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Commentaries: Main Page | Cantatas BWV 1-50 | Cantatas BWV 51-100 | Cantatas BWV 101-150 | Cantatas BWV 151-200 | Cantatas BWV 201-224 | Other Vocal Works BWV 225-524 | Sources

Cantata BWV 111
Was mein Gott will, das g'scheh allzeit

Schweitzer | Voigt | Dürr


Thomas Braatz wrote (February 1, 2003):

Schweitzer points to the emotion of “joyous excitement in the resignation expressed” in mvt. 1, where the joy motif is presented in the ritornello beginning with ms. 1. Here, according to Schweitzer “Bach interpreted the words of the beautiful chorale “God’s will be done” not in the sense of quiet submission but in that of joyous and confident faith. This chorus, in which the violins have runs of this kind, must be sung jubilantly and triumphantly. Schweitzer would like to have the accents placed on the 2nd and 4th and not on the 1st and 3rd beats of each bar as would more commonly happen. In doing so, “the hearer gets a sense of the heaven-storming, joyous faith that Bach desires to express in the motive.

The duet for alto and tenor, “So geh ich mit beherzten Schritten, und wenn mich Gott zum Grabe führt” (“I go with courageous steps, even though God be leading me to the grave”) is like a gladsome, stately march. The voices are accompanied at their entry by the following figures in the first violins (Example given from opening bars of Mvt. 4.)

Schweitzer counts this cantata among those that “are useful for winning over a public that is musically cultured but not yet intimate with Bach.”


This cantata does not have any remarkable mvts., but it is dignified and has great feeling.

It is possible to reduce the length of the intervening ritornelli after the 2nd and the 5th line of the chorale by removing the last 2 measures in each. The bass aria is a rather ‘dry’ piece that can easily be dropped; in any case, it demands a very careful realization of the bc. in order to be effective. Robert Franz already noticed that this is one of the most difficult bcs to play properly because no figured bass is supplied and he was forced to conclude that Bach probably played the bc at the time of the 1st performance. [Two of the usual continuo parts that are found in an original set of parts have been lost – see above.]

The duet has a catchy tune with many interesting motifs in the accompaniment. Because it is so long, it might be best to skip the reprise and in the intervening ritornello the last 4 measures can be removed. The conclusion of the soprano recitative is simply wonderful.


Bach composed this chorale cantata for January 21, 1725. Of the 4 verses of the chorale which first appeared in 1554, in which 3 verses of the chorale by Duke Albrecht von Preußen (1547) were included, the 1st and the last verses were kept as is by the librettist for the 1st and 6th mvts. of the cantata. Mvts. 2 & 3 are based on vs. 2 and mvts. 4 & 5 on vs. 3 of the chorale. Although some phrases from the chorale text are recognizable in the cantata text for mvt. 2 through 5, the latter are rather freely treated despite the shortness of the verses. It is remarkable that, in filling in the text which does not derive from the chorale text, that no reference is made to Gospel or the Epistle for the designated Sunday, but rather to passages from the OT: “wenns ihm gefällt, will ich ihm halten stille” [“if he so wishes, I will do what he says”] – in place of this line in the original chorale, the librettist inserts into mvt. 3 “Und wie ein Jonas dort vor Gottes Angesichte flieht” [“and like a Jonah there flees from God's face”] (cf. Jonas 1:3); and “des Todes Bitterkeit vertrieben” [“he will drive away the bitterness of death”] (mvt. 4) is another replacement (cf. 1. Samuel 15:32.) In doing so, the librettist concentrates even more than was evident in the cantata for the cantata for the same Sunday of the preceding year (BWV 73) upon the thought that a Christian must submit to the will of God.

The large-scale introductory mvt. has the typical form and structure of many other chorale cantata mvts. in this yearly cycle of chorale cantatas. The chorale melody is presented in the soprano voice with notes of long values (mainly half notes.) These are supported by the lower voices which follow with fughetta-like imitations in quarter and eighth notes, and, amazingly, they repeat altogether the same chorale melody when the soprano is holding out the final note of each line. This thematically unified treatment of the chorale by the voices is embedded in a ritornello which has its own characteristically instrumental themes which are developed in a concertante dialogue between the oboes and the upper strings. These themes are then conjoined with the choral sections and even the bc picks up this material from time to time.

Mvt. 2 is a mvt. for voice and bc alone, in which the quasi-ostinato motifs are repeated over and over again. Based on the words, “Gott ist dein Trost und Zuversicht | Und deiner Seelen Leben,” [“God is your consolation and confidence and life of your soul“] which are close to the original words of the 2nd vs. of the chorale text, a suitable melody is composed, one which has the subjective character of an aria. Bach breaks up this melody with ornamentation, but it remains clearly recognizable throughout the mvt.

After the plain secco recitative of mvt. 3, a melodic, dance-like duet (mvt. 4) features an extensive ritornello for strings that stands out because of its dotted rhythms as well as the pedal point which express the “beherzten Schritte” [“emboldened steps.”] There are occasional ‘cloudy spells’ in the harmony when the words, “zum Grabe” [“to the grave”] and “des Todes Bitterkeit” [“the bitterness of death”] are sung, but these spells quickly clear up again, and, because of the contrast that has been achieved, the return to the impression of joyful determination becomes yet stronger than it was at first.

In contrast to the former mvt. the 5th mvt. turns its attention to death as the “seliges, gewünschtes Ende” [“blessed longed-for end.”] For this Bach chooses a recitative accompanied by two oboes which, at the conclusion, present a beautiful, arioso section (marked ‘adagio’) with florid 16th notes. The final chorale is a plain 4-pt. chorale.


Cantata BWV 111: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Commentaries: Main Page | Cantatas BWV 1-50 | Cantatas BWV 51-100 | Cantatas BWV 101-150 | Cantatas BWV 151-200 | Cantatas BWV 201-224 | Other Vocal Works BWV 225-524 | Sources


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Last update: Friday, September 01, 2017 13:21