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Cantatas for the 6th Sunday after Trinity
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6th Sunday after Trinity Patterns: Cantatas BWV 170, 9; JLB-7

William Hoffman wrote (July 7, 2016):
For three successive years beginning with his first summer in Leipzig in 1723, Bach failed to provide documented performances of cantatas for the benchmark 6th Sunday after Trinity. Instead, he belatedly presented works of Georg Philipp Telemann and Meinengen cousin Johann Ludwig Bach, and two masterpieces from his own pen: 1727 alto solo Cantata BWV 170, “Vergnügte Ruh, beliebte Seelenlust” (Contented peace, beloved delight of the soul), and chorale Cantata BWV 9, “Es ist das Heil uns kommen her” (Salvation has come to us), possibly begun in 1724 but finally finished between 1732-35, possibly involving a reperformance of the second, chorale cantata cycle.

This selective pattern of works of other composers and only two original compositions for each service was typical of Bach’s production schedule in early Trinity Time of omnes tempore (Ordinary Time). The reasons were varied but intentional but later, Bach was able to repeat these works. Bach in 1723 while initially producing two-part and double bills for his first cycle had missed only the 4th and 6th Trinity Sundays, respectively June 20 and July 4. Instead, Bach had focused his efforts on the required feast days of John the Baptist (Wednesday, June 24) and the Visitation of Mary (Friday, July 2). In 1724, Bach undertook his unique, original, and challenging second cycle based on popular chorales for all the services. Serendipitously, the 4th Sunday after Trinity belatedly fell on the Visitation feast, July 2, when Bach produced Cantata 10, “Meine Seel erhebt den Herren,” (My soul praises the Lord), Luther’s vernacular setting of Mary’s Canticle of Praise (Luke 1:46-55). Two weeks later, on July 16, Bach was in Cöthen for a short, necessary visit. In 1725, Bach took a break from regular composition and his first vacation, also to Cöthen, when music of other composers was presented.

In early Trinity Time 1726 during his third cycle, Bach remained very selective, apparently alternating new works with those of cousin Ludwig. For the 6th Sunday after Trinity, July 28, instead of composing a two-part cantata, Bach crafted Cantata 170 with three extended arias alternating with two recitatives (no closing chorale) to a Georg Christian Lehms 1711 printed text, and, Ludwig’s Cantata JLB 7, “Ich will mein Geist in auch geben” (I will my spirit likewise give, Ezekiel 36:27). Details of Cantata 170 are found at BCML Discussions in the Week of February 23, 2014 (4th round), http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV170-D4.htm, as well as “Musical Context of Bach Cantatas: Motets & Chorales for 6th Sunday after Trinity, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/LCY/M&C-Trinity6.htm.

The lectionary Epistle (Romans 6:3-11, “We may not live in sin) and Gospel (Matthew 5:20-26, “Agree with your adversary) lessons for the 6th Sunday after Trinity are a benchmark . The service completes the first quarter of Trinity Time in which a second cycle of topical teachings begins while the first thematic pattern of paired miracles and teachings. The first topical cycle was the Kingdom of Grace and its call, the second is the “Right Manner of Life in the Kingdom of Grace,” emphasizing the "new life of righteousness." Jesus’ first miracle of the draught of fishes (Trinity 5, Luke 5:1-11) leads to Matthew’s Jesus teaching from the boat to the crowd, advocating reconciliation and non-violence.1

Given the importance of the 6th Sunday after Trinity, Bach was able in the final decade of his life to repeat all three cantatas he presented on that Sunday. Cantatas BWV 170 and JLB 7 were repeated in the 1740s, possible again on a double bill. Cantata 170 second performance was either on July 17, 1746, or July 9, 1747. Cantata JLB 7 was repeated between 1743 and 1746. Chorale Cantata BWV 9 was repeated between 1740 and 1747.

FOOTNOTES

1 The lectionary topical cycles are discussed in Paul Zeller Strodach, The Church Year: Studies in the Introits, Collects, Epistles, and Gospels (Philadelphia PA: United Lutheran Publication House, 1924: pp. 194ff), and Douglas Cowling’s “Thematic Patterns in the Gospels of Bach” (May 3, 2011), BCW http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Read/Readings.htm.

 


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