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Musical Context of Bach Cantatas
Motets & Chorales for 22nd Sunday after Trinity


Readings: Epistle: Philippians 1: 3-11; Gospel: Matthew 18: 23-35

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

Motets and Chorales for the 22nd Sunday after Trinity (Trinity 22)


Trinity Time Chorales: Cantata 89: Chorales for 22nd Sunday after Trinity

William Hoffman wrote (July 30, 2012):
The over-arching Christian themes of late Trinity Time converge in the 22nd Sunday after Trinity, summarizing the Gospel parable and Epistle themes of life in the new Kingdom of Grace and Righteousness as declared in the Last Things when the penitent individual believer is urged to wait, watch and pray at the end of the church year.

The surviving works composed and presented by Bach are:
+Solo SAB Cantata BWV 89, Was soll ich aus dir machen, Ephraim?" (What shall I of thee make Ephriam?"); Leipzig, Oct. 24, 1723); details, BCW,
+Chorale Cantata BWV 115, "Mache dich, mein Geist, bereit" (Make thyself, my spirit, ready); Leipzig; Nov. 5, 1724; details, BCW,
+Solo (Tenor) Cantata, BWV 55, "Ich armer Mensch, ich Sündenknecht" (I, poor man, I sin's slave); Leipzig, Nov. 17, 1726; details, BCW,

Sacred Texts

The penitential teachings through music are reinforced in the intimate form of the two solo cantatas for this Sunday, BWV 89, and 55, traced back to Weimar and reflecting a pattern in both the first and third Leipzig cantata cycles. Bach's choice of chorales, particularly for the chorale cantata of the second cycle, BWV 115, reveals a great freedom in the use of the particular texts and melodies for each of the three cantatas.

While the librettists of all three cantatas remain unknown, the results show a close collaboration with Bach in his crafting of three very distinctive works fusing text and music. For example, all three musical sermons are generally cast particularly in the first person singular of "I," "me" and "my" as well as the third and three persons singular of the Triune God of "he, "thee," and "thy."

The Lutheraen Church Year Readings for the 22nd Sunday after Trinity are:
Gospel: Matthew 18: 23-35, Parable of the unmerciful servant;
Epistle: Philippians 1: 3-11. Paul's love for the Philippians.
Details, BCW,

Intimate Music

As the church year approached its end in late Trinity Time, Bach looked back in all three cantata cycles as he sought to fulfill his calling of a "well-ordered church music to the glory of God." That ordering involved the reuse of existing materials, the setting of appropriate, established Lutheran hymns as a key component in the sacred cantatas, and the utilization of the most effective structure to engage his musicians and the Leipzig churches' congregations on particular Sundays.

For the remaining five weeks of Trinity Time in the first cantata cycle of 1723, Bach eschewed his three existing musical forms of opening collective choruses declaring the biblical dictum, turning instead to intitmate, individual opening arias. Where Bach initially had employed large-scale forms featuring choruses in the first six Trinity Time services in two-part or double cantata presentations, in late Trinity Time he alternated chorus with solo cantatas, beginning with the 16th Sunday after Trinity, and turned exclusively to solo cantatas on the 22nd Sunday. This practice was entirely in conformance with the intimate Gospel teachings of the last Trinity Time Sundays, an observance employed during Bach's years in Weimar, and repeated in the third cycle of 1726.

Two musical elements Bach uses in the three Cantatas BWV 89, 115, and 55 to strengthen the sense of personal engagement are the use of dance style in arias of all three works and the solo horn in the first two. The cantatas and their dance-style movements are: BWV 89/5, 6/8 passepied menuett for soprano with oboe. "Righteous God, ah, reckonest Thou"; BWV 115/2, 3/8 siciliano lullaby for alto, oboe and strings, "Ah, sleepy soul, why rest thou yet?"; and BWV 55/1, 6/8 pastorale-gigue lament for tenor, flute, oboe d'amore and srings, "I, poor man, I sin's slave." The solo horn reinforcing the melody, a Bach practice particularly in Trinity Time cantatas, is found in BWV/89, opening bass tutti ritornello aria and closing four-part chorale; and the same opening and closing movements of Cantata BWV 115, chorale fantasia and closing plain chorale.

