Cantata BWV 38Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu Dir
Discussions - Part 5
Continue from Part 4
Discussions in the Week of September 19, 2014 (4th round)
Wiliam Hoffman wrote (October 19, 2014):
CANTATA 38, Part 1
The beginning of the last sequence of five Sundays in Late trinity Time, Chorale Cantata 38, “Aus tiefer Not schrei' ich zu dir” (From deep affliction I cry out to you), is a work of sharp contrasts. The concise 20-minute musical sermon uses the standard format of six movements with two unaltered opening chorus and closing chorale stanzas with pairs of standard, paraphrased recitatives and unusual arias for all four voices with signs and word-painting while setting a popular early Martin Luther Psalm setting most appropriate for the 21st Sunday after Trinity with its theme of the triumph of belief over doubt. At the same time, Bach opens with a stile antico motet-style chorus supported by trombones most appropriate for an early Luther Bar-form sacred song, uses a rare operatic-style trio aria in older imitation style, and to a standard recitative, cites the entire chorale melody with pause in the continuo while the soprano makes references to the day’s Gospel, John 4:46-54 (Miracle: The nobleman’s son healed).1
Chorale Cantata for the 21st Sunday after Trinity (October 29, 1724), performed before the sermon of sermon of Superintendent Salomon Deyling (1677-1755) on the Gospel, at the early service at the Nikolaikirche, says Martin Petzoldt in BACH Commentary, Vol. 1, Trinity Sundays.2 Bach's only vocal setting of Luther’s penitential Psalm, "Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir," is chorale Cantata 38, using an opening motet chorus for Stanza 1 and in Movement No. 6, a closing four-part plain chorale harmonization of Stanza 5, "Ob bei uns ist der Sünden viel,/ Bei Gott ist viel mehr Gnade;" (Although there is much sin among us, /with God there is much more mercy). The other three stanzas are paraphrased, one in each movement: No. 2, alto recitative; No. 3, tenor da-capo aria; and No. 5, terzette trio ritornello aria for soprano, alto, and bass.
Striking Arias and Stock Recitatives
The striking and long da-capo tenor aria (Mvt. 3), “Ich höre mitten in den Leiden / Ein Trostwort, so mein Jesus spricht.” (I hear in the midst of my sufferings / a word of consolation spoken by Jesus.), was previously thought to be from an unknown source, due to “declamation” (that) is so faulty one cannot conceive it to be an original setting” says W. Gillies Whittaker in Cantatas of JSB, Vol. 2.3 As possible parody it would have been a rarity found in the chorale cantatas. Instead, it is a demanding and engaging aria found in a sequence of tenor solos in the Middle and Late Trinity Time chorale cantatas for flute or oboe(s), described as “exquisite chamber music” by Klaus Hofmann, below.
The SAB terzette (trio) aria is one of only five found in Bach cantatas, the others being BWV 248v/9, 116/4 (in chorale cantata, "Du Friedefürst," composed four weeks later for Trinity 25), 211/10, and 150/5. In Cantata 38, soprano, alto and bass (Mvt. 5), “Wenn meine Trübsal als mit Ketten / Ein Unglück an dem andern hält,” (When my sorrow as if with chains / joins one misfortune to another), contrastingly is able “to describe the rise of the ‘morning’ of faith after the ‘night’ of trouble and sorrow,” says John Eliot Gardiner (see below), in an older imitation-style, similar to the alle-breve tempo of the opening motet.
For the Cantata 38 planned second recitative, No. 4, for soprano, Bach's still-unknown librettist (Streck, Group No. 3), provided an original text using threads from Stanzas 3 and 4 and an added Gospel emphasis. On rare occasions, Bach added an original text to a chorale cantata to provide an equal number of recitatives and arias.
The soprano recitative secco (Mvt. 4), “Ach! Daß mein Glaube noch so schwach, / Und daß ich mein Vertrauen” (Alas, that my faith is so weak / and that I must build my confidence), is an unusual movement. Containing a continuo playing the chorale without pauses and marked “battuta” (in tempo), it is a reminder of the first verse of the Psalm 130, “From deep affliction I cry out to you.” Meanwhile the soprano makes references to the day’s Gospel, John 4:46-54 (Miracle: The nobleman’s son healed) in the phrases “Wie ofte müssen neue Zeichen” (How often must new signs, 4:48), “your helper “Der nur ein einzig Trostwort spricht,” (who speaks only a single word of consolation, 4:50), “Und gleich ersVcheint . . . Die Rettungsstunde” (and immediately appears . . . [at] the hour of rescue, 4:52f). The text is identified by Petoldt (Ibid.: 595). The KJ text reads: “Except ye see signs and wonders” (4:48a), “that Jesus had spoken unto him (4:50b), and “it was at the same hour” (4:53b).
