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Musical Context of Bach Cantatas
Motets & Chorales for 18th Sunday after Trinity


Readings: Epistle: 1 Corinthians 1: 4-8; Gospel: Matthew 22: 34-46

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

Motets and Chorales for the 18th Sunday after Trinity (Trinity 18)

Douglas Cowling wrote (May 7, 2011):


Jürgen Grimm, "Das neu [?] Leipziger Gesangbuch des Gottfried Vopelius
(Leipzig 1682)",
Berlin: Merseburger, 1969.
ML 3168 G75

Otto Riemer, "Erhard Bodenschatz und sein Florilegium Portense"
Schünigen: Kaminsky,1927
ML 410 B67R4

Partial Index of Motets in ³Florilegium Portense² with links to online
scores and biographies:

Dissertation on Bodenschatz Collection (downloadable):


As is common in the mid-Trinity season, Sundays share prescribed chorales. Further options are indicated in other sections of the hymn book. These options provoked a rare dispute between Bach and the ecclesiastical
authorities when a junior member of the clergy took upon himself the choice of hymns, a prerogative which belonged to the Cantor. Bach made a formal complaint.

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

³Confitebor Tibi in Organis² ­ (8 voices) ­ Melchior Vulpius

Sample: Comparable double-choir motet by Vulpius: ³Surrexit Christus²

2) HYMN OF DAY (de tempore)

³Herr Gott der Einzger Gottes Sohn²


³Hilf Gott we geht²

³Warum tobn dei Heiden²

³Dies sind die Heilge Zen Gebote² [also Trinity 13]

³Nun freut euch lieben Christen gemein² [also Trinity 12, 13]

Additional Hymns in ³Of Christ¹s Life and Miracles² section of hymnbook

Ed Myskowski wrote (May 7, 2012):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< These options provoked a rare dispute between Bach and the ecclesiastical authorities when a junior member of the clergy took upon himself the choice of hymns, a prerogative which belonged to the Cantor. Bach made a formal complaint. >
I presume the emphasis is on *ecclesiastical*? We (or I, at least ) frequently discuss Bachs reputation for engaging in petty disputes, and whether or not that reputation is deserved. I think there has been far less emphasis in BCML diposts, to the distinctions between secular and civic authority, in Bachs world. Until Dougs post, I had understood (without a lot of thought) this particular dispute to be with civic authority. Perhaps because that is where the complaint was directed?


Introduction to BWV 96 -- Chorales, Lessons, Etc

William Hoffman wrote (April 29, 2012):
For the 18th Sunday after Trinity, the theme of "Love of God ("Gottlieb," "Amadeus") and Neighbor" and two early Lutheran hymns dominate Bach's two sole, extant, affirmative musical sermons: Chorale Cantata BWV 96, "Herr Christ, der einge Gottessohn" (Lord Christ, God's Only Son) and alto solo Cantata BWV 169, "Gott soll allein mein Herze haben" (God shall alone my heart have). Both hymns are found in the Reformation's first Song Book of Johann Walther, 1524: first is the Kreutizger original 1524 Advent chorale for Cantata 96 and the Luther Pentecost hymn and (later) general Gradual Song, "Nun bitten wir den Heiligen Geist" (Now Let Us Pray to the Holy Spirit).

In both highly-appealing Cantatas 96 and 169, Bach uses well-known chorales, dance styles, and special instrumentation with certain literary techniques and musical devices (allusion, motto, parody) to covey a more gentle pietist portrayal of the Gospel teaching in his musical sermons. Yet the musical results are quite contrasting: Cantata 96 is a congregational celebration with a chorale chorus and arias for tenor and bass while Cantata 196 uses one intimate alto voice in proclamation and reflection, preceded by an extensive, introductory orchestral sinfonia with lilting organ obbligato.

