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Cantata BWV 50
Nun ist das Heil und die Kraft
Discussions - Part 3

Continue from Part 2

Discussions in the Week of March 3, 2013 (3rd round)

William Hoffman wrote (March 3, 2013):
Cantata 50: Intro. and Fugitive Notes

This week's BCW discussion of motet Cantata BWV 50, "Nun ist das Heil," also considers other influences on Bach's music for Michaelfest. These include motets and chorales of the second Reformation period, The Period of Lutheran Orthodoxy or Lutheran Scholasticism (c.1577-1617) and the Reformation jubilee year centennial celebration of 1617; the succeeding Period of the Religious Thirty Years War (1617-47) and the emergence of Pietism (1675) during the apocalyptic period of continuing war, pestilence, famine, and fire, as well as the influence of John Milton's "Paradise Lost" (1667) such as salvation and archangels. Also considered are important themes on the significance of angels in the struggles against evil as well as the Book of Revelation images of heavenly thrones and voices.

Cantata 50

Details of Cantata 50, "Nun ist das Heil und die Kraft" (Now is the salvation and the strength), including Francis Browne's English translation, Julian Mincham's informative commentary, and the Recordings, some with liner notes, are found at Cantata 50 Details, BCW This single-movement motet, based on the Michaelmas Epistle, Revelation 12:7-12, contains no chorale. The Brown translation in interlinear format is found at BCW,

Chorus [S, A, T, B / S, A, T, B]
Tromba I-III, Timpani, Oboe I-III, Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo

Nun ist das Heil und die Kraft und das Reich und die Macht unsers Gottes
(Now is the salvation and the strength and the kingdom and the might of our God)
seines Christus worden,
(become [those] of his Christ,)
weil der verworfen ist,
(since he has been cast out)
der sie verklagete Tag und Nacht vor Gott.
(who complained about them day and night before God.)

Julian Mincham BCW Commentary:

BCW Cantata 50, Discussion 2 includes: Thomas Braatz' Provenance, General Background & Commentary as well as "BWV 50 Structure & Number Symbolism," Alfred Dürr's Structural Analysis of BWV 50; Peter Smaill wrote (October 30, 2005); and William Hoffman wrote (September 22, 2009), Selective Bibliography [See].

John Eliot Gardiner's Bach Pilgrimage 2000 Recording notes says:

"In BWV 50 Nun ist das Heil und die Kraft Bach quotes the last of these verses from the Epistle for St Michael's day and makes it his text for one of his most impressive - actually breath-taking - works.
Crammed into less than three and a quarter minutes, Nun ist das Heil draws on two vocal and three instrumental choirs (of trumpets, oboes and strings) to encapsulate the victory celebrations of the forces of Light. With no space for free episodes such as occur elsewhere in Bach's instrumental fugues, this is a `permutation' fugue. It has just two consecutive expositions, each sixty-eight bars long, the first with eight permutations and an eight-bar epilogue, the second with seven permutations and a twelve-bar epilogue. The subject is given simultaneously `direct' and in inverted form, with the counterpoint thickened by being presented in chords - one whole choir pitted against the rest. But then everything is exceptional about this `torso' - for it is surely not a proper cantata, but perhaps the opening or closing movement to one that is otherwise lost. This, and the fact that no autograph score has survived, is just the kind of thing to get musicologists excited. Typically they latch onto the outward features, the anomalies of its size, scoring, structure, voice-leading and so on. So, it is probably not by Bach at all (Rifkin), or it must have started out as a five-voiced original (Scheide) that was later tampered with and anonymously expanded into the eight-voiced piece we now know. Only Klaus Stein (Bach Jahrbuch 1999) takes the novel view that the unusual features might best be explained as products of Bach's imaginative response to the text, the words from Revelation being spoken by a `loud voice... in Heaven' and Bach returning them from Earth in echoing ascent. For who other than Bach amongst his German contemporaries could have come up with such an extreme compression of ideas, at the same time giving the impression of colossal spatial breadth and majesty? (See BCW Cantata 50 Details,, scroll down to Recording No.26 [[sdg124_gb].pdf] and scroll down to bottom of p. 9]).

