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Cantata BWV 72
Alles nur nach Gottes Willen
Discussions - Part 2

Continue from Part 1

Discussions on the Week of September 23, 2007

Douglas Cowling wrote (September 21, 2007):
Week of Sept 23: Cantata 72, "Alles Nur Nach Gottes Willen"

Week of Sept 23, 2007

Cantata 72, ³Alles Nur Nach Gottes Willen

First Performed: January 27, 1726 - Leipzig
3rd Sunday after Epiphany
Third Annual Cantata Cycle, 1725-27 (Jahrgang III)

After a hiatus in the Fall of 1725, Bach began composing cantatas again for Christmas Day until Epiphany 3. After this cantata, Bach stopped composing cantatas regularly, presumably to work on other projects. Because the libretto was written by Franck in Weimar, it has been suggested that the cantata was composed in 1715 in Weimar and reworked in this version for Leipzig.

Salomo Franck (Mvts. 1-5)
Markgraf Albrecht von Brandenburg (Mvt. 6)

Texts & Translations:

Epistle: Romans 12: 17-21 (Overcome evil with good)
Gospel: Matthew 8: 1-13 (Healing of Leper & Centurionıs servant)
Texts of readings:

Previous Sundayıs Cantata (Epiphany 2): 13, ³Meine Seufzer²
Next Sundayıs Cantata: Unknown, perhaps by Johann Ludwig Bach.

Other Cantatas written for Epiphany 3
BWV 73, Herr, wie du willt, so schicks mit mir (Leipzig, 1723)
BWV 111, Was mein Gott will, das gıscheh allzeit (Leipzig, 1725)
BWV 156, Ich steh mit einem Fuß im Grabe! (Leipzig, 1729)

Introduction to Lutheran Church Year:

Provenance & Description of Manuscripts:

Later Parody:
Mvt. 1 used as Gloria, Missa in G Minor, BWV 235
1st performance: Last years in Leipzig
Parody movements in mass from Cantatas BWV 102 & BWV 187
Background of mass:


Mvt. 1: Chorus
³Alles nur nach Gottes Willen²
Instruments: 2 Ob, 2 Vn, Va, Bc

Originally planned as an aria by Franck, Bach creates a whirlwind depiction of the transitoriness of human life, not unlike the opening of ³Ach Wie Flüchtig². The chorus ³feels² like it is going to be a chorale-fantasy but it is very freely composed beginning with a unison canon for the voices. The use of echo effects and very loosely-developed counterpoint is reminiscent of the ³Omnes generationes² in the Magnificat (BWV 243). Particularly effective are the great shouts of ³Alles² which give the movement extraordinary energy. Oddly the movement does not have a concluding ritornello. Schweitzer in one of his more poetic flights of fancy hears the swinging of the pendulum of a clock in this movement.

Mvt. 2: Recitative & Arioso - Alto
³O selger Christ, der allzeit seinen Willen²
Instruments: 2 Vn, Bc

Movements 2-5 are laid out as sections of one large-scale quadripartite movement, almost an operatic ³scena² from Handel. Bach experimented with this type of multi-sectioned movement in the Christmas Oratorio (BWV 248) but this is somewhat of a rarity in the cantatas. The recitative opens with a lovely rising seventh and ornamented ³selıger². The arioso has flowing 3/8 reflecting the embrace of joy in the text. The movement is interrupted by the recitative ³ob Leib und Leben².

Mvt. 3: Aria - Alto
Mit allem, was ich hab und bin
Instruments: 2 Vn, Bc

The opening is actually an extension of the previous recitative and the orchestra does not begin its introduction until bar 5 when new thematic material is introduced. The aria is shaped by the fugal exposition of the orchestra (the Double Violin Concerto comes to mind). The biggest surprise is the B section in which the opening figure returns and is developed at length. It is fascinating to watch Bach dissolve the boundaries of his forms and create such a complex movement.

