Bach: The Cantatas

Bach Cantatas

– Second Sunday after Trinity – 26th June 2022 – J.S.Bach cantata BWV 76 – ,Die Himmel erzählen die Ehre Gottes‘ –

Jun 19, 2022

This long cantata, -complete, with its sinfonia introduction, to a seconda parte, apart from one of each, Trumpet, Oboe d’amore and Viola da gamba, is scored, for only a standard Oboe-orchestra, -strings, 4-part chorus/soloists, 2 x Oboes and continuo.

Prima parte:


‘The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament shows His handiwork. There is no speech or language, where their voice is not heard.’

A single continuo-crash, announces the trumpet entry and this orchestral chorus, of praise, is set, in 3-time motion.

Heavy imitation drives and although, this is not Bach at his most praise-worthy, we nevertheless, -despite a lack of multiple trumpet + timps, do feel praise-led.

The choral writing is straightforward and solo and tutti abound. With a homophonic majority, such counterpoint as there is, does weave magic and the single trumpet sparkles away sufficiently to bring royalty to mind.

From 67, with some solo talk of speech and language, -and a totally tacet orchestra, except a stoic continuo, for 27 bars, brings to mind some feeling of solo sprechgesang, as Bach demonstrates that he really does know what he is doing even if we feel that sense of undernourishment.

At 94, solo turns into tutti, continuo turns into orchestra and a sung-speech attitude regains its sprung- bounce and these proceedings, onwards until 137, are brought to an abrupt conclusion, not a note too late or too soon and at exactly the right time!


‘God has not left himself, without presence, as His nature and grace, speak to all. This is His work, to stir the heavens and keep body and soul in motion. God has inclined to you and calls you, through many messengers. Therefore, rise up, and come, to this feast, of love.’

This recitativo, very quickly turns into arietta, for 8 bars, before returning again to a free state, and the reason, or catalyst for this, is simply, rather than complicatedly, the work of God, where order and process takes…and creates shape, under a canopy of semiquavers, replacing what was, 1 through 3, a halo-ic crown of Kingship, as narrative tells us of the manifestations of God, through nature and grace, understandable and assimilable, to all humanity.

1 through 3, is narrative, or passive, whereas 4 through 12, is most definately active, the stirring, moving or ruminating, of the heavens, 7, followed, by an energyzation, or excitment, of the very make-up, of the parts, of soul and body, 8, through 12.

The measure of this excitement can be gauged, by the extent to which God settles Himself down, 13, in order, to incline Himself, back towards us, with startling effect… and attitude, bar 16 and with carefully chosen messengers, to carry our invites, to this feast, of love.


‘Peoples, hear God’s voice. Run towards His throne, of grace. The beginning and the end, of all things, is His only son. May all things turn, towards Him.’

A literal hearing, or listening, precipitates, a literal response, -a repetition, or copying, and this is demonstrated clearly, in the first 7 bars of this aria, where nearly every violin phrase, is copied by the co-operative continuo players, so-much-so, that the listening soloist and then active soloist, understands, initially, that hearing means doing, and so for a time, her song chimes with that, of this violin.

Disconnection, occurs, as does re-connection, with both fiddler and bass line, -and the same between fiddle and bass, as a chance to, good-heartedly, wax lyrical, about the throne and ‘hastening-towards-it’, 14 through 16, distracts somewhat, from the textual message of listening.

A melancholy tone, of theological musing, 25, drops, initially, the dialectic approach, but this returns, 33, as hope picks up for the future and a turning, in order to return, 35, is featured, in text and song.


‘But who listens? Who cares? -since most return, to the other, old gods. And it is the oldest one, that they lust after and this is the one, that totally dominates, their hearts. The wise think-up foolishness and the devil sits in God’s house, -(and their own hearts) and even the Christians run away, from Christ.’

This secco setting, sets a mood, of active despondency, anger even.

We hear and feel the foolishness of the wise, 4 and the pain of the devil in high places, 7 and we can definitely hear, the pleased and relieved, dainty steps, of those scuttling and fleeing Christians, 8 through 10.

5/ Aria:

‘Begone, you fake, idol-worshipping gang! Even though, all the world, should turn, upside-down, I shall continue, to honour, Christ. He, is the light, of reason.’

Our trumpet rejoins the orchestra, as the light of reason, but the whole is a light-hearted kicking-out of these idol worshipers, those who persistently, continue to worship other, old gods.

The opening kick, -continuo crash and upward semiquaver thrust, imitated in the trumpet and oboes, is complimented by a vocal display, -triplets of aggression-, against this ‘fake-gang’ and this continues, until 18, where this upside-down-topsy-turvy-world, chromatic, is first enunciated, continuo-only support and the light of reason, trumpet, saves the day, 22, despite a grinding mixture of sound. This light-of-reason, underlines its presence, again on the trumpet, 25 through 27, by repeatedly enunciating itself, on E and again, vocally, on a fermata and an adagio cadenza, 36.

Exasperation reaches its apotheosis, 48, relieving itself with a vocal screech of command.


‘From all the highways, you have called us, from where we we have been sitting, -the darkness, of the gentiles. As light energies and invigorates air, so you have lightened and enlivened us, -and provided us, of yourself, as meat and drink and given us your spirit, which constantly moves, in our spirit. May this prayer, humbly, be sent to you.’

