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Cantata BWV 7
Christ unser Herr zum Jordan kam
Discussions - Part 3

Continue from Part 2

Discussions in the Week of January 20, 2013 (3rd round)

William Hoffman wrote (January 22, 2013):
Intro. Chorale Cantata 7 & Telemann Cantata

Having focused on Zechariah's Canticle and Prophecy (Luke 1:68-79) in his 1723 first cantata for the Feast of the Nativity of John the Baptist, BWV 167, "Ihr Menschen, rühmet Gottes Liebe" (You people, sing the praises of God's love), Bach moved on in his 1724 chorale cantata cycle to Martin Luther's Catechism hymn on the actual baptism in Cantata BWV 7, "Christ, unser Herr, zum Jordan kam" (Christ our Lord came to the Jordan).
In 1725, the Leipzig churches heard a festive Georg Philipp Telemann setting of Zechariah's Benedictus prayer, "Gelobet sei der Herr, der Gott Israel" (Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, TVWV 1:596, set to an Erdmann Neumeister text that includes two related chorales.

Previously, when Bach premiered Cantata 167, he also had presented a special setting of the Sanctus in C Major, BWV 237, with an orchestra including two trumpets and drums, as part of the elaborate festive service. As Douglas Cowling noted in his Motets and Chorales for this feast day, "The Feasts of the Birth of John the Baptist (June 24) and the Visitation of Mary (July 2) were both celebrated as principal festivals which could displace the Sunday observance. Both required the performance of a cantata and a concerted Latin Missa and Sanctus." See, the Feast of John the Baptist: Motets & Chorales (Rev.), logging into Yahoo with a Password at

Bach's festive Sanctus in C, BWV 237 was composed at the beginning of his first year in Leipzig, possibly for the Pentecost and Trinity Festivals in May and certainly for the Feast of John the Baptist, June 24, 1723. The Mass ordinary Sanctus was presented between the Mass Propers Latin Prayer, the Praefaction (Preface, Das Neu Leipziger Gesangbuch [NLGB] p. 440), and the Words of Institution at Communion. Bach followed tradition in his Sanctus setting by omitting the succeeding Osana and Benedictus, which he added onto with contrafactions of German cantata movements (BWV 215/1, and Anh. 15) in the late 1740s to complete his Missa totta, Great Mass in B Minor, BWV 232. The five Sanctus & Christe eleison, BWV 237-242, will be the BCW Discussion beginning the week of October 20, 2013.

As for a Latin Missa setting of the Kyrie-Gloria following the festival service initial Introit, it is possible that Bach presented Johann Christoph Pez' "Missa Sancti Lamberti" in C Minor. Bach originally had copied a continuo part for a performance in Weimar of the Kyrie in A Minor and then copied both the Kyrie and Gloria in Leipzig. The Missa will be the BCW Discussion beginning the week of August 18, 2013.

Cantata 7, Luther's Baptist Hymn

Details, Julian Mincham's Commentary, previous Discussions, and Recordings of Cantata 7, "Christ, unser Herr, zum Jordan kam," are found at BCW,

"Christ, unser Herr, zum Jordan kam" (Christ our Lord came to the Jordan) was written by Martin Luther 1524-41. It has 7 stanzas and is listed in the NLGB No. 176, Catechism Baptism. See Francis Browne's English translation of the chorale, BCW Luther's hymn is based on the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River by John the Baptist in all four Gospels -- Mat. 3:3-17, Mark 1:9-11, Luke 3:21-22, and John 1:29-34 - as well as Christ's Great Commission to his disciples, Mat. 28-16-20 (Stanza 5). As Luther's last Catechism teaching hymn, it is titled: "A Spiritual Song of our Holy Baptism, which is a fine summary of What is it? (Stanzas 1, 4, 7) Who established it? (Stanzas 2, 3) What are its benefits? (Stanzas 5-6)."

Bach set Stanza 1 in the opening chorale fantasia of chorale Cantata BWV 7 (1724, Feast of John the Baptist), and Stanza 7, "Das Aug' allein das Wasser seiht" (The eye sees only water) in the closing plain chorale. Browne's translation of Cantata BWV 7 text paraphrasing Stanzas 2-6, is found at BCW,

The melody of 1541 is attributed to Luther colleague Johann Walther, as Zahn 7246, previously identified with "Es wolle Gott uns genädig sein" (May it be God's will to be gracious to us, Psalm 67), Zahn melody 7247, full details of the melody at BCW, Walther's earlier 1524 melody to Luther's setting of Psalm 67 is a "general prayer for grace and blessing" while the latter "is an exposition of the specific grace and blessing of baptism," says Robin A. Leaver in <Luther's Liturgical Music (Grand Rapids MI: Eerdmann's Publishing, 2007: 138ff). This "theological association" may very well be why Luther used the redundant tune, emphasizing "musical hermeneutics" says Leaver. The English title is "To Jordan Came the Christ, Our Lord," No. 79, Epiphany, Lutheran Book of Worship (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing, 1978).

