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Cantata BWV 87
Bisher habt ihr nichts gebeten in meinem Namen
Discussions - Part 4

Continue from Part 3

Discussions in the Week of April 30, 2017 (4th round)

William Hoffman wrote (April 30, 2017):
Rogate Cantata 87, “Bisher habt ihr nichts gebeten": Intro.

Bach’s intimate solo Cantata BWV 87, “Bisher habt ihr nichts gebeten in meinem Namen” (Until now you have asked nothing in my name, John 16:24), for Rogate Sunday (5th after Easter) 1725 possesses a symmetrical form of biblical dictum, alternating recitatives and arias, and a closing chorale, with special features. Set to a text of Mariane von Ziegler and in seven movements lasting about twenty minutes, it moves from sorrow to joy. Most notable and unusual are the two undesignated (hybrid aria-arioso) Vox Christi bass solos of mottos from the Gospel of John 16:23-30, the Farewell Discourse: the initial dictum (verse 24), and Movement 5 (Verse 33), “In the world you will have anguish.” Beyond these, Bach employs two arias, alto da-capo (no. 3), “Forgive, O Father, our guilt,” and tenor (AAB) with strings (no. 6), “I am willing to suffer,” as well as two recitatives, alto secco (no. 2), “O word, that terrifies spirit and soul!,” and tenor with strings accompagnato (no. 4), “When our guilt mount up to heaven.” Cantata 87 closes with Heinrich Müller’s 1659 BAR Form chorale, “Selig ist die Seele” (Blessed is the Soul), with closing Stanza 9, “Must I be troubled?,” Bach harmonized to the Johann Crüger (1653) popular melody, “Jesu, meine Freude” (Jesus, my joy). 1

Bach reintroduces two features found in the spring 1725 Johannine cantatas, dance style and the oboe da caccia. The aria (no. 6) in 4/8 siciliano pastorale dance style, is the first since Cantata 85, “Ich bin ein guter Hirt” (I am a good shepherd, John 10:11), with the tenor pastoralestyle dance aria (no. 5), “Seht, was die Liebe tut” (See, what love does), three weeks prior on Misericordias Domini. The tenor aria aria (no. 3) with oboe da caccia (hunting oboe) is the first since the Easter Monday “Emmaus” chorus Cantata BWV 6, “Bleib bei uns, denn es will Abend” (Stay with us, for evening is coming, Luke 24:29), the alto aria (no. 2), “Hochgelobter Gottessohn” (Most praiseworthy Son of God). To the Johannine themes of love and Christus Victor, Bach through his librettist Ziegler introduces the Lutheran concepts of the Theology of the Cross, forgiveness from the Father, and the Holy Spirit sustaining the believer.

Cantata 87 was premiered on 6 May 1725 at the early main service of the St. Thomas Church before the sermon (not extant) of subdeacon Justus Gotthard Rabener (1688-1731), replacing Pastor Christian Weise, says Martin Petzoldt in his Bach Commentary, Vol. 2, Advent to Trinityfest.2 The Gospel for the Fifth Sunday After Easter, John 16: 23-30, is known as a “Prayer in the name of Jesus” in “Christ’s Promise to the Disciples.” It is the third, or valedictory address, of five Sunday Christ Farewell Discourses used as the Gospel readings from the 12 discourses in John’s Gospel, Chapters 14 and 16, for the Sundays of Jubilate, Cantate, Rogate, Exaudi, and Trinityfest in Bach’s time. The Rogate Epistle reading is James 1:22-27, emphasizing “Hearing and doing” but is not quoted directly in either Cantata 86 or 87, Bach’s only extant works for this Sunday in the Easter season. The German text of Luther’s 1545 translation and the English the Authorised (King James) Version 1611 is found at BCW,

The opening introit polyphonic setting uses Psalm 50, Deus deorum (The mighty God, KJV), or Psalm 34, Benedicam Dominum (I will bless the Lord, KJV), says Petzoldt (Ibid.: 865). He calls the former “observing God’s service” and the latter a “notes of thanks for God’s friendliness.” Psalm 50 is also the introit psalm for the 17th Sunday after Trinity. The full texts are found at

Rogate Sunday Cantatas, Chorales

The title, “Sonntag Rogate,” does not come from the Old Testament introit (Isaiah 48:20b-c; “With the voice of singing). It is a reference to the traditional pre-Reformation Rogation processions (with chanted litanies) that blessed the newly-seeded fields but were suppressed by Luther. The theme of “asking” appears in the Gospel reading, John 16:23b, “Verily, verily, I say unto you.” The Sunday before Christ’s Ascension on Thursday (the 5th Sunday after Easter) is called “Rogate,” meaning “Pray” or “Ask.” Two other cantata texts for Rogate were readily accessible to Bach but both lacked chorale settings. The Rudolstadt Libretto Book of 1726 has a lost Johann Ludwig Bach Cantata, “Der Herr is nahe allen” (The Lord is near all, Psalm 145:18), which Sebastian may have performed on May 26, 1726, but does not survive. A Picander Cycle text exists for May 15, 1729, “Ich schrei laut mit meiner Stimme (I shout aloud with my voice), but no music or parody has been found.