Recycled Materials

Another practice was Bach's use of existing materials, also in both the first and third cycles. In the first cycle, he reperformed some 17 Sunday solo and festive chorus cantatas created in Weimar and expanded three Advent works (BWV 70a, 186a, and 147a) for other Leipzig services. For the 22nd Sunday after Trinity, Bach selectively employed surviving Weimar music in Cantatas BWV 89 (alto aria, No. 3) and 55 (Nos. 3-5, aria-arioso-chorale) from a Passiontide cantata or the lost 1717 Weimar Passion, BC D-1, says Alfred Dürr in <The Cantatas of JSB>: 612, 618.

To accomplish this task of transforming old materials for new usage, putting old wine into new bottles, possibly with new text underlay (also called parody), Bach probably collaborated closely with the lyricist(s) of Cantatas BWV 89 and 55. Given the intimate nature of the texts and the adaptation of existing music, including Bach's special choice and use of chorales, it is possible that Bach in both cases selectively relied on his favorite text adapter, Picander. Bach already had used Picander lyrics as early as the 14th Sunday after Trinity in Cycle 1 (Cantata BWV 25), and at St. Michael's Festival in Cycle 3 (Cantata BWV 19).

Special Hymn Choices

"The Dresden hymn schedules for this Sunday (Trinity 22) had prescribed hymns of repentence in general but also, among other hymns, specific hymns of repentence, just as in the older Leipzig hymn books only hmns of repentence are assigned to this Sunday," says Günther Stiller in <JSB and Liturgical Life in Leipzig>, p. 246.

Bach's favorite hymnbook, <Das Neu Leipziger Gesangbuch> (NLGB) of 1682, lists six chorales to be sung for the 22nd Sunday after Trinity, with all repeats for this final Sunday in Trinity Time except for "Allein zu dir." Details of each chorale and Bach's uses are found in the BCW lists under "Musical Contexts for Chorales and Motets for Trinity" Sundays, beginning with the first Trinity Time Sunday listed for each chorale:

+"Erbarm dich mein, O Herre Gott" (Have mercy on me, O Lord God, penitential Psalm 51, Prayer for Forgiveness); NLGB Trinity 3, 11, 13, 14; Bach set the German text to Pergolesi's "Stabat Mater," BWV 1083, for Trinity Time.

+"O Herre Gott begnade mich" (O Lord God, pardon me, alternate setting of penitential Psalm 51); NLGB Trinity 3, 11, 13, 19; no Bach use is extant.

+"Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir," (From deep affliction I cry to Thee, penitential Psalm 130); NLGB Epiphany 4; Trinity 11, 19, 21; Bach's most notable use is in Chorale Cantata BV 38 for Trinity 21. Bach also set portions of the Psalm German text in his 1701 Mühlhausen memorial service Cantata BWV 131, "Aus der Tiefe(n) rufe ich zu dir" (Out of the depths I cry to Thee).

+"Allein zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ," (On You alone, Lord Jesus Christ, Catechism Confession Hymn); NLGB Trinity 3, 11, 21, 24; Bach's most notable use is in Chorale Cantata BWV 33 for Trinity 13, 1724.

+"Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ" (I call to Thee, Lord Jesus Christ); Epiphany 3, 5, Septuagesimae; Trinity 2, 5, 6, 19, 21; Bach most notable use is in Chorale Cantata 177 for Trinity 4.

+"Vater unser in Himmelreich" (Lord's Prayer, Out Father in Heaven; Luther Catechism hymn); Epiphany 3, Septuagesimae; Trini5, 7, 11; Bach used the melody extensively in BWV 416 (4-voice plain chorale), 636 (Orgelbüchlein chorale prelude), 682-83 (Clavierübung III Catechism), and 737 (Miscellaneous organ chorale), as well as set to paraphrased texts of other writers in BWV 245/5 (John Passion), 90/5 (Trinity 25), Chorale Cantata BWV 101 (Trinity 10), and BWV 102/7 (Trinity 10).

