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December 22, 2015

Bach Cantatas (56): Trinity XXIII

The twenty-third Sunday after Trinity. The cantatas for this day are based on the Pharisees' questioning of Jesus as to the legitimacy of paying tribute to Caesar.

There are three cantatas for this Sunday.

Readings:
Philippians 3:17–21, "our conversation is in heaven"
Matthew 22:15–22, the question about paying taxes, answered by Render unto Caesar...

References:
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Cantatas:
  • Nur jedem das Seine, BWV 163, 24 November 1715
    Aria for Tenor, Nur jedem das Seine!
    Recitative for Bass, Du bist, mein Gott, der Geber aller Gaben
    Aria for Bass, Laß mein Herz die Münze sein
    Duet (Arioso) for Soprano and Alro, Ich wollte dir, O Gott, das Herze gerne geben
    Duet (Aria) for Soprano and Alro, Nimm mich mir und gib mich dir!
    Chorale, Führ auch mein Herz und Sinn

    ("To each his own!") This is one of the best cantatas written by Bach in Weimar, scored for a small Baroque chamber ensemble of two violins, viola, two cellos and continuo. The text is by Salomo Franck, who as Director of the Mint not surprisingly often writes about money. He was also a numismatist in charge of the ducal coin collection at Weimar. His libretto gives the answer to the question of the Pharisees: "The heart is the coin of tribute rightfully due to God, but often a false image is stamped upon it." The cantata opens with the tenor aria "To each his own" which can be seen as a paraphrase of the injunction to "render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's." After the bass has asked "Isn't that counterfeit?" the same vocalist continues with the aria "Let my heart be the coin," an aria uniquely accompanied by the deep sonority of two obbligato cellos. This is followed by a duet recitative and duet aria for soprano and alto. The aria is a "love duet" on the text "Take me from myself and give me to You!" characterized by commitment to God rather than carnal desire. The movement becomes more richly textured as it progresses, adding a chorale tune as well. Of the final movement, the usual chorale setting, only the continuo line is extant.

  • Wohl dem, der sich auf seinen Gott, BWV 139, 12 November 1724
    Chorale: Wohl dem, der sich auf seinen Gott
    Aria (tenor): Gott ist mein Freund; was hilft das Toben
    Recitative (alto): Der Heiland sendet ja die Seinen
    Aria (bass): Das Unglück schlägt auf allen Seiten
    Recitative (soprano): Ja, trag ich gleich den größten Feind in mir
    Chorale: Dahero Trotz der Höllen Heer!


    ("Fortunate the person who upon his God") Rather than addressing the question about paying taxes, this cantata derives its inspiration from the rejection of earthly things for the world of heaven in the other reading for this Sunday from Philippians. The cantata is based on the hymn in five stanzas by Johann Christoph Rube (1692) and sung to the melody of Johann Hermann Schein "Machs mit mir, Gott, nach deiner Güt" (1628). It survives only from an incomplete set of parts in Leipzig. The opening chorus is a chorale fantasy. It has a complex structure: on the chorale melody song as cantus firmus by the sopranos, the other voices and instruments build several episodes of concertante character. In the following tenor aria the words of the first line, "Gott ist mein Freund" (God is my friend), appear again and again. The bass aria with solo violin and oboes d'amore in unisono is in rondo form and alternates in tempo between Andante and Vivace. 

  • Falsche Welt, dir trau ich nicht, BWV 52, 24 November 1726
    Sinfonie
    Recitative: Falsche Welt, dir trau ich nicht
    Aria: Immerhin, immerhin, wenn ich gleich verstoßen bin
    Recitative: Gott ist getreu
    Aria: Ich halt es mit dem lieben Gott
    Chorale: In dich hab ich gehoffet, Herr

    ("False world, I don't trust you") Solo cantata for soprano (in Bach's time always sung by a child soprano). The unknown poet takes from the readings the idea that the world is false and that man should concentrate on God. The cantata uses the first movement of the 1st Brandenburg Concerto as its sinfonia (as more solo cantatas from this period recycle concerto movements). In the austere first aria (portraying the soul as beset by falsity and worldly hypocrisy) the soprano is accompanied by two violins, in the second aria of dance-like character (a polonaise), by three oboes. In this beautiful aria all is warmth and magnanimity - it is a response to the previous aria, now expressing confidence in Christ's benevolence. The final chorale, the first strophe of a hymn by Adam Reusner, In dich habe ich gehoffet, Herr (1933), brings back the brilliance of the two horns from the first movement to close the work. 
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