Michaelmas Motets and Chorales

Four leading early Lutheran reformers -- Philipp Melanchthon, Paul Eber, Nikolaus Herman, and Martin Schalling - had created newly-composed hymns for congregational use for the Michaelfest. These establish the sense of praise and thanksgiving for the defeat of evil and the significance of protective angels, emphasizing salvation over sin with redemption from the fall through Christ's victory over death and the devil. The "vigorous hymnic production of the early years of the Reformation [1519-77] was giving way to a transitional period" after the signing of the Formula of Concord in 1577, writes Carl Schalk in "German Hymnody," <Hymnal Companion to the Lutheran Book of Worship>, Marilyn Kay Stulken (Fortress Press: Philadelphia, 1981: 24ff).

The new era of German hymnody is called "The Period of Lutheran Orthodoxy or Lutheran Scholasticism (c.1577-1617)." Chorales of "popular objectivity and often child-like naivete" (Schalk, Ibid.) are found in the work of Nikolaus Selnecker, Bartholomäus Ringwalt, Ludwig Helmbold, and others. Polyphonic motets also flourished, based on the Epistle, Michael and All Angels defeat of Satan and the hymn of salvation and praise, from which the earlier chorales had drawn their inspiration.

Helmbold's `I stand before God's throne'

The best known Michaelfest chorale of this second period is Ludwig Helmbold's "Es stehn vor Gottes Throne" (I stand before God's throne). Helmbold's seven-stanza text to an unknown melody (Zahn 4298) was published by Johannes a Burgk in Mühklhausen in 1594. In Bach's <Das Neu Leipziger Gesangbuch> (NLGB) of 1682, it is the Pulpit Hymn (No. 161) for the Michaelfest. Helmbold's BCW Short Biography is found at Extant text stanzas and translations are:

1. *Es steh'n vor Gottes Throne,
(They stand before God's throne,)
Die unsre Wächter sind,
(Who are our trusted shield.)
*Der in sei'm lieben Sohne,
(Who through his loving Son)
Liebt aller Menschen Kind,
(pours love on all the world)
Dass er auch nicht der Eines
(That He shall not despise)
Veracht' will hab'n so Kleines,
(The boychild Jesus Christ)
*Als jemals ist gebor'n.
(Or any born of flesh.)

*The 1st, 3rd, and 7th lines are repeated in all stanzas.
[Translation Miguel Carazo & Associates, Hänssler Bach Edition CD 92.082, Chorales v.5, Lesser Festivals]

2. Sie sehn sein Angeschichte
(God's countenance to lught them,)
Und haben fleissig Acht,
(They swift perform His will;)
Was er ihn auszurichten
(His dread commands delight them)
Befiehlet Tag und Nacht:
(To day and night fulfil)
Das sind die lieben Engle
(On seedy pinions plying,)
Geschwund, regen die Flügel,
(Like birds in ether flying)
*Zu fahren hind und her.
(They journey to and fro.)

3. *Wo Christenlaute wohnen
(Where Christian people gather)
In häusern gross und klein
(In dwellings great or small,)
*Da sie selber nicht können
(It is their heavenly Father)
Vor Feinden sicher sein,
(Whose angels heed their call.)
Wo ist eienglisch Lager
(In legions close they ward us,)
Unher wird aufgeschlagen
(They hold us safe and guard us,)
*In steter Hut und Wach.
(With constant watchful care.)

7. *Auch Lazarus der Arme,
(When Lazarus, the poor man,)
Wenns gleich zun sterben kömmt,
(To death at last has come,)
*Gott der sich sein erbarmet,
(God sent an angel for him)
Hat sein Engke bestimmt,
(And brought him heavenward home.)
Die ihn gen Himmel bringen:
(So let us lift our voices)
Dem lasst uns alle singen
(In sing that God rejoices,)
*Ewiges Lob und Preis.
(Enthroned in heaven above!)

(Translation Charles Sanford Terry, <The Four-Part Chorales of JSB>, Oxford University Press: London, 1929/64: 97. Footnote (491): Associated with the hymn in Telemann 1730 (Fast allgemeines Evangelisch-Musicalisches Lieder-Buch; Zahn No. 4298); in Leipzig use 1729, 1740, 1744) and without melody in Schemelli Gesangbuch, No. 309, 1736).

