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February 19, 2012

Bach Cantates (11): Quinquagesima (Feb. 19)

Quinquagesima is the name of the Sunday before Ash Wednesday. It was also called Estomihi, or Shrove Sunday. The name Quinquagesima originates from Latin "quinquagesimus"  (fiftieth), referring to the fifty days before Easter Day using inclusive counting which counts both Sundays. The name "Estomihi" is derived from the beginning of the Introit for this Sunday, "Esto mihi in Deum protectorem" (Psalm 31:3).

The earliest Quinquagesima Sunday can occur is February 1 and the latest is March 7. In 2012 it falls on Feb. 19.

The reading for this Sunday concentrates on Luke 18:31-34, "Jesus took the twelve aside and said, 'Lo, we go to Jerusalem, and everything written by the prophets about the Son of Man shall be fulfilled.' The disciples, however, understood none of this." This passage presages the themes of Lent and Holy Week.

1 Corinthians 13:1–13, Praise of love
Luke 18:31–43, Healing the blind near Jericho


  • Jesus nahm zu sich die Zwölfe, BWV 22, 7 February 1723

    (Arioso) e (Coro): "Jesus nahm zu sich die Zwölfe" for choir, tenor and bass soloists, and orchestral tutti.
    Aria: "Mein Jesu, ziehe mich nach dir" for altus, oboe, and continuo.
    Recitativo: "Mein Jesu, ziehe mich, so werd ich laufen" for bass, strings, and continuo.
    Aria: "Mein alles in allem, mein ewiges Gut" for tenor, strings, and continuo.
    Choral: "Ertöt uns durch dein Güte" for choir, oboe, strings, and continuo.

    One of two cantatas written for the audition for the Cantorate of St. Thomas in Leipzig. In other words, music with which Bach wanted to impress, but as he didn't know the abilities of the local musicians yet, he keeps on the safe side with only strings and oboe, also leaving out the soprano solo. The text of the cantata closely follows the Gospel story of Jesus and the disciples about to enter Jerusalem. There are five movements: two arias followed by a recitative, an aria and a closing chorale. The central part of the first section is the bass arioso as the Vox Christi "Sehet, wir gehn hinauf gen Jerusalem, und es wird alles vollendet werden" - accompanied by a plaintive oboe figure, the voice moves up at "hinauf gehn." The halting chorus describes the disciples' lack of understanding. The lilting alto aria "My Jesus, draw me after You" is a personalization of the voyage to Jerusalem, spoken in the voice of the congregation of Bach's time. In the bass recitative the rush to Golgotha is referred to, followed by a tenor aria illustrating joy in salvation - the failings of humanity that allowed the disciples to miss the meaning of Jesus' words have made place for joyful optimism. The aria has been set in a typical "walking rhythm" (a dansante minuet). The beautiful chorale with oboe and string festoons reminds one of "Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring." (****)

  • Du wahrer Gott und Davids Sohn, BWV 23, 7 February 1723

    Aria (Duetto): "Du wahrer Gott und Davids Sohn" for soprano & altus, oboes, and continuo.
    Recitativo: "Ach! gehe nicht vorüber" for tenor, oboes, violins, and continuo.
    (Coro): "Aller Augen warten, Herr" for choir, oboes, strings and continuo.
    Chorale: "Christe, du Lamm Gottes" for choir, cornetto col Soprano, trombone I coll'Alto, trombone II col Tenore, trombone III col Basso, oboes, strings, and continuo.

    This is the second half of Bach's St. Thomas audition, a cantata based around the parable of the blind man from Luke 18.42. On the way to Jerusalem Jesus is accosted by a blind beggar. Jesus restores his sight with the words: "your faith has been your salvation." In other words, this cantata is about faith and its rewards. In the opening duet the duality of Christ's human and divine identity is symbolized by two oboes d'amore (playing an addictive motive) and the two high voices. The text itself is a plea for mercy, full of sadness. After a tenor recitative with the instrumental chorale tune  "Christe du Lamm Gottes" laid on top (to broaden the plea "Ach! gehe nicht vorüber" of the two blind men to the whole world), we have a wonderful chorus "Aller Augen warten," alternating with a tenor and bass duet. The dance-like music also seems to lift up its eyes to heaven. The cantata ends with a profound choral fantasy, a setting of the German Agnus Dei. (****)