Stiller (Ibid.) also notes that in the Dresden hymn schedules, "Aus tiefer Not" appears "only among the hymns of that day" (Trinity 22). Bach's employment of penitential chorale hymns for his three cantatas for the 22nd Sunday after Trinity also involved special circumstances and choices. While the general spiritual theme of repentence offered him myriad opportunities to select appropriate texts and melodies, Bach had exhausted his use of NLGB prescribed Trinity Time chorales by the 22nd Sunday in Trinity in all three cycles. As he had done previously, Bach turned especially to chorales found in Weimar and Gotha hymnbooks and in the Wagner Gesangbuch, based on various sources cited in Stiller (Ibid.), as well as numerous hymn books cited in the Neue Bach Ausgabe, according to the Thomas Braatz August 2005 BCW article, "Chorale Melodies used in Bach's Vocal Works/ Hymnals with which Bach possibly may have been acquainted,"

Penitential Chorale "Wo soll ich fliehen hin?"

To close Cantata BWV 89, Bach choose Johann Heerman original 1630 penitential 11-stanza Catechism Confession chorale (text and melody), "Wo soll ich fliehen hin?" (Were shall I flee hence?), setting in Movement 6 a four-part harmonization of Stanza 7, "Mir mangelt zwar sehr viel" (I do indeed lack many things). Bach's initial use of this popular <omne tempore> hymn, NLGB No. 182 (Trinity 3 Communion Hymn) had been on the 8th Sunday After Trinity, 13 weeks earlier, to close Cantata BWV 136, "Erforsche mich Gott, und erfahre mein Herz" (Search me God, and learn my heart), with Stanza 9, "Dein Blut, der edle Saft, / hat solche Stärk und Kraft" (Your blood, the noble liquid, /has such strength and might).

Earlier in Weimar Bach had set two other stanzas (11 and 3) of the Heermann text to a different, alternate Weimar melody not associated with the Heerman text in two Trinity Time Cantatas, BWV 162, (1715, Franck text, closing chorale) and BWV 199 (1714, Lehms text, soprano trio aria), and repeated both in 1723 for Trinity 20 and 23 respectively. A year after composing Cantata BWV 89, Bach in the 1724 chorale cantata second cycle set a paraphrase of the full hymn text in Chorlae Cantata BWV 5 for the 19th Sunday after Trinity. Francis Browne's BCW English translation of all 11 stanzas of the Heerman text, "Wo soll ich fliehen hin?," is found in

Serendipitously, Bach in two other Trinity Time Cantatas for Cycle 1 in 1723, BWV 148 and 188, used the Heermann melody also associated with the hymn, "Auf meinen lieben Gott." As was noted in the Chorales for the 21st Sunday after Trinity (not yet posted in the BCW), Cantata BWV 188 closes with this alternate setting:

[Various other hymns using the alternate text of "Auf meinen lieben Gott" have used the popular hymn of repentence melody, "Wo sol lich fliehen hin? (Where shall I flee hence?). All these are explained in the BCW Chorale, "Wo soll ich fliehen hin/Auf meinen lieben Gott", Bach uses these variants in various <omne tempore> Trinity Time Cantatas BWV 5, 89 (Trinity 22), 136; 163, 199, 148/6 (Trinity 17); and untexted organ chorale preludes in BWV 646 (Schubler Chorale from a lost cantata) and BWV 694.]

Newer Penitential Hymn for Chorale Cantata BWV 115

Having virtually exhausted the established chorale possibilities with penitential themes for Late Trinity Time, Bach in the second cycle of cantatas paraphrasing well-known chorales, turned to lesser-known but important newer texts written to established, popular melodies. This enabled him to set music to relevant new Lutheran writings related to orthodox <omne tempore> church teachings found in the actual sermons delivered after Bach's cantatas were presented in the main service. This practice also observed a contemporary trend in Luthern hymns favoring the restricted use of established melodies in order to enable congregations to sing chorales with new, relevant texts, rather than learning a proliferation of new melodies associated with the new texts. Thus, Bach increasingly used alterate texts and melodies in his chorale settings.

