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Musical Context of Bach Cantatas
Motets & Chorales for 25th Sunday after Trinity


Readings: Epistle: 1 Thessalonians 4: 13-18; Gospel: Matthew 24: 15-28

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

Motets and Chorales for the 25th Sunday after Trinity (Trinity 25)


Introduction to BWV 90: Trinity 25 Chorales & Lessons

William Hoffman wrote (September 23, 2012):
During his first four years of active composing of three cycles of church year cantatas in Leipzig, Bach managed to present two new cantatas in extended Late Trinity Time on the 25th Sunday after Trinity, using well-known affirmative chorales. They are "Nimm von uns, Herr, du treuer Gott" (Take from us, you faithful God), and "Du Friedefürst, Herr Jesu Christ" (Thou Prince of Peace, Lord Jesus Christ).

The two works are solo Cantata BWV 90, "Es reißet euch ein schrecklich Ende" (A dreadful ending carries you away) and Chorale Cantata BWV 116, "Du Friedefürst, Herr Jesu Christ" (Thou Prince of Peace, Lord Jesus Christ). The chorales in Cantatas 90 and 116, under the <omne tempore> heading of hymns of the "Word of God & Christian Church," are used to contrast with the Sunday's gospel of apocalypse and tribulation. This contrast represents the Christological concept of the "Christus Paradox."

The eschatological or End Times of the Last Days/Things are the subject of both New Testament lessons in the lectionary for the 25th Sunday after Trinity in Bach's time. They are:
+Epistle: 1 Thessalonians 4: 13-18 "Christ's Second Coming" (sleeping in Jesus, rapture); &
+Gospel: Matthew Chapter 24: Verses 15-28, "The Awful Horror," Christ's prediction (apocalypse, tribulation).

"The Epistle (is) filled with comfort and peace and glory for His own; the Gospel (is) a message of dread and terror and doom for His enemies," says Paul Zeller Striodach in <The Church Year: Studies in the Introits, Collects, Epistles and Gospels> (Philadelphia PA, United Lutheran Publication House: 261f).

Last Trinity Time Lessons

Interestingly, the eschatological Gospel lesson (Mat. 24:15-28) for the 25th Sunday after Trinity in Bach's historic, mixed One-Year Lectionary of teachings from all four Gospels is not found in the current, Three-Year Lectionary of Catholic and liturgical Protestant denominations, first adopted at Vatican II in the 1960s. The current Gospel readings are: Year A. Matthew, Year B. Mark, Year C. Luke, with John readings primarily in the Easter Season of all three years.

The two teachings from Matthew Chapter 25 for the final two Trinity Time Sundays (the 26th and 27th) in Bach's one-year lectionary are retained in the final three Sundays in the current Sundays after Pentecost (Trinity) in Year A of the <omne tempore> (Ordinary Time) non-festival half of the church year.

In the contemporary lectionary of service readings for the final three Sundays in Trinity, other Bach <omne tempore> cantatas are particularly relevant in these eschatological Last Days, Omega, or End Times. The Appendix to the 1994 <Evagelisches Kirchen Gesangbuch> (EKG) lists the following as appropriate for the Second to Last Sunday in the Church Year: Cantatas 105 (Trinity 9), 114 (Trinity 17), 115 (Trinity 22), and 127 (Septuagesima); Next to the Last Sunday, BWV 70 (Trinity 26), 94 (Trinity 9), 105 (Trinity 9), and 168 (Trinity 9); and the Last Sunday, BWV 140 (Trinity 27).

Here are the final three Sundays in the Three-Year Lectionary, with the lessons from Year A, Chapter 25 of Matthew's Gospel:

+Second to Last Sunday after Pentecost, Lectionary 32 (November 6-12), Mat. 25:1-13 (Bach's 27th Sunday after Trinity), "Parable of the 10 Young Women";

+Next to Last Sunday after Pentecost, Lectionary 33 (November 13-19), Mat. 25:14-30 (no Bach Sundays after Trinity), "Parable of the Three Servants";

+Last Sunday after Pentecost, Lectionary 34 (November 20-26), Christ the King Sunday, Mat. 25:31-46 (Bach's Trinity 26), "The Final Judgement."

Thus, in the final three Sundays in the one-year lectionary, Mat. 25:14:30, "Parable of the Three Servants" is omitted, while in the three-year lectionary Year A, Mat. 24:15-28, "The Awful Horror" (25th Sunday after Trinity in the One-Year Lectionary) is omitted.

