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Cantata BWV 76
Die Himmel erzählen die Ehre Gottes
Discussions - Part 2

Continue from Part 1

Discussions in the Week of July 10, 2005 (2nd round)

Peter Bright wrote (July 11, 2005):
Introduction: BWV 76

The cantata for discussion this week (11 July to 17 July-) is:

Cantata BWV 76
Du wahrer Gott und Davids Sohn
(“The heavens declare the glory of God”)

This cantata was written for the 2nd Sunday after Trinity, first performed on 6 June 1723. The text is based on the Gospel reading for the day (Luke 14: 16-24), and calls for Christians to turn from idolatry and bear testimony to the glory and goodness of God.

Link to texts, commentary, vocal score, music examples, and list of known recordings:

Link to previous discussions:

It is possible to hear two versions of the complete cantata on the internet (Harnoncourt from 1978 [7], and Leusink, from 2000 [11]). See:

This was the second cantata Bach performed after taking up his post at Leipzig, and shares some elements with BWV 75, discussed last week. The obvious similarity is in the number of movements – 14, divided equally into two parts. A number of the movements stand out for me. The opening chorus is written in the form of prelude and fugue, and incorporates concerto elements, both in the ritornello opening and in the contrast between the solo voices and full choir. The beautiful soprano aria (mv. 3) with it’s gentle, playful violin part, calls the people to God’s ‘mercy throne’ and the bass aria accompanied by trumpet and strings are the other main constituents of Part I. But the simple four part chorale that ends both parts is in many ways the most affecting movement – a plaintive, haunting trumpet part, repeated by the chorus.

As was the case with BWV 75, the second part of the cantata opens with an instrumental sinfonia – in this case the music makes a reappearance as the first of six trio sonatas (BWV 528); it is thought to be an arrangement of an earlier trio, now lost. The quite operatic tenor aria (mv. 10) in A minor, has an unusual form full of sharp interval leaps. Excluding the chorale, the gem of Part II is the sweet alto aria (mv. 12) in which the importance of brotherly love is extolled – this movement is similar to the sinfonia in key and instrumentation, and through relaxed compound rhythm portrays the streams of love. The repeated chorale employs a verse of a different hymn than was used in Part I.

The set of original parts is incomplete – in particular, all the continuo parts apart from that of the gamba have been lost. Therefore it is impossible to be entirely sure of what instrumentation Bach had intended.

[these notes are based on the Oxford Composers Companion guide to Bach and T. Isoyama’s 1998 notes to volume 9 of the Suzuki Cantatas series [10].]

Doug Cowling wrote (July 11, 2005):
BWV 76 - Solo Trumpet

Peter Bright wrote:
< The cantata for discussion this week (11 July to 17 July-) is: Cantata BWV 76 >
I am intrigued by Bach's use of a single coloratura trumpet rather than the more familiar 3 trumpets with timpani ensemble. "Herz und Mund" (BWV 147) is a notable example with a superb trumpet part. Are there any other cantatas which treat the trumpet as an obligato instrument? The Brandenburgs are another alebit secular example.

Robert Sherman wrote (July 11, 2005):
[To Doug Cowling] Cantata BWV 51, Jauchzet Gott in Allen Landen, is a soprano solo cantata with solo trumpet added in the first and fourth movements. The Augér recording is, IMO, the best. Ameling has her fans because of her floating high Cs, but overall I find Auger more musical and certainly more thrilling at the end.

Doug Cowling wrote (July 11, 2005):
BWV 76 - Bass Cadenza

Peter Bright wrote:
< The cantata for discussion this week (11 July to 17 July-) is: Cantata BWV 76 >
I was wondering the bass aria, "Fahr' HIn" might be one of those rare occasions when Bach expected the soloist to provide a cadenza. This aria looks very much like a typical Händel oratorio aria with not one but two points where there looks to be an invitation to improvise:

1) the Adagio following the fermata at "er ist das Licht"

2) the fermata at end of the vocal part which even provides an upwards flourish,

The Leusink recording [11] does it straight. Do any of the other reoordings insert adenzas? And do we have any insight into Bach's general avoidance of cadenzas in the vocal works?

