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Musical Context of Bach Cantatas
Motets & Chorales for Feast of John the Baptist

 

Readings: Epistle: Isaah 40: 1-5; Gospel: Luke 1: 57-80

Dates in the lifetime of J.S. Bach, including works composed for the event

Motets and Chorales for the Feast of John the Baptist

 
 

Feast of John the Baptist: Motets & Chorales (Rev.)

William Hoffman wrote (January 20, 2013):
The music Bach presented in Leipzig for the Feast of the Nativity of John the Baptist, involved a veritable feast of cantatas of Bach (BWV 167, 7, and 30), Georg Philipp Telemann (TVWV 1:0596), Johann Ludwig Bach (JLB-17) Gottfried Heinrich Stöezel (two), and possibly an anonymous cantata originally attributed to Sebastian (BWV 220). These works and three other cantatas with Johanine connections (BWV 132, 129, and 137) embrace joyous chorales reflecting the significance of this feast of Zechariah's Benedictus blessing and prophecy, "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel," central to the Lucan Gospel series of announcements, canticles of praise, and Nativities of John the Baptist and his cousin, Jesus. In addition the music celebrates John's Baptism of Jesus, the theme of Justification, and the Trinitarian principle emphasizing God the Creator through the Holy Spirit.

The beginning of the Gospel of Luke is grounded in six events involving the coming of Jesus, the Messiah, found in no other Gospel. These are a series of announcements and canticles of praise in the first two chapters. The events are:
1. Gabriel's Announcement of the conception of John the Baptist (September 24) to his father, the priest Zechariah (1:11-21);
2. Gabriel's announcement six months later (March 25) to Mary of the conception of Jesus (1:26-38);
3. Mary's immediate Visitation to her ?aunt Elizabeth, wife of Zechariah Canticle (1:46-56) and Magnificat canticle of praise;
4. Zechariah's blessing canticle and Prophecy and blessing at the birth of John the Baptist (June 24, 1:67-79);
5. The Angel's Announcement to the Shepherds of the Birth of Jesus (Christmas, December 25, 2:8-14); and
6. Jesus' Presentation (announcement, February 2, 40 days after Christmas) in the Temple with Simeon's Canticle, 2:22-32.

Gospel: Luke 1: 57-80 The birth (Nativity) of John the Baptist and the Prophecy of (his father) Zechariah.
On the eight day of John's birth he is circumcised and named by his father, the priest Zacharias. The related Old Testament Epistle is from the prophet Isaiah 40: 1-5, Prepare the way. Biblical readings in Luther's German and the English King James Version (KJV) are found at BCW, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Read/John-Baptist.htm.

Just after Mary's unique canticle, Magnificat amnima mae Dominum (My soul magnifies the Lord), comes the special biblical blend of Zachariah's Prophecy, preceeded by his basic song of praise, Benedictus (Blessing): "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel" (Gelobet sei der Herr, der Gott Israel, Luke 1:68), based on the closing of Psalm 41:13, Beatus qui intelligit (Happy are they who consider the poor and needy!).

Coincidentally the Feast of John the Baptist occurs at the summer solstice, June 24, which is the mirror image of Christmas. The underlying theme of full light at the longest day is found in gospel of the Evangelist John 1:6-9 (KJV): "There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world."

Two related John the Baptist Gospel Readings (KJV) are:

+3rd Sunday in Advent: Mat. 11: 2-10 (John's messengers, after Jesus has commissioned the twelve disciples, John, imprisoned by Herod, sends two of his disciples to assure that Jesus is the Messiah John has prepared.

+4th Sunday in Advent: John 1: 19-28 (John's message, When the Jewish elders in Jerusalem confront John the Baptist: "I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, make straight the way of the Lord (Isaiah 40)." See Cantata BWV 30 below.

Musical Context: Motets & Chorales

The Feast of John the Baptist on June 24 in Leipzig was a special musical celebration involving both the mass main service and the following matins vespers. Douglas Cowling's Study of the "Musical Context of the Motets and Masses" for this day shows three introit motets using Psalms 34 and 47 as well as the closing prophecy portion of Zechariah's Canticle and Prophecy (Luke 1:76-79). The chorales to be sung by the congregation are the Hymn of the Day (de tempore) "Herr Christ der einige Gottes Sohn" (Lord Jesus Christ, God's only son), and the Pulpit and Communion Hymns "Gelobet seist du Herr Gott Israel" and "Benedictus Dominus Deus Israel" (Zechariah's canticle, Blessed be the Lord God of Israel), and Martin Luther's Catechism baptismal hymn, "Christ unser Herr zum Jordan kam" (Christ our Lord to the Jordan came).


[BCW, Date: Jul 25, 2011 6:33 PM]
The Musical Context of Bach's Cantatas:
Motets & Chorales for Summer Saints Days (June-August)
Cantata Required
FEAST OF THE BIRTH OF JOHN THE BAPTIST (June 24) Zacharias
FEAST OF THE VISITATION OF MARY (July 2) Magnificat

Sources:

* BACH'S HYMN BOOK:
Jürgen Grimm, "Das neu [?] Leipziger Gesangbuch des Gottfried Vopelius [NLGB]
(Leipzig 1682)",
Berlin: Merseburger, 1969.
ML 3168 G75

* BACH'S MOTET COLLECTION:
Otto Riemer, "Erhard Bodenschatz und sein Florilegium Portense"
Schünigen: Kaminsky, 1927
ML 410 B67R4

Dissertation on Bodenschatz Collection (downloadable
NOTES: http://etd.ohiolink.edu/view.cgi/Chaney%20Mark%20A.pdf?osu1180461416


* The Feasts of the Birth of John the Baptist (June 24) and the Visitation
of Mary (July 2) were both celebrated as principal festivals which could
displace the Sunday observance. Both required the performance of a cantata
and a concerted Latin Missa and Sanctus.