“With the sole exception of BWV 87/7, where Bach used instead the 9th verse of Heinrich Müller’s (1659) chorale text ‘Selig ist die Seele’ (Blessed is the soul), his settings use the melody and text of “Jesu, meine Freude.” The hymn “Selig ist die Seele” was first published, to a melody of its own, but with the superscription, “Mel.: Jesu, meine Freude,” in Müller’s Geistliche Seelen Musik (Rostock, 1659). The nine-stanza, nine-line BAR from hymn (AABCCDEFGG) is found in the Freyberger Gesangbuch 1741 as a de tempore chorale, says Petzoldt (Ibid.: 878). The text of stanza 1 is: Selig ist die Seele, / die in ihre Höhle, / dich o Jesu liebt: / Du wirst see umarmen, / und mit Trost erwarmen / wenn sie ist betrübt; du bist ihr Licht, / Heil und Zier, / seine Liebe macht zur Freuden / auch das bitt’re Leiden.” Müller (1631-75; BCW Short Biography, provided extensive commentary that directly influenced Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, particularly the Anselm “satisfaction theory” of sacrifical atonement in contrast to the non-synoptic Johannine “Christus Victor” concept (see William Hoffman 2009 BCW Article, “Spiritual Sources of Bach's St. Matthew Passion,”

All Bach’s settings of this melody (Zahn 8032) use or make reference to Johann Franck’s pietist chorale text “Jesu, meine Freude” (Jesu, my joy) from 1650, says BCW melody information, Other uses of the Franck Jesus Song with the six-stanza text are BWV 64/8 (S. 5), 1723 Christmas 3; 81/7 (S. 2), 1724 4th Sunday After Epiphany; motet 227/1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11 (all 6 stanzas) in 1723; and plain chorale BWV 328. The melody alone is used in Cantata BWV 12/6, tenor aria, Jubilate Sunday, 1714, 1724; as well as organ chorale preludes BWV 610 (Orgelbüchlein No. 13, Christmas), 713, 753, and 1105, as well as Sebastian Bach Choral Book SBCB p.231, and the Schmelli Gesangbuch p.511.

Cantata 87 Minor Key, Serious Tone

Cantata 87 is firmly rooted in the tonality of D minor and the tone “is serious to the point of pontification,” says Julian Mincham’s Cantata 87 BCML Discussion Part 2 (Week of May 13 2007, <<Of the seven movements of this dark and austere work only one, the tenor aria (Mvt. 6), is in a major key. The and last are set in D minor and the spiritual depths this tonality brings out in Bach may also be found in the opening movements of C 101 [Trinity 10] in the chorale cycle, and C 109 [Trinity 21] from the first cycle. It is, certainly, the most severe of the three works, somewhat surprising since the text offers less than one might expect in the way of dark and powerful images.

The words of Christ are set in the two bass arias (Mvt. 1 and Mvt. 5). With the exception of the tenor aria (Mvt. 6), the tone is serious to the point of pontification. Whilst there are a number of these works in which one cannot escape the feeling that one is being lectured to, even pedantically, this seldom comes across more strongly than in this work; and doubtless the congregation would expect to get more of the same from the ensuing sermon! But Bach, even when at his most sermonising, has the saving grace of redemptive optimism. In this cantata the denouement arrives through the tenor aria (Mvt. 6). The theme of the work is repentance and contrition. The seriousness of these actions is conveyed in a number of ways, not least by the instrumentation; bassoon, oboes and oboe da caccia are added to the usual strings and continuo. No flute, trumpet or horns here to lift the mood!>>

Cantata 87 movements, scoring texts, key meter (Ziegler text, Francis Browne English translation, BCW