Bach set "Es steh'n vor Gottes Throne" once as a plain chorale setting in g minor, BWV 309. It is listed in the Orgelbüchlien for the Michael and All Angels Festival (OB 58) but not set. An organ chorale prelude may be by Bach, BWV deest, Emans NBA/KB IV/10: 65, three-part harmony with pedal, 37 measures in A minor/Major.

There are some 30 references to the "throne" in Revelation. "Es stehn vor Gottes Throne" is based on Revelation 7:15, "Therefore, are they before the throne of God." Another important passage is Revelation 20:11, "And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it." Other references include Handel's Messiah closing chorus (Revelation 5:13), "Blessing and honour, glory and power be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne and unto the Lamb, for ever and ever." Bach's setting of the same passage in Cantata BWV 21, as well as other Revelation verse settings, will be discussed next week


Another important theme in Revelation, is the voice. In the Michaelmas Epistle, the war in heaven and the defeat of evil is followed with the hymn of praise, "Nun ist das Heil und die Kraft" (Now is the salvation and the strength), found in Chapter 12, and introduced in verse 10a: "And I heard a loud voice saying." See the Melchior Franck and Christoph Demantius motet settings described below.

Other significant voice passages in Revelation include: "Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels" (5:11); "They cried out with a loud voice, `O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?'" (610); "When he shouted, the voices of the seven thunders [God] spoke" (10.3); and "And I beheld, and heard an angel [eagle] flying through the midst of heaven, saying with a loud voice, Woe, woe, woe, to the inhabiters of the earth by reason of the other voices of the trumpet of the three angels, which are yet to sound!'" (8:13).

Reformation Centennial Celebration, 1617

The second period of German hymnody reached its watershed in the centennial celebration of the Reformation in 1617. "Festive Music for the Reformation Celebration 1617" (Christophorus Recording) has (Johann) Michael Altenburg's Gaudium Christianum," as well as selected Michaelmas motets by Heinrich Schütz (Es erhub sich ein Streit, SWV Anh. 11 [doubtful], a 18, 1620), Samuel Scheidt (*Herr Gott, dich loben alle wir, a 3, 1635), Melchior Franck (Und ich hörte eine grosse Stimme, a 4; Rev. 12: 10-12, 1624), and Christoph Demantius (Und es ward eine Stille, a 6) and organ music of Jan Sweelinck (Echo Fantasia in Aeolian mode, SwWV 275) and Franz Tunder (In dich hab ich gehoffet Herr). It also has Johann Christoph Bach's 1680 motet, "Es erhub sich ein Streit," a 22. Some free sheet music is available. Details:
scroll down to "Festive Music" and

The composers of the second Reformation hymn period and their music are:

+(Johann) Michael Altenberg (1584-1640). For the Reformation jubilee in 1617 is the polychoral, six-part, 30-minute "Gaudium Christianum" by the cantor and pastor Michael Altenburg: multiple-choir tradition with three choirs of 19 voices and various instruments, including trumpets and timpani. Recording:
I. Das Lutherische Jubelgeschrey and II. Die Prophezeiung von Luthero; Youtube:
III. Das Lutherische Schloss, Youtube:;
IV: Die Engelische Schlacht, V. Das Amen. Item Von Nun an bis in Ewigkeit, VI. Das Amen Gott Vater und Sohne); Youtube:
Biography, Wikipedia:

+Samuel Scheidt (1587-1654):
"Herr Gott, dich loben alle wir" (chorale motet), STB, bc, SSWV 321; S xi, 90 (Halle, 1635);
organ chorale motet, Youtube:
Scheidt BCW Short Biohraphy:

+Melchior Franck (c.1579-1639, "Und ich hörte eine große Stimm', die sprach im Himmel" (And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Rev. 12:10a-11). Sheet music:,_Melchior, scroll down to "Und ich hörte." BCW Short Biography,