* FEAST OF THE BIRTH OF JOHN THE BAPTIST (June 24)

* Note: The prescribed hymns include the Latin plainsong hymn as well as the
Latin canticle which may have been used at Matins.

1) MOTETS for Introit, Before Sermon at mass and vespers for Choir II, and
During Communion:

i) "Benedicam Dominum" (8 voices) - Andrea Gabrieli (1532-1585)
Biography: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrea_Gabrieli

Text: Psalm 34:1-6
"I will extol the LORD at all times; his praise will always be on my lips. 2
My soul will boast in the LORD; let the afflicted hear and rejoice. 3
Glorify the LORD with me; let us exalt his name together. 4 I sought the
LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. 5 Those who
look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. 6 This
poor man called, and the LORD heard him; he saved him out of all his
troubles."

Comparison Sample: "Magnificat for 12 Voices" - A. Gabrieli
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xAoHi48Gkfs


ii) "Omnes Gentes" (8 voices) - Heinrich Steuccius (1579-1645)
biography: http://tinyurl.com/3b5nn5j


Text: Psalm 47:
"O clap your hands together, all ye people: O sing unto God with the voice
of melody. For the Lord is high, and to be feared: he is the great King
upon all the earth. He shall subdue the people under us: and the nations
under our feet. He shall choose out an heritage for us: even the worship of
Jacob, whom he loved. "

Comparison Sample: "Omnes Gentes" - Giovanni Gabrieli
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u_8H8AJvGy4


iii) "Et tu Puer" (8 voices) - Caspar Vicentius
Caspar Vicentius (1580-1624)

Flemish composer. He was civic organist of Speyer in c1602-1615, and
after a period in Worms became organist of Würzburg Cathedral in 1618. He
edited the first three volumes (1611-13) of the motet collection
Promptuarium musiwith Abraham Schadaeus and compiled the fourth (1617)
himself; the motets include 25 of his own, which are mainly conservative in
style.

Edition of Motets: http://tinyurl.com/3cpmqwy


Text: Luke 1:76-79 [Zechariah's Prophecy]
76 "And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;
for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,
77 to give his people the knowledge of salvation
through the forgiveness of their sins,
78 because of the tender mercy of our God,
by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
79 to shine on those living in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace."

2) HYMN OF DAY (de tempore)
"Herr Christ der einige Gottes Sohn" [NLGB 231, Catechism Justification; Zahn melody 4297a)
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/Chorale114-Eng3.htm

3) CHORALES for Pulpit and Communion Hymns:

"Gelobet sei der Herr der Gott Israel" [NLGB No. 150, John's Baptism]

"Benedictus Dominus Deus Israel" [NLGB No. 151, John's Baptism]

"Christ unser Herr zum Jordan kam" [NLGB No. 176, Catechism Baptism]
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/Chorale106-Eng3.htm
Sample: [track 37] http://preview.tinyurl.com/3tehwtt


Cantatas for Feast of Nativity of St John the Baptist [all dates June 24]

The record shows that for the Feast of John the Baptist in Leipzig, Bach produced three distinct cantatas: his first solo work, BWV 176; a chorale cantata setting of Luther's Catechism Baptismal hymn, BWV 7; and a two-part celebration of joyous progressive music in one of his last cantatas, BWV 30. In addition, during Bach's Leipzig tenure, cantatas of Georg Philipp Telemann (TVWV 1:596), cousin Johann Ludwig Bach (JLB-17), and two of Gottfried Heinrich Stöezel (No. 45) were performed, and possibly an anonymous setting once attributed to Bach, Cantata BWV 220, "Lobt ihn mit Herz und Munde" (Praise him with heart and mouth).

+BWV 167, "Ihr Menschen, rühmet Gottes Liebe" (You people, sing the praises of God's love, 1723);
+BWV 7, "Christ, unser Herr, zum Jordan kam" (1724);
+TVWV 1:596, G.P. Telemann Cantata "Gelobet sei der Herr, der Gott Israel" (1725);
+JLB 17, Johann Ludwig Bach Cantata "Siehe ich will meinen Engel senden" (See, I will send my angel, 1726);
+P-46 (Picander cantata cycle original text), "Gelobet sei der Herr, der Gott Israel" (1728);
+Stöezel 45, "Es ist in keinem andern Heil, ist auch kein ander Name" (Rec. 4:12, Neither is their salvation in any other, for there is none other name) (1736) (Schmolck String Cycle, lost)
+ Stöezel 45, no incipit (Schmolck Names of Christ Cycle, as early as 1737)
+BWV 30, "Freue dich, erlöste Schar" (Rejoice, redeemed host; 1738, possible repeat no later than 1742)
=30a, Angenehmes Wiederau, freue dich in deinen Auen! (homage, 1737)
+?BWV 220, "Lobt ihn mit Herz und Munden" Unknown composer (not known if performed by J.S. Bach)

