Die Zeit, die Tag und Jahre macht, BWV 134a

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Leopold von Anhalt-Köthen

Die Zeit, die Tag und Jahre macht (Time, which day and year doth make), BWV 134.1 (previously BWV 134a),[1] is a secular cantata or serenata by Johann Sebastian Bach. He composed it in Köthen for the court of Leopold, Prince of Anhalt-Köthen as a congratulatory cantata for the New Year of 1719, the day of its first performance. The libretto by Christian Friedrich Hunold, an academic at the University of Halle, is a dialogue of two allegorical figures, Time and Divine Providence. The composition in eight movements consists of recitatives and arias for one voice or two voices, culminating in a final chorus.

Bach used the cantata as the basis for a church cantata for the Third Day of Easter in Leipzig in 1724, Ein Herz, das seinen Jesum lebend weiß, BWV 134. In its early version, he only omitted two movements and replaced the text by words for the occasion.

History and words[edit]

Bach composed Die Zeit, die Tag und Jahre macht in Köthen in 1718 as a congratulatory cantata for New Year's Day of 1719.[2]

The cantata is based on words of Christian Friedrich Hunold, whose pen name was Menantes.[3][4] A novelist as well as a librettist, Hunold taught at the University of Halle, about 30 km from Köthen. Bach collaborated with him on several cantatas in the period 1718–20. Hunold published the text in 1719 in the collection Auserlesene und theils noch nie gedruckte Gedichte unterschiedener Berühmten und geschickten Männer (Selected and partly never printed poems of different notable and skillful men), in Halle in 1719. Other texts published by Hunold include that of Nach's cantata Der Himmel dacht auf Anhalts Ruhm und Glück, BWV 66. The text of the Serenata is, for most of the movements, a dialogue of two allegorical figures, Time, representing the past, and Divine Providence for the future.[5] The music remained in manuscript form. Bach led the first performance of the cantata on 1 January 1719.[2][3][6]

Bach used the cantata as a basis for the Easter cantata Ein Herz, das seinen Jesum lebend weiß, BWV 134, which was first performed in Leipzig in 1724. In this version, Bach made no changes to the music, simply omitted movements 5 and 6.[7] The music of the original Köthen work was separated from its text because Bach used the sheets for his Leipzig performance. The new text, by an unknown poet, did not require much musical adaptation. This point is explored by the musicologist Julian Mincham who notes that Bach is able to make much use of the monosyllabic "auf" (arise) in the first tenor aria of both versions.[8] Bach however did identify scope for improvement in the Easter cantata, and revised it twice in the 1730s.[7]

With the revival of interest in Bach's music in the nineteenth century, Philipp Spitta, who wrote a three-volume biography of Bach,[9] found the printed text, making reconstruction of the entire work possible. The cantata was included in the Bach-Gesellschaft-Ausgabe, the first edition of the complete works. However, this edition, while noting its relationship to BWV 134, only presented a fragmentary version of BWV 134.1. It was published in 1881 under the title Mit Gnade bekröne der Himmel die Zeiten (a line from the first tenor aria).

Scoring and structure[edit]

The cantata is scored for two vocal soloists (alto and tenor), a four-part choir, two oboes, two violins, viola and basso continuo.[3] Time is sung by the tenor, Divine Providence by the alto;[10] only the final of eight movements employs the choir. The duration is given as 41 minutes.[11]

  1. Recitative (tenor, alto): Die Zeit, die Tag und Jahre macht
  2. Aria (tenor): Auf, Sterbliche, lasset ein Jauchzen ertönen
  3. Recitative (tenor, alto): So bald, als dir die Sternen hold
  4. Aria (alto, tenor): Es streiten, es siegen, die künftigen Zeiten
  5. Recitative (alto, tenor): Bedenke nur, beglücktes Land
  6. Aria (alto): Der Zeiten Herr hat viel vergnügte Stunden
  7. Recitative (tenor, alto): Hilf, Höchster, hilf, daß mich die Menschen preisen
  8. Chorus: Ergetzet auf Erden, erfreuet von oben


The cantata develops from a sequence of recitatives and arias to a final chorus. This structure is similar to other cantatas Bach composed at Köthen, but is unlike most of his church cantatas.

The dialogue recitatives are mostly secco recitatives, accompanied only by the continuo. The first aria of Time is dominated by the first oboe. The second aria is a duet talking about the competition of the times, illustrated by figurations in the first violins. In the last aria, the voice of Divine Providence is accompanied only by the continuo in ostinato motives and can freely express the "Harmonie der Seelen" (harmony of the souls).[5]

The cantata culminates in a choral movement opened by the tenor's "Ergetzet auf Erden" (Give pleasure terrestrial), followed by the alto's "erfreuet von oben" (give gladness celestial), then all voices sing together in homophony "Glückselige Zeiten, vergnüget dies Haus!" (O fortunate ages, bring joy to this house). The pattern is repeated two more times, increasing in richness. The middle section of the movement is again started by alto and tenor, but this time together. On the following words, "sie blühen, sie leben" (they flourish, they live), a fugal development of all voices begins, quite similar to the opening chorus of Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben, BWV 147, a fast succession of the voices and a long melisma on the word leben, creating lively music. Alto and tenor start a fugue twice more, singing increasingly embellished lines on "durchlauchtigsten Seelen" (most illustrious spirits). Close to the end of the middle section all voices shout together the word ruft (shout) twice, accented by a following rest. Then, the complete first part is repeated da capo.[12]



  1. ^ Work 0166 at Bach Digital website.
  2. ^ a b Jones 2013, p. 106.
  3. ^ a b c Bach Digital 2018.
  4. ^ Wolff 2001, p. 197.
  5. ^ a b Dürr & Jones 2006, p. 811.
  6. ^ Wessel 2015.
  7. ^ a b Rimek 2014, p. 2.
  8. ^ Mincham, Julian (2010–2012). "Chapter 90 BWV 134a Die Zeit, die Tag und Jahre macht / Time, which creates the days and years". Retrieved 2 March 2014. 
  9. ^ "Johann Sebastian Bach: A Listener's Guide to the Cantatas". classical.net. Retrieved 12 July 2010. 
  10. ^ Wolff 2001, p. 198.
  11. ^ Dürr & Jones 2006, p. 809.
  12. ^ Dürr & Jones 2006, p. 813.
  13. ^ Parry-Ridout 2012.

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