Thomas Braatz wrote (July 11, 2005):
Doug Cowling wrote:
>>I am intrigued by Bach's use of a single coloratura trumpet rather than the more familiar 3 trumpets with timpani ensemble. "Herz und Mund" (BWV 147) is a notable example with a superb trumpet part. Are there any other cantatas which treat the trumpet as an obligato instrument? The Brandenburgs are another alebit secular example.<<
Here is the complete list for mvts. with a single trumpet with some of the choral mvts. also having superb coloratura trumpet parts:

BWV 5/1,5,7 bass aria
BWV 20/1,7,8,11 another bass aria
BWV 51/1,5 (with soprano)
BWV 66/1,6 (choruses only)
BWV 70/1,2,7,9,10,11 (2 bass recitatives+aria
BWV 70a/1,5,6 another bass aria
BWV 75/6,12 another bass aria
BWV 76/1,5,7,14 another bass aria
BWV 77/1,5/6 an alto aria
BWV 90/3,(5?) another bass aria
BWV 127/1,4,5 another bass aria
BWV 128/3 another bass aria
BWV 145/1,3/5 another bass aria(3)
BWV 147/1,6,9,10 another bass aria
BWV 147a/1 & 4 another bass aria
BWV 148/1 (Clarino w/Chorus)
BWV 181/5 (w/Chorus)
BWV 1047/1,3 Brandenburg #2

Thomas Braatz wrote (July 11, 2005):
Doug Cowling wrote:
>>I was wondering the bass aria, "Fahr' HIn" might be one of those rare occasions when Bach expected the soloist to provide a cadenza...And do we have any insight into BAch's general avoidance of cadenzas in the vocal works?<<
Birnbaum's response to Scheibe's criticism [NBR p. 346-347] should always be kept foremost in mind before confusing Handel's operatic arias (and performance practices thereof) with Bach's sacred arias. The 'method' being referred to is the one that allowed soloists various freedoms in supplying coloraturas and cadenzas beyond what was indicated on the score/part. It is quite clear from the Birnbaum/Scheibe exchange, that Bach was extremely careful in supplying according to his own impeccable good taste in music what the soloist should sing (or play) rather than leaving it up to the individual artist (even some with big names interested only in glorifying themselves) to improvise less tastefully the additional notes 'according to the method.' Scheibe complains that Bach writes down "every ornament, every little grace note, and everything that one thinks of as belonging to the method...." Birnbaum responds with: "Only the fewest [of singers and instrumentalists] have a sufficient knowledge, and the rest, by an inappropriate application of the manner, spoil the principal melody and indeed often introduce such passages as might easily be attributed, by those who do not know the true state of affairs, to an error of the composer. Therefore every composer [including Ba] is entitled to set the wanderers back on the right path by prescribing a correct method according to his intentions and thus to watch over the preservation of his own honor."

Read also on Aryeh's site the discussion of 'fermata' at:

In Koopman's comments given on this page, he hints at the possibility of providing cadenzas on certain notes under a fermata, but in all of his recorded cantatas that I have heard thus far, I can not remember a single instance of this. (I almost always listen with the complete score in hand.)

Neil Halliday wrote (July 13, 2005):
BWV 76

Richter [5] has caught my attention over the entire length of this cantata.

1. The opening chorus, while it suffers from the employment of the full bass section instead of the bass soloist at the start and ignores the division between `soli' and `tutti' at the start of the fugue, has a lively tempo that generates considerable excitement. Yes, there is some muddiness in parts of the large choir at this relatively fast speed, but when the trumpet returns near the end, we have pure exhilaration.

Rilling [6] gives a more leisurely, spacious performance with clearer delineation of the vocal lines, and has the added interest of the OVPP section leading into the sound of the full choir, in the fugue.

Harnoncourt [7] perhaps has the best tempo, midway between Richter and Rilling, but this early HIP performance has many drawbacks.

Werner's orchestra [3] sounds impressive at the start in a slow tempo, but the task of recording the large choir in a cavernous acoustic seems to have defeated the recording engineers.

From here on Richter excels in every movement.

His recitatives, accompanied and secco, are all a pleasure to hear; the varied and imaginative organ registrations turn the humblest secco recitative into interesting music.

3. His soprano aria exudes sweetness, with expressive solo violin and sensitive, gorgeous continuo organ, and Mathis avoiding excessively piercing vibrato.

Werner [3] has a lovely chamber-like version for violin, cello and harpsichord; Reichelt's vibrato is acceptable.

Rilling/Auger [6] seem brisk and straightforward, un-involving; and Harnoncourt [7] chops the aria up into little bits.

5. Werner's bass aria [3] is incredibly well-recorded, for any time never lone 1959. The echo of the acoustic, as in a large hall, is realistic; Kelch's big voice, the brilliant trumpet, and vivid strings are most impressive. Note a sweet phrase on the upper strings that accompanies the melisma on "verehren" (second time). The modulations onto the chords with fermatas are very pleasing in their impact; I feel that Bach has already written plenty of `cadenza' into the music at these points with the short adagio which follows (1st time) and triplet semi flourish (2nd time). (Cadenzas often end up being boring anyway!).

Richter/Moll is just about as impressive, as is Rilling [6]. The instruments sound primitive in Harnoncourt [7], if this is what he was aiming for!