Both chorales, with Latin and German folk origins, were mainstays in 20th Century Lutheran Hymn Books. "Herr Christ, der einge Gottessohn" is known as "The Only Son From Heaven," No. 86 for Epiphany, with resemblance to the Christmas Hymn, "Of the Father's Love Begotten," and "Nun bitten wir den Heiligen Geist," bases on the Latin Hymn, <Veni, Sancte Spiritus>, is known as "To God the Holy Spirit Let Us Pray," No. 317, with the theme of Christian Hope in the Lutheran Book of Worship (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1978.

The 18th Sunday after Trinity is the final Sunday of the six affirmative paired teachings of miracles and parables in the Trinity Time mini-cycle emphasizing the "Works of Faith and Love," that is, the meaning of being a Christian, says Paul Zeller Strodach, <The Church Year> (United Lutheran Publication House, Philadelphia PA, 1924: 216). This Sunday's Gospel (Matthew 22:34-46) is the affirmation of the Great Commandment to love God and its Christian corollary, also to love one's neighbor as one's self. It ends the six-Sunday cycle in the third quarter of Trinity Time, leading to the final quarterly cycle of the Church Year with its last things (eschatology) couched in symbols of the annual Coming and Sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

There is no cantata performance documented for the 18th Sunday After Trinity in the first cycle that fell on September 26, 1723. This was three days prior to the Feast of St. Michael on September 29, and the beginning of the three-week Leipzig Fall Fair, also when no work is documented. This is the only time when Bach failed to produce cantatas since he began his first Leipzig cycle on the First Sunday after Trinity, May 30, 1723, when the annual term of the Thomas School began. It is possible Bach did present the extant, festive motet Cantata BWV 50, "Nun ist has Heil" (Now Is the Salvation), that is best suited for this important civic/church feast. Complicating matters, Bach had no Weimar cantatas available for repreformance since he had been unable to produce monthly Sunday cantatas because of closed mourning periods during Trinity Time 1714 and 1715.

Chorale Cantata 96

Chorale Cantata BWV 96, "Herr Christ, der einge Gottessohn" (Lord Christ, God's Only Son) is in traditional chorale cantata form for Cycle 2, with opening chorale fantasia chorus setting of the first stanza and closing (No. 6) with the harmonized chorale of the final (fifth) stanza, "Ertöt uns durch deine Güte" (Mortify Us Through Thy Goddness). In between are paraphrases of the other verses in alternating recitative-aria pairs. The verse paraphraser of Chorale Cantata 96 may be the librettist of the first group of chorale cantatas, still unidentified, who at this time was alternating writing texts with two other paraphrasers. This poet previously had written the texts of Cantata 78 (Trinity 14) and Cantata 8 (Trinity 16) and next would adapt the chorale stanzas of "Mache dich, mein Geist" for Chorale Cantata BWV 115 for the 22nd Sunday after Trinity, according to Arthur Hirsch's dissertation.

Chorale Cantata 96 was one of Bach's most popular. It premiered on October 8, 1724, and was repeated twice with instrumental changes, on October 24, 1734, possibly as part of a reperformance of the entire second cycle, and again on October 9, 1746 or October 1, 1747. There is no record that the St. Thomas pand former Bach student Christoph Friedrich Penzel copied the parts set and performed Cantata BWV 96 on October 12, 1755. At this point, it appears that Penzel ceased to copy and present Bach chorale cantatas regularly from the parts sets in the Thomas Church, pending the appointment of Bach successor Johann Friedrich Doles.

Julian Mincham notes the "carefree character" of Chorale Cantata 96 that Bach portrays with two techniques: "Technically, one of the ways in which Bach communicates positive expressions of this kind is through brilliant instrumentation. Another is the use of major keys" [BCW,]. A third device is Bach use of dance style as found in two movements. The opening tutti chorus with an "unusual" (Mincham) 9/8 triple-time signature is a pastorale-gigue. The bass aria (No. 5, abbreviated da-capo), "Bald zur Rechten" (Now to the right . . . my straying steps turn) is literally presented as a ¾ time sarabande. For the gentle outdoor effect Bach uses sopranino recorder (or piccolo violin) or soprano recorder plus two oboes with the string band, while the horn (and trombone) sound the chorale melody. The piccolo recorder represents the twinkling Morning Star of the coming Jesus.