Readings for the 21st Sunday after Trinity are: Epistle: Ephesians 6:10-17 (Paul, “Put on the armour of God”); Gospel: John 4:46-54 (Miracle: The nobleman’s son healed); complete text, Martin Luther 1545 English translation, English translation Authorised (King James) Version [KJV] 1611; BCW, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Read/Trinity21.htm. Introit Psalm is Psalm 39, Dixit, Custodiam (I said, I will take heed to my ways), says Petzoldt (Ibid.: 587). Petzoldt describes Psalm 39 as a “Prayer for the Right Death” and the Psalm 39 full text is found at http://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/Psalms-Chapter-39/.
Cantata 38 Text & Chorale
Cantata 38 Text is Martin Luther 5-stanza/7-line 1524 setting after Psalm 130, De profundis) (Mvts. 1, 6 unaltered); Anonymous librettist (Mvts. 2-5 paraphrased). German Text and Francis Browne English translation are found at , BCW http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/Chorale085-Eng3.htm. The Chorale Text, “Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir” (Psalm 130), is in Bar Form (EKG 195), and the Francis Browne English translation is found at, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/Chorale085-Eng3.htm. Luther’s sacred song is one of two Penitential Psalm settings, based on the original De profundis, one of seven Psalm settings (12, 14, 46, 67, 124, 128, 130), first appeared in Geystliche Gesangk Buchleyn (edited by Johann Walter), Wittenberg, 1524.
The ubiquitous Luther poetic setting of the De profundis appears as a hymn for omnes tempore Sundays in Epiphany and Trinity Times in various contemporary songbooks such as Eisenach, Hannover, Mühlhäusen, and Dresden, says Petzoldt (Ibid.: 596). It appears in Neu Leipziger Gesangbuch for the 4th Sunday after Epiphany and for the 11th, 19th, 21st and 22nd Sundays after Trinity. The hymn, "Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir," is assigned to the 21st Sunday after Trinity "in all the older Leipzig hymnbooks," says Günther Stiller (<JSB & Liturgical Life in Leipzig>: 248).
Luther’s original version of Psalm 130, “Aus der Tiefen rufe ich” (Out of the deep I cry), of 1523 (Zahn melody 1218 Phrygian) , NLGB 366, “Death & Dying) was sung at Catechism and funeral services, including Luther's in 1546. Bach set a version of the text as Cantata 131 for a Mühlhaüsen memorial service in 1707. It is still found in many hymnals, often for funerals, translated as "Out of the depths I cry to Thee," by Catherine Winkworth. Martin Luther (1483-1546) BCW Short Biography is found at, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Lib/Luther.htm.
Chorale Melody (Zahn 4437): “Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir” (I), http://www.bach-cantatas.com/CM/Aus-tiefer-Not.htm.
Cantata 38 movements, scoring, text lines, key, meter (chorales in purple font):4
1. Chorus (Stanza 1 unaltered, Bar Form) motet-style duplicated in orchestra, two-part Pachelbel-style fugue [SATB; Oboe I/II e Violino I e Trombone I col Soprano [C.f.], Violino II e Trombone II coll'Alto, Viola e Trombone III col Ten, Trombone IV col Basso, Continuo); Stolllen 1 (A,B): “Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir, / Herr Gott, erhör mein Rufen;” (From deep affliction I cry out to you, / Lord God, hear my call;); Stollen 2 (C,D), “Dein gnädig Ohr neig her zu mir / Und meiner Bitt sie öffne!” (incline your merciful ear here to me/ and be open to my prayer!); Abgesang (E,F,G), “Denn so du willt das sehen an,” / Was Sünd und Unrecht ist getan, / Wer kann, Herr, vor dir bleiben?” (For if you want to look at this, / what sin and injustice is done,/ who can, Lord, remain before you?); e minor Phrygian; 2/2.
2. Recitative secco (Stanza 2 paraphrased), [Alto, Continuo]: “In Jesu Gnade wird allein / Der Trost vor uns und die Vergebung sein,” (In Jesus' grace alone will / there be consolation for us and forgiveness); major – a minor; 4/4.
3. Aria da-capo (Stanza 3 paraphrased) [Tenor; Oboe I/II, Continuo]: A, C. “Ich höre mitten in den Leiden / Ein Trostwort, so mein Jesus spricht.” (I hear in the midst of my sufferings / a word of consolation spoken by Jesus.); B. “Drum, o geängstigtes Gemüte, / Vertraue deines Gottes Güte,” Therefore, o anguished heart, / trust in the goodness of your God,”); a minor; 4/4.
4. Recitative secco (threads from Stanzas 3 and 4 paraphrased), Gospel emphasis [Soprano, Continuo (C.F.)]: “Ach! Daß mein Glaube noch so schwach, / Und daß ich mein Vertrauen” (Alas, that my faith is so weak / and that I must build my confidence); d minor; 4/4.
