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Cantata BWV 79
Gott der Herr ist Sonn und Schild
Discussions - Part 4

Continue from Part 3

Discussions in the Week of March 24, 2013 (3rd round)

William Hoffman wrote (March 23, 2013):
Cantata 79: Reformation music, chorales

A veritable gold mine of music of praise and thanksgiving is found in works Bach performed with associations to the Reformation Festival, as well as links to celebratory music for weddings, town council installations, New Year's and Michael feasts, Trinity Sunday Festival, and special services. Of particular note is Bach's only Reformationfest work with a certain performance date, of 1725, Cantata 79, "Gott der Herr ist Sonn und Schild," as well as two pure-hymn chorale cantatas, BWV 129, "Gelobet sei der Herr, mein Gott," and BWV 192 "Nun danket alle Gott."

Cantata BWV 79, "Gott der Herr ist Sonn und Schild" (God the Lord is Sun and shield) of contains two plain chorales: No. 3, Martin Rinckart "Nun danket alle Gott" (Now all thank God); and No. 6, Helmbold, Nun laßt uns Gott uns Gott dem Herren; S. 8; "Erhalt uns in die Wahrheit" (Keep us in the truth). Cantata 79 Details, BCW, with the John Elliot Gardiner Linear Notes, Recordings, No. 14 (pdf).

Rinckart 1636, three-stanza "Nun danket alle Gott" is found in "Das Neu Leipziger Gesangbuch" (NLGB) 1682, No. 238, "Christian Life and Conduct," also in "Das Evangelische Kirchengesangbuch (EKG)," with the melody attributed to Rinckart and adapted by Johann Crüger, 1647. See
+"Nun danket alle Gott," Wikipedia,;
+Three-stanza text and Francis Browne's English translation at BCW,;
+Rinckart BCW Short Biography,; and
+Crüger BCW Short Biography,

"Nun danket alle Gott" is the most ubiquitous and versatile of all Lutheran hymns. It is found in all German hymnals and is a general sacred song of thanksgiving and praise, often called the "German Te Deum." Its text can be dated to the centennial of Philipp Melanchthon's Augsburg Confession that was celebrated in Saxony on June 25-27, 1630. For this anniversary, Rinckart wrote four sacred plays, entitled "Lutherus augustus," parodying biblical passages. "One of these was on Sirach 50:22-24, which is the first stanza of Nun danket alle Gott," says Anne Leahy in "JSB's Leipzig Chorale Preludes" (Great 18; Scarecrow Press, 2011: 109). The full-three stanza text probably was published in 1636 just before the plague at Eilenberg where Rinckart was Archdeacon. The full text with music was published in 1647 by Johann Crüger (Praxis Pietatis Melica, Berlin) for the peace of the Thirty Years War.

Stanza 1 is an expression of thanks to God:
"Now all thank God
with heart, mouth and hands;
He does great things
for us and all our purposes;
He for us from our mother's womb
and childish steps
countless great good
has done and still continues to do."

Rinckart's Stanza 1 paraphrases Sirach 50:22-24:
"And now, bless the God of all,
who has done wondrous things on earth;
Who fosters people's growth from their mother's womb,
and fashions them according to his will!
23 May he grant you joy of heart
and may peace abide among you;
24 May his goodness toward us endure in Israel to deliver us in our days."
[New American Bible]

Rinckart in Stanza 1 also drew on Sirach 39:35 (KJV): "And therefore praise ye the Lord with the whole heart and mouth, and bless the name of the Lord," says Leahy (Ibid.: 118, FN 4).

Stanza 2 "continues with the theme of God's goodness," says Leahy (Ibid.: 110):

"May God who is forever rich
be willing to give us in our life
a heart that is always joyful
and noble peace
and in his mercy
maintain us for ever and ever
and free us from all distress
here and there (both on earth and in heaven)."

The reference to delivering humanity from "all distress" is from Palm 25:22 (NIV): "Deliver Israel, O God, from all their troubles!"