Such was the case with Chorale Cantata BWV 115, "Mache dich, mein Geist, bereit." Bach chose the 10-stanza penitential chorale text written in 1695 by Johann Burchard Frystein (1671-1718), who was influence by the pietists. It was set to the anonymous 1681 folk dance melody, "Straf mich nicht in deinem Zorn" (Do not punish me in your anger). Better known is the Johann Georg Albinius 7-stanza hymn paraphrase of Psalm 6, "Straf mich nicht in deinem Zorn," written in 1655 and later set to the 1681 melody that is in bi-partite AB, partial da-capo form, best known in Handel oratorio arias. Neither hymn would be found in the NLGB of 1682. Bach did not set the Albinius hymn text although the melody was known by both titles and there are various English translations and uses of the Albinius hymn, best known being Catherine Winkworth's five-verse 1863 version, "Rise my soul to watch and pray." There is no BCW German-English texts of either the Frystein or Albinius texts but information on the melody and two texts is found at BCW,

Bach uses the melody in chorale Cantata BWV 115/1, S.1, chorale chorus fantasia, and Mvt. 6, plain chorale, S.10, "Drum so lasst uns immerdar/ Wachen, flehen, beten," (Therefore let us always/ be awake, entreat and pray,); 10 stanzas, English translation (Stanzas 1,4,5,6,7,10 German only),; also "Rise, my soul, to watch and pray," five-stanza Catherine Winkworth English tranalsation, There also exists a Christoph Graupner Cantata, "Mache dich, mein Geist, bereit," GWV 1102/41 (1741).

For "Ach Herr, Mein Gott, Straf mich nicht in deinem Zorn" related melody/text references, see BCW, Chorales & Motets, Trinity 1,, "Other hymns also related to Trinity +1 readings" (Psalm 6):

["Herr, straf' mich nicht in deinem Zorn" (O Lord, do not punish me in your anger) /Das bitt ich dich von Herzen," (NLGB No. 244); text, J. Crüger 1640 (6 stanzas; based on Psalm 6); melody unknown ?1640; Bach usage: BWV 338 (A-Minor/Major); Listed as Psalm hymn (Hänssler complete Bach edition (No. 82), A Book of Chorale settings, No. 5, CD 92.082 (1999).
+a. "Straf mich nicht in deinem Zorn/großer Gott, verschone." (Do not rebuke me in your anger, Ps. 6:1) Text 1, J. G. Albinus (7 stanzas, 1676; based on Psalm 6), melody anonymous 1681; not set by Bach
+b. Listed in NLGB 243 as "Ach Herr mein Gott, straf mich doch nicht" six stanza text of Cornelius Becker and set to the melody "Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir."
+c. Text 2: "Mache dich, mein Geist, bereit," J. B. Freystein (1695); Bach usage in chorale Cantata BWV 115/1(S.1),6(S.10( (Trinity +22).
Other composers who have set "Herr, straf' mich nicht in deinem Zorn" include: Scguetz, Telemann and Knüpfer.]

Another hymn setting of Psalm 6 is "Ach Herr, mich armen Sünder " (Ah Lord, I poor sinner), NLGB No. 246, set by Bach as Chorale Cantata BWV 135 for the 3rd Sunday after Trinity 1724.