5. Aria ( Stanza 4 paraphrased) (Terzetto), two-part imitation with ritornelli [Soprano, Alto, Bass; Continuo]: A. “Wenn meine Trübsal als mit Ketten / Ein Unglück an dem andern hält,” (When my sorrow as if with chains / joins one misfortune to another); B. “Wie bald erscheint des Trostes Morgen” (How soon appears a morning of consolation); d minor; 2/2;
6. Chorale (Stanza 5 unlatered) [SATB; Oboe I/II e Violino I e Trombone I col Soprano, Violino II e Trombone II coll'Alto, Viola e Trombone III col Tenore, Trombone IV col Basso, Continuo): “Ob bei uns ist der Sünden viel, / Bei Gott ist viel mehr Gnade;” (Although there is much sin among us, / with God there is much more mercy); e minor Phrygian; 4/4.
Gardiner: Signs & ‘Hidden Granting of Faith”
“Signs and wonders abound in this amazing work,” the theme of the “hidden granting of faith,” while the final three movements are “stern and uncompromising,” says John El iot Gardiner in his 2010 liner notes to his 2000 Cantata Pilgrimage on Soli Deo Gloria recordings.5 <<This theme of the hidden granting of faith recurs in the following year’s cantata, BWV 38 Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir, a chorale cantata from 1724 based on Luther’s well-known hymn, in which a free version of Psalm 130 is sung to the ancient Phrygian tune. Luther described this psalm as a cry of a ‘truly penitent heart that is most deeply moved in its distress. We are all in deep and great misery, but we do not feel our condition. Crying is nothing but a strong and earnest longing for God’s grace, which does not arise in a person unless he sees in what depth he is lying.’ Bach understands this perfectly. In an opening chorus only 140 bars long he gives a powerful evocation of this Lutheran crying-from-the-depths and the clamour of imploring voices. He opts for the severe stile antico or motet-style with each line of the tune presented in long notes by the sopranos and preceded by imitative treatment in the lower voices. He doubles each of the four voices with a trombone – four trombones in a Bach cantata! (one thinks of Schütz and Bruckner). What they bring to the overall mood, besides their unique burnished sonority, is ritual and solemnity. Bach seems intent on pushing the frontiers of this motet movement almost out of stylistic reach through abrupt chromatic twists to this tune in Phrygian mode.
For the third movement, an aria in A minor for tenor with two oboes, Bach’s setting of the lines ‘I hear in the midst of suffering a word of comfort’ takes its cue again from Luther’s commentary which emphasises the ‘blessing’ of ‘contradictory and disharmonious things, for hope and despair are opposites’. We must ‘hope in despair’, for ‘hope which forms the new man, grows in the midst of fear that cuts down the old Adam’. Rarely does Bach write such continuously interwoven chromatic lines for oboes and with almost nowhere to breathe. It demands strong technique and a fearless delivery.
The last three movements are all exceptional, stern and uncompromising: first a soprano recitative marked a battuta over a continuo bass line thundering out the old tune (‘you dare give in to doubts!’, it seemed to be saying), a marvellous reversal of usual practice and a tour de force of its kind, the soprano’s weakened faith scarcely getting a look-in or time to express its frailty. Then a terzetto, twin of the one in BWV 116 we performed three Sundays ago in Leipzig – ‘Though my despair, like chains, fetters one misfortune to the next, yet shall my Saviour free me suddenly from it all’ – which goes on to describe the rise of the ‘morning’ of faith after the ‘night’ of trouble and sorrow. Chains of suspensions precipitate a downward cycle of fifths through the minor keys (d, g, c, f then B flat major), whereas the dawning of faith reverses the direction upwards until the idea of the ‘night’ of doubt and sorrow turns it back again. Different as they seem, these three movements flow from one to the next and seem to call for ‘segue’ treatment. The final low D of the aria is retained as the bass of the final chorale, beginning with an arresting 6/4 chord above it before establishing the new key of E – ‘the D, symbol of Trübsal and Nacht, is given new meaning by the change’ (Chafe). As with BWV 109, Bach’s strategy delays the provision and granting of help until the last possible moment. With all the voices given full orchestral doubling (again, those four trombones!), this chorale is impressive, terrifying in its Lutheran zeal, especially its final Phrygian cadence with the bass trombone plummeting to bottom E. Signs and wonders abound in this amazing work. The very word for signs, ‘Zeichen’, is given expressive, symbolic expression – a diminished seventh chord assigned to that word in the soprano recitative, formed by all three ‘signs’, one sharp (F sharp), one flat (E flat) and one natural (C). As Eric Chafe concludes, ‘since St John’s Gospel is known as the Book of Signs, and since the tonal plan of Bach’s St John Passion appears to have been conceived as a form of play on the three musical signs (ie sharp, flat and natural key areas) this important detail in the plan of “Aus tiefer Not” perhaps possesses a wider significance, relating it to Bach’s tonal-allegorical procedures in general.’>> © John Eliot Gardiner 2010; From a journal written in the course of the Bach Cantata Pilgrimage
Hofmann: Stile antico Chorus, Operatic Trio
The rare use of stile antico, motet style, in an opening chorale fantasia, and the contrasting trio aria in modern operatic style (Mvt. 5), are two strong elements cited in Klaus Hofmann’s 2005 liner notes to the Masaaki Suzuki BIS complete sacred cantata recordings. 6 <<Aus tiefer Not schrei' ich zu dir, BWV 38, In deep distress I cry to you. More than four months after Ach Gott, vom Himmel sieh darein (BWV 2) Bach returned to a similar musical plan in his cantata Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir for the 2lst Sunday after Trinity (29th October 1724). He did not copy the plan but made a variant of it, writing another strict cantus firmus motet in the old style, again with a purely accompanimental function for the instruments, again with a trombone quartet, again with the cantus firmus in long note values, but this time with the melody in the soprano. Once again it is based on a hymn by Luther (1524), and again it is a reworking of a psalm (Psalm 130). Here, too, Bach seems to direct our attention back in history, to the era of Martin Luther's Reformation and, further, to the time of the Old Testament. The choice of hymn for this cantata must have been rather straightforward: in Leipzig this had long been the required hymn on that particular Sunday. The gospel for the day, John 4, 47-54, tells of Jesus healing of a nobleman's son, and his cry of help to Jesus clearly formed a link to the hymn Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir. Bach's librettist again reused the first and last strophes unaltered, whilst the inner strophes were reworked as two sequences of arias and recitatives.
