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June 17, 2012

Bach Cantatas (33): Trinity II

The church year from Trinity until Advent is simply counted in figures as Trinity I, Trinity II, etc. This is the second Sunday after Trinity.

There are no major church feasts in this second part of the church year. Instead, issues of faith and doctrine are explored.

This Sunday continues the previous Sunday’s injunction to give charitably to the hungry (BWV 75) by showing brotherly love manifested in action (BWV 76).

1 John 3:13–18, "Whoever doesn't love, remains in Death"
Luke 14:16–24, Parable of the great supper


  • Die Himmel erzählen die Ehre Gottes, BWV 76, 6 June 1723

    Part I
    1. Coro: Die Himmel erzählen die Ehre Gottes
    2. Recitativo (tenor): So lässt sich Gott nicht unbezeuget!
    3. Aria (soprano): Hört, ihr Völker, Gottes Stimme
    4. Recitativo (bass): Wer aber hört, da sich der größte Haufen
    5. Aria (bass): Fahr hin, abgöttische Zunft!
    6. Recitativo (alto): Du hast uns, Herr, von allen Straßen
    7. Chorale: Es woll uns Gott genädig sein
    Part II
    8. Sinfonia
    9. Recitativo (bass): Gott segne noch die treue Schar
    10. Aria (tenor): Hasse nur, hasse mich recht
    11. Recitativo (alto): Ich fühle schon im Geist
    12. Aria (alto): Liebt, ihr Christen, in der Tat!
    13. Recitativo (tenor): So soll die Christenheit
    14. Chorale: Es danke, Gott, und lobe dich

    ("The Heavens declare the Glory of God") Long piece in two symmetrical parts, the second cantata Bach wrote in Leipzig with the apparent intention to impress the congregation and his employers. The cantata begins with a brilliant fugal chorus on words from Psalm 19 "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows His handiwork." In movements 2 (recitative) and 3 (a sweet aria for soprano) the text elaborates on the thought of the Universe praising God's creation. The soprano aria is a graceful movement in gavotte rhythm towards God's throne. In the following two movements, a recitative and aria by bass, it deplores those who did not follow the invitation of God, so that He had to invite people "from the streets." It is a forthright call to banish the tribe of idolaters. Part I closes with a haunting version of Martin Luther's chorale "Es woll uns Gott genädig sein," accompanied by a doleful trumpet. Part II starts with an intimate sinfonia, based on one of the trio sonatas for organ. The tenor aria illustrates the "masochistic" "Hate me, then, hate me with all your might, o hostile race!" by chromatic leaps and interrupting rests. The heavenly alto aria with oboe d'amore and viola da gamba is the musical highlight of the cantata. It reminds us of the uniting love that is a consequence of Christ's death and brings a feeling of peace and introspection. The third stanza of Luther's chorale closes the work. (***)

  • Ach Gott, vom Himmel sieh darein, BWV 2, 18 June 1724

    Coro: Ach Gott, vom Himmel sieh darein
    Recitativo (tenor, bass): Sie lehren eitel falsche List
    Aria (alto, violin solo): Tilg, o Gott, die Lehren
    Recitativo (bass, strings): Die Armen sind verstört
    Aria (tenor): Durchs Feuer wird das Silber rein
    Chorale: Das wollst du, Gott, bewahren rein

    ("O God, look down from Heaven") Cantata based on Martin Luther's chorale "Ach Gott, vom Himmel sieh darein." Its theme is the barrenness of life on earth without the word, trust and love of God. In the choruses of first and last movements using the original words of the hymn the style of the music is consciously "archaic", the instruments doubling the voices. Bach often used such archaic music when he had to treat a severe subject. There is an austere beauty in the first chorus, which takes the form of a chorale motet a la Pachelbel. The alto aria is a condemnation of heresy ("Destroy, Oh God, the doctrines that pervert Thy Word!") and is surprisingly benign, considering the text, perhaps reflecting Bach's basically optimistic outlook. This is followed by a tenor aria stressing the need to be patient when suffering ("Through fire, silver is purified") - a quiet and composed acceptance of circumstances. The final chorale has a dissonant harmonization to symbolize that the heretics are around us, but not with us. (***)
(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