Francis Browne wrote (June 6, 2002):
In studying this cantata I have been fascinated by the history of its origins. It derives from an orchestral work from Bach's period in Cöthen and through the surviving music of the cantata we can discern the outline of the orchestral suite that Dick Wursten has already listed. In his biography Wolff (p200) estimates that some 200 pieces written by Bach between 1718 and 1723 may have been lost. It is good to have at least a glimpse of one of these works and frustrating to think of how much marvellous music by Bach has disappeared for ever, since there seems no reason to suppose that what has been lost was necessarily inferior to what has survived.
I am fascinated also by the occasion of this cantata. Bach was clearly highly respected and in great demand as an expert on all aspects of organ construction. Wolff, following Forkel's Chapter on "Bach the Organist", gives detailed information about the organ projects and examinations of Bach that have been documented(p142). Presumably there were also others. I wonder whether this cantata served as Bach's 'organ dedication work' on other occasions.
The author of the text is unknown.In the liner notes to the Suzuki recording Klaus Hoffman comments:'Because the text is unusually rich in biblical allusions - not a single line is without a biblical reference- we can assume that the unknown librettist was a theologian.' Whittaker suggests that Bach himself may have written the text and then - with assumption soon hardening into fact- argues that Bach ' would naturally write his libretto with an eye to future service at St. Thomas's.' The two suggestions are of course not incompatible. The records of Bach's library and the vocal works themselves make it clear that Bach was very well read in theology and quite capable of writing the libretto. But I have noticed a certain tendency for Bach to be proposed as the author of a cantata text whenever the author is unknown without any further evidence than the convenience of easily filling a gap in our knowledge. And so Whittaker argues :'The recitatives
contain little of musical interest. The texts, however,are indications of Bach's reverence for the House of God, his facility for spinning sermonettes on an equality with those of his clergy, and of his tireless industry.They are thus of interest to all students of his ways of thought
' Interesting if true, but hardly proved.
But whoever wrote it, the text was printed with a dedication to the man who owned the estate in which Störmthal lay and who had paid for the organ: Herr Statz Hilmor von Fullen, Knight of the Holy Roman Empire, of Störmthal, Marck-Klebern and Liebert- Wolckwitz, gentleman-in-waiting to the King of Poland and worshipful honorary Chamberlain to the Princely House of Saxony and Assessor at the Supreme Court of Justice i.e. someone who for us is a footnote in Bach's biography but in his time was important and influential, whom Bach perhaps was anxious to please. Anna Magdalena was the soprano soloist. Zacharias Hildebrandt, a pupil of Silbermann built the organ. Bach was to work with him twenty years later at Naumberg and may well have worked with him on other occasions. The church as well as the organ was restored. Putting all this scattered information together I could not help trying to imagine as I listened to this cantata what may have happened in that village and church on the 2nd November 1723 when Herr Bach, the Cantor of St. Thomas's, and his wife visited for the weekend. Were local forces used or did other musicians and singers come from Leipzig? What did the villagers make of their restored church, the new organ, and the cantata and inaugural organ recital by Bach.?