The tenor aria begins as exquisite chamber music for two oboes and continuo in which the vocal line blends smoothly, taking up the thematic material of the wind instruments. Emotions are held in check: elements of lamentation and of confidence are combined. The text of the soprano recitative that follows is related least to Luther's hymn; it is essentially a free extension of its ideological content by the Leipzig librettist. Bach seems to wish to create a connection artificially by quoting the hymn melody in the continuo. Unusually in a cantata context, Bach set the second aria, 'Wenn meine Trübsal als mit Ketten' ('If my misery, as though with chains') as a tercet. Despite all of the contrapuntal artistry that Bach employs, this piece has a certain operatic quality typical of such an ensemble; this becomes readily apparent at moments such as 'dass alles plattzlich von mir fällt' ('So that everything suddenly releases me'), where the polyphonic writing suddenly end effectively gives way to homophony. Bach begins the simple concluding chorale with a bold stoke, the chord of a second, which continues and demands resolution. This dissonant chord has little to do with the beginning of the text, but rather articulates in an almost 'Romantic' manner something that the words do not utter; it tells of the distress of the supplicant, of his longing for deliverance from all of his sins. © Klaus Hofmann 2005
In the previous BCML discussions on Cantata 38, there are some interesting insights into other topics. The strong connections between the opening motet and the 1739 Clavierübung III German Organ mass settings of the chorale, “Aus tiefer Not schrei' ich zu dir,” BWV 686 (a 6 with pedal), and BWV 687 (a 4, alio modo, manualiter), are discussed in Alain Bruguières Part 2 Introduction (October 15, 2006), http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV38-D2.htm, scroll down to “------ A more personal comment.” Julian Mincham’s commentary, http://www.jsbachcantatas.com/documents/chapter-22-bwv-38.htm, is especially noteworthy for his analysis of the opening motet using ‘modern’ and ‘archaic’ styles; the significance of the tenor aria and characteristics, despite Schweitzer’s dismissal; and the importance of the trio soprano/alto/bass aria. Also in Part 2 (Ibid.), Thomas Braatz has an October 19, 2006 BWV 38 Eric Chafe commentary on tonal allegory in an extended, verbatim citation.
In BCML Discussions Part 3, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV38-D3.htm, the Braatz Introduction provides some interesting analyses of the structure of Cantata 38, and an extended study of the importance of the two different Leipzig church settings, St. Nicholas and St. Thomas, and a general difference in style of cantatas performed in each church. Cantata 38, as noted above at the beginning, was first performed in the more traditional and orthodox Nikolaikirche.
1 Cantata 38, BCW Details & Discography, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV38.htm.
2 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: Cantata 38, Luther & libretto text 592-97, commentary 596-600).
3 Whittaker, “Cantatas Containing Borrowed Material,” (Oxford Univ. Press: London, 1959: 115).
4. Scoring, Soloists: Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bass; 4-part Chorus; Orchestra: 4 trombones, 2 oboes, 2 violins, viola, basso continuo which includes bassoon, violoncello, violone and organ. Score Vocal & Piano [1.61 MB], www.bach-cantatas.com/Scores/BWV038-V&P.pdf; Score BGA [1.58 MB], http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BGA/BWV038-BGA.pdf. References: BGA VII (Church cantatas 31-40, Wilhelm Rust, 1857), NBA: I/25 (Cantatas for Trinity 21, Ulrich Bartels, 1997), Bach Compendium BC A 152, Zwang: K 94.
5 Gardiner notes, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Pic-Rec-BIG/Gardiner-P11c[sdg168_gb].pdf; BCW Recording details, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Performers/Gardiner-Rec3.htm#P11.
6 Hofmann notes, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Pic-Rec-BIG/Suzuki-C29c[BIS-SACD1461].pdf ; BCW Recording details, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Performers/Suzuki-Rec2.htm#C29.
