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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 69
Lobe den Herrn, meine Seele [I]
Cantata BWV 69a
Lobe den Herrn, meine Seele


Thomas Braatz wrote (August 23, 2002):
BWV 69 and 69a - Commentary:


Because Spitta thinks that the 1st mvt. is too extraordinarily festive for the 12th Sunday after Trinity, he surmises that Bach, at the time of the original composition of this work, had already envisioned a later application of the initial choral mvt. for important occasions such as the council election/change of council [Leipzig], an event for which Bach would have to supply the celebratory music. This latter event [BWV 69] with text changes forsakes the connection with the Gospel reading for this specific Sunday, a connection that the original cantata (BWV 69a) had. Spitta indicates that the arias do not have any outstanding significance: “It seems that Bach put all of his energy into composing the 1st mvt. which contains a double fugue introduced by aria-like passages. This mvt. is among Bach’s most fiery, glorious compositions of this type.


BWV 69a:
The text makes a connection with the Gospel reading (Mark 7: 31-37) >>[NLT] Jesus left Tyre and went to Sidon, then back to the Sea of Galilee and the region of the Ten Towns. Jesus led him to a private place away from the crowd. He put his fingers into the man's ears. Then, spitting onto his own fingers, he touched the man's tongue with the spittle And looking up to heaven, he sighed and commanded, "Be opened!" Instantly the man could hear perfectly and speak plainly! Jesus told the crowd not to tell anyone, but the more he told them not to, the more they spread the news, for they were completely amazed. Again and again they said, "Everything he does is wonderful. He even heals those who are deaf and mute."<< [Personally, I can not help but think that Bach, who was so concerned about a person's ears being plugged and unable to hear, immediately in the very 1st mvt., probably right after the Gospel of the Sunday has been read to the congregation, gives such an individual whose hearing has just been restored, an earful of the most glorious Bach so that such a healed individual
and others who have experienced this transformation will be inspired to praise God.] But the text also takes Jesus’ miraculous deed as a symbol for God’s constant working within a human being who is then challenged to praise God with the words from >>[NLT] Psalm 103:2 Praise the LORD, I tell myself, and never forget the good things he does for me.<< The following mvts. of the cantata follow up on this challenge. The 4th mvt. places special emphasis upon relating this praise in word and song which should be done with “tausend Zungen” [“a thousand tongues”] (mvt. 2.) Likewise, the words, “Mein Mund ist schwach, die Zunge stumm…sprich dein kräftig Hephata“ [„My mouth is weak, my tongue mute…do speak your powerful word, Hephata”] in mvt. 4 refer to the healing of the deaf-mute in the Gospel reading. Mvt. 5 asks the God who maintains us to protect us in the future and connects once again with the Gospel reading using the words, “Gott hat alles wohl gemacht” [“God has done everything well”] cf. “everything he does is wonderful.” Similar thoughts are contained in the final chorale which features vs. 6 of the well-known chorale by Samuel Rodigast (1675).

Based on this notion of praising God, Bach uses a very festive sound in the instrumental accompaniment, a sound that would not be expected for such a regular Sunday. The center and, at the same time, high point of the 1st mvt. is the grandiose double fugue which features a dualistic theme consisting of the parts: 1) “Lobe den Herrn” [“Praise the Lord”] and 2) “und vergiß nicht” [“and don’t forget.”] Both themes are first presented individually and then combined. This is accomplished by a form sequence that is based on halves where the first half appears as follows: Choir (Soloists?) – Instruments – Tutti and is devoted solely to the 1st theme; the same sequence then repeats but this time with the 2nd theme and with the change that this
time the Tutti section contains both themes. Thus Bach is able to present this double fugue in such a way that it builds to a high point as it goes through various phases. The exposition of the 1st theme is structured as a “Permutationsfuge.” [This term was first used and explained by Werner Neumann in “J.S.Bachs Chorfuge” Leipzig, 1938. It refers to the earliest type of choral fugue which Bach used beginning in 1708. This type of fugue does without the freer interludes that are more common to instrumental fugues. This fugal form is stricter but accomplishes greater and tighter unification of the musical elements.] The development of the 2nd theme is not quite as rigorous (freer in form) than the 1st. The framework which surrounds the double fugue is made of freely polyphonic, chordal sections, and even “Choreinbau” [“the composing of choral parts into or on top of already existing instrumental sections (ritornelli.)] This framework is also surrounded on another, outermost level by the sinfonia. The entire 1st mvt. has a wonderful symmetry: Sinfonia – Choral Section – Double Fugue (divided into halves) – Choral Section – Sinfonia.

After the 1st recitative, there is soprano aria, “Meine Seele, auf, erzähle,” in which the 1st oboist switches to play the oboe da caccia and the 2nd oboist now plays the recorder – this is an example of the versatility that Bach demanded of his instrumentalists. Is it possible that the 1727 aria transformation was made necessary because Bach could not find players with the same versatility? Or did Bach use this aria in a setting unrelated to normal cantata presentations, as implied by the NBA editors? In any case we have no reason to believe that Bach made this change out of aesthetic reasons because he did not like what he had heard the first time around. The soprano aria is a pastorale characterized by a hovering 3-beat-per-measure movement that expresses a joyful release of emotion.

The next secco recitative increases the tension as it moves into the arioso section that leads right into the 2nd aria, once again with a 3-beat per measure rhythm, but this time the rhythm is very powerful and energetic. Marvelous is the 2nd part of the aria (the middle section) where Bach works with the contrast between “Leiden – Freuden” [“Suffering – Joy”] which pass through a chromatically descending passage in the 1st part of this section, while in the 2nd part they ascend to join the lively bass coloraturas on “Gott hat alles wohl gemacht” [“God has done everything well.”]

The plain 4-pt. chorale Bach borrowed from his cantata, BWV 12. In adapting this chorale setting for this (BWV 69a) cantata, Bach omitted the obligato upper voice of the original setting. We have no way of telling what may have caused him to do this.

BWV 69:
Because of the joyful import of BWV 69a, Bach was able to adapt the latter cantata for this festive occasion, the Installation of the newly elected City Council Members. Bach had to compose new recitatives on new texts and make numerous other changes, including the insertion of a different chorale (the 3rd vs. of Luther’s chorale, “Es woll uns Gott genädig sein” [“May God be merciful unto us”] (1524.) Mvts. 1 and 5 were left essentially unchanged, as well as Mvt. 3 which had already undergone a transformation earlier. Now only textual changes had to be considered.

The connection with the inauguration of the newly elected city council members is only found in the recitatives, the 1st of which, entirely in the secco style, praises God as the creator and maintainer, to whom one should give thanks and respect. The 2nd recitative is more specifically related to this city council event: it begins as a secco like the 1st recitative, but at the words, “Jedoch, nur eines zu gedenken” [“However, there is only one thing to think about”], strings are added to the ensemble. These strings help musically to emphasize the gratitude that everyone should for a wise leadership. Finally, when the text changes to addressing God directly another higher level of intensification is achieved in this arioso section. This recitative goes through stages: it begins with the secco section (a general observation), then moves into the accompagnato section (thoughts relating to the city rulership) and finally comes to the arioso (a prayer for future help.) The simple final chorale is expanded by adding a separate set of trumpet parts, which set off the end of each line of the chorale, but when the request for blessings occur in the final section, the trumpets now accompany the entire line.


Cantatas BWV 69 & BWV 69a: Details & Complete Recordings of BWV 69 | Details & Complete Recordings of BWV 69a | Recordings of Individual Movemnts from BWV 69 | 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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