Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan, BWV 98

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Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan
BWV 98
BWV98 autograph manuscript.jpeg
Autograph manuscript of the first movement of the cantata
Occasion21st Sunday after Trinity
Performed10 November 1726 (1726-11-10): Leipzig
Cantata text
VocalSATB choir and solo
  • 2 oboes
  • taille
  • 2 violins
  • viola
  • continuo

Johann Sebastian Bach composed the church cantata Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan (What God does is well done),[1] BWV 98, in Leipzig for the 21st Sunday after Trinity and first performed it on 10 November 1726.

History and words[edit]

In his fourth year in Leipzig, Bach wrote the cantata for the 21st Sunday after Trinity.[2] The prescribed readings for the Sunday were from Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians, "take unto you the whole armour of God" (Ephesians 6:10–17), and from the Gospel of John, the healing of the nobleman's son (John 4:46–54). The cantata opens with the first stanza of the chorale "Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan" (1674) by Samuel Rodigast,[3] but it is not a chorale cantata in the strict sense of Bach's second cantata cycle, cantatas on the stanzas of one chorale. He had then treated the same chorale completely in Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan, BWV 99 (1724), and would do it later once more in Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan, BWV 100 (1732).[4]

The text of the chorale concentrates on trust in God, whereas the two cantatas previously composed for the occasion, Ich glaube, lieber Herr, hilf meinem Unglauben, BWV 109, and Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir, BWV 38, both started from doubt and distress.[4] The poet Christoph Birkmann[5] refers to general ideas from the gospel. He stresses that a prayer for salvation will be granted, in movement 4 according to Matthew 7:7, "knock, and it shall be opened unto you", and he continues in movement 5, paraphrasing Jacob in Genesis 32:26, "I will not let you go, except you bless me". This final movement is not a chorale, although its text begins like one, Christian Keymann's "Meinen Jesum laß ich nicht" (1658).[2]

Bach first performed the cantata on 10 November 1726.[2] It is regarded as part of his third cantata cycle.

Scoring and structure[edit]

The cantata in five movements is intimately scored for four vocal soloists (soprano, alto, tenor and bass), a four-part choir, and a Baroque instrumental ensemble of two oboes, taille (tenor oboe), two violins, viola, and basso continuo.[2]

  1. Chorus: Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan
  2. Recitative (tenor): Ach Gott! wenn wirst du mich einmal
  3. Aria (soprano): Hört, ihr Augen, auf zu weinen
  4. Recitative (alto): Gott hat ein Herz, das des Erbarmens Überfluß
  5. Aria (bass): Meinen Jesum laß ich nicht


The cantata is scored like chamber music, especially compared to the chorale cantatas on the same chorale with a melody by Severus Gastorius.[6] In the opening chorus, the mostly homophonic setting of the voices, with the oboes playing colla parte, is complemented by strings dominated by the first violin as an obbligato instrument rather than an independent orchestral concerto. The final line is in free polyphony, extended even during the long last note of the tune. All voices have extended melismas on the word "walten" (govern), stressing that God is "ultimately in control". Strings and voices alternate in the bar form's two Stollen, but are united for the Abgesang.[2][4]

Both recitatives are secco. The first aria is accompanied by an obbligato oboe. The first two measures of its theme are derived from the chorale tune. The ritornello is repeated after a first vocal section, "cease weeping and remain patient", and a second time, concluding a different vocal section, which renders "God's resoluteness" in a stream of triplets in the voice.[4] The second aria is the final movement, dominated by the violins in unison in a similar structure as the first, two vocal sections framed by repeats of a ritornello.[4] Bach hints at the regular closing chorale by beginning the vocal part with an embellished version of the first line of the hymn "Meinen Jesum laß ich nicht" on a melody by Andreas Hammerschmidt[7] on the same words as the cantata text. The first line appears in four of five entries of the voice.[4]



  1. ^ Dellal, Pamela. "BWV 98 – "Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan". Emmanuel Music. Retrieved 3 November 2014.
  2. ^ a b c d e Dürr, Alfred (1981). Die Kantaten von Johann Sebastian Bach (in German). 1 (4 ed.). Deutscher Taschenbuchverlag. pp. 497–499. ISBN 3-423-04080-7.
  3. ^ "Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan / Text and Translation of Chorale". Bach Cantatas Website. 2005. Retrieved 26 September 2011.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Mincham, Julian (2010). "Chapter 31 BWV 98 Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan". jsbachcantatas.com. Retrieved 7 November 2011.
  5. ^ Blanken, Christine. "A Cantata-Text Cycle of 1728 from Nuremberg: A preliminary report on a discovery relating to J. S. Bach's so-called 'Third Annual Cycle'" (PDF). Bach Network UK. Retrieved 1 March 2016.
  6. ^ "Chorale Melodies used in Bach's Vocal Works / Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan". Bach Cantatas Website. 2006. Retrieved 26 September 2011.
  7. ^ "Chorale Melodies used in Bach's Vocal Works / Meinen Jesum laß ich nicht". Bach Cantatas Website. 2010. Retrieved 7 November 2011.