  • Herr Jesu Christ, wahr’ Mensch und Gott, BWV 127, 11 February 1725

    Choral: Herr Jesu Christ, wahr’ Mensch und Gott
    Rezitativ Tenor: Wenn alles sich zur letzten Zeit entsetzet
    Arie Soprano: Die Seele ruht in Jesu Händen
    Rezitativ und Arie Bass: Wenn einstens die Posaunen schallen
    Choral: Ach, Herr, vergib all unsre Schuld

    Chorale cantata, i.e. a chorale forms the melodic and textual basis of this cantata. That is "Herr Jesu Christ, wahr’ Mensch und Gott," and this is accompanied in the orchestra by two other choral melodies, "Christe, du Lamm Gottes" and "O Haupt, voll Blut und Wunden." The reading for this day of the saving of the blind persons, is extended to Jesus' acting as savior at the moment of death, and assisting the faithful at the Heavenly judgement. The secco tenor recitative sings about "cold death sweat," "stiff limbs" and the heart which finally breaks, but Bach keeps his music cool. The deeply tragic soprano aria has an expressive oboe melody and sings about the soul resting securely in Jesus' hands, with some word painting on "death-knell." Bass recitative and aria next vividly describe the Day of Judgement and its trumpets. Typically, the singer remains steadfast amid the orchestral chaos. This is followed by a final chorale, a simple prayer. (***)

  • Sehet, wir gehn hinauf gen Jerusalem, BWV 159, 27 February 1729

    1. Arioso e recitativo (bass, alto): Sehet, wir gehn hinauf gen Jerusalem – Komm, schaue doch, mein Sinn
    2. Aria e chorale (alto, soprano, oboe): Ich folge dir nach – Ich will hier bei dir stehen
    3. Recitativo (tenor): Nun will ich mich, mein Jesu
    4. Aria (bass, oboe): Es ist vollbracht
    5. Chorale: Jesu, deine Passion ist mir lauter Freude

    The story of the way of the cross told from the point of view of the soul, a cantata written at the same time as the St. Matthew Passion. The text puts the announcement of Jesus' suffering in central position, and this is regarded as terrible (1), as an example to follow (2), as a reason to say farewell to earthly pleasures (3), and finally as a reason to give thanks (4, 5). In the first arioso/recitative, the alto is the hesitant soul, while the bass represents the steadfast Jesus. "Wir gehn hinauf" here again inspires a familiar walking rhythm. Next follows an aria/chorale in which the alto sings long lines around the chorale "O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden." The bass aria "Es ist vollbracht" is gently plaintive with oboe accompaniment, about the crucifixion that is to come, after which the cantate ends with a calm chorale setting. (***)

(1) New Year's Day (2) New Year I (3) Epiphany (4) Epiphany I (5) Epiphany II (6) Epiphany III (7) Epiphany IV (8) Feast of Purification of Mary (9) Septuagesima (10) Sexagesima (11) Quinquagesima (Estomihi) (12) The Consecration of a New Organ (13) The Inauguration of the Town Council (14) Oculi (15) Wedding Cantatas (16) Feast of Annunciation (17) Palm Sunday (18) Easter Sunday (19) Easter Monday (20) Easter Tuesday (21) Easter I (Quasimodogeniti) (22) Easter II (23) Easter III (24) Easter IV (25) Easter V (26) Ascension Day (27) Ascension I (28) Pentecost Sunday (29) Pentecost Monday (30) Pentecost Tuesday (31) Trinity Sunday (32) Trinity I (33) Trinity II (34) Trinity III (35) St. John's Day (36) Trinity IV (37) Visitation (38) Trinity V (39) Trinity VI (40) Trinity VII (41) Trinity VIII (42) Trinity IX (43) Trinity X (44) Trinity XI (45) Trinity XII (46) Trinity XIII (47) Trinity XIV (48) Trinity XV (49) Trinity XVI (50) Trinity XVII (51) Trinity XVIII (52) Trinity XIX (53) Trinity XX (54) Trinity XXI (55) Trinity XXII (56) Trinity XXIII (57) Trinity XXIV (58) Trinity XXV-XXVII (59) Advent I-IV (60) Christmas Day (61) Second Day of Christmas (62) Third Day of Christmas (63) Sunday after Christmas