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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 51
Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen!

W. Murray Young | Philipp Spitta | Woldemar Voigt | Albert Schweitzer | Alfred Dürr


Aryeh Oron wrote (September 23, 2001):
BWV 51 - General Background

As a general background for listening to this cantata, I shall use W. Murray Young book’s ‘The Church Cantatas of J.S. Bach – An Analytical Guide’ (1982):

“Bach was the probable librettist for the solo soprano cantata on the 15th Sunday after Trinity. The Gospel, Matthew 6: 23-34 – to avoid worldly worries and to seek first the Kingdom of God – has no connection with the libretto. All numbers constitute a simple song of praise to God.

On the score, Bach indicated that this work was for general use, and perhaps that is the reason why it has no bearing on the Scripture for this particular Sunday. It is the most frequently performed of the Bach solo cantatas today. Bach must have had an exceptional boy soprano in his choir for performances in his time.

Mvt. 1. Aria
This virtuoso number brings the soprano voice and the trumpet together in duet fashion for the first half of the aria. A feeling of intense joy predominates throughout.

Mvt. 2. Recitative
This is one of Bach’s best recitatives, possibly because the singer declaims it as though it were an arioso. The accompanying strings provide a beautiful effect to her singing.

Mvt. 3. Aria
This, her second aria, with organ continuo only, is a sincere prayer to God that he thankful mind and pious way of living will make her one of God’s children. The melody is very soothing, to such an extent that he audience might feel that they too are participating in her prayer

Mvt. 4. Chorale
Johann Graumann’s additional fifth stanza to ‘Nun Lob’, mein’ Seel’, den Herren’ (Now praise, My Soul, the Lord), which concludes Cantata BWV 29, is reused here, but this time it is sung only by the soprano. Her singing runs, without pause, into a magnificent ‘Alleluja!’, which Bach appended to it and which is as long as the chorale itself in performance. This ‘Alleluja!’ becomes a concerto for soprano voice and trumpet (which re-enters for this ending), with the other instruments providing the accompaniment. It is a stupendous conclusion!

This cantata shows the Italian influence on Bach more than can be seen in any other cantata. Not only in the artistic treatment of the two arias and the recitative, but also in the brilliant ‘Alleluja!’, we perceive that the modern ‘operatic’ style impressed him.”

Thomas Braatz wrote (September 25, 2001):
BWV 51 - Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen!

Spitta states the following about this cantata: It is a fiery song of jubilation that eventually leads into a chorale fantasia on "Nun lob, mein Seel, den Herren," and concludes with a fugato Alleluja. The text of the cantata has no connection whatsoever with the Gospel or Epistle for the designated Sunday. The addition of "et in ogni Tempo" is a hint that this cantata may have been used for another purpose, and that this text replaced an earlier existing one. In particular, the 1st aria points to its possible use on the Feast of St.Michael (Candlemas) which always falls on September 29th. According to this reasoning, Bach may have used this cantata again in 1737, a year in which the 15. Sunday after Trinity and Candlemas fall on the same day. [See below how this compares with the results of more recent research.]

Voigt: Among all the solo cantatas, this one ranks near the top. However, in order to achieve a significant effect, it will be necessary to have an artist-vocalist with great ability to comprehend and interpret the text as well as one possessing a 'great' [full] voice. Both arias connected with a beautiful recitative are treated very differently, the 1st with obbligato trumpet is celebratory, while the 2nd mvt. can be treated in a restrained manner, and the 2nd aria is very introspective. Voigt suggests using two boy soprano voices for the figured chorale mvt. and even having all of the capable boy sopranos join in for the final Alleluja!!!

Schweitzer: The unusually large number of Bach's solo cantatas at this time is easily explained by the poor state of the St Thomas choir at the beginning of the 1730's. BWV 51 is a brilliant and spirited piece of coloratura for soprano and trumpet. The final Alleluja becomes a concerto for soprano and trumpet with orchestral accompaniment. All sopranos interested in Bach are recommended to practice this cantata daily. Its full effect, however, is obtainable only when it is sung by a clear boy's voice. Everyone who has studied Bach's scores carefully, knows that there are many mvts. in them that can never be fully effective except with the freshness and timbre of a boy's voice. Perhaps the day will come when we shall once more hear the soprano cantata "Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen" (BWV 51) again sung by the fresh voice of a boy. It can not be too strongly urged that the 'cantus firmus' (Mvt. 4) of the chorale, even in the chorale arias, should always be sung by boys. Anyone who has heard boy sopranos in the introductory chorus of the chorale cantatas can hardly imagine them again without. [Fortunately Schweitzer never heard an introductory chorus of a chorale cantata sung by a boys' choir under the direction of N. Harnoncourt, as could be heard in BWV 78, the cantata under discussion last week.]