To Come, Cantata 38, Part 2: the final sequence of five chorale cantatas for the last Sundays of Trinity Time with the character of “The Blessing of Opposites” or “simultaneous contradictions” as in Cantata 38 (says Linda Gingrich), the genesis of Luther’s two versions of Psalm 130; Motets and Chorales for the 21st Sunday after Trinity, Bach’s uses of chorales in the four Trinity 21 cantatas (BWV 109, 38, 98, 188), Bach’s Trinity 21 calendar, Trinity 21 designated hymns, and provenance/reperformance of Cantata 38.
Aryeh Oron wrote (October 20, 2014):
Cantata BWV 38 - Revised & updated Discography
The discography pages of the Chorale Cantata BWV 38 “Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu Dir” for the 21st Sunday after Trinity on the BCW have been revised and updated.
The cantata is scored for soprano, alto, tenor & bass soloists; 4-part chorus; and orchestra of 4 trombones, 2 oboes, 2 violins, viola, basso continuo which includes bassoon, violoncello, violone & organ. See:
Complete Recordings (16): http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV38.htm
Recordings of Individual Movements (13): http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV38-2.htm
The revised discography includes many listening/watching options to recordings directly from the discography pages, just below the recording details.
I also put at the BCW Home Page: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/
four recordings of this cantata. Two are audios of the complete cantata: Karl Richter (1977-1978) and Philippe Herreweghe (2003). The other two are videos of the beautiful Aria-Trio (Mvt. 5) taken from ongonig complete cycles of the cantatas: Rudolf Lutz with J.S. Bach-Stiftung from Switzerland (2007) and Kay Johannsen with Solistenensemble Stimmkunst & Stiftsbarock Stuttgart from Germany (2013).
I believe this is the most comprehensive discography of this chorale cantata. If you are aware of a recording of BWV 38 missing from these pages, or want to correct/add details of a recording already presented on the BCW, please do not hesitate to inform me.
You can also read on the BCW William Hoffman's detailed introduction to the discussion of this cantata in the BCML (4th round): http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV38-D5.htm
Wiliam Hoffman wrote (October 21, 2014):
CANTATA 38, Part 21
Luther’s penitential hymn, “Aus tiefer Not schrei' ich zu dir” (From deep affliction I cry out to you), the basis for chorale Cantata 38 for the 21st Sunday after Trinity, initiates the last sequence of Trinity Time chorale cantatas emphasizing contrasts, and was one of Martin Luther’s first hymns. Other topics Motets and Chorales for the 21st Sunday after Trinity, Bach’s uses of chorales in the four Trinity 21 cantatas (BWV 109, 38, 98, 188), Bach’s Trinity 21 calendar, Trinity 21 designated hymns, and provenance/reperformance of Cantata 38.
The final, sixth sequence of fchorale cantatas for the last Sundays of Trinity Time has the character of “The Blessing of Opposites” or “simultaneous contradictions” as in Cantata 38, “Aus tiefer Not schrei' ich zu dir” (From deep affliction I cry out to you), says Linda Gingrich in her dissertation, “The seen and the unseen: Hidden allegorical links in the Trinity season chorale cantatas of J. S. Bach.”1 The Sixth Sequence involves the five chorale Cantatas BWV 38, 115, 139, 26, and 116, running from the 21st to the 25th Sunday after Trinity.
From the wedding banquet and the Eucharist of the previous sequence, “Alternation and Unity,” (Trinity 17-20, BWV 114, 96, 5, 180), Bach now “presents the other side of the coin, a more frightening picture of God as Judge who one day will call all to account for the way they have led their lives,” says Gingrich. The focus shifts “to the spiritual preparation for such an event: the need for confession of and purification from sin, the necessity for calling out to God in the face of severe tribulation, the realization of the ephemeral nature of life, God’s sternness towards the unrepentant, and his ready comfort for hard-hit believers.” Bach uses the same allegorical tools but now “wields them to forge new patterns, to craft fresh combinations to that undergird his themes.” Bach turns from symmetrical movement forms to “ascent-descent tonal patterns, or the reverse, to highlight message-bearing fourth movements in these six-movement cantatas.”
Bach “consistently pairs one aria and recitative through the sharing of identical keys in all but one of the cantatas to highlight one of his themes.” And he unites the five cantatas by relating them in some way to the key of E, and employs E major once more as a tonal apex, a hidden symbol of God’s highest good attained through the deepest of suffering.” A “series marked by many textual and musical antitheses” “is grounded in Lutheran theology; Luther wrote of the ‘contradictory and disharmonious things’ of the life of faith, the tearing down in order to build up that underlies God’s relationship with believers, the blessing of opposites” (Chafe, Tonal Allegory. 219). “For hope grows out of despair, fear is defeated by faith, God works all things for good, even in the most painful circumstances, and Bach often creates contradictory trajectories in his final series to illustrate this spiritual paradox.”