There are three other Bach cantatas with distinct connections to the Feast of John the Baptist: Cantata BWV 132, "Bereitet die Wege, bereitet die Bahn!" (Prepare the ways, prepare the path!) for the Fourth Sunday in Advent in Weimar; pure hymn Chorale Cantata 129, "Gelobet sei der Herr,/ Mein Gott, mein Licht, mein Leben" (Praised be the Lord,/ my God, my light, my life), for Trinity Sunday 1726 (both discussed below); and pure hymn Chorale Cantata 137, "Lobe den Herren, den mächtigen König der Ehren" (Praise the Lord, the mighty king of honour), for the 12th Sunday after Trinity, August 19, 1725. Like Cantata BWV 129, Cantata BWV 137 was not composed as part of the chorale cantata (second) cycle but as an afterthought that may have served multiple purposes. Its Old Testament celebratory images of God the Father are not particularly appropriate for a Sunday in middle Trinity Time and may have been performed for the annual Installation of the Leipzig Town Council.


John the Baptist Chorales

Besides the appointed hymns for the Feast of John the Baptist, Bach in his musical presentations for the festive days occurring during Trinity Time in Leipzig used related chorales, especially those involving Zechariah's Benediction, "Gelobet sei der Herr, der Gott Israel," Psalms, the Word of God, and the Catechism theme of Justification, as well as hymns sung in other Saxon congregations. The Hymn of the Day was Luther's "Christ, unser Herr, zum Jordan kam," set as Bach's Chorale Cantata BWV 7, observes Günther Stiller in <JSB and Liturgical Life in Leipzig (St. Louis MO: Concordia Publishing, 1984: 247). Also in all Leipzig and Dresden hymn schedules was "Nun lob, mein Seel, den Herren" (Now praise the Lord, my soul), which is discussed below closing Cantata BWV 167, sung also in Weißenfels. Another hymn was Olearius' "Tröstet meine Lieben" (Comfort ye, my people), in Cantata BWV 30.

Other, related chorales Bach sanctioned include: "Von Gott will ich nicht laßen" (I shall not abandon God), Telemann TVWV 1:596/3; "Durch Adams Fall ist ganz verderbt/ Menschlich Natur und Wesen" (Through Adam's fall is wholly corrupted/ Man's nature and character), Telemann TVWV 1:596/6; "Jesu, meine Freude" (Jesus my joy), Picander Cantata text P-46; "Gelobet sei der Herr,/ Mein Gott, mein Licht, mein Leben" (Praised be the Lord,/ my God, my light, my life), Chorale Cantata BEWV 129; Luther's "Gott sei gelobet und gebenedeiet" (May God be praised and blest), plain Chorales BWV 322-23; and the versatile Communion chorale melody, "Freu dich sehr, o meine Seele" (Rejoice greatly, o my soul).

First Solo (Baptist) Cantata 167

Cantata BWV 167, "Ihr Menschen, rühmet Gottes Liebe" (You people, sing the praises of God's love) is Bach's first solo cantata in his Leipzig cycle, presented on Thursday, June 24, 1723 The text of Bach's first cantata for the Feast of John the Baptist focuses on the Gospel lesson of the Nativity and Zechariah's Song of Praise, "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel" (Luke 1:68-75) and the Prophecy that John shall prepare the way of the Messiah. See Francis Browne English cantata text translation, BCW, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/BWV167-Eng3.htm

Cantata BWV 167 opens with the proclamatory tenor aria addressing the congregation, "Ihr Menschen" (You people), imploring them to join the Prophet Zechariah's song of praise, repeating Zechariah's reference (Luke 1:69) to "Horn des Heils" (Horn of Salvation), through the Prophecy of John preparing the way of the Messiah. The full German text (Luke 1:68-79) is found on-line at http://www.christliche-gedichte.de/?pg=11394. The King James Version (KJV) is found on-line at http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+1%3A68-79&version=NIV

No. 2, the alto recitative repeats the Song of Praise (Luke 1:68), "Gelobet sei der Herr Gott Israel" (Praised be the Lord God of Israel) then that "Erst stellte sich Johannes ein/ Und mußte Weg und Bahn/ Dem Heiland zubereiten" (First John appeared/ and had to make ready/ the way and path for the saviour).

No. 3, the central soprano-alto duet, Gottes Wort, das trüget nicht" (God's word does not deceive) becomes a song of joy in the da-capo middle section passage in ¾ time.

No. 4, the bass recitative, paraphrases, Zechariah's initial response to naming his son, "Ein stummer Zacharias preist/ Mit lauter Stimme Gott vor seine Wundertat, / Die er dem Volk erzeiget hat (Zacharias, who was speechless, praises/ God with loud voice for the miracle/ which he has produced for his people).

No. 5, In the closing plain chorale, the congregation joins in the fifth and final stanza of the general Communion Hymn of Praise, "Nun Lob mein Seel, den Herren") in G Major, chorale with orchestral interludes (similar to BWV 147/6,10, "Jesu joy of man's desiring," presented eight days later on the Feast of the Visitation, Friday, July 2, 1723:

Sei Lob und Preis mit Ehren
Gott Vater, Sohn, Heiligem Geist!
Der woll in uns vermehren,
Was er uns aus Genad verheißt,
Dass wir ihm fest vertrauen,
Gänzlich verlassn auf ihn,
Von Herzen auf ihn bauen,
Dass unsr Herz, Mut und Sinn
Ihm festiglich anhangen;
Darauf singn wir zur Stund:
Amen, wir werdns erlangen,
Gläuben wir aus Herzens Grund.

