, 2007: 892).
3 Terry, Vol. 2, The Hymns and Hymn Melodies of the Cantatas and Motetts (Cambridge University Press, 1915-1921). 3 vols. Vol. 2. May 5, 2016. http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/2056.
4 Cantata 37 German text and Francis Browne English translation, BCW http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/BWV37-Eng3.htm
5 Gardiner notes, BCW http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Pic-Rec-BIG/Gardiner-P28c[SDG-CD].pdf, Recording details, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Performers/Gardiner-Rec4.htm#P28.
6 Hofmann notes, BCW http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Pic-Rec-BIG/Suzuki-C19c[BIS-CD1261].pdf, Recording details, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Performers/Suzuki.htm#C19.

Warren Prestridge wrote (May 5, 2016):
[To William Hoffman] Thanks very much for the wonderful commentaries on the cantatas that keep on coming!

BWV 37 is a favourite of mine. I find the opening chorus quite magical.

With regard to the tenor aria, where the original obbligato part is missing, I particularly like the obbligato performed in the version conducted by Helmut Rilling, which is also the obbligato provided in an earlier recording under Wilhelm Ehrmann. Can anyone tell me, please, who composed this obbligato, or anything else to do with its origin?

 

Cantata BWV 37: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements
Discussions:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

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Last update: ýMay 8, 2016 ý19:21:29