Also hat Gott die Welt geliebt, BWV 68
|Also hat Gott die Welt geliebt |
Christiana Mariana von Ziegler, author of the cantata text
|Performed||21 May 1725 Leipzig:|
|Bible text||John 3:18|
Also hat Gott die Welt geliebt (God so loved the world), BWV 68, is a cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach, a church cantata for the second day of Pentecost. Bach composed the cantata in Leipzig and first performed it on 21 May 1725. It is one of nine cantatas on texts by Christiana Mariana von Ziegler, which Bach composed at the end of his second annual cycle of cantatas in Leipzig. In a unique structure among Bach's church cantatas, it begins with a chorale and ends with a complex choral movement on a quotation from the Gospel of John. Bach derived the two arias from his Hunting Cantata.
History and words
Bach composed the cantata during his second year in Leipzig for Pentecost Monday. The prescribed readings for the feast day were taken from the Acts of the Apostles, the sermon of Saint Peter for Cornelius (Acts 10:42–48), and the Gospel of John, "God so loved the world" from the meeting of Jesus and Nicodemus (John 3:16–21).
In his second year in Leipzig, Bach composed chorale cantatas between the first Sunday after Trinity and Palm Sunday, but for Easter returned to cantatas on more varied texts, possibly because he lost his librettist. Nine of his cantatas for the period between Easter and Pentecost are based on texts by Christiana Mariana von Ziegler, including this cantata. Bach had possibly commissioned the texts in 1724 with his first cantata cycle in mind, but he did not set music to them until 1725. He later inserted most of them in his third cantata cycle, but kept this one and Auf Christi Himmelfahrt allein, BWV 128, composed for Ascension, in his second cycle, possibly because they both begin with a chorale fantasia. The poet opened the cantata in an unusual way with the first stanza from Salomo Liscow's hymn (1675). It is close to the beginning of the Gospel: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life". In the final movement, she quoted verse 18 from the Gospel, set by Bach as an unusual choral movement.
Bach first performed the cantata on 21 May 1725.
Structure and instrumentation
The cantata in five movements is scored for two soloists, soprano and bass, a four-part choir, horn, cornett, three trombones, two oboes, taille (tenor oboe), two violins, viola, violoncello piccolo and basso continuo.
- Chorus: Also hat Gott die Welt geliebt
- Aria (soprano): Mein gläubiges Herze
- Recitative (bass): Ich bin mit Petro nicht vermessen
- Aria (bass): Du bist geboren mir zugute
- Chorus: Wer an ihn gläubet, der wird nicht gerichtet
The opening chorus is a chorale fantasia, as in Bach's chorale cantatas. The hymn melody by Gottfried Vopelius (1682) is sung by the soprano, doubled by a horn. Bach changed the rhythm of the tune from the original common time to 12/8. The musicologist Julian Mincham notes that he "embellishes it to a degree whereby 'it hardly seems like a chorale any more'".
The two arias are based on arias from Bach's 1713 Hunting Cantata (Was mir behagt, ist nur die muntre Jagd, BWV 208). The soprano aria "Mein gläubiges Herze" (My faithful heart) resembles the former aria of the shepherd goddess Pales "Weil die wollenreichen Herden" (While the herds all woolly-coated). In the church cantata, Bach used an obbligato violoncello piccolo, an instrument he experimented with in cantatas of the second cantata cycle (1724–25). John Eliot Gardiner describes it as "surely one of Bach's most refreshing and unbuttoned expressions of melodic joy and high spirits". The bass aria is based on the aria of the god Pan, "Ein Fürst ist seines Landes Pan" (A prince is his own country's Pan). Klaus Hofmann notes that the "splendid wind writing gives some hint of the pathos with which Pan ... is portrayed in Bach's hunting music".
The final movement is not, as in many church cantatas, a simple four-part chorale, but a motet-like structure which conveys a verse from the Gospel of John. The juxtaposition of "wer an ihn gläubet" (Whoever believes in Him) and "wer aber nicht gläubet" (but whoever does not believe) is expressed by a double fugue with two contrasting themes. The voices are doubled by a choir of trombones. Gardiner comments:
Invariably his settings of John's words are full of purpose, never more so than in the final chorus of BWV 68 Also hat Gott die Welt geliebt when, in place of a chorale, John postulates the chilling choice between salvation or judgement in the present life.
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