Bach used the melody sung in the tenor in the opening chorale fantasia of Cantata BWV 7, his only such use in a cantata fantasia. He also harmonized the melody set to Stanza 7 in the plain chorale in E minor/dorian/aeolian, closing Cantata 7, and as a free-standing plain chorale, BWV 280, in D minor/dorian/Aeolian, set to Luther's text. The Walther melody is set twice as a Catechism organ chorale (1739) in the Clavierübung III, liturgical German Catechism Organ Mass, BWV 684 with cantus firmus in bass in G minor 4/4, and BWV 685 "alio modo manualiter" in ¾ with modal progression. It is listed as a chorale prelude in the <Orgelbüchlein> collection (Weimar, c.1714) but not set. The melody is harmonized to the Paul Gerhardt Text No. 2, "Was alle Weisheit in der Welt" (What all knowledge in the World), Stanza 8, "Auf daß wir also allzugleich/ Zur Himmelspforten dringen" (In this way therefore we/ break through to the gates of heaven) in E-flat Major, plain chorale closing (No. 6), Cantata BWV 176, "Es ist ein trotzig and verzagt Ding" (There is something obstinate and desperate), for Trinity Sunday 1725.

Telemann `Benedictus' Cantata

Zechariah's Benedictus blessing, "Gelobet sei der Herr, der Gott Israel" (Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, Latin version Benedictus Dominius Deus Israel, Luke 1:68), is found in two false bordone settings (HDEKM I,1) in the NLGB, No.150, the Song of Praise of Zacharias, and the Latin version, No. 151.

Telemann Cantata "Gelobet sei der Herr, der Gott Israel," TVWV 1:596 probably was performed in Leipzig on June 24, 1725, the Feast of John the Baptist (and the Fourth Sunday after Trinity), by Georg Balthasar Schott, director of Leipzig's progressive New Church and Telemann successor and champion, while Bach was on leave in Köthen. The work uses Erdmann Neumeister `s 1711 (III) libretto (Geistliches Singen und Spielen, Gotha), based on a surviving Leipzig church printed libretto book (III). The cantata, composed in 1719, is scored for SATB, 2 trumpets, timpani, strings, and continuo, and has eight movements, including two plain chorales:

1. Chorus, "Praise to the Lord God of Israel."

2. Recitative, "Praise God, the tears have been arrested."

3. Chorale: "Praise him with heart and mouth" (Lobt ihn mit Herz und Munde), STANZA 5, "Von Gott will ich nicht laßen" (I shall not abandon God), Ludwig Humboldt 1563 (NLGB 310, Word of God & Christian Church, 9 stanzas, EKB 283; Zahn melody 5264b, anon. 1557). The plain chorale stanza in B minor (Richter No.327) opens anonymous Cantata BWV 220 (see below). The chorale (No. 3) and succeeding recitative and aria (Nos. 4-5) in Neumeister's text deal with the basic theme of Trust in God:

Lobt ihn mit Herz und Munde,
Welch's euns beides schenkt!
Das ist ein' sel'ge Stunde,
Darin man sein gedenkt.
Sonst verdirbt alle Zeit,
Die wir zubring'n auf Erden;
Wir sollen selig werden
Und bleib'n in Ewigkeit.

Praise him with heart and mouth
-- both of which he gave us!
It is a blessed hour
when we think of him.
Otherwise all the time is wasted
which we spend on the earth
we shall become blessed
and remain so in the tendency.

Bach's uses of the melody are the "Great 18" organ chorale prelude, BWV 658(a) in F Minor [Leipzig 1739-42] (Weimar 1708-17), the plain chorales BWV 417-19 (B minor, A Major, A minor). It is listed in the <Orgelbüchlein> as No. 93, "Christian Life and Conduct" but not set. The theme is Christ and Salvation with various applications in the church year, included the Johanine Third Sunday in Advent (Cantata BWV 186a/6), and John the Evangelist (Third Christmas Feast). The text and Francis Browne's English translation of the hymn are found at BCW,

4. Recitative, "We will in God be trusting."

5. Aria, "I trust in God."

6. Chorale, "Who hopes in God and places his trust in him/ will never be put to shame" (Wer hofft in Gott und dem vertraut,/ Wird nimmermehr zu Schanden), Stanza 7; Lazarus Spengler (1524) "Durch Adams Fall ist ganz verderbt/ Menschlich Natur und Wesen" (Through Adam's fall is wholly corrupted/ Man's nature and character). NLGB No. 229, 9 stanzas, Catechism Justification; EKG 243; Francis Browne English translation, BCW,

"Durch Adams Fall ist ganz verderbt," Zahn melody 7549, is attributed anonymous in 1529. Bach's organ chorale prelude uses are three: BWV 637, Orgelbüchlein OB 76 (Confession, Penitence & Justification), 14 measures, A minor, 1708-12; BWV 705* (Kirnberger) organ motet "fuga sopra," 93 measures, 2/2 alle breve, D minor-A Major, c.1700; and BWV 1101 (Neumeister chorale No. 38, Justification), 45 measures 4/4, A minor; before 1710.