Mvt. 4: Recitative ­ Bass
³So glaube nun!²
Instruments: Bc

The words of the captain give this recitative a dictum-like quality appropriately given to the bass soloist. All of the recitative in this cantata are filled with large intervals of sevenths and octaves.

Mvt. 5: Aria - Soprano
³Mein Jesus will es tun, er will dein Kreuz versüßen²
Instruments: Ob, 2 Vn, Va, Bc

Schweitzer called this movement a polonaise but more scholarly dance historians have disputed this. The ³sweetness² of the C major and the soprano voice suggest that the soloist is taking the symbolic role of the healed servant. The long sustained notes on ³kreuz² are linked with the similar word-painting at ³still² and ³rühn².

Mvt 6: Was Chorale
Was mein Gott will, das g'scheh allzeit
Instruments: 2 Ob, 2 Vn, Va, Bc

A rich harmonization of the chorale is marked with sonorous voice-pairings in the tenors and basses.

Chorale Melodies:
Was mein Gott will, das gıscheh allzeit

Piano Vocal Score: (free PDF download):


Music (free streaming download):

Basso, Spitta, Voigt, Schweitzer, Dürr & Chafe:
Emmanuel Music:

Previous Discussion:

Neil Halliday wrote (September 23, 2007):
The opening chorus (Mvt. 1) shows a complex mixture of homophonic and contrapuntal choral writing; examples of the latter are the extended 1/16th note passages which begin the first (in the order S,A,T,B) and third (in the order B,T,A,S) vocal sections, and the entire central section, while much of the rest is homophonic in character.

The arrangement of the text is also complex:

Section 1. The first three lines of text are allotted such that after the initial contrapuntal presentation of the first line "All only after God's will" (mentioned ab), followed by a homophonic treatment of these words, the next two lines of text "so in joy and sorrow" and "so in good and evil times" are sung by the sopranos, while the lower voices persist with the first line of text, etc. (see the BCW vocal score).

Section 2. After a ritornello, the 4th line of text "God's will shall me still" is set in beautiful polyphony; note that the continuo leaps here consist only of 4ths and 5ths, compared with the more emphatic octave leaps in the outer sections.

Section 3 (beginning at section D in the BCW score). Following straight on without an intervening ritornello, initially with powerful octave leaps in the dominant (E minor) in the continuo, the last three lines of text, namely, (5) "in cloud and sunshine", (6) "all only after God's will" and (7) "this shall my motto be", are set in a rearrangement (musically) of section 1.

The powerful emphasis on the first two beats (of three beats) in the bar - with the octave leaps in the continuo - is a notable rhythmic feature of this movement.

Doug wrote: "Bach creates a whirlwind depiction of the transitoriness of human life", while Voigt has written : "The introductory chorus (Mvt. 1) begins with a stern, majestic greatness".

Contradictory? Well, not really; it depends on the particular performance - as an example of the former we have Koopman's clean and vigorous allegro performance (c 3.25) [7] while of the latter, Werner's powerful andante version (4.45) [3]. These are the extremes of tempi among the recordings, but both recordings are impressive in their different ways. Werner suffers from some choral fogginess in places, but the power of those massive downward octave leaps supporting the musical structure at the beginning of the third section is most arresting. Rilling (1971) [2], actually recorded before Werner (1972) [3], has a vigorous performance (3.52), but also has some fogginess in his choir, as is sometimes evident in his earlier cantata examples. Is Harnoncourt (4.23) [4], with the `scratchy' timbre of the choir and orchestra, among other things, the least satisfactory of the recordings?

My initial preferences (subject to change), in terms of enjoyment of the opening chorus (Mvt. 1), from my recordings of Rilling [2] and Werner [3], and the BCW samples (sorry I haven't the time to explain these choices at present)

1. Werner [3], Koopman [7] (despite these being at the tempo extremes)
2. Rilling [2],
3. Leusink [5], Ramin [1].
4. Gardiner [6]
5. Harnoncourt [4].

