Chorale cantata (Bach)

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Chorale cantatas by Johann Sebastian Bach are church cantatas in which both text and music are based on one Lutheran hymn. In his second annual cycle in Leipzig, beginning with the first Sunday after Trinity of 1724, he planned to compose a chorale cantata for each occasion of the liturgical year. He composed new works until Palm Sunday of 1725 (less than a full year later), and in later years added several works for the occasions he had omitted. This cycle, also termed the "chorale cantata year", has been named "the largest musical project that the composer ever undertook".

History[edit]

Hymns in Lutheranism[edit]

The reformer Martin Luther advocated the use of vernacular hymns during services. He wrote several himself, also worked on their tunes, and helped publish four of them in the First Lutheran hymnal, the Achtliederbuch. Leipzig also had a strong tradition of sacred hymns.[1][2] In 1690, the minister of the Thomaskirche, Johann Benedikt Carpzov, had announced that he would preach not only on the Gospel but also on a related song, "good, beautiful, old, evangelical and Lutheran song", and that Johann Schelle, then the director of music, would play the song before the sermon.[3]

Bach[edit]

Bach's duties as an organist included accompanying congregational singing, and he was familiar with the Lutheran hymns. He included hymn stanzas in his church cantatas, typically as the closing chorale. In Bach's time the congregation would have sung during some of the services in which the cantatas were performed, but it is not known whether the congregation would have joined the choir in singing the chorales in the cantatas themselves. On the other hand, although Bach's chorale arrangements can be tricky for amateur singers, in some performances today of the cantatas and passions audience participation is encouraged. For example, the Monteverdi Choir is anticipating audience participation in a forthcoming performance of Christ lag in Todes Banden, BWV 4 (Bach's first cantata based entirely on the text of a hymn).

Chorales are used in some of Bach's earliest cantatas, although he usually incorporates them into just one or two movements unlike Christ lag in Todes Banden. In his passions, he used chorales to complete a scene.

Bach took up his position as Thomaskantor in Leipzig on the first Sunday after Trinity 1723,[4] and was responsible for the education of the Thomanerchor, performances during regular services at the Thomaskirche and Nikolaikirche, and until 1725 for one of two services in the Paulinerkirche.[5] He began a project of composing one cantata for each Sunday and holiday of the liturgical year,[6] his first annual cycle of cantatas, termed by Christoph Wolff "an artistic undertaking on the largest scale".[4]

Second annual cycle[edit]

In 1724 Bach started a project on the first Sunday after Trinity to exclusively compose chorale cantatas, based on Lutheran hymns fitting the respective occasion.[6] He began with O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort, BWV 20, and composed forty chorale cantatas in his second annual cycle in 1724–25.[3] Klaus Hofmann termed it "the largest musical project that the composer ever undertook: the 'chorale cantata year'".[1][3]

For the texts, Bach used a more complex format than per omnes versus, the "all the stanzas" format he used in Christ lag in Todes Banden. Typically the text of the hymn's first and last stanza remained unchanged for the first and last movement of the cantata, whereas the inner stanzas were paraphrased for recitatives and arias. The beginning and concluding movements often use all the instrumental and vocal forces. The opening chorus is frequently a chorale fantasia, with the chorale tune sung in long notes as a cantus firmus. The closing movement, as in other cantatas by Bach, is regularly a four-part setting of the tune, with the instruments playing colla parte.[3] The cantatas are based on hymns by a wide range of poets, from early reformers such as Martin Luther to poets of the 17th century.

In the first four cantatas of the cycle, Bach gave the cantus firmus of the chorale tune to the soprano in the first, O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort, BWV 20, to the alto in the second, Ach Gott, vom Himmel sieh darein, BWV 2, to the tenor in the third, Christ unser Herr zum Jordan kam, BWV 7, for St. John's Day, and to the bass in the fourth, Ach Herr, mich armen Sünder, BWV 135. He varied the style of chorale fantasia in those four cantatas: French Overture in BWV 20, Chorale motet in BWV 2, Italian concerto in BWV 7, and vocal and instrumental counterpoint in BWV 135.[7]

Bach's last newly composed chorale cantata in his second year in Leipzig was Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern, BWV 1, for the feast of the Annunciation on 25 March, which fell on Palm Sunday in 1725. For Easter, he performed again the early Christ lag in Todes Banden. He then turned to other cantatas, possibly because he lost his librettist, likely Andreas Stübel who died on 31 January 1725.[3] Bach composed more chorale cantatas later, to complete his second annual cycle, such as in 1726 Gelobet sei der Herr, mein Gott, BWV 129.