Christus Paradox

That Bach late in 1724 chose to set the Christological hymn, "Du Friedefürst, Herr Jesu Christ," as Chorale Cantata BWV 116, for the 25th Sunday after Trinity with its End Times theme may seem paradoxical as it embodies the concept of the "Christus Paradox." The Christus Paradox is best expressed in the 20th century hymn, "Let all mortal flesh keep silence," set to the Byzantine Greek Liturgy of St. James and the 17th century French carol, "Picardy" (Wikipedia, "Christus Paradox" is a 1991 "Chorale Variations for SATB abd organ, with the text of the late Sylvia Dunstan (incipit, "You, Lord, are both Lamb and Shepherd") and "Picardy" music arranged by Alfred Fedak (GIA Publications G5463.

Throughout Christian history, writers have explored the richness of what they perceive as the uniqueness of Jesus Christ through the study of Christology. Central to this concept are the two paradoxical doctrines of Jesus' nature in the gospels as Son of God (fully divine) and Son of Man (fully human) and the three states of Christ in the <kenosis> (emptying) parabola (descent-ascent) hymn of Phillippians 2:5-11 or Col. 1:15-20: pre-incarnational glory, death, and resurrection, says noted theologian Cornelius Plantinga Jr. in the article "Christus Paradox" (Calvin College, Grand Rapids MI, nd). Other paradoxical images include Jesus as lamb and shepherd, prince and slave, steward and servant.

Increasingly within churches using the Three-Year Lectionary, the Christological Feast days of Christmas, Easter, Ascension, and Christ the King Sunday incorporate the Christus Paradox readings of Phillippians 2:5-11 or Col. 1:15-20, as well as the two passages in Isaiah prophecying the two differet aspects of Christ's dual identity, Chapter 53, The Suffering Servant, and Chapter 11, The Peaceful Kingdom.

Bach's choice of another chorale for his other cantata for the 25th Sunday after Trinity, also reflects the Christus Paradox found in Late Trinity Time, in the transition from End Times of the Church Year to the Advent of the New Church year cycle. Cantata BWV 90, "Es reißet euch ein schrecklich Ende" (A dreadful ending carries you away) closes with the affirmative chorale, "Nimm von uns, Herr, du treuer Gott" (Take from us, you faithful God), set to the Lutheran melody of the Lord's Prayer. Both affirmative chorale texts, "Nimm von uns" and "Du Friedefürst," are <omne tempore> hymns on the "Word of God and the Christian Church." Both chorales "are found in the Dresden hymnbooks of that time among the "Hymns of Lament and Comfort," says Günther Stiller in <JSB and Luturgical Life in Leipzig>: p. 246f.

Cantata BWV 90, has as "its subject matter the polarity between the `schrecklich Ende', the terrifying outcome awaiting all sinners at the Last Judgement given graphic articulation in the tenor and bass arias, and the genial protection God gives to His elect described in the final recitative and chorale," says John Elliot Gardiner in his Bach 2000 Cantata Pilgrimage recording notes (see BCW cover page,, Recordings, No. 8).

Christ the King & Christology

Christ the King Sunday is a 20th Century designation begun in the Roman Catholic Church (see Wikipedia, "Originally, the liturgical calendar had this feast on the last Sunday of October prior to All Saints' Day. . . ." Luther's Reformation rejected the Catholic All Saints Day, occurring on November 1, instituting instead the Feast of the Reformation on October 31. In Bach's Lutheran tradition, a similar day is the Feast of the Apost(St. Simon & St. Jude, October 28), listed in Bach's <Das Neu Leipziger Gesangbuch> of 1682 (NLGB: pp. 473-90). The Apostles Feast is recognized in Bach's <Orgelbüchlein> (OB, Little Organ Book) with preludes on two chorales:
OB No. 59. "Herr Gott, dich loben wir" (Te Deum, NLGB 167, Feast of the Apostles);
OB No. 60. "O Herre Gott, dein göttlich Wort" (NLGB 308, Word of God & Christian Church).
Although Bach set neither chorale in the <Orgelbüchlein>, he previously set both as organ chorale preludes and later as harmonized four-voice chorales.

The concepts of Christ the King and Christology are embedded in Lutheran theology. "The heart of Reformation theology was Christology, the <solus Christus> aspect of the Christian Gospel that was summarized by three further Latin formulae: <sola scriptura>, <sola fidei>, and <sola gratia>" (also knwn as the Word, Faith, and Grace Alone), says Robin A. Leaver, <Luther's Liturgical Music> (Luthern Quarterly Books, William B. Eerdmanns Publishing, Grand Rapids MI: 297).