Chorale "Herr Christ, der einge Gottessohn"

The cantata text, "Herr Christ, der einge Gottessohn," is based on the 1524 Wittenberg five-verse hymn of Elisabeth Kreuziger (c.1500-35), wife of a Martin Luther pupil and preacher (Kaspar Kreuziger) in the initial "Wittenberg orbit" of reformers. As was often the practice at that time, the text is freely adapted and used from earlier Catholic sources: the Latin Christmas hymn by Aurelius Prudentius (c.348-413), "Corde natus ex parentis"> (Of the Father's Love Begotten). It "is the first Reformation chorale to draw on the late medieval tradition of Jesus mysticism that became prominent in succeeding generations" (BCW, Likewise, the melody is derived from a 15th century secular love song, "Mein Freud möcht sich wohl mehren" (My joy will most likely increase), as a contrafaction edited by Johann Walther.

As is also typical of many early Lutheran hymns, "Herr Christ, der einge Gottessohn" found its niche in the liturgy and was adapted as choral settings by Hans Leo Hassler, Johann Hermann Schein, and Samuel Scheidt; organ settings of Scheidt, Johann Heinrich Scheidemann, and Sebastian Knüpfer, as well as Buxtehude, Johann Michael Bach, and Johann Pachelbel; and Bach contemporaries in Telemann cantatas and cousin Johann Gottfried Walther organ preludes.

The liturgical use of "Herr Christ, der einge Gottessohn" is in the <omnes tempore> church year thematic time of Lutheran Justification, particularly in later, transitional Advent, Epiphany, and Trinity Times, where it is found in the Gottfried Vopelius <Das Neu Leipziger Gesangbuch> of 1682 as Hymn No. 231, along with other popular Justification chorales that Bach set, "Durch Adams Fall ist gantz verderbt" (By Adam's Fall All Is Corrupted), "Es ist das Heil uns kommen her" (Salvation Has Come To Us), "Nun freut euch lieben Christen gmein" (Now Rejoice, Dear Christians All), and "Also hat Gott die Welt geliebt" (God so loved the world).

The NLGB lists "Herr Christ, der einge Gottessohn" as the Hymn of the Day for the 18th Sunday after Trinity and "which most often occupied the first or second position in the Leipzig and Dresden hymn schedules (in Bach's time), and also sung in Weißenfels on this Sunday," says Güther Stiller in <JSB and Liturgical Life in Leipzig> (St. Louis: Concordia, 1984: 243f). The NLGB Justification Hymns "Es ist das Heil" (No. 230) and "Nun freut euch" (No. 232) are also listed as Pulpit or Communion Hymns for his Sunday, as well as the Catechism Hymn, "Dies sind die heilgen zehn Gebot (These Are the Ten Holy Commandments, No. 170).

These three chorales, frequently sung in the early and middle Trinity Time, are replaced with Hymns of Christian Life and Hope for the final quarter of Trinity Time Sundays and are listed as the next thematic category in the NLGB, following Justification Hymns, and also are appropriate for the 18th Sunday After Trinity, according to the NLGB. These Hymns of Christian Life and Hope, NLGB Nos. 234 to 274, include Psalm Hymns, and are followed by the thematic categories of Persecution, Tribulation, and Challenges.