Bach also harmonized the melody to Stanza 8, "Ich bitt o Herr, aus Herzensgrund, /Du wollst nicht von mir nehmen/ Dein heilges Wort aus meinem Mund" (I pray, o Lord, from the depths of my heart/ that you may not take from me/ your holy word from out of my mouth) in one his first plain chorales in a cantata, BWV 18, "Gleichwie der Regen und Schnee vom Himmel fällt" for pre-Lent Sexagesima Sunday c.1713. In addition, Stanza 7 also is used in the closing chorale chorus (No. 6) in D minor-aeolian in Cantata BWV 109, "Ich glaube, lieber Herr, hilf meinem Unglauben!" (I believe, loving Lord, help my unbelief), for the 21st Sunday after Trinity 1723.

[*BWV 705 not accepted by NBA, BWV Verzeichnis still lists it as `of doubtful authenticity' (BCW, "Chorale Melodies,"]

7. Recitative, "If bide my Jesus mine."

8. Chorus: "Amen, praise and laud" (Amen, ob und Ehre; Rev. 7:12).

When Telemann assumed the music directorship in Hamburg in 1722, he presented a series of annual cantatas for the Feast of John the Baptist, using the Zechariah Blessing canticle, "Gelobet sei der Herr, der Gott Israel." His primary text source was poet Johann Friedrich Helbig (1680-1722; see BCW Short Biography, No recordings of these works could be found. The TVWV number and dates are: 1:595, lost; 1:598, 1723; 1:599, 1725; 1:601, lost; 1:602, 1733; and 1:604 (nd). In 1722, he presented "Siehe, ich will mein Engle senden, TVWV 1335, to a Helbig text. Two other Telemann cantatas for the Feast of John the Baptist use biblical texts also found in Bach motets: "Lobet den Herrn alle Heiden" (Praise the Lord, all nations, Psalm 117, TVWV 1:1060), Bach BWV 230, and "Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied" (Song to the Lord a new song, Psalm 149, TVWV 1:1345), Bach BWV 225

Bach's <Orgelbüchlein> chorale prelude collection (c.1714, Weimar) lists No. 55, "Gelobet sei der Herr, der Gott Israel" (Benedictus) but there was no Bach setting of Zahn melody ?5854. There is an organ choral setting of the melody by Daniel Vetter (1657/8-1721), Leipzig Nikolas Church organist and composer. Vetter's published collection, "Musicalische Kirch- und Hauss-Ergötzlichkeit (1709-1713), are simple four-part harmonizations of popular melodies, followed by variations. Four such settings of the chorales only were attributed to Bach in the 1765 Birnstiel publication of Bach chorales: They are: "Du Friedefürst, Herr Jesu Christ," BWV Anh 201; "Gott hat das Evangelium," BWV Anh 202; "Ich hebe meine Augen auf," BWV Anh 203; and "O Traurigkeit, o Herzeleid," BWV Anh 204. See BCW Short Biography,


Next: January 27, Cantata BWV 30 & other music for the Feast of John the Baptist.

Julian Mincham wrote (January 24, 2013):
BWV 7 and links with BWV 2 and 135

Linda Gingrich wrote:
< Cantata 167: Motets & Chorales (Feast of John the Baptist)
It's interesting to note that the bass line in the last couple of measures of the final number in Cantata 7 contains the melody, a little altered, of Cantata 135. These two cantatas were performed within twenty four hours of one another, the only two in this cycle to lie so close to one another in time, and Bach appears to have connected them both theologically and musically on several levels. In fact, they are part of the four-cantata group that opens his chorale cantata cycle. I wrote about this wonderful little connection in my dissertation, but can't claim credit for the discovery. It belongs to Dr. George Bozarth, a fabulous musicologist and Brahms expert. >
Apologies. The original message should have been re-headed as above.

I recall noting this connection from reading Linda's thesis a year or so ago. It is particularly fascinating because it is not the only such link that BWV 7 shares with cantatas around it. The tenor aria from BWV 2, the second of the cycle, has a theme which is very similar in shape and rhythm from one to be found in the alto aria of BWV 7.

See the relevant articles (with the musical examples) from the links below..

Both arias deal with the process of development through metamorphosis, the one through fire the other through baptism.

It seems that for some reason Bach was very keen to link BWV 7, a cantata for a a special day (ST John's Day) which lay outside the regular Sunday services, to the cantatas which preceded and followed it. Like it or not, this cantata must have been viewed by Bach as an inherent part of his second Leipzig cycle through these links, because it is a chorale cantata (the third of the batch of forty) and because it is one of the quartet of works displaying the chorale theme (in the fantasia) successively in the four different voices--sop (20), alt (2) , tenor (7) and bass (135). There is almost certainly further symbolism intended here of which we are probably unaware.

Linda Gingrich wrote (January 24, 2013):
[To Julian MIncham] I recall noting this connection from reading Linda's thesis a year or so ago. It is particularly fascinating because it is not the only such link that BWV 7 shares with cantatas around it. The tenor aria from BWV 2, the second of the cycle, has a theme which is very similar in shape and rhythm from one to be found in the alto aria of BWV 7.

The connections among these first four cantatas are indeed quite strong, and set them apart from the other cantatas that follow, which are also grouped into connected sets. It's a fascinating study.


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