1. (Arioso/Aria) vox Christi fugal (32 mm) with opening ritornelli but no closing ritornello [Bass; Oboe I e Violino I all' unisono, Oboe II e Violino II all' unisono, Oboe da caccia e Viola all' unisono, Continuo]: “Bisher habt ihr nichts gebeten in meinem Namen” (Until now you have asked nothing in my name, John 16:24); d minor; 4/4.
2. Recitative secco [Alto; Continuo]: “O Wort, das Geist und Seel erschreckt! / Ihr Menschen, merkt den Zuruf, was dahinter steckt! / Ihr habt Gesetz und Evangelium vorsätzlich übertreten; / Und dies möcht' ihr ungesäumt In Buß und Andacht beten.” (O word, that terrifies spirit and soul! / You people, notice the call hidden behind these words! / You have deliberately transgressed the law and gospel; / And because of this you should pray without delay in repentance and devotion.); a to g minor; 4/4.
3. Aria da capo with ritornelli [Alto; Oboe da caccia I/II, Continuo]: A. “Vergib, o Vater, unsre Schuld / Und habe noch mit uns Geduld, / Wenn wird in Andacht beten” (Forgive, O Father, our guilt / and still have patience with us, / when we devoutly pray); B. “Und sagen: Herr, auf dein Geheiß, / Ach, rede nicht mehr sprichwortsweis, / Hilf uns vielmehr vertreten.” (and say: Lord, at your command, / Ah, speak no more proverbs, / Instead help us to present ourselves before you.); g minor; 4/4.
4. Recitative accampagnato [Tenor; Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo]: “Wenn unsre Schuld bis an den Himmel steigt, / Du siehst und kennest ja mein Herz, / das nichts vor dir verschweigt; / Drum suche mich zu trösten!” (When our guilt mount up to heaven, / you see and know well my heart, which hides nothing from you; / Therefore seek to give me consolation!); d to c minor; 4/4.
5. (Arioso/Aria) vox Christi in two parts with ritornelli, ostinato complex [Bass, Continuo]: A. “In der Welt habt ihr Angst; aber seid getrost” (In the world you will have anguish but take heart, John 16:33); B. “ich habe die Welt überwunden.” (I have conquered the world.); c minor; 3/8 gigue style.
6. Aria three-part (AAB), repeat opening ritornello (8 mm) [Tenor; Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo]: A. “Ich will leiden, ich will schweigen, / Jesus wird mir Hilf erzeigen, / Denn er tröst' mich nach dem Schmerz.” (I am willing to suffer, I am willing to keep silent, / Jesus will show me his help / For he comforts me after sorrow.). B. “Weicht, ihr Sorgen, Trauer, Klagen, / Denn warum sollt ich verzagen? / Fasse dich betrübtes Herz!” (Go away, you cares, sadness, / lamentation, / for why should I despair? / Get a grip on yourself, my troubled heart!); B-flat Major; 12/8 siciliano style.
7. Chorale plain, BAR Form (melody “Jesu, meine Freude”) [SATB; Oboe I e Violino I col Soprano, Oboe da caccia I e Violino II coll'Alto, Oboe da caccia II e Viola col Tenore, Continuo): A. Muß ich sein betrübet? / So mich Jesus liebet, / Ist mir aller Schmerz” (Must I be troubled? / If Jesus loves me / then for me all sorrow); A’. Über Honig süße, / Tausend Zuckerküsse / Drücket er ans Herz.” (is sweeter than honey, / a thousand sweet kisses / he gives to my heart.); B.“Wenn die Pein sich stellet ein, / Seine Liebe macht zur Freuden / Auch das bittre Leiden.” (When pain makes an appearance / his love changes to joy / even bitter suffering.); d minor; 4/4.

Cantata 87, Ziegler Reproach to Believers

Utilizing the text of Mariane von Ziegler, Cantata 87 reflects the theme of Rogate Sunday, to pray, reinforced with the poetic “reproach to the believers,” says Klaus Hofmann’s 2007 liner notes to the Masaaki Suzuki Bach cantata recordings on BIS.3 <<The four cantatas on this CD (BWV 74, 87, 128, 176) date from May 1725, the end of Bach’s second year in Leipzig. The centrepiece of his work as a composer and performer during this year had been a cycle of chorale cantatas, but external factors had evidently caused Bach to break off work on this project and, before Easter 1725, to go back to writing cantatas of the conventional type, oriented around the gospel reading for the day in question. From this period a group of nine cantatas has survived – including the four recorded here – with texts by the Leipzig poetess Mariane von Ziegler (1695-1760), apparently written specially for Bach; she later published these poems separately. As the printed edition sometimes differs markedly from the text of Bach’s settings, it was long assumed that Bach himself had made changes to the poetess’s texts. More recent research, however, has shown that the textual differences can be attributed to von Ziegler herself: Bach’s cantatas are thus based on earlier versions of the texts>>FN