Besides setting the entire hymn "Herr Christ, der einge Gottessohn" as Chorale Cantata BWV 96, Bach used the closing fifth verse in three other cantatas: BWV 132/6, "Bereite die Wege, Bereite die Bahn!" (Prepare the Way, Prepare the Road), for the 4th Sunday in Advent 1715, BWV 164/6, "Ihr, die ihr euch von Christo nennet" (You, who are yourselves after Christ called), for the 13th Sunday after Trinity in 1725, and chorale chorus closing Cantata BWV 22/5, "Jesus nahm zu zich die Zwölfe (Jesus Took With Him the Twelve), for Estomihi probe 1723. Bach also set the melody in two chorale preludes, BWV 601 and 698. For details of these two and other disputed organ chorales, see BCW,, Cantata BWV 164.

For the 18th Sunday after Trinity in 1725, which fell on September 29, one day after the Feast of St. Michael, Bach probably presented no cantatas. This was typical during Trinity Time 1725 when he probably presented only a handful of works for special events or to fill gaps in the previous two completed cantata cycles. No cantata is documented for the earlier feast day although Bach had available works from the two previous cycles as well as motet Cantata BWV 50, and works of Telemann that he had used at the beginning of Trinity Time in June 1725. In all likelihood, Bach had taken a break from weekly cantata composition, turning instead to the publication of keyboard Partitas for sale at the fair, the revisions of some of his organ chorale preludes, some occasional secular cantatas on commission, and the search for texts/music for his third cycle. This began on the first Sunday in Advent, Sunday, December 2, 1725, probably with the parodied Cantata BWV 36(d), "Schwingt freudig euch empor" (Swing Joyfully Into the Air).

Alto Solo Cantata 169

For the next 18th Sunday after Trinity, October 20, 1726, near the end of the third cycle, Bach used previous material now found in the Clavier Concerto BWV 1053 for Cantata BWV 169, "Gott soll allein mein Herze haben" (God shall alone my heart have). It is the second of six cantatas for solo voice, four of which use existing instrumental concerto music, for the shortened final quarter of Trinity Time. While the lack of choral writing (except for closing chorales), the reuse of music, and the perfunctory, cut-and-paste libretti all suggest Bach's flagging interest in periodic composition, his actual adaptation and response to the motto-like text from the opening statement shows considerable invention as well as transformation resulting in a greatly-engaging and -pleasing work about the love of God and neighbor. See John Eliot Gardiner's Bach 2000 Cantata Pilgrimage notes for Trinity 18, BCW,, Recordings No. 20.

Like Chorale Cantata BWV 96 for the same Sunday in 1723, Bach found serendipity in Cantata 169 with positive music and engaging instruments in the organ obbligato opening da-capo pastorale-style sinfonia, the minuet music of the first aria (No. 3), motto . . . "I find in him the highest goal" to a possibly lost concerto movement, and the siciliano second aria (No. 5) with a new overlaid melody set to the text.

Chorale "Nun bitten wir den Heiligen Geist"

Cantata 169 closes with an emphasis on the Second Commandment to love one's neighbor, as found in the third verse of Luther's 1524 "Nun bitten wir den Heiligen Geist" (Now Let Us Pray to the Holy Spirit): "Du süße Liebe, schenk uns deiGunst" (You sweet love, grant us your favour). Luther's four-stanza Gradual Song between the Epistle and Gospel lessons in the main service is found as a designated <de tempore> Pentecost Hymn in the NLGB No. 130. For further information, see Wikipedia:

Here is the full text of Luther's four stanzas with the <leisee> litany (refrain) "Kyrioleis" (Have mercy (

1. Nun bitten wir den heiligen Geist
Um den rechten Glauben allermeist,
Dass er uns behüte an unserm Ende,
Wann wir heimfahr'n aus diesem Elende.

2. Du werthes Licht, gib uns deinen Schein,
Lehr' uns Jesum Christ kennen allein,
Dass wir an ihm bleiben, dem treuen Heiland,
Der uns bracht hat zum rechten Vaterland.

3. Du füsse Lieb', schenk uns deine Gunst,
Lass uns empfinden der Liebe Brunst,
Dass wir uns von Herzen einander lieben
Und in Frieden auf einem Sinn bleiben.