Praise and glory with honour be
to God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit!
May he increase in us
what he promised to us in his mercy
so that we may trust firmly in him
depend completely on him,
sincerely rely on him,
so that our heart, spirit and mind
may cling to him resolutely;
Therefore we now sing:
Amen, we shall achieve this,
we shall believe from the depths of our heart.

"Nun lob mein Seel, den Herren" (Now praise the Lord my soul), by Johann Gramann (Poliander) 1548, uses the associated melody by ?Johann Kugelmann 1540 (Zahn 8244). The chorale is based on Psalm 103, "Thanksgiving for God's Goodness," and is found in Bach's Leipzig hymnbook, Das Neu Leipziger Gesangbuch (NLGB 1682), No. 261 (Christian Life & Conduct, Psalm Hymn) and listed in in the hymn schedules for Sundays after Trinity 12-14 and 17-19. Francis Browne English translation is found at BCW http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/Chorale136-Eng3.htm

The same Stanza 5, "Sei Lob und Preis mit Ehren" (Praise and glory with honour be) also appears in Cantata BWV 29/8, Town Council 1729, and Cantata BWV 51/4 soprano chorale aria, Trinity 15, c.1730 and "anytime."

Bach's other plain chorale usages of "Nun lob mein Seel, den Herren" include Cantata BWV 17/7(S.3), Trinity 14 1726), and troped in Motet BWV 225/2(S.3) (?New Years), and four-voice chorales BWV 389 in C Major in 4/4 and BWV 390 in C Major ¾ time. "Sebastian Bach's Choral-Buch" (SBCB) c.1740 sets the melody and figured bass, p.148f (Robin A. Leaver, American Bach Society 2012).

"Nun lob, mein' Seel', den Herren" is listed in the chorale prelude Orgelbüchlein collection (Weimar, c.1714) as No. 86, a Communion hymn but not set. An early organ Miscellaneous Chorale, BWV Anh. 60 (G Major, ¾ time), is attributed to Bach cousin Johann Gottfried Walther (Emans 144).

Bach 8-Voice Motet Setting?

There is an eight-voice motet-style chorale setting originally attributed to Bach in two sources: Cantata BWV 28/2 in C Major for the Sunday after Christmas 1725, fair copy in Bach's hand setting Stanza 1 with instrumental doubling, Bach authorship disputed by Klaus Hofmann, NBA KB I/3.2 (2000: 73):

Nun lob, mein' Seel', den Herren,
Was in mir ist, den Namen sein!
Sein' Wohltat tut er mehren,
Vergiß es nicht, o Herze mein!
Hat dir dein' Sünd' vergeben
Und heilt dein' Schwachheit groß,
Errett't dein armes Leben,
Nimmt dich in seinen Schoß,
Mit rechtem Trost beschüttet,
Verjüngt dem Adler gleich.
Der Kön'g schafft Recht, behütet,
Die leiden in sein'm Reich.

Now praise, my soul, the Lord,
all that is in me praise his name!
He adds to his acts of kindness,
do not forget this, oh my heart!
He has forgiven you your sins,
and healed your great weakness.
He rescues your poor life,
he takes you into his bosom,
pours down just consolation,
renews you like the eagle,
the king acts justly, protects
those who suffer in his kingdom.

Also the same eight-voice motet is found in the Bach motet BWV 231 in the hand of Altnikol, using Stanza 5 and later attributed to Georg Philipp Telemann, the source being the second movement of the Telemann motet, BWV Anh. 160, from "Jauchzet dem Herrn, Alle Welt," (Psalm 100:1-2, also classified as TVWV 8:10), dating to before late December 1725 (Daniel R. Melamed, Bach the German Motet, Cambridge Univ. Press, 1995: 102). The motet closes with a third movement, the motet fugue "Amen, Lob und Ehre" (Laud and honor, Rev.7:12 originally attributed to Bach successor J. G. Harrer in Breitkopf's first edition (Doering) of BWV Anh. 160. (Werner Neumann: <Handbuch der Kantaten JSBs>, Wiesbaden: Breitkopf & Härtel: 5th ed., 1984: 52), but now from "Telemann's cantata for the 1st Day of Christmas: Lobt Gott, ihr Christen allzugleich/Herr Gott, dich loben wir, TVWV 1:1066 (Francis Browne translation, BCW, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/BWVAnh160-Eng3.htm). "Amen, Lob und Ehre" is also the text for the closing chorus in the Telemann Cantata "Gelobet sei der Herr, der Gott Israel," TVWV 1:596 (see below).

The Telemann TVWV (Telemann Vokal Werke Verzeichnis catalog) information is found at Werner Menke, <Thematisches Verzeichnis der Vokalwerke von Georg Philipp Telemann> (Frankfurt am Main: V. Klostermann, c1982-c1983); ML134 T3 M4 1982.

Recordings of BWV Anh. 160:

+Apocryphal Bach Motets, BWV Anh. 159-165; Alsfelder Vokal Ensemble, Wolfgang Helbig; 2 CDs, CPO 999 139-2, 1992; Klaus Hofmann notes.