<< The cantata Bisher habt ihr nichts gebeten in meinem Namen was written for Rogate Sunday, 6th May 1725. The Latin name of this Sunday – which can be translated as ‘Pray ye’ – alludes to the theme prescribed for this day: prayer. That is the topic of the gospel passage for the Sunday in question – John 16, 23-30, an extract from Jesus’ words of parting in which he urges his disciples to ask God in his name and promises them that their requests will be fulfilled: ‘Ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full’. In Bach’s cantata, the text of the opening movement, ‘Bisher habt ihr nichts ge- beten in meinem Namen’ (‘Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name’) is taken directly from the gospel but, by means of the newly written poetry that follows, it acquires an unexpected level of meaning. The poetess lets the words of Jesus appear as a reproach to the believers: they had neglected to ask God for forgiveness of their sins ‘in Buß und Andacht’ (‘in repentance and devotion’; second movement). The alto aria (third movement) is a prayer for forgiveness, followed in the recitative (fourth movement) by a plea for consolation. With the promise of consolation in the fifth-movement bass solo ‘In der Welt habt ihr Angst; aber seid getrost’ (‘In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer’ – another gospel quotation) we find an internalization and a lightening of emotion; and the tenor aria (sixth movement) and concluding chorale are full of confidence.

In accordance with old tradition, Bach allocates the words of Jesus in the opening movement to the bass, the ‘Vox Christi’. Here the vocal line is embedded in a polyphonic orchestral texture that exudes sincerity, virtue and rigour. The alto aria ‘Vergib, o Vater, unsre Schuld’ (‘Forgive, o Father, our guilt’; third movement), its text filled with remorse, acquires its specisound character from the unusual scoring for two oboi da caccia (alto oboes). These two instrumental lines, mostly playing in parallel, include almost omnipresent sighing figures, whilst a constantly recurring continuo figure emphasizes the supplicant’s tenacity. As with the cantata’s opening text, the words of Jesus in the fifth movement, ‘In der Welt habt ihr Angst’ (‘In the world ye shall have tribulation’), are given to the bass, although on this occasion he is accompanied only by the continuo. The thematic basis here is a continuo refrain which dominates the entire movement, constantly returning as a basso ostinato. In the vocal line the word ‘Angst’ (‘tribulation’) is strikingly emphasized. An effective contrast to the concentrated seriousness of this movement is formed by the tenor aria (sixth movement), accompanied by strings alone – a siciliano, the pastoral character of which is underlined by pedal points in the bass. With only slight changes to the text, one could easily imagine this movement as a lyrical monologue in a scene from baroque opera []. The cantata is rounded off by a strophe from Selig ist die Seele (Blessed is the Soul) by Heinrich Müller (1659), a song of praise for the love of Jesus, sung to the melody of Jesu, meine Freude (Jesus, my true pleasure) – known today not least from Bach’s motet setting [BWV226].
© Klaus Hofmann 2007

Cantata 87: ‘More Complex Message’

While following the form of Cantata 86 for the previous year’s Rogate Sunday, Cantata 87 has a “more complex, nuanced theological message,” says John Elliot Gardiner’s 2008 liner notes to his 2000 Bach Cantata Pilgrimage recordings on Soli Deo Gloria.4 <<Whether Bach’s congregation was up to noticing the presence of features shared with its predecessor [BWV 86] from the year before in the structure of the opening movement of BWV 87 Bisher habt ihr nichts gebeten in meinem Namen – the opening Gospel quotation of Jesus’ words set for bass voice and four-part strings doubled by oboes, the way its fugally-conceived polyphonic interplay of themes is taken up by the singer – we shall never know. But there, no doubt, propped up on his desk as a reminder and point of reference, was last year’s cantata. On this occasion Bach seems intent on projecting a more complex, nuanced theological message, even if it means writing against the grain of his listeners’ expectations. The stern, declamatory energy of the music accords with man’s reprehensible neglect of Jesus’ words of promise: ‘Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name’ (John 16:24). Nor is there any instant release; in fact Bach drags the listener down through three descending minor keys (d, g, c) for the first five of its seven movements, all in the interests of emphasising the world as a place of suffering or, as the second motto from St John’s Gospel puts it, ‘In the world ye shall have tribulation’. It is the second half of that dictum, ‘but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world’ (John 16:33), which marks the beginning of the tonal upswing back to D minor. This is the third successive post-Easter cantata which Bach set in 1725 to texts by Christiane Mariane von Ziegler, all of them, as Eric Chafe (Analyzing Bach Cantatas) notes, dealing with ‘the understanding of Jesus’ suffering within the context of victory and love, increasingly articulating how the tribulation of the world is overcome’ in preparation for the Ascension.

