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Cantata BWV 86
Wahrlich, wahrlich, ich sage euch
Discussions - Part 2

Continue from Part 1

Discussions in the Week of April 23, 2006 (2nd round)

Douglas Cowling wrote (April 23, 2006):
Week of April 23: Cantata 86

Week of April 23, 2006

Cantata 86, “Wahrlich, wahrlich, ice sage euch”

1st performance: May 14, 1724 - Leipzig

First Annual Cantata Cycle, 1723-24 (Jahrgang I)

Previous Sunday in 1724 (Cantate Sunday)
Cantata BWV 166, “Wohin gehest du hin?”
Next Thursday in 1724: (Ascension Day)
Cantata BWV 37, “Wer da gläubet”
Next Sunday in 1724: (Exaudi Sunday):
Cantata BWV 44: “Sie werden euch”

John 16: 23 (Mvt. 1)
Georg Grünwald (Mvt. 3)
Paul Speratus (Mvt. 6)
Anon (Mvts. 2, 4, 5)


English Translation:

Other translations:

Movements & Scoring:

Mvt. 1: Arioso
“Wahrlich, wahrlich, ich sage euch”
Soloists: Bass
Instruments: 2 Vn, Va, Bc

Mvt. 2: Aria
“Ich will doch wohl Rosen brechen”
Soloists: Alto
Instrumentss: Vns, Bc

Mvt. 3: Chorale
“Und was der ewig gültig Gott”
Soloists: Soprano
Instruments: 2 Oda, Bc

Mvt. 4: Recitative
“Gott macht es nicht gleichwie die Welt"
Soloists: Tenor
Instruments: Bc

Mvt. 5: Aria
“Gott hilft gewiss”
Soloists: Tenor
Instruments: 2 Vn, Va, Bc

Mvt. 6: Chorale
“Die Hoffnung wart' der rechten Zeit”
Choir: SATB
Instruments: NS

Liturgical Comments:

Written for the Fifth Sunday after Easter, Rogate Sunday. Unlike the other post-Easter Sundays, the Fifth Sunday does not take its name from the Latin introit. Rather it comes from the pre-Reformation procession with prayers for crops, hence “Rogate” (= pray). Known in English as Rogationtide. Ascension Day, when a cantata was required, falls on the Thursday of this week.

Other Cantatas written for Rogate Sunday:
BWV 87 Bisher habt ihr nichts gebeten in meinem Namen (Leipzig, 1725)

The orders for Mass and Vespers can be found in an appendix at the end of this posting. Extracted from Wolff.

Texts of Readings:
Epistle: James. 1: 22-27; Gospel: John 16: 23-30

Introduction to Lutheran Church Year:

Piano Vocal Score: (free PDF download)


Music (free streaming download):

“Kommt her zu mir, spricht Gottes Sohn”
“Es ist das Heil uns kommen her”


Previous Discussion:

Performances of Bach Cantatas:

Order of Discusssion (2006)


ORDER OF SUNDAY & HOLYDAY MASS (Amt) - 7:00 -10:00 am

1. Choir: Hymn in figural or polyphonic setting
2. Organ: Prelude introducing Introit
3. Choir: Introit Motet in figural or polyphomic setting

4. Organ: Prelude introducing Kyrie
5. Choir: Kyrie in figural setting
6. Choir: Gloria in figural setting (minister sings intonation from altar)

7. Minister & Altar Singers (lower form boys):
Salutation & Collect (Prayer of Day) sung from altar
8. Minister: Epistle sung from altar steps

9. Organ: Prelude introduing Hymn
10. Congregation: Hymn of Season (de tempore)
11. Minister & Altar Singers: Gospel with responses sung from altar steps

12. Organ: Prelude introducing cantata
13. Choir: First Cantata

14. Choir:: Credo sung in chorale setting, minister intones from altar steps
15. Organ: Prelude introducing Wir Glauben
16. Congregation: Wir Glauben All (German Credo)

17. Minister: Spoken annoucement of Sermon from altar
18. Organ: Prelude introducing hymn
19. Congregation: Hymn
20. Minister: Text of Sermon & Lord’s Prayer from pulpit
21. Minister: Sermon (8:00 a.m., 1 hour)
22. Minister: Prayers, Announcments & Benediction from pulpit

23. Organ: Prelude introducing hymn
24. Congregation Hymn
25. Mnister & Altar Singers: Preface in Latin from altar
26. Choir: Sanctus in figural setting (without Osanna or Benedictus)
27. Minister: spoken Communion admoniton, Words of Institution
28. Congregation: Distribution of Communion at altar steps

29. Organ: Prelude introducting Communion Cantata
30. Choir: Second Cantata

31. Organ: Prelude introducing hymn
32. Congregation: Hymn during Communion
33. Minister & Altar Singers: Collect with responses sung from altar
34. Minister: spoken Benediction