"Stanza 3 is a doxology" . . . :

"Glory, honour and praise be to God,
to the Father and to the Son
and to Him, who is equal to both
on heaven's high throne,
to the triune God,
as he was from the beginning
and is and will remain
now and forever."

" . . . with the important reference to Revelation 4:8b (KJV): "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come."

The "implicit reference to salvation," says Leahy, reflects "important eschatological issues," particularly with the use of "Nun danket alle Gott" that closed the Leipzig Good Friday Vespers after one of Bach's Passions was performed. John Butt's new recording (Linn CKD419) of the "St. John Passion," BWV 245, uses the liturgical Vespers music, including the NLGB SATB setting (No. 238), particularly appropriate for the Christus Victor emphasis of Evangelist John [see Butt's recording notes:].

In this Passion context,
After a reading of Isaiah 53:527 (which was probably rather a cantilation of the text), echoing the "peace" that was mentioned in the two most recent musical pieces, the congregation concluded with the hymn Nun danket alle Gott ("Now thank you all our God"), a popular thanksgiving hymn from the seventeenth century. Similar to the Te Deum, which it sometimes replaced or complemented during liturgies in Leipzig and other places,28 Nun danket alle Gott was a hymn universally used to thank God. It could be employed in the intimate liturgical settings of Matins, in a regular Sunday morning service, or to celebrate victory in a battle.29 Like the hymn before the sermon, Herr Jesu Christ, dich zu uns wend, the song was not specifically associated with the passion. However, in this context it is a thanksgiving hymn for the dying of the just, and for the salvation that comes through the death of Jesus. ["Johann Sebastian Bach's St. John Passion from 1725:
A Liturgical Interpretation," MARKUS RATHEY;

'Nun danket' Uses

"Nun danket alle Gott" "was used on any occasion of Thanksgiving and praise in the Lutheran Liturgy, says Leahy (Ibid.), citing Günther Stiller's JSB and Liturgical Life in Leipzig (Concordia: St. Louis MO, 1985). Bach observed this in his various settings of the Reformation chorale. It was sung along with the Te Deum at festival services for St. Michael, Reformation, and New Year's Day (Ibid.: 81, 248, 236); the Sundays and festival day Vespers following the Magnificat (Ibid.: 258), and after the closing Benediction in weddings
(Ibid.: 94), and possibly at the Trinity Sunday Festival closing the <de tempore> first half of the church year.

For these sacred occasions, Bach composed plain chorale BWV 386 in A Major for general use; plain chorale BWV 79/3 with two obligatti horns and timpani in G Major for the Reformationfest; the "Great 18" organ chorale BWV 657(a) in G Major (composed in Weimar), as the main service prelude or postlude and the Good Friday Vespers postlude (see Butt Recording Notes above); and the wedding chorale, BWV 252, with obligatti horns in G Major).

The plain chorale and the organ chorale settings, BWV 386 and 657, are found in the Hänssler Bach Akademie 2000 complete recordings, Book of Chorale Settings, V. 83, Thanks and Praise). Organ chorale BWV 657 "is both a splendid exercise in the Pachelbel form and a jubilant musical expression of the triumphant hymn," says Charles Sanford Terry, Bach Chorals. Part III: The Hymns and Hymn Melodies of the Organ Works (Cambridge University Press, 1915-1921). 3 vols. Vol. 3 (Online Library of Liberty).

Other Cantata 79 Chorale

Cantata 79, "Gott der Herr ist Sonn und Schild," closes with Bach's plain chorale setting of Ludwig Helmbold's 1575 8-stanza "Nun laßt uns Gott uns Gott dem Herren (Now let us to God the Lord) (NLGB No. 222 Communion), S. 8; "Erhalt uns in die Wahrheit" (Keep us in the truth). Bach's two other uses, as plain chorales in Trinity Sunday Festival cantatas, are in BWV 165/6 closing chorale with Helmbold text, Stanza 6, "Sein Wort, sein tauf, sein Nachtmahl" (His Word, His Baptism, His Communion), and BWV 194/12, closing chorale with Paul Gerhardt 1647 text No. 2, "Wach auf, mein Herz und singe (Wake up, me heart, and sing, NLGB 553), stanzas 9 and 10.
See text and Francis Browne BCW English translation, The melody composer is Nikolaus Selnecker (1587), Zahn melody 159, EKG 348 (Morning Song). Melody and associated texts, see BCW, (Text No. 1).

