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Cantata BWV 149
Man singet mit Freuden vom Sieg

N. Anderson | A. Dürr


Aryeh Oron wrote (June 18, 2003):
Nicholas Anderson

The commentary below is quoted from the liner notes to CD re-issue of Werner’s recording of the cantata on Erato. It was written by the English scholar Nicholas Anderson.

"Man singet mit Freuden vom Sieg" (BWV 149) is the third of Bach's three complete surviving cantatas for the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels and was first performed at Leipzig in 1728. As we have already seen (BWV 19), the encounter between St. Michael and his angels with the dragon (Satan) and his fiery companions, contained in the Epistle reading for the day, inspired Bach to write music rich both in colour and poetic imagery. Once again, the scoring of the opening chorus is generous, consisting of three trumpets, timpani, three oboes, strings and continuo. The music itself, however, was not entirely new since Bach had already used it at Weimar, in 1713, though differently scored and in a different key, as the conclusion to his congratulatory cantata, "Was mir behagt, ist nur die muntre Jagd" (BWV 208). The remaining components of the Cantata may also be "parodies" of music which Bach had written earlier in his life but, if so, the evidence has not survived to confirm this.

After the chorus comes a continuo aria for bass which extends the theme of the conflict between God and Satan. The scoring is for keyboard continuo with violone, though a cello is preferred in this performance. A brief alto recitative leads to the second aria, which is scored for soprano with strings. In this lyrical, dance-like piece in A major the text reflects on the secure protection afforded by the guardian angels. A tenor recitative then prepares us for the third aria of the Cantata. This is a duet for alto and tenor with an obbligato bassoon whose light-hearted, sinewy figurations, a diverting feature of Bach's writing, are taken up initially by the tenor and alto voices in canon. The Cantata ends with a twelve-line stanza from Martin Schalling's hymn (1571), "Herzlich Lieb hab ich dich o Herr" whose melody we have already encountered in the tenor aria of BWV 19, where it is intoned by a single trumpet. The voices are accompanied by woodwind and strings but, with a startling "coup de theatre", Bach introduces the three trumpets and timpani in the concluding two bars, ending the Cantata in a magnificent blaze of sound.

Thomas Braatz wrote (June 22, 2003):

The text comes from Picander’s cycle of cantata texts from the year 1728 and there are numerous similarities with the text of BWV 19 (Es erhub sich ein Streit) also written by Picander for Michaelmas. Both texts are connected with the Epistle for this feast day: Psalm 118:15 ff. and celebrate the victory over Satan (Mvt. 1.) Both mention in Mvt. 3, that God’s angels will be camped around us (cf. Psalm 34:8) and that God has sent “horse and wagon” to aid us (the turn of phrase “God sends …to us” is common to both texts.) Also the thought that the angels are ever-present (which appears as a request in Mvt. 5 of BWV 19) returns here in Mvt. 4, and we finally find there the desire that the angels may carry our souls to God after death, in BWV 19/6 and 7 as well as in mvts. 5 & 7 of the cantata under discussion here. What is new here is the thought related to Isaiah 21:11 which refers to the wakefulness of the watchmen: “die Nacht ist schier dahin” [night is almost over now], while common to both versions is the 3rd vs. of Martin Schalling’s (1569) chorale “Herzlich lieb hab ich dich, o Herr” as long as one can consider the citation of the chorale melody (without text) in BWV 19/5 as referring to the text which in this cantata (BWV 149) is sung as the final chorale mvt.

The introductory chorus is a parody taken from the final mvt. of the Hunting Cantata BWV 208. Replacing the 2 hunting horns are 3 trumpets and timpani. The mvt. was also transposed from F to D major. The rest of the instrumentation (3 oboi, bassoon, strings, bc) remained the same. Bach very cleverly made the new text fit the original music, a transformation that was made easier by virtue of the fact that the prevailing mood of joy was the same in both versions and even some of the phrases used some of the same ‘stem’-words: “freudige Stunden” = “mit Freuden”; “was Trauren besieget” = “behält den Sieg.” If it were not for the fact that we can compare the original Hunt cantata version with the later parody, we would have had greater difficulty determining this from the new text alone: the choice of a biblical quotation, in itself, demands more freedom in creating a parody of the original mvt.; in addition, there is the problem that that the original mvt. was almost too homophonic for a biblical text and that it was in a da capo form; also that it expresses a jubilation that borders on a flirtatious carefreeness, which seems to have nothing in common with the heavenly battle that preceded it.

It is possible that the other mvts. may have been created as parodies of previously existing mvts, but, alas, the originals have not come down to us. In any case, the transformations once again would have to be considered as very successful. For instance, the 1st bass aria (Mvt. 2), with bc alone, with a wide-ranging motif is a very convincing portrayal of the visionary ‘great voice’ referred to in Revelations 12:10, a voice that announces the victory of the Lamb.

A secco recitative (Mvt. 3) for alto leads into the 2nd aria (soprano) (Mvt. 4), a mvt. with string accompaniment of an enchanting melodiousness. It is clearly divided into 4-ms. groupings (and the numerous repetitions thereof) and in its song-like melodies is revealed a dance-like character and fundamental attitude which does not suffer from textual references to the going, standing, and the being carried by the hands of angels. [Little & Jenne characterize this mvt. as minuet-like.]

The 2nd recitative (tenor) (Mvt. 5) is another secco recitative of limited dimensions. Following this is an aria-duet (alto, tenor) with an obbligato bassoon, the rare use of which may have been intended to create a sound that might possibly remind the listener of the darkness of night, or possibly, through its lively musical figures, more likely serve to reflect the watchfulness of the guardians. This mvt. also features some catchy melodies, and even the numerous canonic entrances in both voices do not create the impression of an artistically constructed contrapuntal mvt. because these canons are so fully integrated into relaxed the feeling of movement/mobility which characterizes the entire mvt.

A plain chorale setting concludes this cantata, but there is at the very end yet another surprise: in the last cadence the trumpeters enter with a short, concluding fanfare.


Cantata BWV 149: 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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