“The idea of simultaneous contradictions is basic to BWV 38.” When Bach used Luther’s hymns as the basis for his compositions [BWV 4, 80, 2, 7, 38, 62, 91, 121, 125, 126, 14], he often brought out their dualities and such is the case here.” Most notable is the downward leap of the fifth the first two notes in Luther’s original melody, from B to E, from “Aus” to “tiefer.” “The first movement is in E minor, and each movement key leaps downward from there mostly via an overall circle of fifths, a tumbling figure that appears to deny the reassurance offered in the text.” Gingrich also observes that “the E minor cantata key recalls the only other E minor cantatas of the season, the memorably linked 7 [John the Baptist, “Christ, unser Herr, zum Jordan kam”] and 135 [Trinity 6, “Ach, Herr, mich armen Sünder] from the first sequence [June 24 & 25, 1724], which also addresses sin, forgiveness and Christ as the life-giving Word (see Chapter 4).”
Luther’s First Catechism Hymn
Luther’s initial setting of Psalm 130, is not only his first catechism hymn but also one of the first he wrote in 1523, says Robin A. Leaver in Luther’s Liturgical Music.2 With the purposes of encouraging congregational singing and the Word of God set to music, the Psalm version set the Luther text to the existing hymn melodies, as with other early settings, either “Es ist das Heil” or “Ach Gott vom Himmel.” With the initial acceptance of the Psalm hymn, Luther in 1524 “recreated his earlier metrical psalm into a Gospel hymn,” observes Leaver (Ibid.: 147f). As a Reformation hymn, it begins like the first of the 95 Theses, “with the meaning of repentance,” then “deals with the tension and distinction between Law and Gospel, the essence of the doctrine of justification, by effectively expounding the meaning of the Reformation principles of sola gratia, sola fide and sola scriptura (grace alone, faith alone, word alone). The “striking Phrygian melody [Zahn 4437, EKG 195] almost certainly composed by Luther, beginning as it does with a musical hermeneutic,” “is given sonic (and visual) expression in the fall and rise of a fifth.” In 1525 Wolfgang Dachstein and Matthias Greiter set another, simpler melody to Luther’s text (Zahn 4438, EKG 195) in the “distinctive Straßburg tradition of congregational singing,” says Leaver (Ibid.: 28).
“The hymn has had wide usage in the history of Lutheran worship,” says Leaver (Ibid.: 149). It initially was used most as a burial, catechism and psalm hymn, and as an introit at the beginning of worship. About 1537, for liturgical use, it was designated as a Gradual hymn, sung between the Epistle and Gospel, for the 22nd Sunday after Trinity.” More history on Luther’s hymn is found at BCW, “Chorale Melodies used in Bach's Vocal Works,” http://www.bach-cantatas.com/CM/Aus-tiefer-Not.htm.
Cantata 38: De profundis3
Familiar chorales assume a major role in the 21st Sunday after Trinity, particularly in chorale Cantata BWV 38. The four designated chorales for this Sunday in Bach's favorite hymnbook, used extensively throughout <omne tempore> Epiphany and Trinity Times, also are given important places in Bach's cantatas. Most significant is Martin Luther's 1524 austere, penitential paraphrase of David Psalm 130, <De profundis>, "Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir" (From deep affliction I cry out to you), found in the <Neu Leipziger Gesangbuch> (NLGB) of 1682 as No. 2704 with five stanzas (see Francis Browne BCW English translation, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/Chorale085-Eng3.htm.
Bach set "Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir" melodies as organ chorale preludes BWV 686-87 in E Major and F# Minor, <Clavierübung III> (Catechism chorale prelude collection) 1737 (Luther 1524 melody), and BWV 1099 (Neumeister Collection, c.1700; Wolfgang Dachstein 1525 melody). The title is listed in the Weimar <Orgelbüchlein> (Little Organ Book) as an <omne tempore> Catechism chorale, No. 67, "Confession, Penitence, and Justification," but not set.
The treatment of the Cantata 38 opening movement chorale motet is similar to Bach's later treatment in the <Clavierübung III>, observers Alfred Dürr (<Cantatas of JSB>: 603). It retains the <stile antico> motet style but not the varied character of each line-section text setting differentiation.
The hymn, "Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir," is assigned to the 21st Sunday after Trinity "in all the older Leipzig hymnbooks," says Günther Stiller (<JSB & Liturgical Life in Leipzig>: 248). In Bach's <NLGB> it also was designated for the 11th, 19th and 22nd Sundays after Trinity as well as the Fourth Sunday after Epiphany. It also was sung at Catechism and funeral services, including Luther's in 1546. It is still found in many hymnals, often for funerals, translated as "Out of the depths I cry to Thee," by Catherine Winkworth.