The other Bach use of "Nun laßt uns Gott uns Gott dem Herren is the plain chorale BWV 165/6 in G Major, "O heiliges Geist- und Wasserbad, (O sacred bath of water and spirit), for Trinity Sunday 1715, Salomo Franck text (S. 6), "Sein Wort, sein Tauf, sein Nachtmahl" (His word, his baptism, his supper).

Cantata 79 is the only Reformationfest work to be exactly dated, to October 31, 1725, when, ironically, Bach during Trinity Time in the second half of 1725 temporarily ceased regular cantata production. Instead, he probably only reperformed two Weimar cantatas, BWV 168 (Trinity 9) and 164 (Trinity 13), and premiered Town Council Cantata, "Wünschet Jerusalem Glück" (Wished-for Jerusalem fortune), BWV Anh. 4 (now lost), on August 27.

Estate Division & Special Uses

In the Bach vocal works estate division of 1750, Carl Philipp Emmanuel inherited both the Cantata 79 original score and the parts set. Thomas Braatz' BCW Provenance article is found at Cantata 79 was first performed on the Reformationfest, October 31, 1725, with a repeat performance probably on the same date in 1730, the year of the bicentennial of the Augsburg Confession, June 25-27. The Cantata 79 autograph listing is found in Emmanuel's 1790 estate catalog on Page 71 near the beginning of Sebastian's manuscripts of works not part of the three cantata cycles listed in order from the First Sunday in Advent to the 18th Sunday after Trinity, including the major Marian Festivals interspersed, between Pages 74 and 81. The non-cycle vocal works listed include the Christmas and Passion oratorios of John and Matthew as well as the Kyrie-Gloria Masses, BWV 233-36, Town Council Cantatas 71 and 29, "Per ogni tempo" Cantata 21, and various secular cantatas and Latin church music.

The estate division of the other cantatas designated on the title page for the Reformationfest shows that oldest son Friedemann apparently had access to the music of Cantata 80 in Dresden where he was the organist at the Sophienkirche from 1733 to 1746. During that time Friedemann probably presented his Latin version of the opening chorale fantasia, Gaudet, omnes populi," and the chorale chorus setting of Mvt. 5, "Manebit verbum Domini," both with three added trumpets and timpani. Three copies of Cantata 80 exist from the second half of the 18th century. Two other cantatas are linked to possible Friedemann performances: Trinity Cantata 194 for a Halle feast day (1746-67), and Cantata 192, for the Dresden peace celebration, January 9, 1746.

"As to a special Thanksgiving service, Bach had presented other works for similar special celebrations of either Lutheran observance or the Saxon Court. There is the three-day festival for Observance of the 200th Anniversary of the Augsburg Confession, June 26-28, 1730, with parodies of Town-Council cantatas BWV 190a, 120a, and Anh. 4a. Later, was the Festive Service of Allegiance to August III, April 21, 1733, at the Leipzig Thomas Church, possibly with BWV 232I, Kyrie-Gloria; and a Thanksgiving Service for the War of Polish Succession, July 6, 1734, at the Leipzig Nikolas Church, possibly with BWV 248a, later parodied as BWV 248VI for Epiphany 1735. Christmas Cantata BWV 191 was his last documented Thanksgiving Service, in the mid-1740s, although he still did the annual service for the Installation of the Town Council in late August, as an acknowledgement of gratitude towards immediate, temporal authority. There are reperformances of three annual Town Council cantatas in Bach's final years: BWV 137, 69, and 29, on 25 August 1749." [William Hoffman wrote (March 13, 2009); BWV 191, Fugitive Notes; BCW]

Altnikol Connection

Of the other Bach cantatas possibly associated with Reformationfest performances, Cantata 192, "Nun danket alle Gott, carries no designation in the surviving parts set but probably was inherited by Friedemann (score lost); Trinity Festival chorale Cantata 129 was divided between Friedemann (score lost) and Anna Magdalena (parts set); Emmanuel inherited all the Cycle 1 Cantata 194 materials; Trinity Cantata 76II parts set apparently was inherited by Friedemann; and Christmas Cycle 1 Cantata 63 was divided between Friedemann (score lost) and Emmanuel (parts set).