+Bach Motets; Gächinger Kantorei, Bach-Collegium Stuttgart, Helmut Rilling; Hänssler Edition, 2 CDs, 92.069, 1999; Dr. Andreas Bomba notes.

Primary Source: Frieder Rempp, Neue Bach Ausgabe KB III/3, "Motets, Chorale Settings and Songs of Doubtful Authenticity" with Critical reports on works which were mistakenly attributed to J.S. Bach (Bärenreiter Kassel, 2002: 34-68).

------

Next: Chorale Cantata BWV 7, Christ, unser Herr, zum Jordan kam

William Hoffman wrote (January 20, 2013):
Add:

<JSB and Liturgical Life in Leipzig (St. Louis MO: Concordia Publishing, 1984: 247). Also in all Leipzig and Dresden hymn schedules was "Nun lob, mein Seel, den Herren" (Now praise the Lord, my soul), which is discussed below closing Cantata BWV 167, sung also in Weißenfels. Another hymn was Olearius' "Tröstet meine Lieben" (Comfort ye, my people), in Cantata BWV 30.

Other, related chorales Bach sanctioned include: "Von Gott will ich nicht laßen" (I shall not abandon God), Telemann TVWV 1:596/3; "Durch Adams Fall ist ganz verderbt/ Menschlich Natur und Wesen" (Through Adam's fall is wholly corrupted/ Man's nature and character), Telemann TVWV 1:596/6; "Jesu, meine Freude" (Jesus my joy), Picander Cantata text P-46; "Gelobet sei der Herr,/ Mein Gott, mein Licht, mein Leben" (Praised be the Lord,/ my God, my light, my life), Chorale Cantata BEWV 129; Luther's "Gott sei gelobet und gebenedeiet" (May God be praised and blest), plain Chorales BWV 322-23; and the versatile Communion chorale melody, "Freu dich sehr, o meine Seele" (Rejoice greatly, o my soul).

First Solo (Baptist) Cantata 167

Cantata BWV 167, "Ihr Menschen, rühmet Gottes Liebe" (You people, sing the praises of God's love) is Bach's first solo cantata in his Leipzig cycle, presented on Thursday, June 24, 1723 The text of Bach's first cantata for the Feast of John the Baptist focuses on the Gospel lesson of the Nativity and Zechariah's Song of Praise, "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel" (Luke 1:68-75) and the Prophecy that John shall prepare the way of the Messiah. See Francis Browne English cantata text translation, BCW,

William Hoffman wrote (January 20, 2013):
Feast of John the Baptist: Motets & Chorales (Omitted)

<JSB and Liturgical Life in Leipzig (St. Louis MO: Concordia Publishing, 1984: 247). Also in all Leipzig and Dresden hymn schedules was "Nun lob, mein Seel, den Herren" (Now praise the Lord, my soul), which is discussed below closing Cantata BWV 167, sung also in Weißenfels. Another hymn was Olearius' "Tröstet meine Lieben" (Comfort ye, my people), in Cantata BWV 30.

Other, related chorales Bach sanctioned include: "Von Gott will ich nicht laßen" (I shall not abandon God), Telemann TVWV 1:596/3; "Durch Adams Fall ist ganz verderbt/ Menschlich Natur und Wesen" (Through Adam's fall is wholly corrupted/ Man's nature and character), Telemann TVWV 1:596/6; "Jesu, meine Freude" (Jesus my joy), Picander Cantata text P-46; "Gelobet sei der Herr,/ Mein Gott, mein Licht, mein Leben" (Praised be the Lord,/ my God, my light, my life), Chorale Cantata BEWV 129; Luther's "Gott sei gelobet und gebenedeiet" (May God be praised and blest), plain Chorales BWV 322-23; and the versatile Communion chorale melody, "Freu dich sehr, o meine Seele" (Rejoice greatly, o my soul).


First Solo (Ba) Cantata 167

Cantata BWV 167, "Ihr Menschen, rühmet Gottes Liebe" (You people, sing the praises of God's love) is Bach's first solo cantata in his Leipzig cycle, presented on Thursday, June 24, 1723 The text of Bach's first cantata for the Feast of John the Baptist focuses on the Gospel lesson of the Nativity and Zechariah's Song of Praise, "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel" (Luke 1:68-75) and the Prophecy that John shall prepare the way of the Messiah. See Francis Browne English cantata text translation, BCW,

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 23, 2013):
William Hoffman wrote:
< The music Bach presented in Leipzig for the Feast of the Nativity of John the Baptist, involved a veritable feast of cantatas ... >
Thanks to Will for his ongoing detailed contributions. I had hoped to continue to supplement these with weekly reminders of discussion topics through 2013, but disruptions in my personal life will prevent me from doing so with regularity.

I will continue to read and write as often as possible. Appreciation to everyone else who does the same, what a wonderful (and civilized!) group.

Linda Gingrich wrote (January 24, 2013):
[To Ed Myskowski] It's interesting to note that the bass line in the last couple of measures of the final number in Cantata 7 contains the melody, a little altered, of Cantata 135. These two cantatas were performed within twenty four hours of one another, the only two in this cycle to lie so close to one another in time, and Bach appears to have connected them both theologically and musically on several levels. In fact, they are part of the four-cantata group that opens his chorale cantata cycle. I wrote about this wonderful little connection in my dissertation, but can't claim credit for the discovery. It belongs to Dr. George Bozarth, a fabulous musicologist and Brahms expert.