Morning Hymn of Comfort

Tenor Solo Cantata BWV 55,"Ich armer Mensch, ich Sündenknecht" (I, poor man, I sin's slave) closes (Movement No. 5) with the four-part chorale, "Werde munter mein Gemüte" (Be alert, my soul), in Johann Rist 8-stanza text, set to the Johann Schoop 1642 melody. This <omne tempore> Morning Song of comfort is listed in the NLGB as No. 208. Bach harmonized Stanza 5, "Bin ich gleich von dir gewichen,/ Stell ich mich doch wieder ein;" (If I have ever abandoned you,/ now I come back again. Bach's other setting of the melody and the same stanza of the text is found in the St. Matthew Passion (Mvt. No. 40) plain chorale, just after Peter weeps bitterly and the alto aria "Erbarme dich" (Have mercy). Interestingly, the BWV 55/5 chorale setting is preceeded by the tenor aria and arioso both beginning with the dictum, "Erbarme dich" (Have mercy on my) and all three probably originated as Weimar Passion music.

In the Picander 1728 cantata cycle published text, P54, "Ich scheue mich, gerechter Gott" (I shy away, righteous God), for the 11th Sunday after Trinity, August 8, closes with Stanza 6 of "Werde munter mein Gemüte," "Laß mich diese Nacht empfinden /Eine sanft und süße Ruh;" (Let me experience this night/ a sweet and gentle rest;). Although Bach did not use this text, it appears that Picander, probably with the blessing of Bach and the Consistory, approved the text for publication.

The second and best-known text setting of the Schoop melody is Martin Jahn's 1671 18-stanza <omne tempore > Jesus Hymn, "Jesu, meiner Seelen Wonne," ("Jesus, delight of my soul," better known in English as "Jesu Joy of man's desiring"), not found in the <NLGB>. Bach' set Stanzas 6 and 16 to the same four-part elaborate four-part chorale chorus closing Parts 1 and 2 (Movements 6 and 10) of the 1723 Visitation Cantata BWV 147, "Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben" (Heart and Mouth and Dead and Life), in the coming BCW Discussion, December 9.

Variant settings are found in the plain chorales in Cantata BWV 154/3 for the First Sunday after Epiphany 1724, and Cantata BWV 146/8 for Jubilate Sunday (Easter 3) 1726. Bach set the Schoop melody, known as "Jesu, meiner Seelen Wonne," as four-part chorales BWV 359 and 360 and as Neumeister organ chorale prelude BWV 1118 (c.1700). For details BCW, Bach could have utilized these two choral settings to particular stanzas for any Trinity Time Sunday service, based upon the paeticular New Testament Lessons and the sermon.

Other Bach Trinity 22 opportunities:

+On November 9, 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 24, 1728, Picander Cycle Cantata P-66, "Geduldig, mein Gott, geduldig"; closes (Mvt. No. 5) with chorale, "Ach Gott und Herr" (Ah, my Lord and God); Stanza 3, "Zu dir flieh ich," (To you I fly).
For details, see BCW, BCW, Trinity 19 chorales & Motets (not posted yet), Cantata 48/3, NLGB No. 180, Catechism hymn. The hymn is listed as No. 84 in the <Orgelbüchlein> chorale preludes for Catechism confession but not set by Bach.

+ On November 21, 1734, chorale Cantata BWV 115, may have been reperformed, possibly as part of performance of the entire second cycle. (six Sundays after Epiphany, only 22 Sundays after Trinity)

+On Trinity, November 6, 1735, Bach probably performed a Stözel two-part cantata, "Lernet von mir, denn ich bin sanftmütig, [Not extant], as part of the cycle "Saitenspiele testeddes Hertzens" (Music Playing of the Heart), text by Benjamin Schmolck, with two chorale settings not identified.

+About October 28, 1736, Bach may have performed a Stözel two-part cantata, from the cantata cycle "Das Namenbuch Christi," (Book of Names of Christ), Schmolck text, No. 64. No musical source with the presumed chorales is extant.


During Bach's lifetime or the first 50 years after his death in 1750, there is no record of reperformances of any of the three Cantatas BWV 89, 115, and 55 for the 22nd Sunday after Trinity. In all likelihood, Bach's sons and supporters found little opportunity to present intimate cantatas for late Trinity Time, other than festive works for St. Michael's Day, September 29, and Reformation Day, October 31.


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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