Bach student and son-in-law Johann Christoph Altnikol (1720-59) copied the final version of Cantata 80 during his time in Leipzig (1744-48) or later. Altnikol compose his own motet (SSATB) setting, "Nun danket alle Gott," BWV Anh. 164 (c.1748). It opens with a setting of Sirach 50:22-24, on which Stanza 1 of Rinckart's "Nun danlet alle Gott" is based (see above). It closes with Sebastian's plain chorale setting of Stanza 3, "Lob, Herr, und Preis sei Gott" (Laud, honor and praise be to God), BWV 386, transposed from to G Major from the original A Major. Altnikol married Bach daughter Elisabeth Juliane Friedrike (1726-81) in 1749 and it is quite possible that he composed the motet for their wedding, using Sebastian's plain chorale setting.

Altnikol also made an incomplete study copy of the St. Matthew Passion and assembled the Pasticcio Passion Oratorio after Carl Heinrich Graun, "Wer ist der, so von Edom kömmt" (Who is he that from Eden comes), BCW Discussion, Week of March 31, 2013; BWV 1088, Passions-Pasticcio, Good Friday ( 1743-48; BCW

Other Possible Reformationfest Performances

Other cantatas were temporarily linked to possible Reformationfest perfromances:

1726 -- ?Cantata BWV 129 "Gelobet sei der Herr, mein Gott" (Praise be to the Lord, my God; chorale) has quite a history as a Trinity Sunday Festival work, and was repeated 1732-5, c.1743-46, and ?1744-47. It also was performed on June 8, 1727 (Trinity Sunday), according to libretto text book, Tatiana Shabalina, "Text zur Musik," BJ 2008). Details, BCW It is a chorale cantata per omnes versus (Zacharias Canticle, NLGB No. 150); "O Gott, du frommer Gott" - Melody 3, set to Johann Olearius (1665), 5 stanzas hymn (not in NLGB). Text and Francis Browne English translation, BCW, Chorale Melody: O Gott, du frommer Gott - Melody 3 | Composer: Ahasverus Fritsch (1679); Zahn: 5206b | EKG: 461

1727 - no performance, mourning period, Saxon Princess Christine Eberhardine

(1728-1731) - Cantata BWV 80b, "Ein' feste Burg ist unser Gott" (2nd version, BWV 80) without opening chorale fantasia setting of S. 1, beginning with plain chorale followed by No. 2 bass aria "Alles was von Gott geboren," Cantata 80a, with soprano singing S. 2. Published in the NBA IV/31: 67, the chorale is in alle breve, motet style, D Major, SATB with col legno violin 1 and oboe, violin 2, viola, and continuo.

1730 -- Cantata BWV 79 Gott der Herr ist Sonn und Schild (2nd performance, Leipzig)

?1730 - Cantata BWV 192 "Nun danket alle Gott" (Now all thank God) (1st performance, Leipzig; incomplete); chorale cantata (NLGB 238);
Details, BCW; BCW Discussion 2,, William Hoffman wrote (July 27, 2008): Intro to BWV 192: Fugitive Notes

Pure-hymn Cantata BWV 192 is dated to 1730, based primarily on the surviving parts from copyist Johann Ludwig Krebs, who did similar work for Cantata BWV 51 for the Fifteen Sunday after Trinity, on September 17. Because of the proximity of the date of the latter and the former's hymn for Reformation Day Festival, BWV 192 is often dated to October 31, 1730. It is possible that Bach presented an intermediate version of Cantata BWV 80, "Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott," for Reformation Day, either alone or on a double bill with Cantata BWV 192.