Reception[edit]

Although we have no account of the reception of Bach's chorale cantatas by the congregation in Leipzig, we know that some of these cantatas were the only works that the city of Leipzig was interested in keeping alive after Bach's death: his successors performed several of them.[3]

Bach's chorale cantatas[edit]

This table is sortable by many criteria; the default shows each cantata's position in the cycle, according to occasion in the liturgical year, beginning with the first Sunday after Trinity. For the hyms, the year of text and melody is given, if different. It's typically the year of their first publication.

Sortable table
No. BWV Cantata Title Occasion Year Premiere Hymn Year(s) Hymn writer Hymn composer Published in notes
001 020 O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort, BWV 20 Trinity I 1724 1724-06-11 11 Jun 1724 O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort 1642 Johann Rist Johann Schop
002 002 Ach Gott, vom Himmel sieh darein, BWV 2 Trinity II 1724 1724-06-18 18 Jun 1724 Ach Gott, vom Himmel sieh darein 1524 Martin Luther Luther Achtliederbuch
003 007 Christ unser Herr zum Jordan kam, BWV 7 St. John's Day 1724 1724-06-24 24 Jun 1724 Christ unser Herr zum Jordan kam 1541 Martin Luther Johann Walter?
004 135 Ach Herr, mich armen Sünder, BWV 135 Trinity III 1724 1724-06-25 25 Jun 1724 Ach Herr, mich armen Sünder 1597 Cyriakus Schneegass Hans Leo Hassler melody of O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden
005 010 Meine Seel erhebt den Herren, BWV 10 Visitation 1724 1724-07-02 2 Jul 1724 Meine Seel erhebt den Herren 1522 Martin Luther Luther? German Magnificat in Luther Bible
006 093 Wer nur den lieben Gott läßt walten, BWV 93 Trinity V 1724 1724-07-09 9 Jul 1724 Wer nur den lieben Gott läßt walten 1657 Georg Neumark Neumark
007 009 Es ist das Heil uns kommen her, BWV 9 Trinity VI 1732? 1732-12-31 1732 Es ist das Heil uns kommen her 1524 Paul Speratus anon. Achtliederbuch
008 107 Was willst du dich betrüben, BWV 107 Trinity VII 1724 1724-07-23 23 Jul 1724 Was willst du dich betrüben 1630 Johann Heermann anon. omnes versus
009 178 Wo Gott der Herr nicht bei uns hält, BWV 178 Trinity VIII 1724 1724-07-3030 Jul 1724 Wo Gott der Herr nicht bei uns hält 1524 Justus Jonas anon. text of 6 (of 8) verses kept
010 094 Was frag ich nach der Welt, BWV 94 Trinity IX 1724 1724-08-06 6 Aug 1724 Was frag ich nach der Welt 1664 Balthasar Kindermann Ahasverus Fritsch
011 101 Nimm von uns, Herr, du treuer Gott, BWV 101 Trinity X 1724 1724-08-13 13 Aug 1724 Nimm von uns, Herr, du treuer Gott 1584 Martin Moller Luther? melody of Vater unser im Himmelreich
012 113 Herr Jesu Christ, du höchstes Gut, BWV 113 Trinity XI 1724 1724-08-2020 Aug 1724 Herr Jesu Christ, du höchstes Gut 1588 Bartholomäus Ringwaldt Ringwaldt?
013 137 Lobe den Herren, den mächtigen König der Ehren, BWV 137 Trinity XII 1725 1725-08-19 19 Aug 1725 Lobe den Herren, den mächtigen König der Ehren 1680 Joachim Neander omnes versus
014 033 Allein zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ, BWV 33 Trinity XIII 1724 1724-09-03 3 Sep 1724 Allein zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ 1540 / 1512 Konrad Hubert Paul Hofhaimer
015 078 Jesu, der du meine Seele, BWV 78 Trinity XIV 1724 1724-09-1010 Sep 1724 Jesu, der du meine Seele 1642 Johann Rist
016 099 Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan, BWV 99 Trinity XV 1724 1724-09-17 17 Sep 1724 Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan 1674 Samuel Rodigast Severus Gastorius based on Werner Fabricius
017 008 Liebster Gott, wenn werd ich sterben? BWV 8 Trinity XVI 1724 1724-09-24 24 Sep 1724 Liebster Gott, wenn werd ich sterben? Caspar Neumann Daniel Vetter
018 130 Herr Gott, dich loben alle wir, BWV 130 St. Michaels's Day 1724 1724-09-29 29 Sep 1724 Herr Gott, dich loben alle wir 1554 Paul Eber Loys Bourgeois melody Old 100th
019 114 Ach, lieben Christen, seid getrost, BWV 114 Trinity XVII 1724 1724-10-01 1 Oct 1724 Ach, lieben Christen, seid getrost 1561 Johannes Gigas anon. melody of Wo Gott der Herr nicht bei uns hält
020 096 Herr Christ, der einge Gottessohn, BWV 96 Trinity XVIII 1724 1724-10-08 8 Oct 1724 Herr Christ, der einig Gotts Sohn 1524 Elisabeth Cruciger melody of secular Mein Freud möcht sich wohl mehren (1455)
021 005 Wo soll ich fliehen hin, BWV 5 Trinity XIX 1724 1724-10-15 15 Oct 1724 Wo soll ich fliehen hin 1630 Johann Heermann
022 180 Schmücke dich, o liebe Seele, BWV 180 Trinity XX 1724 1724-10-22 22 Oct 1724 Schmücke dich, o liebe Seele 1649 Johann Franck
023 038 Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir, BWV 38 Trinity XXI 1724 1724-10-29 29 Oct 1724 Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir 1524 Martin Luther Achtliederbuch
024 080 Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott, BWV 80 Reformation 1731 1731-12-31 1731 Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott 1537 Martin Luther
