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Cantata BWV 168
Tue Rechnung! Donnerwort
English Translation in Interlinear Format
Cantata BWV 168 - Give an account of yourself! Word of thunder

Event: Solo Cantata for the 9th Sunday after Trinity
Readings: Epistle: 1 Corinthians 10: 6-13; Gospel: Luke 16: 1-9
Text: Salomo Franck (Mvts. 1-5); Bartholomäus Ringwaldt (Mvt. 6)
Chorale Text: Herr Jesu Christ, du höchstes Gut

Biblical quotations in green font, chorales in purple


Aria [Bass]

Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo

Tue Rechnung! Donnerwort, Luke 16 :2
Give an account of yourself! Word of thunder
Das die Felsen selbst zerspaltet,
that splits apart the very rocks,
Wort, wovon mein Blut erkaltet!
word, at which my blood runs cold!
Tue Rechnung! Seele, fort!
Give an account of yourself! My soul, go forward!
Ach, du mußt Gott wiedergeben
Ah, you must give back to God
Seine Güter, Leib und Leben.
his belongings, body and life,
Tue Rechnung! Donnerwort!
Give an account of yourself! Word of thunder!


Recitative [Tenor]

Oboe d'amore I/II, Continuo

Es ist nur fremdes Gut,
It is only the property of someone else,
Was ich in diesem Leben habe;
what I have in this life;
Geist, Leben, Mut und Blut
spirit, life, courage and blood
Und Amt und Stand ist meines Gottes Gabe,
and office and rank are the gift of my God.
Es ist mir zum Verwalten
They are mine to manage
Und treulich damit hauszuhalten
and faithfully to look after
Von hohen Händen anvertraut.
what has been entrusted to me by lofty hands.
Ach! aber ach! mir graut,
Ah , but alas! I shudder with horror
Wenn ich in mein Gewissen gehe
when I look into my conscience
Und meine Rechnungen so voll Defekte sehe!
and see that my accounts are so full of faults !
Ich habe Tag und Nacht
Day and night
Die Güter, die mir Gott verliehen,
the things that God has lent to me
Kaltsinnig durchgebracht!
I have wasted with cold thoughtlessness.
Wie kann ich dir, gerechter Gott, entfliehen?
How can I, righteous God, flee from you ?
Ich rufe flehentlich:
I cry aloud beseechingly :
Ihr Berge fallt! ihr Hügel decket mich Hosea 10 :8, Luke 23 : 30
You mountains, fall! You hills, cover me
Vor Gottes Zorngerichte
from God's angry judgement
Und vor dem Blitz von seinem Angesichte!
and from the lightning of his countenance!


Aria [Tenor]

Oboe d'amore I/II all' unisono, Continuo

Kapital und Interessen,
Capital and interest,
Meine Schulden groß und klein
my debts great and small
Müssen einst verrechnet sein.
must one day be settled.
Alles, was ich schuldig blieben,
Everything for which I remain in debt
Ist in Gottes Buch geschrieben
is written in God's book
Als mit Stahl und Demantstein.
as with steel and diamond.


Recitative [Bass]


Jedoch, erschrocknes Herz, leb und verzage nicht!
And yet, my frightened heart, live and do not despair!
Tritt freudig vor Gericht!
Step jofully before the court !
Und überführt dich dein Gewissen,
And if your conscience overcomes you
Du werdest hier verstummen müssen,
and you have here to stay silent,
So schau den Bürgen an,
then look to your guarantor
Der alle Schulden abgetan!
who does away with all your debts!
Es ist bezahlt und völlig abgeführt,
It is paid and fully discharged,
Was du, o Mensch, in Rechnung schuldig blieben;
what you, o Man, remain owing in your account;
Des Lammes Blut, o großes Lieben!
Blood of the Lamb- o great love! -
Hat deine Schuld durchstrichen
has crossed out your debt
Und dich mit Gott verglichen.
and made a settlement between God and you.
Es ist bezahlt, du bist quittiert!
It is paid, you are cleared!
Weil du weißt,
because you know
Daß du Haushalter seist,
that you are a steward,
So sei bemüht und unvergessen,
take care and do not forget
Den Mammon klüglich anzuwenden,
to use Mammon prudently,
Den Armen wohlzutun,
to do good to the poor,
So wirst du, wenn sich Zeit und Leben enden,
and then, when time and life come to an end,
In Himmelshütten sicher ruhn.
you will rest safely in the shelter of heaven.


Aria (Duetto) [Soprano, Alto]


Herz, zerreiß des Mammons Kette,
Heart, tear apart the chains of Mammon,
Hände, streuet Gutes aus!
Hands, scatter your goods !
Machet sanft mein Sterbebette,
Make my deathbed soft,
Bauet mir ein festes Haus,
build for me a firm house
Das im Himmel ewig bleibet,
that remains for ever in heaven
Wenn der Erde Gut zerstäubet.
when the earth's goods turn to dust.


Chorale [S, A, T, B]

Oboe d'amore I/II e Violino I col Soprano, Violino II coll'Alto, Viola col Tenore, Continuo

Stärk mich mit deinem Freudengeist,
Strengthen me with your joyful spirit,
Heil mich mit deinen Wunden,
heal me with your wounds,
Wasch mich mit deinem Todesschweiß
wash me with the sweat of your death
In meiner letzten Stunden;
in my last hours;
Und nimm mich einst, wenn dirs gefällt,
and take me then, whenever it pleases you,
In wahrem Glauben von der Welt
in true faith from this world
Zu deinen Auserwählten.
to be with those you have chosen.