These concepts are expressed in the Lutheran utilization of the Te Deum canticle of praise, both in Latin and vernacular German, and celebrated on the Feast of New Year's Day when Bach also used the popular hymn, "Du Friedefürst, Herr Jesu Christ" (Thou Prince of Peace, Lord Jesus Christ), found in three movements in Cantata BWV 143. It was an evolving work that Bach originally composed in Weimar about1708-14 and may have perfromed again between 1728-35. Bach did not include it in his three cantatas cycles of music for the church year.

Cantata BWV 90, Chorale `Nimm von uns'

For the 25th Sunday after Trinity, Nov. 11, 1723, Bach premiered Solo (ATB) Cantata BWV 90, "Es reißet euch ein schrecklich Ende." It was the penultimate Cycle 1 cantata for Trinity Time, that ended a week later, November 18, with Cantata BWV 70. Francis Browne's English translation of Cantata BWV 90 is found at BCW,

Cantata BWV 90 closes with the last stanza of Martin Moller's 1584 7-stanza chorale text, "Nimm von uns": "Leit uns mit deiner rechten Hand" (Lead us with your right hand). It is set to the chorale melody (Zahn 2561), anonymous/Martin Luther 1539 "Vater unser im Himmelreich" (Our Father in Heaven). Moller's words are the "1st Alternate Text:" to the melody, says BCW,

The other Bach use of "Nimm von uns, Herr, du treuer Gott" is for Chorale Cantata BWV 101, Trinity 10, 1724. The hymn is found in the NLGB No. 316, Word of God & Christian Church (<omne tempore> general use, no designated Sunday hymn). "Vater unser im Himmelreich" is the Hymn of the Day (<de tempore>) for the 25th Sunday after Trinity in Bach's NLGB, Chorale No. 175, under the <omne temore> general category of Catechism chorales and also is a designated hymn for Sundays after Trinity 5, 8, 11, 15, 25 and Epiphany 3.

Julian Mincham's telling commentary on the Cantata BWV 90/5 setting of Luther's chorale melody, and its harmonization as plain chorales in two other Bach words, BWV 245/5 (SJP), and Cantata BWV 102/7 (Trinity 10), is found at BCW,, "telling Chorale."

Chorale Cantata BWV 116, `Du Friedefürst"

For the final 25th Sunday after Trinity in 1724, on November 26, Bach premiered Chorale Cantata BWV 116, "Du Friedefürst, Herr Jesu Christ" (Thou Prince of Peace, Lord Jesus Christ). Cantata BWV 116 BCW cover page is found at Francis Browne BCW English translation is The 1601 chorale text of Jakob Ebert (7 stanzas) is found in Francis Browne's BCW English Translation,

The associated, anonymous melody is "found in a collection by Bartholomäus Gesius (Gese) (1601) and is loosely based upon `Innsbruck, ich muß dich lassen' " (BCW, Of particular note in Julian Mincham's commentary on Cantata BWV 116 is the memorable alto trio free da-capo aria, "Ach, unaussprechlich ist die Not" (Ah, unspeakable is our distress), BCW,

The established format of the chorale cantatas involves the use of the first and last stanzas unaltered in the opening chorale chorus fantasia and closing four-voice harmonization respectively. The melody "Du Friedefürst, Herr Jesu Christ" appears in the soprano in No. 1, the initial chorale chorus; No. 3. tenor secco recitative paraphrases Stanza 3, "Gedenke doch, O Jesu, daß du noch Ein Fürst des Friedens heißest!"
(Remember then, o Jesus, that you still are called a prince of peace!), with Bach using the chorale melody in the basso continuo; and in No. 6, "Erleucht auch unser Sinn und Herz" (Enlighten also our hearts and minds), the melody is harmonized in the closing plain chorale. Stanza 2 is paraphrased in No. 2, the alto aria cited in the previous paragraph; Stanza 4 is paraphrased in No. 4, a rare trio aria (terzette), "Ach, wir bekennen unsre Schuld" (Ah, we acknowledge our guilt),for soprano, tenor, and bass; and Stanzas 5 and 6 are paraphrased in No. 5, the alto recitative with strings, "Ach, laß uns durch die scharfen Ruten/ Nicht allzu heftig bluten!" (Ah, under the sharp rods/ do not make us bleed too heavily!)