In stark contrast to the dramatised urgency of its preceding recitative, the D minor aria [no. 3] ‘Vergib, o Vater’ (‘Forgive, O Father, all our sins and be patient with us yet’) unfolds in a mood of sustained reverence and penitence. The plangent sonorities of the paired oboes da caccia merge with those of the alto soloist. Their repeated slurred duplets for the word ‘Vergib’ contrast and alternate with ascending arpeggios in the (bassoon) continuo, so that gestures of grief and entreaty are registered concurrently. The urgent supplication intensifies in the middle section as Bach propels his continuo instruments upwards through seven chromatic steps (d, e, f, f#, g, g#, a) and then five diatonic intervals (d, e, f, g, a). This reflects the penitent’s belief in plain-speaking (‘no more... parables’), a reference to Jesus’ promise that ‘the time cometh, when I shall no more speak unto you in proverbs, but I shall shew you plainly of the Father’ (John 16:25). Ziegler and Bach are here emphasising the Lutheran theme that prayer, corresponding to the depth of the human predicament, is the best means of establishing and retaining contact with God in a hostile world.

[Alfred] Dürr speculates 5 that the second recitative (No.4), which does not appear in Ziegler’s printed text (1728), may have originated with Bach himself. Its presence softens the abrupt transition to the ‘comfortable words’ of Jesus in No.5, which represent the turning point in a musical design that Bach had been developing since his Mühlhausen days (in BWV 71 and 106). Bach ensures the prominence of this interpolated recitative by means of its string accompaniment, and by switching to the first person shifts the focus onto the individual believer’s acknowledgment of his guilt, then via the subsequent tonal re-ascent to D minor charts the way that this guilt and anxiety is overcome through faith.

Just where you might expect a richly scored set-piece for Christ’s last words from the same chapter of John’s Gospel, Bach (and presumably Ziegler) decides to omit the emollient phrase ‘These things have I spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace’. Instead, he shrinks his tonal palette and limits his Spruch to a continuo accompaniment (No.5): angular, severe and angst-ridden, in patterns hinting at a descending chromatic tetrachord. Even the pivotal phrase ‘ich habe die Welt überwunden’ [I have conquered the world] is almost submerged, despatched in an upwards movement to E flat minor lasting a mere nine bars before lapsing back to C minor. It is not until the sixth movement, an extended B flat major siciliano for tenor, strings and continuo of ineffable beauty, that Bach’s overall strategy becomes plain: to balance sorrow and joy, minor and major, and to show that the promise of comfort to the beleaguered soul is achieved at the cost of Christ’s passion and crucifixion. So the prevalent mood of tender, lyrical, semi-pastoral contrition and acceptance is both spiked and spiced with momentary dissonance at the words ‘leiden’ (‘suffer’), ‘Schmerz’ (‘pain’) and ‘verzagen’ (‘despair’). This is confirmed in the final chorale drawn from the pietistic ‘Jesu meine Freude’, with its characteristic references to pain being sweeter than honey, and to the thousand sweet kisses Jesus presses upon us. The return to D minor, as Chafe notes (Analyzing, Ibid.), is a reminder of ‘the necessary simultaneity in the world of suffering and of the divine love that ultimately overcomes it’.
© John Eliot Gardiner 2008 From a journal written in the course of the Bach Cantata Pilgrimage

Ziegler Texts Studied

Bach's third venture into the Easter Season second cantata cycle closing of Mariane von Ziegler texts, Cantata 87, "Bisher habt ihr nichts gebeten in meinen Namen" (Hitherto have ye asked for nothing in my name, Dürr translation, Ibid.: 322f), for Rogate Sunday (5th After Easter), is the most expansive (seven movements), personal, and developed of these stimulating and productive collaborations.6 This cantata continues Bach's renewed emphasis on Dürr's Cantata Group 1 form (Ibid.: 27f) of opening biblical dictum, alternating recitatives and arias with a closing chorale, found in all nine Ziegler texts, and having no double chorales (Groups 2 and 3).

The Ziegler literary trademarks are even more pronounced: Gospel sermon quotations in the vox Christi ariosi, concise yet didactic texts, and selective allusions to Lutheran teachings and chorale images, says Mark A. Peters in his study of the Ziegler cantata texts for Bach.7 Bach builds on the basZiegler initial template, particularly with the instrumental ensemble addition of a pair of oboes da caccia and expanded basso continuo in Ziegler's first da-capo aria (No. 3, alto, "Forgive, O Father, our trespasses), based on the Sunday's use of musical settings of the Lord's Prayer, as well as in the three quotations from John's Gospel: (1) Opening bass vox Christi arioso dictum, "Hitherto have ye asked for nothing in my name" (Gospel, 16:24); (2) The penultimate line in the alto da-capo aria No. 3, B section, "Ah, speak no more in proverbs, but tell of the father" (Gospel 16:25). (3) And the other bass Christi dictum, No. 5 (John 16:33), the comforting, "Be of good cheer: I have overcome the world," following the opening, "In the world you will have tribulation."

