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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 99
Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan [II]

Friedrich Smend | Alfred Durr


Thomas Braatz wrote (November 13, 2002):
BWV 99 - Commentaries:


The Gospel for the 15th Sunday after Trinity emphasizes Jesus’ words, “Sorget nicht!” [“Don’t worry (about everyday life)!”] and “Trachtet allein nach dem Reich Gottes!” [“Make the Kingdom of God your primary concern!”], but, at the same time, it refers to the grass, “das doch heute stehet und morgen in den Ofen geworfen wird,” [“which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven.”], to how all creation must succumb to death and to God’s faithful caring for us as a father. This is the basis upon which the cantata is constructed.

In Mvt. 1 the 4-pt. chorale appears within an instrumental texture that has the strings engaged in a charming conversation with the winds (flute and oboe d’amore). Both instrumental groups are given separate themes that nevertheless are derived from the opening line of the chorale melody. These themes first occur in sequence, but are later combined and exchanged.

After the bass recitative supported only by the organ and which is somewhat related to the ideas contained in the 2nd verse of the chorale, there is a tenor aria, a paraphrase of verse 3. This is an aria rich in musical figuration with some harsh chromaticism, which is first presented by the flute and organ before the motif is taken up by the voice. This figure is probably prompted by the words, “der Kreuzeskelch so bitter schmeckt” [“the cup of the cross tastes so bitter.”]

The 4th verse of the chorale is the basis for the 2nd recitative (alto and organ.) The duet for soprano and alto which follows this makes use of both wind instruments which have a fugue-like accompaniment. Here the penultimate verse of the chorale is mixed with another biblical reference: Gal. 6:8 “Wer auf sein Fleisch sät, der wird von dem Fleisch das Verderben ernten; wer aber auf den Geist sät, der wird von dem Geist das ewige Leben ernten.“ [“Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful desires will harvest the consequences of decay and death. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit.”] In the concluding mvt., the listener hears Bach’s simple, but comforting, 4-pt. setting of the last verse of Rodigast’s chorale.


Dürr sees only a slight connection between the text of this cantata and the Gospel for this 15th Sunday after Trinity. In the 4th mvt., the librettist’s words, “und haben alle Tage gleich ihre eigne Plage” ["and all days have their own particular trial"] refer specifically to the Gospel reading, Matt 6:34 “So don't worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today's trouble is enough for today.” The librettist generally follows rather closely the sequence of thoughts in the original chorale and in Mvt. 2 he even keeps almost all the rhyming words of the original. He does, however, add references to the ‘cross’ that God places upon man as, for example, in Mvt. 3 “wenn dir der Kreuzeskelch so bitter schmeckt” and twice in Mvt. 5 “des Kreuzes Bitterkeiten” and “Wer das Kreuz… vor unerträglich schätzet.” In doing this the librettist strengthens even more than the Gospel does the connection between Christ’s suffering and that of any Christian.

The character of Mvt. 1 is definitely in a concertante style. The strings present an independent motif which is nevertheless derived from the chorale melody and, in m. 16, after a cadence, a concertino with flute & oboe d’amore commences. Here these instruments coupled with the 1st violin begin a repetition of the opening motif, but here the flute has fast, contrapuntal 16th note figures. After 3 measures the choir enters with the soprano + horn having the chorale melody (c.f.) in long note values (mainly half notes.) The accompanying voices move more quickly but mainly in chordal (homophonic, non-polyphonic) fashion. After the 1st line of the chorale has been sung, the intervening ritornello combines the woodwinds and strings in a concertante dialogue. After the repeat of the Stollen, Bach introduces new groupings of instruments and provides for greater variety in the distribution of the instrumental parts. The oboe d’amore, for instance, even gets to play the fast-moving 16th note passages which only the flute had played earlier.

Mvt. 2 begins as a plain, secco recitative but ends with an extensive, arioso coloratura on the word, “wenden.”

The following aria, Mvt. 3, supports the notion that Bach had at his disposal a very good flutist. The opening motif is derived from the notion expressed in the text: “erschüttre” [“to be shaken”] of the “verzagte Seele” [“despondent, despairing soul.”] There is a ‘shaking’ which is followed by a chromatically descending motif. Bach describes this affect despite the fact that the entire statement is negated: “Erschüttre dich nur nicht, verzagte Seele” [“Do NOT be shaken, despairing soul.”]

Mvt. 4, another recitative, is conceived as a correspondence to Mvt. 2. It begins similarly as a secco recitative that ends in a final coloratura on the word, “erscheinet” [“will appear.”]

Mvt. 5 shows once again the flute with a primary role along with the oboe d’amore while the strings appear only in Mvt. 1 & Mvt. 6. Bach begins with a trio sonata consisting of the two solo instruments + continuo which becomes a quintet when the voices enter. As with many other duet mvts. Bach maintains some of the serial structure of the motets, similar to the duets by Agostino Steffani, whose music was highly regarded as being classic in Bach’s day. The second, B section presents a new theme, but there is no repeat of the A section as such. Instead Bach introduces an instrumental quote of the melodic material from section A within the B section, thereby achieving a sense of ‘rounding off’ without having a da capo structure as such.


Cantata BWV 99: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4
Bach-W. Walton: The Wise Virgins, suite from the ballet (arranged music of J.S. Bach)

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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