Dürr: In 1726 (the 3rd Leipzig cantata cycle year) the 29th of September (Feast of St. Michael, Candlemas) fell on the 15th Sunday after Trinity. Candlemas celebration in church, with its own Epistle and Gospel took precedence over the normal readings for that Sunday. Bach composed BWV 19 "Es erhub sich ein Streit" for that occasion. Now there was a gap in the regular cantata cycle, a gap which Bach probably filled on the 17. September 1730. No additional performance of this cantata has been verified, but because of the designation "in ogni Tempo" it is possible that such a performance may have taken place, as, for instance, to honor the city councilors. Dürr attempts to find some connection with the Gospel reading, but his examples are not very convincing. He then tries to connect some of the text with biblical passages from Psalms (138,2 and 26,8) and Lamentations (3, 22-23.) The concluding mvt. is based on a verse (Königsberg, 1549) later added to Johann Gramann's chorale, "Nun lob, mein Seel, den Herren."

Bach set the text in the form of an Italian solo cantata, the type that can be found, for example in the works of Alessandro Scarlatti. In the 1st mvt. "Jauchzet" ("shout for joy") the soprano is part of a concertante group consisting of soprano voice, trumpet, and 1st violin. In the chorale setting the soprano simply sings the melody of the chorale as a contribution to the instrumental trio. The final Alleluja is a fugato. In the outer mvts. The soprano has a virtuoso part the goes all the way to a high 'c' (c3.) It is obvious that Bach had at his disposal a singer capable of singing this type of part well. It is almost impossible to consider that a female soprano was used in Leipzig which was very conservative in this matter. The trumpet player also had to be excellent, but this part it is almost certain that Gottfried Reiche (1667-1734), the senior member of the Leipzig "Ratsmusiker" was chosen. The introduction and interest in virtuoso parts such as these are a characteristic of Bach's later cantatas.

Mvt. 1: Very evident here is the similarity with the forms of an instrumental concerto. The soloists - soprano, trumpet, and at times also the 1st violin - engage in long coloraturas that are frequently interrupted or accompanied by the main tutti of the ritornello. The main tutti motif is a broken triad chord which appears at first in C major, but then also in the dominant, G major, in the parallel keys, a minor and e minor, as well as in the dominant key of B major of the latter. This lends a clear thematic unity to the mvt. despite the wide range of the text (of the 8 lines of text, 7 are in the middle section.)

Mvt. 2: The only recitative is divided into 2 parts. It begins with a string accompagnato (section a) and yet the final two lines of text ("Muß gleich der schwache Mund.") are expanded to a separate section of two subsections (b, b') and is accompanied only by the bc.

Mvt. 3: The 2nd aria is constructed upon quasi-ostinato bc figures like the arioso in the preceding mvt. Over these bc figures which unify all the elements of the aria, the soprano is allowed to indulge in expressive coloraturas.

Mvt. 4: The final chorale is not in the usual 4-part harmonization, but rather is sung as an unembellished cantus firmus around which a trio sonata (2 violins & bc) is created. The fugato Alleluja once again resumes the virtuosic treatment with which the cantata began. This leads toward a conclusion with an enthusiastic climax.

Despite the condensed nature of this composition, Bach gives us examples of five important principles that govern the form of Baroque compositions: 1. Concerto, 2. Monody, 3. Ostinato Variations, 4. Elaboration of a Chorale, and 5. Fugue.


Cantata BWV 51: Details
1900-1949 | 1950-1959 | 1960-1969 | 1970-1979 | 1980-1989 | 1990-1999 | 2000-2009 | 2010-2019 | Recordings of Individual Movements
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10
The Need for Bach: A discussion of his life, Jauchzet Gott in Allen Landen, BWV 51 and Ich habe genung, BWV 82 [S. Burton]

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 13:34