Notes from Cantata BWV 143 Discussion: "The chorale, "Du Friedefürst, Herr Jesu Christ," was primarily used for weekly Penitential (Confessional) services on Fridays (Stiller, <JSB & Liturgical Life in Leipzig, p. 114) and occasionally during Easter season. Bach utilized all seven verses in his chorale Cantata BWV 116 for the final Sunday in Trinity, 1724, and as the closing plain chorale in Cantata BWV 67 for the first Sunday after Easter in 1724. The Jakob Ebert 1601 chorale originally was written as a prayer for peace, similar to the <Dona nobis pacem>. In Bach's time, peace through praise and thanksgiving was particularly appropriate on New Year's Day."

While the author(s) of the chorale cantatas of the second cycle of 1724-25 remain anonymous, there is a clear pattern of the production of weekly cantata texts with internal paraphrasing of the hymn stanzas (Harald Streck's 1971 dissertation). It appears that the writer of the first of four groups of cantata libretti began alternating the production of individual cantata texts with the lyricist of Group 3, who had begun a week earlier with Cantata BWV 33, "Allein zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ," for the 13th Sunday after Trinity, September 3, 1724. Their putative alternate production continued until the end of Trinity Time 1724 when the Group 3 poet produced the simple setting of "Du Friedefürst, Herr Jesu Christ".

Meanwhile, Bach had used "Du Friedefürst, Herr Jesu Christ" in three movements of Cantata BWV 143: No. 2 (Stanza 1), soprano aria; No. 7 (Stanza 3), closing chorale chorus; and the melody only in the upper strings, in No. 6, the tenor aria with text of original poetry

The chorale, "Du Friedefürst, Herr Jesu Christ," is listed as No. 331 in the NLGB, of the "Word of God & Christian Church," for general use, with no designated Sunday hymn. It also is appropriate for New Year's Day, the Easter Season, and Thanksgiving services.

The melody is listed in Bach's <Orgelbüchlein> chorale preludes (1713), under the heading of "In time of War" (Word of God & Christian Church): No. 125, "Du Friedefurst, Herr Jesu Christ," and previously set by 1700 in the Neumeister Collection of organ chorale preludes, BWV 1, found under the same heading, "Word of God & Christian Church."

Other Trinity 25 Chorales

The NLGB lists four chorales that could be sung on the 25th Sunday after Trinity: "Vater unser im Himmelreich" and three little-known pulplit and communion chorales, all under the heading "Last Days, Resurrection of the Dead, and Eternal Life" that Bach never set:

+"Es wird schier der letzten Tag herk," NLGB 393 (Last Days, Resurrection of the Dead, and Eternal Life); Bohemian brothers and martyrs; German, Michael Weissen 12 stazas (Zahn 1423);d
+"Gott hat das Evangelium" (Mat. 24), Erasmi Alberi, Magdeburg; Leipzig 1638), Last Days, 14 stanzas, NLGB No. 390 melody Zahn 1788; and
+"Ach Gott tu dich erbarmen"; Erasmi Alberi, Last Days NLGB 396, 12 stanzas Zahn 7228c

Bach's Other Trinity 25 Opportunities:

+It seems likely that Bach composed no cantatas at Trinity Time 1725, that ended with the 24th Sunday after Trinity, November 25. Instead Bach searched for published texts (Lehms, Rudolstadt) for the new and final third cycle, which began at the traditional start of the church year, the First Sunday in Advent, December 2, 1725.

+The Picander published annual cycle of 70 Cantatas for 1728-29, lists a libretto for the 25th Sunday after Trinity (November 14, 1728), P-69, "Eile, rette deine Seele" (Hurry, save thy soul), but with no closing chorale

+For the 25th Sunday after Trinity on November 11, 1731, it is possible that Bach repeated solo Cantata BWV 90, Es reißet euch ein schrechliche Ende" (There ripens for you a dreadful ending), possibly as part of Bach's first annual cantata cycle repeat in 1731 when he systematically reperformed cantatas from his first and third cycle during the entire Easter Season (see BCW,

+There is the possibility of a repeat of Cantata BWV 116 in the first half of the 1730s when Bach composed several <per omnes versus> chorale cantatas to fill gaps and may have presented a revival of the entire Chorale Cantata second cycle. The best possible date on the 25th Sunday after Trinity is November 22, 1733, the final Sunday of Trinity Time that year.

+About November 18, 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. 68. No musical source with the presumed chorales is extant.


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

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Last update: ŭDecember 28, 2012 ŭ23:58:02