Trinity 21 and Bach’s Works
For the 21st Sunday after Trinity in Leipzig, Bach composed four works, the first time since the 16th Sunday after Trinity when he also created a rare fourth cantata with a Picander 1728 published text. This is the final Sunday in Trinity Time when four Bach original musical sermons survive. This significance may be due to the New Testament theme of belief triumphing over doubt, found in all four works that are unique and distinctive examples of Bach's penchant for achieving unity of theme through diversity of music. Meanwhile, the final Trinity Time Sundays summarize chorales central to the <omne tempore> church half-year Christian teachings of the eschatological "Last Things" in the "Completion of the Kingdom of Righteousness"
The increasingly optimistworks and first performances of the four cantatas are:
+Cycle 1, chorus Cantata BWV 109, "Ich glaube, lieber Herr, hilf meinem Unglauben!" (I believe, dear Lord, help my unbelief), October 29, 1723;
+Cycle 2, chorale Cantata BWV 38, "Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir" (Out of deep need cry I to Thee), October 29, 1724, with no record of a repeat performance on October 17, 1725;
+Cycle 3 chorus Cantata BWV 98 with the popular dictum, "Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan" (What God does, that is done well), November 10, 1726; and
+Picander Cycle SATB solo Cantata BWV 188, "Ich habe meine Zuversicht" (I have my confidence), probably October 17, 1728.
For the 21st Sunday after Trinity, "Bach came up with no less than four outstanding works all based on the Gospel account of the healing of the nobleman's son (John 4:46-54), marvelously contrasted and subtly differentiated by mood and instrumentation," says John Eliot Gardiner in the program notes for the Bach Cantata Pilgrimage 2000 Soli Deo Gloria recordings (BCW http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Pic-Rec-BIG/Gardiner-P11c[sdg168_gb].pdf). The supportive Epistle is Ephesians 6:10-17, "Put on the whole armour of God." Among the musical devices Bach uses, beginning with the initial Cantata BWV 109, are contrasting, conflicting instrumental and vocal forces; dialogues between voices representing faith and doubt; and tonal allegory of harmonic exploration and direction as illustrated by author Eric Chaffe.
Among unique cantata movements Gardiner cites are the affirmative pastoral dance moods in BWV 109/5, the alto aria with two oboes, "The Saviour knows yea his own," and the opening tenor aria, "I have my confidence," in Cantata BWV 188. The opening sinfonia of Cantata 188 was adapted from the third movement of the Clavier Concerto in D Minor, BWV 1052.
The basic theme of belief and doubt is found in all four cantatas, says Gardiner. These involve the dialogue and inner struggle in Cantata 109; the hidden granting of faith and the words of comfort and wonder in Cantata 38; the intimate, genial confidence amid human vacillation between doubt and trust in God in Cantata 98; and basic affirmation of belief in Cantata 188.
Trinity Time Hymns in Cantatas 109, 98, 188
Bach used other popular Trinity Time <omne tempore> hymns for his other three Cantatas BWV 109, 98, and 188: Cycle 1 Cantata BWV 109, "Ich glaube, lieber Herr, hilf meinem Unglauben!," closes with the Spengler, seven-stanza hymn, "Durch Adams Fall" (Through Adam's Fall), Stanza 7, "Wer hofft in Gott und dem vertraut,/ Der wird nimmer zuschanden;" (Whoever hopes in God and trusts in him/ will never be put to shame;). For details and Bach's uses of the hymn of Christian Life and Belief, see BCW Chorales Trinity 6, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/LCY/M&C-Trinity6.htm, designated (<NLGB>) for Quinquagesima and Trinity Sundays 6, 9, 12, 14. Cantata 109 uses Dürr's Cycle 1 first group six-movement form: dictum, two recitatives and arias, and closing chorale, that was used in middle Trinity Time, and is found in the next Cantata BWV 89, for the 22nd Sunday after Trinity. No text author has been suggested and given its form and use of mostly Old Testament biblical quotations (Isaiah, Psalms), it is not attributed to Bach's St. Thomas Church pastor, Christian Weiss Sr.
Cycle 3 chorus Cantata BWV 98 begins with the popular dictum, "Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan" (What God does, that is done well), Stanza 1. One of Bach's favorite hymn tunes returns as an opening chorus following the chorale Cantata BWV 99 for the 15th Sunday after Trinity in 1724, and preceding the 1732-34 undesignated pure-hymn Cantata BWV 100, BWV 100, that reuses the opening of Cantata 99 for the 15th Sunday after Trinity, also the Sunday appropriate for undesignated Cantata BWV 100. Cantata 98 has no designated closing chorale but it is possible to repeat the opening chorus set to the final Stanza 6. The unknown librettist may be Picander. For details of Samuel Rodigast's newer hymn of trust and guidance (not in the <NLGB>), see BCW, Trinity 15 Chorales, Trinity 15B, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/LCY/M&C-Trinity15.htm, and Cantata 100 Discussion 2, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV100-D2.htm. In lieu of a closing chorale in Cantata 98, the final extant movement, the alto da-capo aria, uses the opening line dictum sung to the varied melody of the popular general chorale by Christian Keymann (1658), "Meinen Jesum, laßt ich nicht" (My Jesus, I will not let go).
Picander Cycle SATB solo Cantata BWV 188, "Ich habe meine Zuversicht" (I have my confidence), was probably introduced on October 17, 1728. It closes with the anonymous text, "Auf meinen lieben Gott" (Of my loving God) appearing in Lübeck before 1603, set to the Jacob Regnart 1574 secular song melody, "Venus, du und dein Kind" (Venus, you and your child [Cupid]). It is found in the <NLGB> as No. 299 under the heading "Persecution, Tribulation and Challenge." It also is listed in the <Leiziger Kirchen-Andahten> of 1694 as the hymn the day for this Sunday and was still listed in the Dresden hymn schedules for this Sunday in 1750, says Stiller (<Ibid.> 246). The Dresden hymn schedules also suggest general "Hymns of Lament and Comfort" for this Sunday, including "Auf meinen lieben Gott" and "Was Gott tut."
Bach’s Trinity 21 performance calendar:
1723-10-17 So - Cantata BWV 109 Ich glaube, lieber Herr, hilf meinem Unglauben! (1st performance, Leipzig)
1724-10-29 So - Cantata BWV 38 Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu Dir (1st performance, Leipzig)
1726-11-10 So - Cantata BWV 98 Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan (1st performance, Leipzig)
1728-10-17 So - Cantata BWV 188 Ich habe meine Zuversicht (1st performance, Leipzig) (? or the followng year)
1735-10-30 So 21.So.n.Trin. - G.H. Stölzel: Die Schläge des Liebhabers meinen es recht gut [Not extant]
1736-10-21 So 21.So.n.Trin. – not extant.
Other Bach Trinity 21 Opportunities:
+On October 26, 1727, there was no performance during the mourning period of Sept. 7, 1727, to Jan. 8, 1728, for deceased Saxon Queen Christiane Eberhardine.
+ On November 17, 1734, chorale Cantata BWV 38, may have been reperfromed, possibly as part of performance of the entire second cycle.
+On Trinity +21, October 30, 1735, Bach probably performed a Stözel two-part cantata, "Die Schläge des Liebhabers meinen es recht gut," identified, as part of the cycle "Saitenspiele testeddes Hertzens" (Music Playing of the Heart), text by Benjamin Schmolck, with two chorale settings not identified.
+About October 21, 1736, Bach may have performed a Stözel two-part cantata from the cantata cycle "Das Namenbuch Christi," (Book of Names of Christ), Schmolck text, No. 63. No musical source with the presumed chorales is extant.
Trinity 21 Designated Hymns
The other three designated hymns in the <NLGB> for the 21st Sunday after Trinity are:
*"Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ" (I call to Thee, Lord Jesus Christ); also for Trinity 2, 5, 6, 8, 19, 22 and Epiphany 3, 5. For details, see BCW, Trinity 2 Chorales, Hymn of the Day, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/LCY/M&C-Trinity2.htm.
*"Herr Christ, der einge Gottes Sohn" (Lord Jesus Christ, God's Only Son); also for Trinity 18 and Epiphany 1 and 6; see BCW Trinity 18 Chorales, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/LCY/M&C-Trinity18.htm.
*"Allein zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ" (Alone with Thee, Lord Jesus Christ); also for Trinity 3, 11, 22, 24; Epiphany 3. For details, see BCW, Trinity 11, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/LCY/M&C-Trinity13.htm.
There is no evidence that any of Bach's four cantatas for the 21st Sunday after Trinity - BWV 109, 38, 98, and 188 -- were reperformed in lifetime. One, chorale Cantata BWV 38, "Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir," was presented in 1770 by Christoph Friedrich Penzel, cantor and one of Bach's last students. As St. Thomas prefect in 1755, he had copied and performed 10 mostly middle Trinity Time chorale Cantatas (BWV178, 94, 101, 113, 137, 33, 99, 114, 129, and 140). Penzel's manuscript source in 1770, when he selectively presented some eight cantatas (BWV 97, 157, 159, 106, 158, 112, 25, 38), was primarily Friedemann Bach, who charged to have copies made of the chorale cantata scores he possessed, while Penzel continued to access Leipzig publisher Breitkopf for copies of the other cantata manuscripts.
1 Gingrich, D.M.A., University of Washington, 2008; 3303284: 102f). (http://pqdtopen.proquest.com/pqdtopen/doc/251359759.html?FMT=AI).
2 Leaver, Chapter 9, “Aus tiefer Not schrei' ich zu dir” (William B. Eerdmans Publishing, Grand Rapids MI: 144).
3 Musical Context: Motets & Chorales for 21st Sunday after Trinity, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/LCY/M&C-Trinity21.htm.
4 NLGB, BACH'S HYMN BOOK: Jürgen Grimm, "Das neu [?] Leipziger Gesangbuch des Gottfried Vopelius
(Leipzig 1682),"Berlin: Merseburger, 1969. ML 3168 G75.
Complete Recordings (16): http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV38.htm
Discussion of this cantata in the BCML (4th round): Cantata BWV 38 - Discussions Part 4
Cantata BWV 38: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5