Most interesting, this is the first Ziegler text that begins in a dictum of caution; then turns to the Great Awakening warnings in the ensuing alto recitative, No. 2, beginning, "O words that fill our spirit and soul with fear," and the ensuing alto aria (No. 3), "Forgive, O Father, our trespasses." The tenor recitative, No. 4, continues with, "Though our guilt even rises up to heaven" and closes with the arioso, "therefore, seek to comfort me." To this point, Bach's treatment has been in the minor key, primarily D Minor. Now, reflecting Ziegler's text, Bach composes a beautiful, comforting bi-partite tenor aria, No. 6, in Bb Major, a siciliano in 12/8, Bach's first dance-like setting of a Ziegler text. Bach closes with the harmonized chorale in c minor, to the Heinrich Müller text, “Must I be downcast," Stanza 9 of "Blessed is the Soul," in Bach's setting to his only departure to the Franck chorale text while retaining the melody, "Jesu, meine Freude (Joy)."

Most notable is the opening movement, the Vox Christi, observes Peters (Ibid.: 90). In comparison and contrast to Cantata 86, “Wahrlich, wahrlich, ich sage euch” (Truly, truly, I say to you), for Rogate a year earlier in the 1724 first cantata cycle, “Bach once again experimented with thematic treatment and with independence between vice and instruments, now employing imitative [fugal] rather than ritornello [concertante] procedures to unify the throughcomposed vocal loine,” says Peters (Ibid.: 90). Bach’s Ziegler cantatas “expand significantly on the Vox Christi tradition” “but treating it in new ways to further highlight the significance of this type [of biblical] text,” says Peters (Ibid.: 92).

Tonality, Theological Concepts

Tonality and basic theological concepts are explored in Eric Chafe’s initial Bach cantata study.8 As a tonality descent/ascent cantata like BWV 86, Cantata 87 is more pronounced in its movement and is in the minor key of d instead of E Major. The flattest key, C minor second Vox Christi motto (BWV 87/5), “In der Welt habt ihr Angst” (In the world you will have anguish, John 16:33), “is associated with the world,” while the final two movements of ascent and major tonality, tenor siciliano aria in B flat Major, and closing chorale, “turn suffering into a positive force.” “This antithesis signifies the theology of the cross, which is made explicit in the acceptance of suffering voiced” in the pastoral dance aria (no. 6). In Cantata 87, Ziegler borrows both from the day’s Gospel, John 16:23-33, Jesus’ Farewell Discourse, as well as the Epistle, James, 1:22-27, “following the Word, rather than merely hearing it,” as Gospel instead of as an admonition of the Law), Chafe observes. “This second dictum [no. 5], then, marks the turning point of the cantata, from the anxiety and torment of the world to trust in Christ.”

Like both sorrow-turned to joy Jubilate Cantata BWV 12 and Trinity 11 BWV 199, Cantata 87 has a “clear pattern of discreet stages, says Chafe: the first recitative (no. 2) “urges repentance”; the first aria (no. 3) “expresses awareness of guilt and a prayer for forgiveness; the second Vox Christi (no. 5) “in its change of tone” “represents the turn to Christ”; the second aria (no. 6) “voices the believing Christian’s willingness to take the Christ of the [synoptic] Passion as his model”; and the “final chorale reflects Luther’s belief that recognition of God’s love works the change in us.” The closing chorale, “Selig ist die Selle” (Blessed is the Soul), with the last line of Stanza 1: “Seine Liebe macht zur Freuden / auch das bitt’re Leiden” (Your love makes joy also of bitter suffering), quotes Chafe, expresses the theology of the cross.

Cantata 87 Johannine Theology

Cantata 87 “places the turning of sorrow into joy within the context of prayer [Rogate] and the Trost [trust] from Jesus’s having overcome ‘the World’,” observes Chafe in his recent study, J. S. Bach’s Johannine Theology.9 To reinforce this concept, Cantata 87 uses two Johannine Gospel Vox Christi mottos, the second (no. 5) pivoting the musical sermon to the positive turn to Christ. Here, the text is the final verse of Chapter 16, the Farewell Discourse, that is not part of the day’s Gospel, John 16:23-30, Jesus’ final discourse to the disciples that he proceeds from the Father. John Chapter 16:33 concludes: “Ich habe die Welt überwunden.” (I have conquered the world.). This statement ends the Farewell Discourse proper, “ushering in the chapter [John 17] in which Jesus names his ‘hour’ as having come and prays to the Father for his glorification,” says Chafe (Ibid.: 466). This verse is “especially appropriate for the Sunday before Ascension Day and its theme of prayer.” Thus, Cantata 87 moves from “the believer’s acknowledgement of guilt” with anxiety to “qualms of conscience” to “the positive other side of the acknowledgement of sin, consolation for the troubled conscience, as Luther described it in his Sermon on the Meditation of Christ’s Passion (1519) and other writing,” says Chafe. The final chorale presents “the transformed view of suffering that Jesus’s love brings about,” says Chafe (Ibid.: 468).

