Thomas Braatz wrote (June 22, 2002):
BWV 167 - Provenance:
Here we have another example of a cantata for which not a single note in Bach’s handwriting has come down to us directly. At most there is a slight possibility that a few of the articulation marks or corrections in the set of parts could be Bach’s since it is assumed that this original set of parts was used for one (or more?) performances of this work during Bach’s lifetime. The original set of parts may have been in C.P.E. Bach’s possession, but since this set (nor the autograph score, for that matter) is not listed in the extensive list of compositions in C.P.E. Bach’s estate, it is assumed that C.P.E. Bach simply gave the parts away. There is no record anywhere of the existence of the autograph score, but it has to be assumed that it did once exist.
The original set of parts: 7 of the 11 parts were copied by Johann Andreas Kuhnau, the others by Johann Christian Köpping (Continuo part) and the anonymous copiers identified only by their numbers, 1 and 2. A copy of the score by Christian Gottlob Meißner was made sometime after the original set of parts (not based on them, however), but no later than 1731.
How do we know that this is a genuine cantata by J.S. Bach? One important indication is that exactly the same type of paper (including watermarks) was used that Bach used for other cantatas which we do have. This type of paper was used only from February 7, 1723 until July 30, 1724. Having determined this to be the case, Alfred Dürr was able to indicate the most probable date of the 1st performance, June 24, 1723, which implies that it was composed very shortly before this date.
The unknown librettist made use of the scriptural passage from Luke 1:68-79, which is also the Gospel reading for this holiday. Of particular note is the application of two phrases: “das Horn des Heils” (Luke 1:69) in mvt. 1 and “Gelobet sei der Herr Gott Israel” (Luke 1:68) in mvt. 2.
The chorale text is the 5th (a later additional) verse of Johann Gramann’s chorale text, “Nun lob, mein Seel’, den Herren” (Königsberg, 1549.)
Francis Browne inquired:
< Why in this cantata did Bach depart from his normal practice of an opening, fugal chorus (for which the text seems suitable) and a simple closing chorale? >
My guess would be that cantatas of this type would have been used in the second half of the service and that the 1st part very likely consisted of a cantata with an opening choral mvt. BWV 167 might then be used as the 2nd part following the sermon. This might explain the feeling that this cantata seems to begin more tentatively in medias res. The strong chorale with an additional orchestral accompaniment might have provided a suitable, solid conclusion for this special religious holiday (Festtag=Feast Day.) There are quite a number of Bach cantatas that are already split up into two separate parts. In this case, simply imagine that another cantata preceded this one in the slot designated as part 1 before the sermon.
Thomas Shepherd wonders:
< ts a well known chorale and I wonder if, with the supporting lead from tromba, the good people of Leipzig present in church that day in 1723 sung the chorale by themselves or along with the choir? >
All evidence that I have come across seems to point to the fact that this was not done. One reason that seems rather apparent is that Bach’s harmonizations of the final chorale are anything but simple. You might miss much of the compositional intricacies if you were to sing along in a full voice. Bach also wrote out special embellishments even for the soprano part. Sometimes he would lengthen or shorten notes so that the melody line would not agree perfectly with the simple chorale melody that the congregation could see in the hymnals. What personally intrigues me is that Bach, on occasion, would include a special motif in one of the other (non cantus firmus) parts that relates the chorale back to the material presented somewhere in the preceding mvts. All of this effort would be lost (it is frequently lost anyhow in some of the recorded chorale renditions where all the voice parts can not be clearly heard) on the members of the congregation who should be listening carefully to the musical artistry being presented for their benefit and to glorify God. This is definitely not a “Sing-a-long” situation.