35. Organ: Prelude introducing Hymn
36. Congregation: Hymn
36. Choir: Hymn in figural setting (festal days)


1. Organ: Prelude introducing Hymn
2. Choir: Hymn in figural setting

3. Choir: Cantata (repeated from morning)

4. Organ: Prelude introducing Hymn
5. Congregation: Hymn
6. Minister & Altar Singers: Psalm
7. Minister: Lord’s Prayer from altar steps

8. Organ: Prelude introducing hymn
9. Congregation: Hymn

10. Minister: Annoucement of Sermon from pulpit
11. Congregation: Hymn
12. Minister: Sermon from pulpit
[13. Choir: Passion or narrativer oratorio, no cantata]
14. Minister: spoken Prayers, Collect & Benediction from pulpit

15. Organ: Prelude introducing Magnificat
16. Choir: LatinMagnificat in figural setting
17. Congregation: German Magnificat Hymn (Meine Seele)

18. Minister: spoken Responsary, Collect & Benediction from altar
19. Congregation: Hymn ­ Nun Danket Alle Gott

Peter Smaill wrote (April 23, 2006):
BWV 86, "Wahrlich, wahrlich ich sage euch!" is, in its opening Bass representation of Jesus, a fine example of the tendency in Bach to rise to the most theologically significant texts with a vocal line of exceptional declamatory beauty.

The unusual linguistic structure of Jesus' words, "Verily, verily, I say unto you; whatsoever you shall ask the Father in my name, he shall give it to you" was the subject of debate previously. I have the exact related quote to hand from A N Wilson's "Jesus ":

"And then again, like the tiniest clue in a detective story there is that verbal mannerism, which the Christ of the Fourth Gospel shares with the Jesus of the Synoptics: "Am, amen, lego soi," "Verily, verily, I say unto you...". It is not an idiom; it is an idiolect. We do not find it anywhere else in Greek, nor its equivalent anywhere else in Hebrew or Aramaic".

Bach's setting, in which orchestral imitation verifies the dictum, as if stressing Trinitarian assent to the words spoken after Resurrection and before Ascension, is nevertheless the purest vocal writing for voice:

"The utterance of Christ is in terms of calm and dignified beauty, strings and voice pursuing a fugal form in which there is little incident, but where everything is serene". (Whittaker).

"It is in the same key as the E major Fugue in the second book of the "48" (number 9) and is filled with the same spiritual and melodic beauty" (Robertson). (Conversely it will be remembered by anyone brought up with the Tovey edition of WTC that the Fugue referred to "with the exception of two outlying bass-notes .... is singable by an unaccompanied vocal quartet and has, in fact, been so sung with exquisite effect").

IMO the rythymn and shape of the subject are even more closely related to the opening contrapunctus of KdF (omitting the first two notes).In all cases the same delight in perfect vocal architecture is to be had.

The thorn "dornen" makes its appearance in BWV 86/2, alongside the roses; as was also noted in BWV 136/2; BWV 181/3; BWV 72/2-3; and BWV 161/2. Lucia Haselboeck in her "Bach Textlexikon" notes these incidences, along with the "Dornenkron" in the SJP (BWV 245). So just as the thorn image (here, the "Sündendornen" of sinful man) prefigures the "Dornenkron" in BWV 181 for 13 February 1724, it also appears several weeks after the SJP's first performance on 7 April 1724, in this cantata BWV 86 for 14th May 1724. That the thorn image is not a passing reference is shown by the chromaticism at "stechen" ("pricking") according to Whittaker.

Bach moves from showcasing his (by now exhausted) violinist who finishes off the demanding rose-gathering soprano aria, to concentrating on the oboist in BWV 86/3, breathlessly continuous for 27 bars. Next the Tenor in BWV 86/5, "Gott hilf gewiss" has to ascend a high B!

Is Bach himself making a stylish theological point based on John 16: 23 and 24, to the effect that he has hitherto asked nothing like this from his own hard-worked disciples?! That whatever he asks of the musicians, they (literally) find inspiration to provide it?