Julian Mincham wrote (January 24, 2013):
[To Linda Gingrich] I recall noting this connection from reading Linda's thesis a year or so ago. It is particularly fascinating because it is not the only such link that BWV 7 shares with cantatas around it. The tenor aria from BWV 2, the second of the cycle, has a theme which is very similar in shape and rhythm from one to be found in the alto aria of BWV 7.

See the relevant articles (with the musical examples) from the links below..
http://www.jsbachcantatas.com/documents/chapter-3-bwv-2.htm
http://www.jsbachcantatas.com/documents/chapter-4-bwv-7.htm

Both arias deal with the process of development through metamorphosis, the one through fire the other through baptism.

It seems that for some reason Bach was very keen to link BWV 7, a cantata for a a special day (ST John's Day) which lay outside the regular Sunday services, to the cantatas which preceded and followed it. Like it or not, this cantata must have been viewed by Bach as an inherent part of his second Leipzig cycle through these links, because it is a chorale cantata (the third of the batch of forty) and because it is one of the quartet of works displaying the chorale theme (in the fantasia) successively in the four different voices--sop (20), alt (2) , tenor (7) and bass (135). There is almost certainly further symbolism intended here of which we are probably unaware.

 

Cantata 7: John the Baptist Feast Chorales

William Hoffman wrote (June 1, 2014):
When it came to the Feast of Nativity of John the Baptist, Bach utilized a wide range of motets and chorales for the actual service. The Feast of John the Baptist on June 24 in Leipzig was a special musical celebration involving both the mass main service and the following matins vespers. Douglas Cowling's Study of the "Musical Context of the Motets and Masses" for this day shows three introit motets using Psalms 34 and 47 as well as the closing prophecy portion of Zachariah's Canticle and Prophecy (Luke 1:76-79).

The chorales to be sung by the congregation are the Hymn of the Day (de tempore) "Herr Christ der einige Gottes Sohn" (Lord Jesus Christ, God's only son), and the Pulpit and Communion Hymns "Gelobet seist du Herr Gott Israel" and Benedictus Dominus Deus Israel (Zechariah's canticle, Blessed be the Lord God of Israel), and Martin Luther's Catechism baptismal hymn, "Christ unser Herr zum Jordan kam" (Christ our Lord to the Jordan came). They are listed in the Neu Leipziger Gesangbuch (NLGB} of 1682. Bach’s favored hymns were “Herr Christ der einige Gottes Sohn" and "Christ unser Herr zum Jordan kam." The sacred songs "Gelobet seist du Herr Gott Israel" and Benedictus Dominus Deus Israel are single stanzas of Zachariah’s canticle, also known as the Benedictus, and were not set by Bach as plain chorales or organ chorale preludes.

Besides the appointed hymns for the Feast of John the Baptist in the NLGB, Bach in his musical presentations for the festive days occurring during early Trinity Time in Leipzig utilized related chorales, Psalm settings, and the Catechism theme of Justification, as well as hymns sung in other Saxon congregations. The favored Hymn of the Day was Luther's "Christ, unser Herr, zum Jordan kam," set as Bach's Chorale Cantata BWV 7, observes Günther Stiller in JSB and Liturgical Life in Leipzig (St. Louis MO: Concordia Publishing, 1984: 247). Also in all Leipzig and Dresden hymn schedules was "Nun lob, mein Seel, den Herren" (Now praise the Lord, my soul), which closes Cantata BWV 167, sung also in Weißenfels. Another hymn was Olearius' "Tröstet meine Lieben" (Comfort ye, my people), in Cantata BWV 30.

Other, related chorales Bach sanctioned include: "Von Gott will ich nicht laßen" (I shall not abandon God), Telemann TVWV 1:596/3; "Durch Adams Fall ist ganz verderbt/ Menschlich Natur und Wesen" (Through Adam's fall is wholly corrupted/ Man's nature and character), Telemann TVWV 1:596/6; "Jesu, meine Freude" (Jesus my joy), Picander Cantata text P-46; "Gelobet sei der Herr,/ Mein Gott, mein Licht, mein Leben" (Praised be the Lord,/ my God, my light, my life), Chorale Cantata BWV 129; Luther's "Gott sei gelobet und gebenedeiet" (May God be praised and blest), plain Chorales BWV 322-23; and the versatile Communion chorale melody, "Freu dich sehr, o meine Seele" (Rejoice greatly, o my soul).

Bach's John the Baptist Cantatas

Bach responded with three original cantatas for the Feast of John the Baptist: BWV 167, "Ihr Menschen, rühmet Gottes Liebe" (You people, sing the praises of God's love, 1723); BWV 7, "Christ, unser Herr, zum Jordan kam" (1724); BWV 30, "Freue dich, erlöste Schar" (Rejoice, redeemed host; 1738, possible repeat no later than 1742). In addition, Bach presented four additional cantatas by other composers that use important chorales: Georg Philipp Telemann’s Cantata "Gelobet sei der Herr, der Gott Israel" (Blessed be the Lord God of Israel), TVWV 1:596 (1725); cousin Johann Ludwig Bach’s Cantata "Siehe ich will meinen Engel senden" (See, I will send my angel), JLB 17, (1726); Stöezel 45, "Es ist in keinem andern Heil, ist auch kein ander Name" (Acts 4:12, Neither is their salvation in any other, for there is none other name) (1736). Schmolck String Cycle, lost; and Stöezel 45, no incipit (Schmolck Names of Christ Cycle, as early as 1737). In addition, it is not known if Bach performed BWV 220, "Lobt ihn mit Herz und Munden" (Praise him with heart and mouth, Ps. 109:30) by an unknown composer.

