Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit, BWV 106

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Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit (God's time is the very best time), BWV 106, also known as Actus Tragicus, is a sacred cantata composed by Johann Sebastian Bach in Mühlhausen, intended for a funeral.

History[edit]

Although Bach's manuscript is lost, the work is agreed to be one of the earliest Bach cantatas, probably composed during the year he spent in Mühlhausen 1707/1708 as organist of the Divi Blasii church. Various funerals known to have taken place at this time have been proposed as the occasion for the composition, for example that of Adolf Strecker, former mayor of Mühlhausen, in 1708, or that of Bach's uncle, who died in Erfurt in 1707.

The cantata was published in 1876 as part of the first complete edition of Bach's works: the Bach Gesellschaft Ausgabe.

Theme[edit]

The text consists of different Bible verses of the Old and New Testament, as well as individual verses of chorales (hymns) by Martin Luther and Adam Reusner,[1] which all together refer to finiteness and dying. There are two distinct parts to the cantata: the view of the Old Testament on death shown in the first part is confronted by the second part, representing the view of the New Testament; the separation of the old by the new determines the symmetrical structure of the cantata.

Characteristics[edit]

Bach was probably only 22 years old when he composed the opening sonatina, in which two obbligato alto recorders mournfully echo each other over a sonorous background of viola da gambas and continuo. The cantata ranks among his most important works. Inspired directly by its biblical text, it exhibits a great depth and intensity. Alfred Dürr called the cantata "a work of genius such as even great masters seldom achieve... The Actus Tragicus belongs to the great musical literature of the world".[2]

The work has parts for two alto recorders, two violas da gamba, basso continuo, and soprano, alto, tenor, and bass voices.[3] The cantata can be performed with only four singers, as in the recording by Joshua Rifkin, who is well known in the world of Bach performance for his "one voice to a part" approach.[1] However, most recordings feature a choir with multiple voices to a part.

Structure[edit]

The sections comprising the cantata are traditionally grouped into four movements.

Movement 1
Sonatina (instrumental), molto adagio
Movement 2
  1. Chorus, andante/allegro/adagio assai: Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit (God's time is the best time of all)
  2. Arioso (tenor), lento: Ach, Herr, lehre uns bedenken (Lord, teach us to consider)
  3. Aria (bass), vivace: Bestelle dein Haus (Put your house in order)
  4. Chorus & Arioso (soprano), andante: Es ist der alte Bund (It is the old covenant) & Ja, komm, Herr Jesu, komm! (Yes, come, Lord Jesus, come!)
Movement 3
  1. Aria (alto), andante: In deine Hände befehl ich meinen Geist (Into Your hands I commit my spirit)
  2. Arioso (bass) & Chorale (duet alto & bass), andante: Heute wirst du mit mir im Paradies sein (Today you will be with Me in Paradise) & Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin (With peace and joy I depart)
Movement 4
Chorus, andante/allegro: Glorie, Lob, Ehr und Herrlichkeit (Glory, praise, honour and majesty)

Recordings[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b "BWV 106". 2009. Retrieved October 23, 2012. 
  2. ^ Dürr, Alfred (2006). The Cantatas of J.S. Bach. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-929776-2. 
  3. ^ "BWV 106". University of Alberta. Retrieved May 30, 2014. 

Literature[edit]

External links[edit]