Julian Mincham wrote (September 23, 2007):
[To Neil Halliday] Thanks for your comments. Is it possible for you to include bars nos rather than (or as well as) letters when pinpointing parts of the score?

Two points which particularly interested me about this work were firstly the use of a repeated 'motto' theme in the alto aria (Mvt. 3): the initial idea is stated five times, always at the same pitch to stress a particularly significant statement. Very similar process to that of the duet BWV 79/5. Both are otherwise ritornello movements but this repititon of a single idea stands out markedly.

The second point relates to the fact that there is some evidence that Bach may have looked back over scores of cantatas written for the same day when approaching a new one. Deurr remarks on the similarities of text between this and BWV 73 but the striking musical similarity is between the choruses of BWV 72 and BWV 111. Both have tempestuous first movements (although as Neil points out another interpretation is possible although not, to my mind as convincing) both in Am and both making a feature of two marked crotchets.Coincidence?

I think Bach may well have taken a generalist idea of this sort as a starting point and then gone on to develop is differently. I have come across quite a number of such examples when looking at the cantatas contextually.

A final little point--what about the lovely 'opera buffo' figuration in the bass line of the soprano aria (Mvt. 5) (first appearing bar 14). This is a fascinating movement to analyse particularly with relation to its structure and use of text.

Neil Halliday wrote (September 24, 2007):
I said the choir in Werner's [3] opening chorus (Mvt. 1) of BWV 72 was a bit foggy, but it's amazing how familiarity with the score can illuminate the individual vocal lines. This recording becomes more impressive the more it is listened to, if one follows the text (after studying the score).

Listeners should be able to clearly hear the special treatment (referred to in my previous post) given to lines 2 and 3 of the text -firstly in the sopranos, beginning on the 2nd beat in the third bar of section `A' in the BCW vocal score and continuing over 8 bars (Julian: I use this score as reference to avoid counting lots of bars, I hope you can access it); and the corresponding situation with line 5 of the text, this time given to the altos, beginning on the 2nd beat in the second bar of section `E' and continuing for six bars. The special rhythmic treatment given to the words "so bei (Lust)" at the start of line 2 in the first instance noted above is worth noting, as is the octave leap up to `Lust'.

As will be heard, these sections contain the most striking harmonies of the movement. The different treatment of lines 2 and 3 beginning on the 2nd beat of bar 5 of section `B' is notable for sweet harmony; but notice the descending parallel fourths (!) in bar 10 of this section [" (als) böser (Zeit)]. Admittedly this particular detail is probably in the realm of "eye music".

In the middle "polyphonic" section (`C' in the BCW score) the main motif initially heard in S,B,A,T thereafter appears in this same form only in the altos and tenors in bars 8,9 and 13, 14.

I think it was Forkel who remarked that there is always something new to hear in Bach's music.

Neil Halliday wrote (September 27, 2007):
Julian Mincham wrote:
>A final little point--what about the lovely 'opera buffo' figuration in the bass line of the soprano aria (first appearing bar 14)<
Yes, this figure is a variation of the motif on the oboe in the first bar, which reminded me of the beginning (the shape, not the exact intervals) of the subject of the WTK Book 1 C# major fugue. In bar 6 this motif turns into a lovely wave-like figure (oboe), which is later used with intoxicating effect to accompany the lovely cycle of fifths passage on "Obleich dein Herze liegt in viel Bekümmernissen".


In the alto aria (Mvt. 3), the dancing violins and lively rhythm are attractive aspects. Werner's recording [3] is graced with lovely voices in both the above arias.

Chris Kern wrote (October 5, 2007):
BWV 146

(I listened to Rilling [2], Harnoncourt [4], and Leusink [5] for BWV 72 last week; Rilling was my favorite. He was the only one to really bring out the violins and the continuo in the fugato-aria, and the soprano singing was very good. Although Ruth Holton was good as always.)


Continue on Part 3

Cantata BWV 72: Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

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