The Feasts of the Birth of John the Baptist (June 24) and the Visitation of Mary (July 2) were both celebrated as principal festivals which could displace the Sunday observance. Both required the performance of a cantata

and a concerted Latin Missa and Sanctus. The primary source of this article is ”Musical Context of Bach Cantatas, Motets & Chorales for Feast of John the Baptist,” BCW http://www.bach-cantatas.com/LCY/M&C-John.htm.

These works and three other cantatas with Johanine connections (BWV 132, 129, and 137) embrace joyous chorales reflecting the significance of this feast of Zechariah's Benedictus blessing and prophecy, "Blessed bethe Lord God of Israel." These are central to the Lucan Gospel series of announcements, canticles of praise, and Nativities of John the Baptist and his cousin, Jesus. In addition the music celebrates John's Baptism of Jesus, the theme of Justification, and the Trinitarian principle emphasizing God the Creator through the Holy Spirit.

There are three other Bach cantatas with distinct connections to the Feast of John the Baptist: Cantata BWV 132, "Bereitet die Wege, bereitet die Bahn!" (Prepare the ways, prepare the path!) for the Fourth Sunday in Advent in Weimar; pure hymn Chorale Cantata 129, "Gelobet sei der Herr,/ Mein Gott, mein Licht, mein Leben" (Praised be the Lord,/ my God, my light, my life), for Trinity Sunday 1726; and pure hymn Chorale Cantata 137, "Lobe den Herren, den mächtigen König der Ehren" (Praise the Lord, the mighty king of honour), for the 12th Sunday after Trinity, August 19, 1725. Like Cantata BWV 129, Cantata BWV 137 was not composed as part of the chorale cantata (second) cycle but as an afterthought that may have served multiple purposes. Its Old Testament celebratory images of God the Father are not particularly appropriate for a Sunday in middle Trinity Time and may have been performed for the annual Installation of the Leipzig Town Council.

Luke's Gospel Prophecies & Canticles

The beginning of the Gospel of Luke is grounded in six events involving the coming of Jesus, the Messiah, found in no other Gospel. These are a series of announcements and canticles of praise in the first two chapters. The events are:

1. Gabriel's Announcement of the conception of John the Baptist (September 24) to his father, the priest Zachariah (1:11-21);
2. Gabriel's announcement six months later (March 25) to Mary of the conception of Jesus (1:26-38);
3. Mary's immediate Visitation to her ?aunt Elizabeth, wife of Zachariah Canticle (1:46-56) and Magnificat canticle of praise;
4. Zechariah's blessing canticle and Prophecy and blessing at the birth of John the Baptist (June 24, 1:67-79);
5. The Angel's Announcement to the Shepherds of the Birth of Jesus (Christmas, December 25, 2:8-14); and
6. Jesus' Presentation (announcement, February 2, 40 days after Christmas) in the Temple with Simeon's Canticle, 2:22-32.

Gospel: Luke 1: 57-80 The birth (nativity) of John the Baptist and the Prophecy of (his father) Zechariah.

On the eight day of John's birth he is circumcised and named by his father, the priest Zacharias. The related Old Testament Epistle is from the prophet Isaiah 40: 1-5, Prepare the way. Biblical readings in Luther's German and the English King James Version (KJV) are found at BCW, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Read/John-Baptist.htm.

Just after Mary's unique canticle, Magnificat amnima mae Dominum (My soul magnifies the Lord), comes the special biblical blend of Zachariah's Prophecy, preceded by his basic song of praise, Benedictus (Blessing): "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel" (Gelobet sei der Herr, der Gott Israel, Luke 1:68), based on the closing of Psalm 41:13, Beatus qui intelligit (Happy are they who consider the poor and needy!).

Coincidentally the Feast of John the Baptist occurs at the summer solstice, June 24, which is the mirror image of Christmas. The underlying theme of full light at the longest day is found in gospel of the Evangelist John 1:6-9 (KJV): "There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world."

Two related John the Baptist Gospel Readings (KJV) are:

+3rd Sunday in Advent: Mat. 11: 2-10 (John's messengers, after Jesus has commissioned the twelve disciples, John, imprisoned by Herod, sends two of his disciples to assure that Jesus is the Messiah John has prepared.
+4th Sunday in Advent: John 1: 19-28 (John's message, When the Jewish elders in Jerusalem confront John the Baptist: "I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, make straight the way of the Lord (Isaiah 40)." See Cantata BWV 30 below.