025 115 Mache dich, mein Geist, bereit, BWV 115 Trinity XXII 1724 1724-11-05 5 Nov 1724 Mache dich, mein Geist, bereit 1695 Johann Buchard Freystein melody of "Straf mich nicht in deinem Zorn"
026 139 Wohl dem, der sich auf seinen Gott, BWV 139 Trinity XXIII 1724 1724-11-12 12 Nov 1724 Wohl dem, der sich auf seinen Gott 1692 Johann Christoph Rube
027 026 Ach wie flüchtig, ach wie nichtig, BWV 26 Trinity XXIV 1724 1724-11-19 19 Nov 1724 Ach wie flüchtig, ach wie nichtig 1652 Michael Franck Johann Crüger
028 116 Du Friedefürst, Herr Jesu Christ, BWV 116 Trinity XXV 1724 1724-11-26 26 Nov 1724 Du Friedefürst, Herr Jesu Christ 1601 Jakob Ebert
029 140 Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme, BWV 140 Trinity XXVII 1731 1731-11-25 25 Nov 1731 Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme 1599 Philipp Nicolai Nicolai
030 062 Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland, BWV 62 Advent I 1724 1724-12-03 3 Dec 1724 Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland 1524 Martin Luther
031 091 Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ, BWV 91 Christmas 1724 1724-12-25 25 Dec 1724 Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ 1524 Martin Luther
032 121 Christum wir sollen loben schon, BWV 121 Christmas 2 1724 1724-12-26 26 Dec 1724 Christum wir sollen loben schon 1524 Martin Luther
033 133 Ich freue mich in dir, BWV 133 Christmas 3 1724 1724-12-27 27 Dec 1724 Ich freue mich in dir 1697 Caspar Ziegler
034 122 Das neugeborne Kindelein, BWV 122 Christmas I 1724 1724-21-31 31 Dec 1724 Das neugeborne Kindelein 1597 Cyriakus Schneegass Schneegass?
035 041 Jesu, nun sei gepreiset, BWV 41 New Year 1725 1725-01-01 1 Jan 1725 Jesu, nun sei gepreiset 1539 Johannes Hermann
036 123 Liebster Immanuel, Herzog der Frommen, BWV 123 Epiphany 1725 1725-01-06 6 Jan 1725 Liebster Immanuel, Herzog der Frommen 1679 Ahasverus Fritsch
037 124 Meinen Jesum laß ich nicht, BWV 124 Epiphany I 1725 1725-01-07 7 Jan 1725 Meinen Jesum laß ich nicht 1658 Christian Keymann
038 003 Ach Gott, wie manches Herzeleid, BWV 3 Epiphany II 1725 1725-01-14 14 Jan 1725 Ach Gott, wie manches Herzeleid 1587 Martin Moller
039 111 Was mein Gott will, das g'scheh allzeit, BWV 111 Epiphany III 1725 1725-01-25 25 Jan 1725 Was mein Gott will, das g'scheh allzeit 1554 Albert, Duke of Prussia
040 014 Wär Gott nicht mit uns diese Zeit, BWV 14 Epiphany IV 1735 1735-01-3030 Jan 1735 Wär Gott nicht mit uns diese Zeit 1524 Martin Luther
041 092 Ich hab in Gottes Herz und Sinn, BWV 92 Septuagesimae 1725 1725-01-28 28 Jan 1725 Ich hab in Gottes Herz und Sinn 1647 Paul Gerhardt Claudin de Sermisy
042 125 Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin, BWV 125 Purification 1725 1725-02-02 2 Feb 1725 Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin 1524 Martin Luther German Nunc dimittis
043 126 Erhalt uns, Herr, bei deinem Wort, BWV 126 Sexagesimae 1725 1725-02-04 4 Feb 1725 Erhalt uns, Herr, bei deinem Wort 1524 Martin Luther and others
044 127 Herr Jesu Christ, wahr' Mensch und Gott, BWV 127 Estomihi 1725 1725-02-11 11 Feb 1725 Herr Jesu Christ, wahr' Mensch und Gott 1562 Paul Eber
045 001 Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern, BWV 1 Annunciation, Palm Sunday 1725 1725-03-25 25 Mar 1725 Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern 1599 Philipp Nicolai Nicolai Palm Sunday in 1725
046 004 Christ lag in Todes Banden, BWV 4 Easter 1708? 1708-12-12 1708 Christ lag in Todes Banden 1533 Martin Luther omnes versus
0 128 Auf Christi Himmelfahrt allein, BWV 128 Ascension 1725 1725-05-10 10 May 1725 1661 Auf Christi Himmelfahrt allein Ernst Sonnemann not based on a chorale, but beginning with a chorale fantasia
0 68 Also hat Gott die Welt geliebt, BWV 68 Pentecost 1725 1725-05-20 20 May 1725 Also hat Gott die Welt geliebt 1675 Salomo Liscow Gottfried Vopelius not based on a chorale, but beginning with a chorale fantasia
047 129 Gelobet sei der Herr, mein Gott, BWV 129 Trinity 1726 1726-06-16 16 Jun 1726 Gelobet sei der Herr, mein Gott 1665 Johann Olearius omnes versus
048 117 Sei Lob und Ehr dem höchsten Gut, BWV 117 ZZZ_unknown 1728? 1728 1728? Sei Lob und Ehr dem höchsten Gut 1673 Johann Jakob Schütz anon. Achtliederbuch complete text, melody of "Es ist das Heil uns kommen her"
049 112 Der Herr ist mein getreuer Hirt, BWV 112 Easter II 1731 1731-04-08 8 Apr 1731 Der Herr ist mein getreuer Hirt 1530 Wolfgang Meuslin Nikolaus Decius complete text
050 0100 Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan, BWV 100 ZZZ_unknown 1732? 1732-12-31 1732 Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan 1674 Samuel Rodigast Severus Gastorius based on Werner Fabricius
050 097 In allen meinen Taten, BWV 97 ZZZ_unknown 1734 1734-12-31 1734 In allen meinen Taten 1633 Paul Fleming complete text