Thomas Braatz wrote (April 24, 2006):
Peter Smaill wrote:
>>"It is in the same key as the E major Fugue in the second book of the "48" (number 9) and is filled with the same spiritual and melodic beauty" (Robertson).<<
At this point it might be worthwhile to ponder Eric Chafe's view on the allegorical associations connected with Bach's choice of keys:

pp. 152-153 from Eric Chafe's "Tonal Allegory in the Vocal Music of J. S. Bach" University of California Press, 1991:

>>Nevertheless, although the cantatas that feature conspicuous tonal planning cover a wide range of themes and affective spheres, one particular set of associations for the sharp and flat directions runs throughout many works: modulation in the flat direction for the world (and its particular attributes, such as tribulation) and the reverse for the anticipation of eternity, the realm of God, and the like. The present chapter deals with cantatas of the descent/ascent type, in which the world is hardly ever absent. But neither this nor any of the other principles of Bach's tonal planning has absolute, objective validity. The value of classifying key structures into types, like that of any attempt to systematize artworks, lies in its potential for illuminating the individual work, for its leading the interpreter closer to the fundamental questions of form, expressive content, and aesthetic value. Knowing that Bach arranged the key successions of the cantatas in a way that joins them to a spectrum of other compositions helps us to understand his musicotheological intent. For this reason, in this and the following chapter, we will take up the works according to their key structure type, reserving the right to intermingle works in different categories from time to time to demonstrate the expressive qualities of the plans themselves and the larger hermeneutic framework used to interpret their meaning. With relatively few exceptions the movement keys of any given cantata remain within the tonal region of a single ambitus, and of those that do not the great majority remain within a single genus (either sharps or flats). Only the Passions utilize the full spectrum of keys of the eighteenth-century circles of sharps and flats that enable us to consider shift of genus as an allegorical device. The Passions display these procedures most fully and in greatest detail, providing an array of tonal relationships that are not present in individual cantatas. Some of the relationships within the Passions, however, hold true for the whole corpus of cantatas, such as the range of keys for individual movements extending from F minor to E major, with the general associations of worldly tribulation and salvation attached to the two

Bach associates E major in the cantatas with positive qualities-completely contradicting the interpretation for E major given by Mattheson ("Das neu-eröffnete Orchestre", p. 250)-among which blessedness (Cantatas BWV 8, BWV 60, BWV 124), salvation (BWV 9, BWV 17, BWV 49, BWV 86, BWV 116, BWV 139), resurrection (BWV 66, BWV 67, BWV 80, 94, 145), and trust (BWV 3, BWV 29, BWV 34a, BWV 107, BWV 139, BWV 171, BWV 200) are the most characteristic. B major-Heinichen's extremum chromaticum-is, however, extremely rare (Cantatas BWV 45, BWV 49, BWV 139) and never appears as a movement key, whereas G sharp minor appears in recitatives, almost always with negative associations (Cantatas BWV 8, BWV 9, BWV 60, BWV 67, BWV 107, BWV 116). E minor appears frequently, mostly with the association of suffering, sorrow, doubt, pain, fear, and the Passion (Cantatas BWV 4, BWV 7, BWV 20, BWV 32, BWV 60, BWV 75, BWV 81, BWV 84, BWV 88, BWV 91, BWV 92, BWV 100, BWV 109, BWV 135, BWV 138, BWV 147, BWV 155, BWV 158, among others). At the other end of the spectrum B flat minor-the extremum enharmonicum-appears only once as a movement key (Cantata BWV 106, "In deine Hände"); and as a key within recitatives it is associated almost always with darkness, the cross, and suffering (Cantatas BWV 2, BWV 13, BWV 21, BWV 23, BWV 29, BWV 46, BWV 47, BWV 48, BWV 52, BWV 54, BWV 78, BWV 93, BWV 102, BWV 105, BWV 127, BWV 134, BWV 146, BWV 159, BWV 186, BWV 199, and others). F minor is the flat limit for movement keys but unlike its sharp counterpart, E major, is never used as the key of a whole cantata: its associations are almost invariably anxiety, tears, tribulation, sin, pain, sorrow, care, suffering, and death (Cantatas BWV 3, BWV 12, BWV 14, BWV 18, BWV 20, BWV 21, BWV 47, BWV 48, BWV 54, BWV 55, BWV 56, BWV 57, BWV 70, BWV 78, BWV 89, BWV 102, BWV 105, BWV 112, BWV 131, BWV 146, BWV 186, BWV 187, and others); in this respect its associations are the most fixed. E flat minor appears only once in the cantatas (BWV 159) and once in the St. Matthew Passion (BWV 244), both times associated with the most extreme torment. C minor appears frequently, and overwhelmingly in association with death and burial (BWV 20, BWV 27, BWV 48, BWV 56, BWV 57, BWV 58, BWV 73, BWV 82, BWV 91, BWV 94, BWV 95, BWV 102, BWV 106, BWV 109, BWV 127, BWV 135, BWV 138, BWV 156, BWV 161, BWV 186, among others), several times with the mention of the "sleep of death." Other keys are not so firmly connected to their allegorical associations, although F sharp minor and B minor are often linked to the cross and suffering, and D and A major are usually positive, even triumphant. D and C, of course, often appear with trumpets and therefore bear strong associations of triumph, while F major (horns) sometimes has a pastorale association. [End of Footnote]

The general placement of the ambitus of any particular cantata with respect to the circle of keys is also important, particularly in the case of works in three or more sharps or flats. A few cantatas were conceived in terms of key areas whose tendency toward very sharp or flat modulations is a vital part of the meaning: for example, Cantata BWV 116 is very sharp in tendency, Cantata BWV 102 the reverse. Enharmonic relations are not rare and are always of great allegorical significance. Although they and all other extreme tonal devices are concentrated in the recitatives, they can still have a great effect on the overall plan.