Cantata 192 will be the BCW weekly Discussion 3 on June 30, 2013.

"As to the issue of Cantata BWV 192 written for a wedding, it is known that Bach may have written several other wedding cantatas in 1729-30, including BWV 120a, BWV Anh. 211, BWV Anh. 212, and BWV 202, as well as the wedding chorales, BWV 250-252. During the period 1729-35, Bach also composed three other pure-hymn cantatas associated with weddings: BWV 117, BWV 100 and BWV 97. The Bach Compendium considers these three and BWV 192 for unspecified occasions."

c.1734 - Johann Friedrich Fasch (1688-1758) Cantata "Welt und Teufel, tobt ihr noch?" Fwv D:W 2 (World and devils, rage ye yet?) (source "Andreas Glöckner, "Neuekenntnisse zu JSBs Auffurungskalendar (1729-35), BJ 1981: 68).

1735-36 - no Gottfried Heinrich Stözel Reformation cantatas listed in Benjamin Schmolck l"String" or "Names of Christ" cycles that Bach presented in Leipzig. It is possible that Stözel was not required to present Reformationfest cantatas in Gotha.

(1735-1740) - Cantata BWV 80 Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott (3rd/Final version with opening chorale fantasia instead of plain chorale, BWV 80b, Leipzig).

Telemann festive works

Bach contemporary colleague, Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767,) apparently composed only a few cantatas with Reformation associations and often not part of cantata cycles. It is assumed that no music was required for the Reformationfest, October 31, in Hamburg or Frankfurt, where Telemann was employed. Cantatas with Reformation connections include:

Chorale Cantatas
01: 419 Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott Basse solo avec violon et continuo (Michaelfest, nd)
01: 420 Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott SATB avec 3 clairons, timbales, 2 violons, alto et continuo (Trinity 18, SATB, 3 trumpets, timpani, strings, continuo)
Cantates pour la fête de l'action de graces
(01:1165 Nun danket alle Gott, 1756 cycle, New Years, lost)
01:1166 Nun danket alle Gott SATB avec flûte traversière, 2 clairons, timbales, 2 violons, alto, violoncelle et continuo ("tempore Messis": 1. Chorus, chorale.
[Telemann TVWV Catalogue, Diverse Sacred Cantatas,]

In addition is the Telemann motet/cantata "Der Herr ist König" (The Lord is King), TVWV 8:6, probably performed by Bach c.1724-25, possibly for the Reformation Festival, October 31, 1724; Easter Sunday, April 1, 1725; or the Town Council Installation, August 28, 1724. The Reformationfest is a strong possibility since the closing chorale, No. 9, is a setting of "Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott," Stanza 2, "Mit unsre Macht," and the text is associated with Revelation 14:7a (the "eternal gospel" of Reformation Day): "Fear God, and give glory to him" (KJV).

Other special Reformation anniversary festivals in Leipzig:

1730, June 25-27, 200th anniversary, Augsburg Confession (Philipp Melanchthon)

June 25 (St. Nicholas): Cantata BWV 190a, "Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied," Nos. 1-4, 5-7
Chorales: No. 2 Luther "Herr Gott, dich loben wir" (Lord God, we praise Thee, German Te Deum) with interpolated recitative between the four lines; Luther "Es woll uns Gott genädig sein" (May God be gracious to us) S. 3, "Es danke Gott und lobe dich" (Now thank, O God, and praise The)

June 26 (St. Thomas): Cantata BWV 120b "Gott, man lobet dich in die Stille" (God, one praises Thee in the stillness): 1-2, 3-6; chorale, Luther "Komm Heiliger Geist, Herre Gott" (Come, Holy Spirit, Lord God); S. 3 "Du heilige Brunst, süsser Trost," (O thou holy flame, comfort sweet)

June 27 (St. Nicholas): Cantata BWV Anh. 4a, "Wünschet Jeusalem Glück"
Chorale Luther "Ach bleib bei uns, Herr Jesu Christ" (Oh, bide with us, Lord Jesus Christ)

Details: William Hoffman wrote (August 19, 2009): BWV 190: Praise & Thanksgiving

1739, ?October 31; introduction of the Reformation in Leipzig, 200th anniversary, no music found.