+Christoph Demantius (1567-1643) Und es ward eine Stille, "is a masterpiece which begins with an eloquent depiction of the `silence in heaven' and then leads to a vivid description of the battle between the dragon and the archangel Michael. This was written for the Feast of St Michael." Johan van Veen;
see; and
BCW Short Biography,

*Noto bene: A special Michael Festival featuring concert with five works of German composers will be held at Bad Homburg Erlöserkirche, Sunday, 29. September, 2013: "ES ERHUB SICH EIN STREIT" - FESTLICHE MUSIK ZUM MICHAELISFEST (TEIL 3); Kammerchor der Erlöserkirche; Vokalsolisten; Johann-Rosenmüller-Ensemble, Leitung: Arno Paduch Gesamtleitung: Susanne Rohn. Bereits zum dritten Mal in Folge erforscht der Kammerchor das reiche Repertoire barocker Michaelismusik. Neben Kostbarkeiten von Bartholomäus Gesius, Hammerschmidt, Telemann und Weckmann erklingt Johann Sebastian Bachs prachtvolle Kantate "Herr Gott, Dich loben alle wir" (BWV 130).

German Hymnody III: 30 Years' War, Literary Interests

The Reformation Centennial of 1617 ended with the formal beginning of the Thirty Years (Religious) War in Central Europe. "Confronted with the horrible killing and pillaging of the Thirty Years' War, the individual sought enlightenment, self-understanding, comfort and consolation in a personal and subjective approach to God," says Johannes Riedel (<The Lutheran Chorale; It's Basic Traditions>, Minneapolis, Augsbiurg Press, 1967), cited in Schalk, Ibid.: 26f. The German Hymnody Period III is dated 1618-c.1675 and is characterized by the impact of the Thirty Years War and the emergence of simple hymn poetry, especially of Paul Gerhardt, and closes with the establishment of Pietism (c.1675-1750) with such Trinitarian chorale themes as Cross and Consolation that affected Bach.

Paradise Lost & Italian Oratorio

The 17th ceItalian Oratorio had a profound influence on John Milton's heroic-epic "Paradise Lost." The overall structure, purpose, subject matter, and musical forms in the oratorio are manifest in Milton's poetic masterpiece first published in 1667. Milton's Italian visit in 1638-39 to complete his Renaissance education served to provide him with the classical learning and musical knowledge to help forge his goal to create a major work based on a major theme, the defeat and expulsion of evil from heaven (Revelation) and God's creation of the world and Adam and Eve and their expulsion from the Garden of Eden (Genesis), the Omega and the Alpha of the Bible. For the Thirty Years War, see Wikipedia,'_War.

The earliest sketches for "Paradise Lost," possibly predating Milton`s Italian journey, already showed the influences of operatic, dramatic, chorus and allegorical elements. As the work progressed towards its final structure, Milton placed more emphasis on narration as a unifying agent as he expanded the scope of the work.
Various commentators have pointed out the general musical qualities, including the poem's "spiritual music," "doctrinal music in heaven," and the "grand opera scene in Pandemonium."

Specifically, Milton apparently encountered Giacomo Carissimi's (1604-74) oratorios, called <drama sacro per musica>, in the autumn of 1638 during his extended stay in Rome. These expansive, static music dramas set to biblical stories explored the themes of lamentation and temptation, with continual use of narration of the personage Historicus, borrowed from the German Passion play, as well as laudi or hymns for instruction rather than music as operatic entertainment.

Sung throughout, Carissimi's oratorios featured dramatic scenes involving the extended recitative of the narrator (testo), the ariosi or melodic recitatives of the main characters, arias conveying specific emotions, choral ensembles as commentary, and instrumental, transitional interludes. Among the ingredients in Carissimi's oratorios also found in "Paradise Lost" are: biblical text supplemented with lyrical passages of poetry in "Baltazar," unified narrative connecting different scenes in "Iazarus," and the theme of lamentation in "The Judgment of Solomon."

Elements specific to "Paradise Lost" include a secondary narrator such as the Archangel Raphael, who narrates the war in heaven and the Creation in Books VI and VII; the quarrelling of the women reminiscent of Adam and Eve quarrelling in Book IX; the bass solo in Carissimi's brief oratorio "Lucifer," similar to Satan's solos and invocations throughout "Paradise Lost"; and Jeptha's war-like choruses and turbulent symphonies in Book VI.