Bach's first two cantatas for Rogation Sunday (Leipzig 1724 and 1725) offer interesting examples of tonality reflecting two different aspects of the same Gospel text (John 16: 23-30, from Jesus' farewell discourse). Bach begins each of the two cantatas with a dictum sung by the solo basso as vox Christi accompanied by strings and oboes. The first of these works, "Wahrlich, wahrlich ich sage euch" (Cantata BWV 86), stresses the predominating message of promise in the Gospel text-"Truly, truly I say to you, that whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, to you He will give it" (verse 23). Bach creates thereby a work pervaded by hope and the assurance of God's aid, set in the bright and uncomplicated key of E major. Although the movements move down tonally through A major and F sharp minor to B minor for the start of the first recitative (no. 4: "Gott macht es nicht gleich wie die Welt"), before returning to E major, the descent in no way offsets the sense of promise. In this work the world, although motivating the descent, does not generate affective associations of its own, and we arc probably justified here, as in other E major cantatas, in interpreting Bach's choice of key as a reflection of the place of E major at the upper limit of his tonal spectrum and hence as bearing a very positive association.<<

Neil Halliday wrote (April 25, 2006):
The BGA score does not specify the instruments, so I suppose Koopman [3] is entitled to drop the oboes that double the violins in other recordings - thereby perhaps best capturing the delicate tracery of the contrapuntal writing, and expressing a spiritual side of the movement (I like Robertson's comparison with the writing in the WTC2 E major fugue). The oboes complicate the polyphony in the Rilling recording [2]. Suzuki's [6] brisk, dance-like tempo perhaps misses some of the spiritual depth of this movement; a `cut C' time signature need not rule out a slowish pulse to the minims.

The alto aria features an attractive violin part with a rocking figure. Some see this part as representing the petals of a rose, others the thorns beneath the blooms; maybe in its musicality and its shape, it represents both. In the middle section of the aria, during the second statement of "my praying and imploring" (bars 60-65), the harmony becomes unusually passionate (especially with the plunge into A minor on "Bitten").

I get around a certain unpleasantness in Watts' voice [2] by playing the CD at a softer level than normal. The counter-tenors in the other recordings seem fine (web samples).

The soprano chorale features the gambolling oboes d'amore; Suzuki [6] quite successfully uses choir sopranos, in contrast to the solo sopranos in the other recordings.

Rilling's [2] bright, rich strings suit the cheerful, tuneful tenor aria, as does Kraus' bright, strong voice.

Overall, judging from other reports, it looks as if Koopman's recording [3] might take top billing, with Leusink [4] in second place.

Ed Myskowski wrote (April 28, 2006):
Neil Halliday wrote:
< I get around a certain unpleasantness in Watts' voice by playing the CD at a softer level than normal. >
I only have the Rilling CD with Watts [2], so I can't make comparisons. In her defense, I do find her voice at least satisfactory at all times I have heard (including BWV 86) and sometimes superlative. To each his own, I guess.

BTW, isnt this the same CD that with reference to BWV 83, you found you needed to increase the volume? Is the engineering that different, and perhaps a contributing factor to any unpleasantness you hear? My computer time is limited at present, so I need to be brief. We should have plenty of opportunity to continue in weekly discussions of coming works.

Neil Halliday wrote (April 29, 2006):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
>"BTW, isnt this the same CD that with reference to BWV 83, you found you needed to increase the volume? Is the engineering that different, and perhaps a contributing factor to any unpleasantness you hear?"<
In the Rilling cycle, even separate movements of the same cantata have apparently been recorded months, and sometimes years apart; sometimes I have noticed a difference in engineering standards within the same cantata.

With regard to Rilling's BWV 86 [2], I have no criticism of the engineering standards, and my comments about Watts' voice are only a personal reaction to her voice (I'm pleased you find her voice to be pleasant). The un-phrased continuo line in 86/2 also presents a problem for me - another subjective observation not necessarily
shared by other listeners.
Aryeh's report on the 60's recording of BWV 166 makes one hope that it is eventually transferred to CD, since I found none of the available recordings to be entirely satisfying.


Continue on Part 3

Cantata BWV 86: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements
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
Discussions of General Topics: Cantatas & Other Vocal Works | Performance Practice | Radio, Concerts, Festivals, Recordings


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