Notes on the text

BWV 168 was composed for the 9th Sunday after Trinity and was first performed on 29th July 1725. The text is by Salomon Franck. Bach used his Evangelisches Andachts-Opfer for some of the cantatas he composed a decade earlier in Weimar. Wolff suggests that in 1715 the 9th Sunday after Trinity fell during a period without music, the time of state mourning for Prince Johann Ernst. The autograph score according to Dürr clearly originated in Leipzig, and so it is plausible to suppose that Bach recalled the text he could not use in Weimar and set it years later in Leipzig .

As was his custom Franck keeps close to the gospel for the Sunday (Luke 16: 1-9, the parable of the unjust steward). The opening aria echoes some of the words of the gospel. Hans Joachim Schulze suggests as possible sources for Franck's text a sermon printed in 1679 by HeinrichMüller, a theologian from Rostock , in his Evange­lischer Hertzens-Spiegel
Wir sitzen auff Rechnung / und müssen augenblicklich gewärtig seyn /daß diß Donner-Wort erschalle: Thue Rechnung... Fordert es Gott nicht ehe / so fordert er es gewiß in der letzten Todes-Stunde / da muß die Seele an die Rechen-Banck / und Antwort geben." and also a stanza from a hymn by Johannes Olearius printed 1671 in Leipzig in his Geistlichen Singekunst:
Thu Rechnung! Gott will ernstlich Rechnung von dir haben,
thu Rechnung, spricht der Herr, von allen deinen Gaben,
thu Rechnung, fürchte Gott, du mußt sonst plötzlich fort,
thu Rechnung: denke stets an diese Donner-Wort."

The occurrence of both Tue Rechnung and Donnerwort seems striking but the same collocation is found in Andreas Gryphius :
Weil mir das ernste Donnerwort durch Ohr vnd Muth/ vnd Geister kracht.
Thu Rechnung Mensch/ von Leib vnd Geist/ von reden/ lesen/ thun vnd schreiben
. (Sonnet 46)
This suggests that it is a question of a rhetorical commonplace of the time rather than a direct source.

Franck's libretto with its short lines rhymed throughout is competent rather than inspired . Even as fair and judicious a critic as Dürr says :
The baroque poet Franck is not deterred from using detailed metaphors whose realism, to our way of thinking today, exceeds the bounds of poetic possibilities: for example, 'When I see my accounts so full of defects' and 'principal and interest'.

Many might agree, but such judgements may also be seen as being based on a limited assumption of what is possible in poetry, more appropriate for romantic lyrics rather than the extravaganand ingenuity of baroque poetry.

The opening stanza at least makes a forceful beginning with its triple repetition of the key phrase.Donnerwort is found fairly often elsewhere in German literature and so is not as striking an expression as 'thunderous word' in English.

Problems perhaps begin with the first recitative which includes both a prosaic examination of accounts and, using the words of the prophet Hosea quoted by Christ on his way to Calvary, an emotional plea for mountains and hills to fall on the speaker. Incongruous juxtaposition of different spheres of imagery or apt illumination of the transcendent by the temporal? Each reader or listener will decide for themselves.Similarly the accounting and legal imagery of the tenor aria and the second recitative will evoke differing reactions.

The second recitative as often in the later movements of the cantatas proposes a solution to the problem posed earlier. Christ provides an answer to our fears of death and judgement.Here Franck adds also a passage which reflects on the gospel : use Mammon wisely so that death loses its terror

The final stanza is taken from Bartholomäus Ringwaldt's Herr Jesu Christ, du höchstes Gut (1588) and returns to thoughts of Jesus' sacrifice and our own death.

Bach thought sufficiently well of this libretto to remember it for ten years . Nobody would consider the cantata he produced in Leipzig to be among his greatest works, but as Julian Mincham concludes 'we should be grateful for this minor work if only for the superb openiing aria'.


This Translation in Parallel Format

English Translation by Francis Browne (June 2002, revised & Notes: September 2011)
Contributed by Francis Browne (June 2002, September 2011)

Cantata BWV 168: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3
German Text | Translations: Catalan-1 | Dutch | English-1 | English-3I | English-3P | English-6 | French-4 | French-6 | Hebrew-1 | Indonesian | Italian-2 | Russian-1 | Spanish-3 | Spanish-7
Chorale Text:
Herr Jesu Christ, du höchstes Gut

English Translations in Interlinear/Parallel Format (English-3): Sorted by BWV Number | Sorted by Title | Sorted by Event | Note on English Translations

Texts & Translations: Main Page | Cantatas BWV 1-50 | Cantatas BWV 51-100 | Cantatas BWV 101-150 | Cantatas BWV 151-200 | Cantatas BWV 201-224 | Other Vocal BWV 225-249 | Chorales BWV 250-438 | Geistliche Lieder BWV 439-507 | AMN BWV 508-524 | Other Vocal 1081-1089 | BWV Anh | Chorale Texts | Emblemata | Sources | Poets & Composers
Discussions: Texts | Translations: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4


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Last update: Thursday, June 01, 2017 21:09