Der Herr denket an uns, BWV 196

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Der Herr denket an uns (The Lord is mindful of us), BWV 196, is a cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach. It is difficult to date, but is generally considered to be an early cantata on stylistic grounds.[1] It has been suggested that it was composed at Mühlhausen where Bach lived in 1707/1708.

Dornheim church where Bach was married in 1707

History and words[edit]

The text is taken from Psalms 115. Much of Bach's later cantata output was written for the requirements of the liturgical calendar, but this cantata appears to have been written for a special occasion. The psalm includes the line "The LORD shall increase you more and more, you and your children". Many commentators, from Philipp Spitta onwards, have concluded that the cantata was written for a wedding, and have gone so far as to suggest actual weddings where it might have been performed, including Bach's own in 1707.[2] However, the wedding hypothesis is far from proven, and the text could fit other occasions.[3]

The cantata was first published in 1864 in the Bach Gesellschaft edition of the composer's complete works.[4]

Scoring and structure[edit]

The cantata has been described as a brief, sunny and festive work.[5] It is scored for three vocal soloists (soprano, tenor, and bass), a four-part choir and an instrumental ensemble consisting of strings and continuo.

An opening instrumental sinfonia in C major is followed by four more movements featuring choir and soloists.

  1. Sinfonia
  2. Coro: Der Herr denket an uns und segnet uns
  3. Aria (soprano): Er segnet, die den Herrn fürchten
  4. Aria (duet for tenor and bass): Der Herr segne euch
  5. Coro: Ihr seid die Gesegneten des Herrn

As in Bach's other early cantatas, there are no recitatives.

Music[edit]

The opening sinfonia is march-like in style, reminiscent of processional music.[6] It includes the dotted rhythms characteristic of the French overture in the opening section, and a contrasting minor-mode middle section.[3]

The first chorus contains contrapuntal writing which is also reminiscent of other early cantatas.[3] It features a permutation fugue, a type of fugue found in Aus der Tiefen rufe ich, Herr, zu dir, BWV 131, for example.

The soprano aria opens with a short ritornello theme and is in ternary form. The vocal line is scalar, contrasting with the obbligato violins.[3]

The duet aria is based on a single line of text. The violins play an imitative motif that does not align with the vocal phrases.[3]

The closing chorus is "awash with rippling scale and arpeggio figures". It concludes with echoing Amens.[3]

Recordings[edit]

This is a relatively neglected cantata.[3] However, it features in complete recordings of the Bach cantatas such as the sets by Harnoncourt, Koopman and Suzuki.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Dürr, Alfred. "Studien über die frühen Kantaten Johann Sebastian Bachs", 2nd ed. (Wiesbaden: Breitkopf & Härtel, 1977).
  2. ^ Bach's first marriage (to Maria Barbara) took place in Dornheim.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Mincham, Julian. "BWV 196". Retrieved October 20, 2012. 
  4. ^ BWV_196, IMSLP
  5. ^ Pfeifer, Ellen (2002). "Chorale director makes impressive debut". The Boston Globe (accessed via Highbeam Research). Retrieved October 17, 2012. 
  6. ^ Eldridge, Jeff (2002). "Program notes". Orchestra Seattle. Retrieved 5 June 2013. 

Sources[edit]

Several databases provide additional information on each cantata: