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Cantata BWV 45
Es ist dir gesagt, Mensch, was gut ist
Discussions - Part 4

Continue from Part 3

Discussions in the Week of July 17, 2016 (4th round)

William Hoffman wrote (July 17, 2016):
Cantata 45: “Es ist dir gesagt, Mensch': Intro. & Trinity 8 Cantatas

Bach’s fifth of seven chorus cantatas set to two-part Rudolstadt texts, BWV 187, “Es ist dir gesagt, Mensch (You have been told, mankind, Micha 6:8), for the 8th Sunday after Trinity 1726 in Leipzig, is a blend of the best of both worlds: the sacred in its musical sermon framed with pertinent biblical passages sung by God the Father (opening chorus) and Son (central arioso) with concluding hymn while the profane is found in its dramatic, worldly poetry cast as interpretive didactic and dialectic teaching arias and recitatives. The seven movements collectively lasting more than 20 minutes involve two arias and two recitatives grouped symmetrically around the biblical passages of the monumental opening motet chorus and closing, church chorale, with the central Gospel teaching of Jesus Christ sung in an extended, uplifting arioso.1 Collectively, Bach’s three extant works for this Trinity Time Sunday are substantial works for chorus and orchestra, lasting more than 20 minutes with strong opening choruses, varied arias, and different closing chorales (see below, ‘Trinity 8 Chorus Cantatas 136, 178, 45’).

To the basic symmetrical form of the Rudolstadt text, Bach skillfully and selectively chose his array of vocal forces. The frame encompasses the expansive opening motet chorus, another Vox Dei spoken through the words of the Old Testament prophet Micha (6:8) and the closing (no. 7) Johann Heermann collective hymn prayer, "Gib, daß ich tu' mit Fleiß, Was mir zu tun gebühret" (Grant that I may do diligently what it is my duty to do), from the Christian Life: Evening Song, the popular "O Gott, du frommer Gott" (O God, Thou Righteous God). The bass Vox Christi with strings arioso opening Part 2 (no. 4) is the centerpiece: Matthew 7:15-23, Christ’s Sermon on the Mount teaching, “Beware of false prophets.” Bach uses the tenor to teach the meaning of the chorus in plain recitative (no. 2) and reflect upon them in the dance-style passepied-menuett (no. 3), “Weiß ich Gottes Rechte” (If I know God's justice). The alto follows the Vox Christi with an aria-recitative pair (nos. 5-6), of the believer affirming Christ’s sermon teaching.

Cantata 45 was first performed on August 11, 1726, at the early main service of the St. Thomas Church before and after the sermon (not extant) on the gospel, Matthew 7:15-23 (Sermon on the Mount: Beware of false prophets), by Bach’s Pastor Christian Weise (1671-1736), says Martin Petzoldt in Bach Commentary, Vol. 1, Trinity Sundays.2 Bach’s orchestra is particularly appealing and judicious with the addition of two flutes to the customary two oboes and strings. This gives the music a pastoral quality appropriate to the text, notably as motivic commentary in the opening chorus supporting the biblical text (Choreinbau insertions), and in the sprightly obbligato of the alto free da-capo aria (no. 5), “Wer Gott bekennt” “Who acknowledges God.” The opening chorus is discussed in John Elliot Gardiner’s commentary liner notes (see below, Uplifting Opening Chorus) and the biblical theme of obedience to God is discussed in Klaus Hofmann’s liner notes (see below, Obedience to God in Music of ‘genuine stature’).

In both content and form, the texts from the Swartzburg court-chapel in Rudolstadt perfectly met Bach’s need for a Lutheran sermon set to music that would be acceptable and pleasing to Leipzig church and government authorities and the community’s congregations. The blend of biblical texts and commentary from the Old Testament law and New Testament Gospel were particularly appropriate for early-middle Trinity Ordinary Time (omnes tempore) Sundays of paired Gospel sermons and teachings emphasizing the Catechism and Christian Life, in a mixture of didactic and dialectic themes. Bach’s musical treatment balanced choral old-style, somewhat austere motet architectural form and harmonized, word-painting hymns with the dramatic, personal sacred voices of God and Christ, as well as dance-style arias collectively forming a sacred drama. Here, the opera seria overture with instrumental themes repeated and exploited in the complex fugal chorus leads to individual proclamation coupled with individual reflection across a spectrum of emotional responses.

The tonality in Bach’s Cantata 45 is the key of E Major, of four sharps, that place it at the upper end of the traditional spectrum of the Circle of Fifths that challenged harmonic temperament in the baroque, or so-called “common-practice” period. Apparently Bach chose the key of E Major because he wanted to compose essentially positive music as he does in some 20 other sacred cantatas. “Bach associates E major in the cantatas with positive qualities,” observes Eric Chafe in Tonal Allegory in the Vocal Music of J.S. Bach.3 As to the actual movement of tonal harmony within Cantata 45 (see movements just above), it begins and ends in E Major, moving to the relative c-sharp minor (also four sharps) in the tenor aria (no. 3); then to A Major (three sharps) to open Part 2, arioso; followed by the soprano aria (no. 5) in f-sharp minor (also three sharps); with the soprano recitative rooted in E Major for the cling chorale. The only significant harmonic movement is in the opening tenor recitative (no. 2), from b minor (two sharps) to the extreme key of g-sharp minor (five sharps).

Trinity 8 Readings, Chorale

The Readings for the 8th Sunday after Trinity are the Epistle, Romans 8:12-17 (We are joint heirs with Christ), and the Gospel teaching, Matthew 7:15-23 Beware of false prophets. The Gospel is part of the Trinity Time "Gospel Thematic Pattern of Paired Miracle (Tr.+7, Mark 8:1-9, Miracle of feeding of the four thousand Teaching) and (Tr.+ 8) Paired Teaching, “Beware of false prophets (Matthew 7:15-23) “[15] Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. [16] Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles.” The full text of the Epistle and Gospel in Martin Luther’s German translation of 1545 and the English translation in the Authorised (King James) Version [KJV] 1611, is found at BCW, The Introit Psalm is Psalm 12, Salvum me fac (Help, Lord, for the godly man ceaseth, KJV,, says Petzoldt (Ibid.: 171), which he describes as the “Prayer about the preservation of the little flock through God’s Word.”

Cantata 45 closes with the plain chorale, No. 7, "O Gott, du frommer Gott" (O God, Thou Righteous God) based on the 1630 8-stanza, 8 line (ABCBDEFE) text of Johann Heermann. The chorale is listed in NLGB as No. 202 for early Trinity Time ("Christian Life: Evening Song") but is not one of the recommended hymns for a particular Sunday. Francis Browne's translation of the chorale text is found in BCW: Bach set Stanza 2: "Gib, daß ich tu' mit Fleiß, Was mir zu tun gebühret" (Grant that I may do diligently what it is my duty to do), utilizing the melody of 1679 Ahasverus Fritsch (details, see ‘Trinity 8 Chorale Choices’ below).

Trinity 8 Chorus Cantatas 136, 178, 45

The music Bach provided for all three extant chorus cantatas for the 8th Sunday after Trinity, is compared and contrasted in Julian Mincham’s Commentary introduction, BCW <<This is the thiof three extant cantatas for this day, the others being C 136 (vol 1, chapter 10) from the first and 178 (vol 2 chapter 9) from the second cycles. They are very different works but have some common features. All begin with an extended chorus [two with Psalm texts] and end with a (different) chorale, encompassing a mixture of arias and recitatives.

Only Cantata 136 [1724, “Erforsche mich, Gott, und erfahre mein Herz” (Search me, God, and know my heart, Psalm 139:23)]; contains a duet (for tenor and bass) and it also reveals some original features which Bach recur in later works e.g. the faster middle section in a different time signature (alto aria) and the (bass) recitative melting into a few bars of mellifluous arioso. The theme of that work is mortal sin and the power of the Lord′s blood to disperse it. The opening chorus boasts a solo horn part of great effectiveness.

Cantata 178 1725, chorale [“Wo Gott der Herr nicht bei uns halt” (If the Lord God does not stay with us, Psalm 124:1)] deflects attention to the enemies who may lead us into sin rather than concentrating upon the nature of sin itself. The opening fantasia is a tornado of energy and excitement depicting those dangerous ones who rage around us. The chorale, or parts of it, is incorporated in most of the movements, the fifth of which is an early example of Bach′s experimentation with the setting of long tracts of text by using combined forms, in this case harmonised chorale and recitative.

Cantata 45 is the only one in two parts and its opening chorus is the longest and most broadly conceived of the three works. Even the [opening] ritornello, which is not repeated at the end, is almost forty bars long! The scoring is for a pair of flutes and oboes added to the strings and continuo. The [Rudolstadt] movement structure, two recitatives forming the second and penultimate movements enclosing a central group of arias, was one that Bach apparently found satisfactory at this time. It is shared by Cs 39, 102 and 187 [Trinity 1, 10, and 7, respectively, 1726].>>

Cantata 45 Movements, Scoring, Incipits, Key, Meter.4

First Part. 1. Chorus motet fugue (Micha 6:8) in concertante (Choreinbau) with opening sinfonia and ritornelli [SATB; Flauto traverso I/II, Oboe I/II, Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo]: Es ist dir gesagt, Mensch, / was gut ist und was der Herr von dir fordert, nämlich: / Gottes Wort halten und Liebe üben und demütig sein vor deinem Gott.” (You have been told, mankind, / what is good and what the Lord requires of you, namely: / to keep God's word and to live in love and be humble before your God.); E Major; 2/2 alle breve.
2. Recitative secco [Tenor, Continuo]: “Der Höchste läßt mich seinen Willen wissen” The Highest lets me know his will); “Er hat sein Wort zur Richtschnur dargestellt” (He has revealed his word as a the guiding principle [plumbline], Isaiah 28:17-18); “Mit Furcht, mit Demut und mit Liebe / Als Proben des Gehorsams, den ich übe, / Um als ein treuer Knecht dereinsten zu bestehn.” (with fear and with humility and with love / as tests of the obedience which I practise / in order as a faithful servant to pass future tests, Luke 12:42ff;16:1-7); b minor to g-sharp minor; 4/4.
3. Aria two-part with ritornelli [Tenor; Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo]: A. “Weiß ich Gottes Rechte, / Was ist's, das mir helfen kann, / Wenn er mir als seinem Knechte / Fordert scharfe Rechnung an.” (If I know God's justice, / that is what can help me, / when from me as his servant / he demands a strict account.); B. “Seele, denke dich zu retten” (Soul, consider how to save yourself); c-sharp minor; 3/8 passepied-menuett style.
Second Part. 4. Arioso in canon, ostinato and sequence (Matt. 27:23), [Bass; Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo]: “ Es werden viele zu mir sagen an jenem Tage: / Herr, Herr, haben wir nicht in deinem Namen geweissaget” (Many will say to me on that day: / Lord, have we not prophesied in your name); Denn werde ich ihnen bekennen: / Ich habe euch noch nie erkannt, weichet alle von mir, ihr Übeltäter!” (Then I shall declare to them: / I have never known you, / all of you go away from me, you evil doers!); A Major; 4/4.
5. Aria free da-capo [Alto; Flauto traverso I, Continuo]: A. “Wer Gott bekennt / Aus wahrem Herzensgrund, / Den will er auch bekennen.” Who acknowledges God / from the true depths of his heart, / him he will also be willing to acknowledge.); B. “Denn der muß ewig brennen, / Der einzig mit dem Mund / Ihn Herren nennt.” (who only with his mouth / But that person must burn for ever / names him Lord., Mark 7:6 [Isaiah 29:13]); f-sharp minor; 4/4.
6. Recitative secco [Alto, Continuo]: “So wird denn Herz und Mund selbst von mir Richter sein” (Therefore my heart and mouth themselves will be my judges); “Trifft nun mein Wandel nicht nach seinen Worten ein, / Wer will hernach der Seelen Schaden heilen?” (If now my way of life does not accord with his word, / who afterwards will heal my soul's shame?, Mark 8:36); E Major; 4/4.
7. Chorale plain [SATB; Flauto traverso I/II, Oboe I/II, Violino I col Soprano, Violino II coll'Alto, Viola col Tenore, Continuo]: “Gib, daß ich tu mit Fleiß, / Was mir zu tun gebühret” (Grant that I may do with diligence / what it is proper for me to do); E Major; 4/4.

Notes on Text

Notes on the text (Francis Browne, September 2011): <<BWV 45 was first performed on 11th August 1726. It was therefore part of Bach’s third annual cycle (1725-27) which contains cantatas treated in a variety of ways. Between February and September 1726 Bach performed a series of 25 cantatas whose texts had a common origin in a yearly cycle published by an unknown writer in 1704 in Meiningen. It was republished at least twice [1719 and], notably in 1726 at the Hofkapelle at Rudolstadt in Thuringia.

Eighteen of these cantatas were by his cousin Johann Ludwig Bach, who was Kapellmeister at Meiningen from 1711 until his death in 1731. Bach repeated some of these cantatas in later years. He composed seven cantatas of his own using texts from the cycle. All the texts begin with a quotation from the Old Testament and include in the middle a text from the New Testament, and so they lend themselves easily to a two-part structure which suited the practice in Leipzig of having the first part of the cantata before the sermon and the second part after the sermon.

The Old Testament passage used for the opening chorus comes from the prophet Micah [6:8], who was active around the time of the fall of Samaria (721 BC). The gospel reading for this Sunday warns against false prophets and insincere profession of faith. Micah’s words develop these thoughts by proposing an alternative ideal In the original context the prophet argues against the insincere outward profession of religion and puts forward instead a memorable threefold summary of the spiritual teaching of the prophets. These words are often quoted. Some may remember that in 1977 President Carter took his oath of office on a family bible open at this passage and in his inaugural address referred to “the timeless admonition of the ancient prophet Micah”.

Bach sets Micah’s words to magnificent joyful music that makes clear that the admonition is not to be regarded as a burdensome command imposed on us but a precious revelation of how to live. The following recitative and tenor aria [nos. 2-3] therefore stress the value and importance of such guidance. “Richtschnur” is literally a plumb line and the uncommon word may recall a passage from Isaiah which Christians later read as referring to Christ as the necessary foundation for living our lives well (Isaiah 28:17-19). Micah’s threefold admonition is repeated as “Furcht, Demut and Liebe.” The transformation of “Gottes Wort halten” [no. 1] into “Furcht” (fear) may seem puzzling but as often what is meant is not abject terror before a dangerous threat but a proper reverence for God’s immeasurable goodness. The references to “treuer Knecht”and “ scharfe Rechnung” [no. 3] would have brought to mind for Bach’s congregation New Testament passages about the faithful servant who knows and carries out his master’s will and of the steward who has tgive an account of himself (Luke 12, Luke 16). The dire consequences of not following God’s advice on how to live are stressed at the end of the aria and this idea introduces well the bass arioso [no. 4] that begins the second half of the cantata. The words are taken directly from the Gospel reading [Sermon on the Mount, Matt. 27:23] and as set by Bach give an energetic portrayal of the decisive vehemence with which Christ rejects hypocritical followers.

In case such an uncompromising attitude might seem discouraging the alto aria [no. 5] gives assurance of God’s positive response to those who respond sincerely to his guidance. But echoing words of Isaiah that Christ himself quotes the second half of the aria warns of the dangers of professing Christ with the mouth instead of the heart.

The final recitative [no. 6] reflects further on these issues in the implicit light of Christ’s question, "What does it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul” (Mark 8:36) . The concluding chorale takes two strophes from Johann Heermann's "O Gott, du frommer Gott," which stress the practical active response that is the necessary response to God’s revelation of how we should live.

Whittaker damns this text with faint praise: “The libretto is cold and wanting in imagery, though not devoid of skill.”5 But though this cantata text may be considered to be without forceful expression or striking originality, it does present a coherent argument and Bach is able to turn what Whittaker calls “a homily on conduct” into compelling music.>>

“Nothing could be further from the truth, as Bach unfailingly demonstrates in each and every section of this subtly conceived and powerfully declamatory work,” responds Nicholas Anderson’s Cantata 45 essay in Oxford Composer Companions: J. S. Bach.6 Here is a summary of Anderson’s textual commentary: 1. Opening chorus “reminds man of his duty towards God” in the “joyful affirmation of this vigorously declaimed music”; 2. tenor recitative “underlines the stern yet compassionate teaching” of the chorus; 3. tenor aria “richly textured” “somewhat alleviates the textual severity in which man is warned to prepare himself for the day of reckoning”; 4. bass arioso, “vividly dramatic” “in which Christ vigorously denounces false prophets and those who claim to have worked miracles in his name” as “its musical gestures breath the air of the opera house”; 5. alto aria, “gentle, intimately addressed,” where one “is urged to be God-fearing and to serve him faithfully”; 6. alto recitative extends the teaching leading to the concluding chorale (no. 7).

Trinity 8 Chorale Choices7

Bach demonstrated both tactical flexibility and strategic consistency in his choice of chorales, particularly in Trinity Time. Günther Stiller devotes a full paragraph in his book on JSB and Liturgical Life in Leipzig8 to explain Bach's choice of chorales for the 8th Sunday after Trinity in lieu of the suggested chorales found in the 1682 Das neu Leipziger Gesangbuch (NLGB). Those he used in his three cantatas for the 8th Sunday after Trinity show considerable application. His Cycle 1 Johann Heermann chorale, "Wo soll ich fliehen hin?" (Where should I fly from here), BWV 136/6 was used in six other cantatas (with two associated melodies), and two organ chorale preludes. The Cycle 2 Justus Jonas hymn in Chorale Cantata BWV 178, “Wo Gott der Herr nicht bei uns halt” (If God does not abide in us), has a popular melody set to four different texts in seven omne tempore cantatas, and three plain chorales, two of which were used in the St. Mark Passion, BWV 247, and in a recently-discovered organ chorale prelude, BWV 1128. By contrast Bach set the Heermann chorale, "O Gott, du frommer Gott" (O God, Thou righteous God) to four different melodies found in seven cantatas, in five different text settings, and an organ chorale prelude. Heerman (1585-1647) BCW Short Biography is found at

Although "O Gott, du frommer Gott" is found in the 1682 New Leipzig Songbook as a hymn for early Trinity Time, Bach also used variant melodies and texts settings for the Christmas and Trinity Sunday. The popular 1630 Heermann hymn text originally set to an unknown pre-Reformation secular tune, spawned Bach settings of four melodies in six other cantatas (BWV 24/6, BWV 71/2, BWV 64/4, chorale cantata BWV 94, BWV 128/5, BWV 197a/7=398, and chorale Cantata BWV 133), two plain chorales (BWV 399, 1125), sacred Schemelli Sacred Song BWV 465, and organ chorale Partita (Variations) in E-Flat Major, BWV 767. The plain chorale BWV 399 is found in the Rilling Bach Edition, Hänssler Vol. 83, Christian Life). Bach librettist Picander in his 1728 cantata cycle designated the Heermann text stanzas as plain chorales closing cantatas for Trinity 9, 12 and 14. Melody uses, associated texts of five authors and settings are found in BCW,

Uplifting Opening Chorus

Bach’s uplifting music in the opening chorus of Cantata 45, followed by “torment and scorn threatening transgressors” in the tenor aria is discussed in John Eliot Gardiner’s 2008 liner notes to the Bach Cantata 2000 Pilgrimage on Soli Deo Gloria recordings.9 <<In his last surviving cantata for this Sunday Bach’s approach was certainly very different. BWV 45, “Es ist dir gesagt, Mensch, was gut ist,” opens with an elaborate choral movement in E major with strings, two flutes and two oboes (here again, despite the rubric, one needs to be a d’amore and one a normal oboe, even though it, too, goes outside and above its range.) The true path of life for the Christian is clear, we are told in the most direct fashion: God has shown us ‘what is good’. What strikes me here, as on other occasions, is Bach’s happy fusion of fugal technique and a madrigalian approach to word setting. After pairing his voices and even instruments and thereby determining to some extent the dynamics (none is specified), especially in the initial ‘Es ist dir gesagt’ phrases, he reserves the full tutti for the weighty injunction ‘to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God’. The torment and scorn threatening transgressors is spelled out in the first tenor aria in C sharp minor (No.3), with a telling phrase for the sharp reckoning (‘scharfe Rechnung’) and at the mention of ‘Qual und Hohn’ (torment and shame) a screwing up of the tension in successive phrases that rise by an augmented second against an otherwise placid backcloth – cue for a forest of sharp accidentals, including E sharp and F double sharp.

The second part of the cantata opens with a movement for bass and strings marked arioso – deceptively so (it is Bach’s way of flagging up utterances by Christ in person as distinct from passages of indirect speech), as in truth this is a full blown, highly virtuosic aria, half Vivaldian concerto, half operatic scena. We are back where we started, with the false prophets. Bach conveys with perfect clarity what lies in wait for these lip-servants and contrasts it, in the ensuing aria for alto with flute obbligato, with the destiny of those who acknowledge God from the depths of their hearts. Here the concluding chorale, ‘Gib, dass ich tu mit Fleiß’, a setting of Johann Heermann, is perfectly apt and conclusive: God accomplishes His work through me, therefore ‘Thy will be done’, at the appropriate time and ‘according to my station’ – neat and clear.>> © John Eliot Gardiner 2008,
From a journal written in the course of the Bach Cantata Pilgrimage

Obedience to God in Music of ‘genuine stature

The theme of obedience to God in music of “genuine stature,” is described in Klaus Hofmann’s liner notes to the 2009 Masaaki Suzuki BIS recording of the complete cantatas.10 << The cantata for the eighth Sunday after Trinity – which in 1726 was 11th August – takes its theological theme from the gospel passage fothat day, Matthew 7:15–23. In the concluding words of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warns of false prophets and predicts: ‘Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.’ The theme of the cantata text is obedience to God. Its opening words from the Old Testament (1 Micah 6:8) refer to God’s having announced his will to mankind, and effectively summarizes the duties that arise therefrom in three points: to keep to God’s commandments, to demonstrate love and to be humble before God. The ensuing recitative and following aria take this further and allude to the parable of the unfaithful servant (Luke 12:42–47), but the aria also points out the danger of misjudging the will of God. The second part of the cantata begins with the last two verses from the gospel passage (fourth movement) and the statement that Jesus will reject all those who falsely profess their faith. The fifth movement then draws the conclusion that ‘Wer Gott bekennt aus wahrem Herzensgrund’ (‘whoever commits himself to the Lord from the true depths of his heart’) will also receive commitment from God (after Matthew 10:32). The recitative explains that God may be of assistance to Christians in the fulfilment of his wishes, and the concluding chorale strophe is a request for such assistance.

Those who attended the service in Leipzig on the eighth Sunday after Trinity 1726 were treated to music of genuine stature. In the introductory chorus, Bach develops the Bible text into a musical sermon with unprecedented rhetorical emphasis. In a large-scale musical structure, more than 200 bars in length, he develops the entire musical argument from a single theme. The underlying compositional principle is that of a fugue, but Bach commands his means with such sovereignty that he can modify it freely, combine it with concertante elements, build a structure without recourse to any preexisting pattern and create a highly individual structure that nevertheless communicates the message of the text with unique intensity. The thrice heard, rising call ‘Es ist dir gesagt’ (‘He hath shewed thee’) is unprecedented: developed from the beginning of the theme, it prepares the way music ally for the fugue that follows. Notable is also the homophonic setting of the word ‘nämlich’ (‘but’) – an unexpected element in a fugal context – as well as the association later on of the fugue theme with the new text ‘und Liebe üben’ (‘to love mercy’), a feature which astonishes and illuminates in equal measure.
After all this, the tenor aria that constitutes the third movement seems to aim for a more relaxed mood with its slightly polonaise-like minuet rhythm – despite the seriousness, even anxiety expressed by its text. In the arioso that begins the second part of the cantata (fourth movement) – Bach entrusts the words of Jesus to the bass, the traditional ‘Vox Christi’. With agile figuration, the accompanying violins emphasize the deep emotions of the text. The alto aria with obbligato flute (fifth movement) is more in the style of introverted, self-contained chamber music, and a comparable simplicity pervades the chorale verse by Johann Heermann (1630), which concludes the cantata in a four-part choral setting.>> © Klaus Hofmann 2009

Trinity 8 Performance Calendar, Provenances

Bach’s Trinity 8 Performance Calendar:
1723-07-18 So - Cantata BWV 136 Erforsche mich, Gott, und erfahre mein Herz (1st performance, Leipzig)
1724-07-30 So - Cantata BWV 178 Wo Gott der Herr nicht bei uns hält (1st performance, Leipzig)
1725-07-22 So - no performance recorded (composing cantata BWV 208 for 8/3 University performance)
1726-08-11 So - Cantata BWV 45 Es ist dir gesagt, Mensch, was gut ist (1st performance, Leipzig)
1727-08-03 So – no recorded performance (presenting Cantata BWV 193a for Augustus’ nameday, 8/3)
1728-07-18 So - Picander Cycle P 51 text, no closing chorale designated
1735-07-31 So - G.H. Stölzel: Ich will dich unterweisen, und dir den Weg zeigen, Mus A 15:263 + So sehet nun zu, wie ihr fürsichtiglich wandelt, Mus A 15:264

Bach’s Performance Calendar for the 8th Sunday after Trinity has three substantial works (BWV 136, 178, and 45), none of which apparently was repeated in later years, but shows an interesting compositional pattern. For that Trinity 8 Sunday in 1725 and in 1727 Bach already was at work on extensive celebratory secular cantatas (BWV 205 and 193a) for important political personages. This took him away from regular performances of music for the church year, for which, he had virtually completed three cycles since he assumed the position of church cantor in Leipzig at the beginning of Trinity Time 1723.

Instead Bach turned to his other primary (civic) responsibility, director of music, with Cantatas BWV 205 and 193a. Cantata BWV 205, “Der zufriedengestellte Aeolous” (Aeolous Placated), Bach’s first dramma per musica, for the name day of a Leipzig University Professor, A.F. Müller, was performed on August 3, 1725, to a Picander text. Picander would become Bach’s most active librettist of secular cantatas, eventually providing the lyrics for at least some 23 of 50 works. Exactly two years later, August 3, 1727, Bach presented Cantata BWV 193a, “Ihr Häuser des Himmels, ihr Scheinenden Lichter” (Ye Shining Heaven, Ye Shining Lights), a dramma per musica, text by Picander, for the name day of Augustus II. The original Köthen materials, presumably the chorus and two arias, were parodied again three weeks later on August 25, 1727, in the sacred Town Council Cantata, BWV 193, “Ihr Töre (Pforten) zu Zion” (Ye Gates [Portals] of Zion). No text or parts survive from Köthen and its origin and purpose are unknown.

The Cantata 45 original score and parts set has survived. The score was found in the 1790 estate catalogue of Emmanuel Bach while the parts set apparently went to Friedemann Bach or Johann Christian (for details, see Thomas Braatz’s “Provenance,” BCW The Sebastian Bach 1750 Estate Division suggests a pattern of third cantata cycle Trinity Time materials distribution between Bach’s two oldest sons. The usual pattern during the previous de tempore first half of the church year showed that Emmanuel received the scores, with a few exceptions, and Friedemann the parts sets. For some early Trinity Time Sundays, Emmanuel received the scores and parts, as shown in his estate catalogue: John and Visitation feasts, Trinity 7, and Trinity 9-12. Friedemann received both the score and parts set for Trinity 4, 17 and 18. The previous pattern of Emmanuel scores and Friedemann parts sets is found for Trinity 5-6, 8, 13 to the St. Michael’s Feast, and 19-23. There is no record for Trinity 2 and 3.


1 Cantata 45 BCW Details and Discography, Score Vocal & Piano [3.19 MB],; Score BGA [3.26 MB], References: BGA X (Cantatas 41-50, Wilhelm Rust, 1860), NBA KB I/18 (Trinity 8, Alfred Dürr, 1966), Bach Compendium BC A113, Zwang K147.
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: 186).
3 Chafe, Tonal Allegory . . . (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991), cited in Thomas Braatz, BCW Cantata 139 Commentary,
4 Cantata 45 German text and Francis Browne English translation and “Notes on the text,” BCW
5 W. Gillies Whittaker, The Cantatas of Johann Sebastian Bach (London: Oxford University Press, 1958: II:195ff). Whittaker finds the two recitatives “not of particular interest” and “Neither are the two arias of outstanding merit, though they are not devoid of charm” (pp. 196f). The bass arioso “is of a florid character rarely encountered in the settings of the Saviour’s words, and which is developed to a length unusual in this type of composition” (p. 199).
6Oxford Composer Companions: J. S. Bach, ed. Boyd, Malcolm (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999: 162f).
7 Source material, see BCW “Motets & Chorales for the 8th Sunday after Trinity,”
8 Stiller, Johann Sebastian Bach and Liturgical Life in Leipzig, Ed. Robin A. Leaver (Concordia Publishing: St. Louis, 1985: 243).
9 Gardiner Cantata 45 notes, BCW[sdg147_gb].pdf; Recording details,
10 Hofmann Cantata 45 notes ([BIS-SACD1851].pdf; Recording details,

Aryeh Oron wrote (July 18, 2016):
Cantata BWV 45 - Revised & updated Discography

Cantata BWV 45 "Es ist dir gesagt, Mensch, was gut ist You have been told, mankind) was composed in Leipzig for the 8th Sunday after Trinity of 1726. The cantata is scored for alto, tenor & bass soloists; 4-part Chorus; and orchestra of 2 transverse flutes, 2 oboes, 2 violins, viola & continuo

The discography pages of BWV 45 on the BCW have been revised and updated. See:
Complete Recordings (16):
Recordings of Individual Movements (4):
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:
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 are the most comprehensive discography of the cantata. If you are aware of a recording of BWV 45 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 the current discussion of the cantata in the BCML (4th round):



Cantata BWV 45: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

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