Bach: The Cantatas

Bach Cantatas

-Sunday 3rd October-2021-18th Sunday after Trinity-J.S.Bach cantata BWV 169-,Gott soll allein mein Herze haben,’

Sep 22, 2021

7 movement cantata, for alto soloist, throughout, -with chorus, only in the final chorale, extended introductory sinfonia, in the form of a concerto movement, for organ, 2 x recit/arioso, 2 x arias and, a closing chorale-chorus.


The concerto BWV 1053 for Harpsichord in E major was probably, in its original form, for oboe, flute or violin.

That composition is now lost.

This concerto makes its appearance, in this cantata, with two out of its three movements, in this extended, opening sinfonia, -transposed down into D major and also in the second aria, movement 5.

The Harpsichord is replaced with obbligato Organ and the orchestra is extended , in weight, with three oboes, -2 x oboe d’amore and 1 x taille, giving this opening and this cantata, strength, power and presence.

Bach uses the three oboes, as a separate ‘choir’, the taille particularly giving thrilling and sudden, rich, colour change, 23-25, 94-96, and better, 125-126 and 135-8.

I suppose the opening words,

‘God alone, He shall have my heart,’

must be reflected, in the opening ‘spirit’, and contours of the D major triad, as it moves, firstly, from the tonic, then hovering, towards the mediant, then to a triadic exploration, of all and back to the tonic, again, hovering, the soul, reflecting and enjoying, the very feel, of God, as He holds its heart.

We are treated to every combination of harmony as this line is subjected to every move and twist of counterpoint, -strange false relation 15, leading to some very beautiful unexpected moments, -80-85, ending with a splendid oboe choir, Bach, again, exceeding even himself.

How satisfied he must have felt, on so many of those occasions?


‘God, He alone, shall own my heart.

I observe, of this world, that it holds-up its worst, as priceless, that it is so friendly, to me and gladly, would become, -should I allow it, the longing, of my soul.

But no. God alone, He shall have my heart. In Him, I find the highest good.

We see, on earth, -here and there, a stream of contentment, that wells and swells, from that highest goodness. God is the source of those streams. It is, from them, that I can draw upon that, which will always bring, to me, my true refreshment.

God, He alone, shall own, my heart.’

So far, so good.

And how thoughtful and honest, these words, to an extent, form the essence, of the whole of this cantata.

What of the music?

A descending bass line, followed by a rising, questioning, three-note arpeggio, is twice repeated, this then being followed, by a long series of appoggiaturas, which brings, to this morning assembly, a sense uncertainty and un-fulfilment -and more-so after such a grand and uplifting opening sinfonia.

And, of course, a title, such as arioso certainly implies confusion or at least, a duality, as to whether freedom, or order, is the overriding guide. And duality there is, the arioso, or short aria sections, assigned to the idea of ‘God alone having or owning my heart,’ and freer or recit-like section, devoted to everything else.

But what about the last line…and that modulation towards f minor?


Some of the text and textual ideas in this, have been prefigured, in the previous:

‘God alone shall own my heart. I find, in Him, the highest good. He loves me, in the bad times and shall, in the blessed hereafter, refresh me, with the treasures, of His house.’

-and so he will.

Our up-front organist, prepares for us, something of a flavour, of those treasures, with his dextrous, right hand demi-semi-quavers, which glitter and flicker and fill our minds, with a sense, of the luxury goods, that fill, God’s house -and that, in the most, luxurious way.

A middle section, explores, and in some depth, musically as well as metaphysically, aspects of the bliss and the blessedness, of a hereafter spent, in that house.


‘What is the love of God? Rest for the spirit, delight for the senses, -a soul’s paradise.

It shuts up the gates if hell and opens out heaven. It is Elijah’s chariot, in which we shall be borne to heaven, and the bosom of Abraham.’

The line rises and falls, according to, the directions, of the words.

But why an uncertain musical inflection, at the announcement of the arrival in heaven?


This is the transcribed middle movement of the concerto BWV 1053, again, with substantial obbligato organ part.

‘Die in me, world, -and all your love, that my breast, may cultivate, for ever and here on earth, the love of God. Die, in me, pride, wealth, -and, the lust of the eyes, you depraved inclinations, of the flesh.’

Strings, with a sedate and secluded, organ continuo, present a thoughtful and profound introduction to this fine aria, the opening line of words guiding the genius of Bach’s heart, ear and hand, all of which, seem to explore, aspects, -and in unexpected and ingenious ways, of the processes, of the death, of those attitudes, yet to be sung of, and all underpinned, by a somewhat faint and faltering heartbeat, of pizzicato, ‘cello and bass, a siciliano-like-dirge, on the delights of the flesh.

As we would expect, Bach deals at some length, musically with ,Stirb, Hoffart, Reichtum, Augenlust, and ,Fleischestriebe.



You must always treat your neighbour well, -whom you shall love, as well as God, whom you must love.’


‘Sweet love, give to us, your grace. Let us feel, the fire of love, that we may sincerely love, each other and dwell in peace and be of one mind.

Kyrie eleison.’

A sincere prayer, to help us, with the pronouncements, of no 6.

This chorale is interesting, in that, it is made up of, 2 x phrases, of three bars, 2 x two bars, 1 x 4 bars and 1x 2 bars, to finish with, devoted to the short Kyrie.

The setting reflects, strictly, the emphasis, of the text, particularly ,Herzen’ and ,lieben’, in the third line, rather than my rather loose précis, of the meaning.

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