The NLGB HYMN OF DAY (de tempore) was Elisabeth Kreuziger’s five-stanza 1526 hymn, "Herr Christ der einige Gottes Sohn" [Lord Jesus Christ, the only Son of God; NLGB 231, Catechism Justification; Zahn melody 4297a), text and Francis Browne English translation, BCW http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/Chorale114-Eng3.htm; Chorale Melody, Herr Christ, der einge Gottessohn, Composer: Anon (1455), http://www.bach-cantatas.com/CM/Herr-Christ-einge.htm

The favored Hymn of the Day in Bach's time was "Christ unser Herr zum Jordan kam" [NLGB No. 176, Catechism Baptism] and Bach set it as chorale Cantata BWV 7. The text and Francis Browne English translation are found at http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/Chorale106-Eng3.htm. The forerunner to Luther’s 1741 "Christ, unser Herr, zum Jordan kam," Jesus’ Baptism in the Jordan river was Luther’s three-verse setting of 1524 “Es woll uns Gott genädig sein” (May it be God's will to be gracious to us, Psalm 67). Walther's earlier 1524 melody to Luther's setting of Psalm 67 is a "general prayer for grace and blessing" while the latter "is an exposition of the specific grace and blessing of baptism," says Robin A. Leaver in Luther's Liturgical Music (Grand Rapids MI: Eerdmann's Publishing, 2007: 138ff). This "theological association" may very well be why Luther used the redundant tune, emphasizing "musical hermeneutics" says Leaver. The English title is "To Jordan Came the Christ, Our Lord," No. 79, Epiphany, Lutheran Book of Worship (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing, 1978). The text and Francis Browne English translation of “Es woll uns Gott genädig sein” is found at BCW, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/Chorale108-Eng3.htm

The NLGB CHORALES for Pulpit and Communion Hymns are Zechariah’s blessing, "Gelobet sei der Herr der Gott Israel" [NLGB No. 150, John's Baptism], and "Benedictus Dominus Deus Israel" [NLGB No. 151, John's Baptism].

Chorale Cantatas 7 and 135 Connections

A close connection between chorale Cantata 7 and the chorale cantata performed the next day, BWV 135, “Ach Herr, mich armen Sünder” (Ah Lord, poor sinner that I am) for the 3rd Sunday after Trinity, June 25, 1724, is discussed in the BCML Discussions Part 3 (January 24, 2013), http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV7-D3.htm. Cantata 135 is the BCML Discussion for next week, beginning June 8.

Linda Gingrich wrote [To Ed Myskowski]. << It's interesting to note that the bass line in the last couple of measures of the final number in Cantata 7 contains the melody, a little altered, of Cantata 135. These two cantatas were performed within twenty four hours of one another, the only two in this cycle to lie so close to one another in time, and Bach appears to have connected them both theologically and musically on several levels. In fact, they are part of the four-cantata group that opens his chorale cantata cycle. I wrote about this wonderful little connection in my dissertation (Allegorical Links in the Trinity Season Chorale Cantatas), but can't claim credit for the discovery. It belongs to Dr. George Bozarth, a fabulous musicologist and Brahms expert.

Julian Mincham wrote (January 24, 2013):
[To Linda Gingrich] I recall noting this connection from reading Linda's thesis a year or so ago. It is particularly fascinating because it is not the only such link that BWV 7 shares with cantatas around it. The tenor aria from BWV 2, the second of the cycle, has a theme which is very similar in shape and rhythm from one to be found in the alto aria of BWV 7.
See the relevant articles (with the musical examples) from the links below..
http://www.jsbachcantatas.com/documents/chapter-3-bwv-2.htm
http://www.jsbachcantatas.com/documents/chapter-4-bwv-7.htm
Both arias deal with the process of development through metamorphosis, the one through fire the other through baptism.
It seems that for some reason Bach was very keen to link BWV 7, a cantata for a special day (ST John's Day) which lay outside the regular Sunday services, to the cantatas which preceded and followed it. Like it or not, this cantata must have been viewed by Bach as an inherent part of his second Leipzig cycle through these links, because it is a chorale cantata (the third of the batch of forty) and because it is one of the quartet of works displaying the chorale theme (in the fantasia) successively in the four different voices--sop (20), alt (2), tenor (7) and bass (135). There is almost certainly further symbolism intended here of which we are probably unaware.

Linda Gingrich wrote (January 24, 2013):
[To Julian MIncham] I recall noting this connection from reading Linda's thesis a year or so ago. It is particularly fascinating because it is not the only such link that BWV 7 shares with cantatas around it. The tenor aria from BWV 2, the second of the cycle, has a theme which is very similar in shape and rhythm from one to be found in the alto aria of BWV 7.
The connections among these first four cantatas are indeed quite strong, and set them apart from the other cantatas that follow, which are also grouped into connected sets. It's a fascinating study.>>

Douglas Cowling wrote (June 1, 2014):
John the Baptist Feast Chorales - Bach & Wagner

William Hoffman wrote:
< Bach’s favored hymns were “Herr Christ der einige Gottes Sohn" and "Christ unser Herr zum Jordan kam." >
It would be interesting to know if this preference for "Christ unser Herr" continued in Leipzig into the 19th century when Wagner, who was born there and baptised in St. Thomas', studied harmony with a successor of Bach in the 1820's. In his opera, "Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg", Act 1 opens with the congregation singing "Christ unser Herr" in Wagner's own Bachian harmonization. Interestingly, the orchestra interposes short interludes between the lines of the chorale, just as organis provided organ flourishes which Wagner would have heard in St. Thomas on the organ Bach himself played:

2004 Production in Zurich. Chorale begins around 8:15. Unfortunately this production places the choir offstage: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lzYQa4XUL6Y

This may be Wagner's tribute to Bach.

 

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Last update: ýNovember 8, 2014 ý16:47:47