An oratorical outline of "Paradise Lost" shows secondary oratorios in books or combination of books: Books I and II are a "Lucifer" oratorio, Book III is a "Te Deum" of celestial choruses, Books IV and V are a biblical temptation oratorio, Book VI is a war oratorio, Book VII is a creation oratorio similar to Haydn's "Creation," Book VIII is a prelude to another temptation oratorio in Book IX, and Books X and XI are a biblical oratorio of Man's Fall.

Vocal music plays a dominant role in "Paradise Lost." Examples of recitatives include the narrator's story throughout, Raphael's story of the war in heaven, various conversations between participants, and the divine speeches of God, Christ, and Raphael. The ariosi are sung by earthly participants and Satan. The invocations of both the narrator and Satan show soaring, emotional characteristics similar to the arioso. Satan's other ariosi are: his call to war in Book I, his address to his followers in Book II, his justification speech in Book IV, and his victory speech in Book X. Most of the choruses are sung by the angels in brief passages in Books III, VI, VII, and XI. The dissonant songs of the devils are found in Books I and II. Brief hymns are sung by the angels after Christ's acceptance of his mission in Book III and the Te Deum during the Creation in Book VII.

Among the instrumental symphonies (interludes) with chorus in "Paradise Lost" are the devil's parade and drinking songs and the building of the baroque Pandemonium into an Aeolian organ in Book I; Satan's flight through chaos, Book II; and the sounds of war, Book VI.
[Sources: William Hoffman term papers, "Milton's Paradise Lost as a Renaissance Oratorio" and "Musical Elements in Milton's Paradise Lost," 1969-70, English 403 (Milton), Eastern New Mexico University]

Haydn's `The Creation' Oratorio

Haydn's "The Creation" Oratorio (1798) is based primarily on the Book of Genesis, with references to the Creation in Milton's "Paradise Lost." The three Archangels, Raphael (bass), Uriel (tenor), and Gabriel (soprano) sing of creation in both narrative recitatives, replacing a single Evangelist (narrator), and commentary arias, in Parts 1 and 2, before the appearance of Adam and Eve.

Four "Archangels"

Michael (the name means "Who is like God?") is said to be the captain of the heavenly armies. He is mentioned in the Scriptures in Daniel 10:13,31; 12:1 (where he is said to be the prince of the people of Israel); in Jude 9 (where he is said to have disputed with the devil about the body of Moses); and in Revelation 12:7 (where he is said to have led the heavenly armies against those of the great dragon). He is generally pictured in full armor, carrying a lance, and with his foot on the neck of a dragon. (Pictures of the Martyr George are often similar, but only Michael has wings.)

Gabriel (the name means "God is my champion") is thought of as the special bearer of messages from God to men. He appears in Daniel 8:16; 9:21 as an explainer of some of Daniel's visions. According to the first chapter of Luke, he announced the forthcoming births of John the Baptist and of our Lord to Zachariah and the Virgin Mary respectively.

Raphael (the name means "God heals") is mentioned in the Apocrypha, in the book of Tobit, where, disguised as a man, he accompanies the young man Tobias on a quest, enables him to accomplish it, and gives him a remedy for the blindness of his aged father. In "Paradise Lost" Raphael is the narrator of the War in Heaven in Book VI.

Uriel (the name means "God is my light" -- compare with "Uriah", which means "the Lord is my light") is mentioned in 4 Esdras.

[Ref., Michael & All Angels,


Next week: Conclusion of the BCW Michaelmas Cantata Discussion with Telemann's Cantata BWV 219 "Siehe, es hat uberwunden der Lowe" (Behold, the lion has triumphed) with the chorale, "O Gott, der du aus Herzensgrund," Cantata BWV 51, "Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen!" and some Fugitive Notes on the angel canticles in the Mass Proper, "Gloria" and "Sanctus," the significance of the devils and angels in the First Sunday in Lent, and Revelation texts in Bach's cantatas.


Continue on Part 4

Cantata BWV 50: Details & Complete Recordings
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
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