6. Topper's secco recitative is very attractive; and both Richter and Werner [3] prove that the current division of recitative into `accompanied' and `secco' is artificial, because they are both every bit as interesting in the latter as in the former (which Bach wrote out in full).

7. Richter's chorale is big, brassy and glorious, with magnificent choral sound. Werner's ensemble [3] is soft and lacks focus. Rilling [6] captures the grandeur of this chorale. Harnoncourt's ensemble [7] has a rough-edged timbre, with a machine-like motion.

8. All of the recordings are a joy in the instrumental sinfonia, for oboe, viola d.g. and continuo.

10. The "hate" aria is a powerful creation, with some remarkable melismas; those on "umfassen" are long, elaborate and especially melodious. (There is also one on "hasse" - a rising and falling scale ending with two demisemi's - which all the tenors appear to have trouble nailing).

Richter's accompaniment with full organ and punchy bass in the continuo might at first sound too big, but Schreier has sufficient power to effect a balance with the instruments, resulting in an exciting and very impressive performance of this aria.

Harnoncourt [7] is a pleasant surprise, almost imitating Richter with the degree of development of the organ part and hence in the overall effectiveness of this continuo aria. Unusually for a HIP performance, a variety of stops are employed; and Equiluz brings plenty of passion to the part. A direct comparison with Suzuki [10] (web-sample) shows the importance of an effective continuo; Suzuki's continuo lacks impact and has none of the style and sparkle of Harnoncourt's continuo, in this aria.

Krebs with Werner [3] sounds too gentlemanly, nevertheless this is a pleasant sounding performance with just cello and harpsichord in the continuo.

Kraus with Rilling [6] has a hard-edged vibrato at times, but the main problem is the small, raspy timbre of the portable organ and its annoyingly noisy pallet action.

12. Topper (with Werner [3]) and Reynolds (with Richter) are both very moving in slow tempo versions of the alto aria (but sometimes I become aware of Topper's vibrato). Esswood with Harnoncourt [7] is pleasing - this movement, along with the tenor aria and sinfonia, are my favourites from Harnoncourt's recording of BWV 76.

Rilling [6] has a bassoon only in the continuo (with harpsichord) - very nice, but the tempo is a little brisk, and Watts does have a hard-edge to her voice.

14. And finally, back to that glorious Richter chorale.


Random movement comments

Chris Kern wrote (May 31, 2006):
These are just a few comments on some specific movements of cantatas I've been enjoying lately:

1. BWV 76, movement 1, Suzuki

I just love the fugue in the second part of this. The first time I heard the subject I thought it seemed too long but of course Bach shows he has no difficulty with it. The way he uses it is so joyful and well done that it overcame my doubt. Also hearing the combination of Midori Suzuki, Robin Blaze, Gerd Turk, and Chiyuki Urano is great.
(But I actually like the Leusink and Harnoncourt versions of the fugue as well...)

2. BWV 46, movement 1, Leonhardt

Leonhardt's fugue of this movement is excellent -- somehow when the boys first enter with the initial subject of the fugue it has an almost haunting effect.

3. BWV 131, movement 4, Herreweghe

Herreweghe made the unusual decision to use a lute for this cantata, and it works especially well in the tenor aria.

4. BWV 131, movement 3, Suzuki

The fugue is done by far the best by Suzuki -- the soprano entries are powerful, and the oboe playing is exceptional.

5. BWV 75, the choral movements, Suzuki

Suzuki seems to be the best of the HiP crowd at conducting choral movements; this might be because he has actual experience with church singing.


Trinity II cantatas - BWV 2, BWV 76

Bruce Simonson wrote (May 13, 2011):
Basic links of interest, scorewise:

Facsimiles online:

BWV 2:

BWV 76:

Scores via :


BWV 76 (missing pg 31)

While looking at the scores for Trinity 2 cantatas, I found that the V&P for BWV 76 is missing page 31. I will figure out how to get my copy of this page to Aryeh.

PS: Dunno if this is of much interest to others, but I do like to check these things out myself, particularly when contemplating a performance. Or thinking deeply about them.

Ed Myskowski wrote (May 13, 2011):
Bruce Simonson wrote:
< Basic links of interest, scorewise: >
A couple more, for the chorale melodies:

BWV 76:

BWV 2:

Aryeh Oron wrote (May 14, 2011):
[To Bruce Simonson] Thanks for the input.
I have links to the Facsimile pages on Bach Digital website at the pages of Cantatas BWV 2, BWV 76 and several others.
The missing page was inserted at the PDF V&P Score of Cantata BWV 76.



Continue on Part 3

Cantata BWV 76: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

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