Cantata 87 completes the first of three Ziegler cantatas that comprise a subgroup “which deal with the understanding of suffering” through Jesus’ victory and love, increasingly showing how “the tribulation of the world is overcome,” preparing for Jesus’ ascension and the Pentecost theme of love. Each of the succeeding cantatas “centers on the individual believer . . . and his or her relationship with Jesus.” The tonal structure of descent/ascent in D Minor “mirror’s the two stage process of acknowledgement of guilt [theology of the cross] followed by the overcoming of anxiety through faith in Jesus’s [Johannine] victory over the world,” says Chafe (Ibid.: 469).

Before the pivot, the tenor accompagnato recitative (no. 4), “Wenn unsre Schuld bis an den Himmel steigt” (When our guilt mount up to heaven), follows the alto da-capo aria, “Vergib, o Vater, unsre Schuld” (Forgive, O Father, our guilt). The aria and “extra” recitative “introduce virtually the only references to human guilt in the entire series of cantatas for this time period,” says Chafe (Ibid.: 467). The aria is a petition for forgiveness in the manner of the Lord’s Prayer, says Chafe, while emphasizing the role of the Holy Spirit in teaching prayer, as Luther emphasized, which is found in Romans 8:26, the subject of Bach’s 1729 memorial motet, “Der Geist hilf unsre Schwacheit auf” (The Spirit helpeth our infirmities). “Together the rising bass figures and sight figures in the oboes da caccia invite interpretation as” the “groanings that cannot be uttered,” says Chafe quoting Luther.

Cantata 87 at this point reintroduces the pastoral and symbolic oboe da caccia. To the special sense of intimacy, often in association with love,10 is added “a striking sense of the dualism of petition and hope from a state dominated by consciousness of unworthiness,” says Chafe (Ibid.: 496).

Cantata 87 “typifies the reception of John’s Gospel by Lutheranism of Bach’s Time,” says Chafe (Ibid.: 474). The final chorale, Heinrich Müller’s Easter/Pentecost chorale, “Selig ist die Seele” (Blessed in the soul), that Bach set to the pietist melody “Jesu, meine Freude” (Jesus, my joy), “evokes all the qualities of Jesulove” expressed in influential theologians Müller and Valerius Herberger.

Ziegler Text Revisions in Bach

Cantata 87 has pronounced differences in its text and the 1728 printed version of the entire cycle, Versuch in Gebundener Schreib-Art I. There are “strong discrepancies between print and cantata version,” says Bach Digital, Both versions are found in parallel format in Petzoldt’s Bach Kommentar, Vol. 2 (Ibid.: 874-77). In the alto recitative (no. 2) are Ziegler’s printed word substitutions in italic and additions: “O Wort, das Geist und Seel (Hertz) erschreckt! / Ihr (Ach) Menschen=Kinder! merkt (den Zuruf), was (wohl) dahinter steckt! / Ihr habt (habet das) Gesetz und Evangelium vorsätzlich übertreten (Tag und Nacht); / Und dies möcht' ihr ungesäumt / In Buß und Andacht beten.” In the B section of the tenor aria (no. 6, “Ich will leiden” (I will suffer) are: “Weicht, ihr Sorgen, Trauer, Klagen, / Denn warum sollt (Seele, du darfst nicht) ich verzagen?

Bach scholars have two perspectives on the changes, as well as the addition of a seventh movement not found in Ziegler’s printed text, the tenor accompagnato (no. 4). Many have assumed that Bach simply made changes which Ziegler disregarded. Mark A. Peters “takes the view that virtually all the changes are Ziegler’s,” says Chafe in J. S. Bach’s Johannine Theology (Ibid.: 466, Footnote 25).11 Chafe suggests a third possibility, that “this addition came from neither Bach nor Ziegler, but from someone in higher authority over the theological content of the cantata texts.”


In the 1750 estate division of the third cycle, Cantata 87 score and parts set survive, with Emmanuel inheriting the autograph score and parts doublets (Violino I, Violino II, Basso continuo) while presumably Friedemann receiving the parts set. Score, Bach Digital; Provenance, J. S. Bach - C. P. E. Bach (Estate Catalog 1790: 77) - Sing-Akademie zu Berlin - BB (now Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin Preußischer Kulturbesitz) (1855). Parts Set,; Copyists, Kuhnau, Johann Andreas (1703–after1745) = main copyist A; Meißner, Christian Gottlob (1707–1760); Bach, Johann Sebastian; Bach, Wilhelm Friedemann (1710–178); Anon. IIf; Anon. IIe; Provenance: J. S. Bach - ?Friedemann - Voß-Buch - BB (now Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, Preußischer Kulturbesitz) (1851).