Available musical settings of "Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott," include Hans Leo Hassler, Samuel Scheidt, and Melchior Franck. Available musical settings of "Nun danket alle Gott" include organ chorales of Dietrich Buxtehude and J. C. Kellner, as well as Paul Gerhardt's 1647 9-stanza setting of "Nun danket all und bringet Her" (melody, Johann Crüger 1653; Sirach 50:24, EKG 322), set by Bach as a plain chorale to close Wedding Cantata BWV 195 (BCW Discussion, Week of May 12, 2013).

Linda Gingrich wrote (March 25, 2013):
Intro to BWV 79

This week's cantata discussion focuses on BWV 79, "Gott der Herr is Sonn und Schild," (God, the Lord, is Sun and Shield), another of the cantatas for Reformation Sunday. Will provided a wealth of details yesterday, on the cantata and the two chorales, so no need to repeat them. Simply see the web site at: , and Julian Mincham's analysis at: for more information.

The opening movement is grand and powerful, with an unusually long introductory sinfonia; the orchestra plays an important role through the horn theme and the string/oboe fugue subject. The sheer size and import reminds me of the opening movement to BWV 78, "Jesu, der du meine Seele," but at the opposite end of the emotional spectrum. The return of the horn theme in the third movement, spun out against the first chorale, "Nun danket alle Gott," also makes me think of the fifth movement of BWV 10 and the "Suscepit Israel" of the Magnificat, where the chorale melody sounds in the trumpet against vocal counterpoint. Except in BWV 79 it is the chorus that sounds the chorale against the horn theme.

There is another interesting comparison with Cantata BWV 78 which I spotted in Julian's commentary. He points to the three-note falling motive in the first-movement horns in the beginning of the second measure, and notes that this is a version of Schweitzer's "joy" motive. Schweitzer also labels an important instrumental theme in Cantata BWV 78's opening movement a "joy" motive.

Does anyone else see these or other cross-cantata connections?

Dürr suggests a possible break after movement three for the sermon. I believe the overall key scheme may support this idea; at the least it delineates a central break in the work. The cantata moves from G major (1st number) to D major (2nd number) to G major (3rd number), while the second half plunges into minor keys-E minor (4th number), B minor (5th number), then back to G for the final chorale setting. There is also a clear change of emotone between the two halves of the work. Suzuki's liner notes state that Nun danket alle Gott was traditionally sung after the sermon on Reformation Sunday in Leipzig. It's interesting to speculate whether the congregation may have heard Nun danket in the cantata, then the sermon, then joined in singing Nun danket afterward!

Finally, Gardiner rather playfully hears a reference to Luther in the first movement's pounding drums (Luther nailing the 95 theses to the church door), and in the warning about the Lästerhund (blasphemous dog) at the end of the second movement (Luther swore he threw a dog out of the window of Wartburg prison because he thought it was the devil in disguise)! Another commentator hears battle sounds in the first movement orchestra. Overly fanciful, or does anyone else see Luther, battle or other imaginative images in Bach's setting?

Some years later Bach set first, second and fifth movement music to Latin texts in his Missa in G, BWV 236, and Missa in A, BWV 234. I don't know those masses, so I'd like to hear from someone how they compare to his

Julian Mincham wrote (March 25, 2013):
[To Linda Gingrich] It is a very fine work. I first heard the opening movement as a teenager from an LP by E Power Biggs who had arranged and popularised it in a version for trumpets and organ.

Sadly there seems not to be much point in discussing it here. This chat line seems to have lost its vigour of a few years ago and the weekly cantatas are never discussed nowadays aside from Will's monumental background essays.

Well we did at least try with BWV 80 last week.

Linda Gingrich wrote (March 25, 2013):
[To Julian Mincham] I would be glad to hear comparisons of recordings. I didn't have time this week to do any comparing, but I'd love to hear insights from others on the list regarding recorded performances.


Continue on Part 5

Cantata BWV 79: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

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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