4. Du höchster Tröster in aller Noth,
Hilf, dass wir nicht fürchten Schand noch Tod,
Dass in uns die Sinne nicht verzagen,
Wenn der Feind wird das Leben verklagen.

1. Now pray we all God, the Comforter,
Into every heart true faith to pour
And that he defend us, Till death here end us,
When for heaven we leave this world of sorrow.
Have mercy, Lord.

2. Shine into us, O most holy Light,
That we Jesus Christ may know aright;
Stayed on him forever, Our only Saviour,
Who to our true home again hath brought us.
Have mercy, Lord.

3. Spirit of love, now our spirits bless;
Them with thy own heavenly fire possess;
That in heart uniting, In peace delighting,
We may henceforth all be one in spirit.
Have mercy, Lord.

4. Our highest comfort in all distress!
O let naught with fear our hearts oppress:
Give us strength unfailing O'er fear prevailing,
When th' accusing foe would overwhelm us.
Have mercy, Lord.

Bach did three harmonized settings (all in A Major) of Luther's contrafaction of the Latin sequence, <Veni, sancte spirtus>. Besides the closing simple setting of Stanza 3 in Cantata 169/7, Bach also elaborately set Stanza 3 to close Part 1 of the 1736/7 wedding parody Cantata BWV 197, "Gott its unsre Zuversicht" (God Is Our Trust), as well as the untexted setting, BWV 385, that dates to c.1730 on stylistic grounds and may have been performed at a Pentecost service. In addition, Picander's 1728 cantata annual cycle text for the 18th Sunday after Trinity (September 26), "Ich liebe Gott vor allen Dinge" (I Love God Before All Things), also uses Stanza 3 but Bach did not set the libretto. Bach also designated Luther's hymn as a Pentecost service chorale prelude in his Weimar Orgelbüchlein (Little Organ Book), No. OB 45, but did not set it.

Other Bach Trinity 18 Opportunities

+For the 18th Sunday after Trinity on October 5, 1727, there was no performance during the mourning period of Sept. 7, 1727, to Jan. 8, 1728, for deceased Saxon Queen Christiane Eberhardine.

+On October 9, 1735, Bach probably performed a Stözel two-part cantata as part of the cycle "Saitenspiele des Hertzens" (Music Playing of the Heart), text by Benjamin Schmolck, with two chorale settings not identified.

+About Sept. 30, 1736, Bach may have performed Stözel's two-part cantata "Der Herr hat mir eine gelehrte Zunge gegeben" (The Lord Has Given Me a Learned Tongue) from the cantata cycle "Das Namenbuch Christi," (Book of Names of Christ), Schmolck text, No. 59. No musical source with chorales is extant.

Cantatas BWV 96 and 169 for the 18th Sunday After Trinity are positive contrast to the "Lutheran theological themes in this tail end to the liturgical year [that] frequently deal with Armageddon, with the Second Coming or with the promised `abomination of desolation'," says Gardiner. "So far it has eluded scholars whether Bach actively sought out cantata librettos that he deemed suited to solo vocal treatment for the six cantatas for solo voice he composed in the run-up to Advent 1726, and to what extent he might have intervened in their construction, or whether their texts were clerically imposed on him and, with their emphasis on individual piety, left him no option but to treat them as solo works."


Musical Context of Bach Cantatas: Table of Motets & Chorales for Events in the Lutheran Church Year

Lutheran Church Year: Main Page and Explanation | LCY - Event Table | LCY 2000-2005 | LCY 2006-2010 | LCY 2011-2015
Sundays & Holidays in the Lifetime of J.S. Bach | Performance Dates of Bach’s Vocal Works
Readings from the Epistles and the Gospels for each Event | Motets & Chorales for Events in the LCY
Discussions: Events in the Lutheran Church Year: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Readings from the Bible

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Last update: ýAugust 23, 2012 ý12:42:20