The continuo versions and slurring are described in Masaaki Suzuki’s “Production Notes” to his recording (Ibid.). <<For this work we have Bach’s own manuscript of the full score (Berlin State Library, Mus. ms. Bach P 61) and the original parts (Berlin State Library, Mus. ms. Bach St 6). There are two versions of the continuo part, one intended for a melody instrument and untransposed (B13) and the other for the organ and transposed (B14). The latter has been copied from the former, but slurs have been added later in B13 only. The New Bach Edition [NBA I/12] deliberately adopts the version prior to revision, but we have added slurs in many places to this, bearing in mind the musical effect.>>


1 Cantata 87 BCW Details & Discography, Score Vocal & Piano,; Score BGA, References: BGA, XX/1 (Cantatas 81-90, Wilhelm Rust, 1872), NBA KB I/12 (Cantate to Jubilate, Alfred Dürr, 1960), Bach Compendium BC A 74, Zwang K 121.
2 Martin Petzoldt, Bach Kommentar: Theologisch Musikwissenschaftlicke Kommentierung der Geistlichen Vokalwerke Johann Sebastan Bachs; Vol. 2, Die Geistlichen Kantaten vom 1. Advent bis zum Trinitatisfest; Internationale Bachakademie Stuttgart (Kassel: Bärenreiter, 2007: 876).
3 Hofmann/Suzuki notes, BCW[BIS-SACD1571].pdf; BCW Recording details,
4 Gardiner notes, BCW[sdg144_gb].pdf; BCW Recording details,
5 Alfred Dürr, Cantatas of J. S. Bach, revised and translated by Richard D. P. Jones (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005: 323), and originally in NBA KB I/12 (Ibid.: 96).
6 Source, William Hoffman (November 22, 2010): Cantata 87: Ziegler& Bach; BCML Cantata 87 Discussion Part 3,
7 Mark A. Peters, A Woman's Voice, in Baroque Music: Mariane von Ziegler and J. S. Bach (Ashgate: 2008; especially Chapter 3, “Divine Voice: The Significance of the Vox Christi for Ziegler and Bach, pp. 83-103).
8 Eric Chafe, Tonal Allegory in the Vocal Music of J. S. Bach (University of California Press, 1991: 153f).
9 Eric Chafe, J. S. Bach’s Johannine Theology: The St. John Passion and the Cantatas for Spring 1725, Chapter 10, “Jubilate to Ascension Day: Cantatas 103, 108, 87, and 128”; “Introduction: Jesus’s departure and return, seeing and hearing” (Oxford University Press, 2014: 392).
10 Chafe directs the reader to Nicholas Harnoncourt’s “Bach’s Oboe da Caccia and Its Reconstruction,” in The Musical Dialogue: Thoughts on Monteverdi, Bach, and Mozart (Portland OR: Amadeus Press, 1989: 60062).
11 See Mark. A Peters, “A Reconsideration of Bach’s Role as Redactor in the Ziegler Cantatas,” BACH: Journal of the Riemenschneider Bach Institute 36 (2005): 199-221).

Aryeh Oron wrote (April 30, 2017):
Cantata BWV 87 - Revised & updated Discography

Cantata BWV 87 "Bisher habt ihr nichts gebeten in meinem Namen" (Until now you have asked nothing in my name.) was composed by J.S. Bach in Leipzig for Rogate Sunday [5th Sunday after Easter] of 1725. The cantata is scored for alto, tenor & bass soloists; 4-part Chorus; and orchestra of 2 oboes, 2 oboes da caccia, 2 violins, viola & continuo.

The discography pages of BWV 87 on the BCW have been revised and updated. See:
Complete Recordings (9):
Recordings of Individual Movements (8):
The revised discography includes many listening/watching options to recordings directly from the discography pages, just below the recording details.

I also put at the BCW Home Page:
2 audios & 2 videos of the cantata. A short description below the audio/video image is linked to the full details at the discography pages.

I believe this is the most comprehensive discography of this cantata. If you are aware of a recording of BWV 87 missing from these pages, or want to correct/add details of a recording already presented on the BCW, please do not hesitate to inform me.

You can also read on the BCW the recent discussion of the cantata in the BCML (4th round):


Cantata BWV 87: 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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Last update: Sunday, June 18, 2017 15:10