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Sadie, Stanley, ed. (2001). The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. Oxford University Press. pp. II 331–5; V 26–7, 746; XIV 511–4. ISBN 978-0-19-517067-2. 
  2. ^ Leahy, Anne; Leaver, Robin A. (2011). J. S. Bach's "Leipzig" Chorale Preludes: Music, Text, Theology. Scarecrow Press. p. 79. ISBN 978-0-8108-8181-5. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f Hofmann, Klaus (2002). "O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort, BWV 20 / O eternity, thou thunderous word" (PDF). bach-cantatas.com. p. 5. Retrieved 5 June 2012. 
  4. ^ a b Christoph Wolff (1991). Bach: Essays on his Life and Music. Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-05926-9. Retrieved 21 June 2011. 
  5. ^ Dürr, Alfred (1971). Die Kantaten von Johann Sebastian Bach (in German) 1. Bärenreiter-Verlag. OCLC 523584. 
  6. ^ a b John Eliot Gardiner (2004). "Cantatas for the First Sunday after Trinity / St Giles Cripplegate, London" (PDF). bach-cantatas.com. p. 2. Retrieved 5 June 2012. 
  7. ^ Julian Mincham (2010). "Chapter 5 BWV 135 Ach Herr, mich armen Sünder". jsbachcantatas.com. Retrieved 4 July 2011.