A formality, recit, of this ‘state-of-the-spirit’ summary, soon gives way, to an informality, arioso, of a short, succinct and heartfelt prayer, 11, even though formality, perhaps may not be considered, to be a characteristic of freedom, -and visa-versa, arioso.

listen out, for the quickening light, 5, and the ambiguity, ref humility, 14, as the voice drops in pitch, as if, for whatever reason, sotto voce may be the order, of the day.


‘May God be merciful to us, bless us and cause His face, to shine, upon us, for a life, eternal. So that we may see His works -those things, that pleases Him, here on this earth. May the healing strength of Jesus, become known, to all, and that all, would come, to know Him.’

A 2-and-a-half-bar introduction set the trumpet on course for a soprano reinforcement. Two other features are presented, an off beat ostinato, bass line and suspensions in the first oboe/violin part, which, with the seconds and viola, make independent parts, both forming uneasy distractions to this long and far-reaching prayer, not helped, by a glaring false-relation, first best of 3, first violin/oboe and bass. A partial blurring of the soundscape suggests an aural impression rather than a certainty.

Seconda parte, Nach der Predigt.


Oboe d’amore and gamba, make up the 2 soloists, in this trio sonata, intermingling, from the start, in this, almost, French-overture, petite, in size, but rich in content and activity.

The writing, is typical of the instruments and a vivace second section, trips off, with a long and gamba-like subject, which is thrown around, hither and thither.

It is really all go, and any respite, that there is, -and there surely is some, bars 31,41,49,52 and 56, becomes undermined, by the busy-ness, of another part.

Rest is not to be had and certainly not before the end of this sinfonia.

9/Recitativo accompagnato:

‘Can God bless the faithful-throng, so that they may show and increase His honour, by their faith, love and holiness. The faithful are, ‘the-heaven-on-earth’ and they must be purified, with constant strife, hatred and danger.’

But rest, of a sort, is on offer now, as sustained strings, give genuine sustenance and space to the level headed voice, of a reasonable faithful throng, (?..checkout bar 4) -at least for the moment, until talk turns to tougher topics, 7 through 10, resulting in, even the reasonably static and inert viola, becoming somewhat energized.


‘Hate me, with everything you have, you fakers! In embracing Christ, with everything, that I have, I shall just simply, give-up, all pleasures.’

Aggressive and certainly fearsome, as it my seem, in sound and experience, the beginning of this aria, is perhaps coming from a back-foot, rather than a front one, in the sense, from a lack of confidence, that theses pleasures can, in fact, just simply, be given up.

The trilling vocal start, seems more muscles than music, although effective, it surely is, in asserting sound, as well as meaning, in, what is, perhaps, more a melodramatic display than a dramatic experience.

‘fakers…or more literally hostiles’, 22 through 25, seems, again, more of a snarl than a description,

The whole tone becomes more musical, 40, although, as suspected, forgoing joys and pleasures, does seems like an up-hill struggle, 40 through 53, although we do seem to get there, in the end.

-But, we do go through it all again and this time, ‘faith’, seems stronger, 63 through 68, resulting in less of a struggle, with those pleasures, only one bar of up-hill struggle, 70.


‘But I do feel, -in my soul, that Christ is showing me, His loving kindness and feeding me, with His manna, so that, here on earth, love and devotion, is forever, being strengthened and renewed.’

This recit, very quickly, formalises itself into orderly lines, as the ‘feeding-with-manna’, seems to be handed out in an orderly fashion, -4, pedestrian bass-line, and love and devotion, are followed by a strengthening and a renewing, -8, through 9, the most beneficial aspects, of a good meal and we can all feel it all doing-us, so much good, in those last 2 bars.


‘Christians, when you do your deeds, do them, in love. Jesus died for all and we must do the same, for each, because, He has made this, a common cause.’

This aria, seem lamentable, as, long phrases, -announced first, by gamba and quickly picked up by d’amore, seem to string us along, during this long and emotionally tricky, 12 bar introduction.

These dark, rather than sparkling colours, illustrate this text masterfully, as the sort of love, that is required, is in keeping with the sort of death that the saviour has demonstrated, in His own life.

This music, is as much about death, as it is about life and the composer fully understands this, even though, to Bach’s audience, it was as unpalatable, as it is now, to us.

At 19, the voice pleads, that we recognise, that this love, is manifest in what we do, rather than what we say…or sing and the following instrumental, ruminates, upon that truth.

The poignant F natural, 28 is indicative, of death and this a minor surprise, fuels a move, onto a b minor, through talk, of a death, for each other and onto a ‘joining, together’ and a glimmer, of a brightening, B major, 39.


‘So, all of Christ’s followers, must praise, in the love of God and apply it, to themselves. Keep praising, therefore, until, the end of time, both heaven’s faithful souls, as well as, God Himself.’

In setting, this rather straightforward text, Bach seizes upon an aspect, of it, that, to us, may not seem, so immediate, in that, it is the aspects, of time and in particular, time, itself, -not initially, as an unfolding, but as a moment in, in fact, its ending, that he illustrates, really so starkly and bleakly, 6 through 9, where the gravity of this understanding, results in a tightening of rhythm, as an arioso begins to form from the passing of time.

This was something Bach would do, rather spectacularly, when, his own time, ‘ran-out’ and the score of the art-of-fugue, just seems to come to an end, stopping in the flow of time, snuffed out by the very measure that seemed, to continue it onwards.


‘Oh Lord, can the people, thank and praise you, through their good deeds. The land is fruitful and improving and your word is prospering. Can The Father and The Son, bless us, Can God and The Holy Spirit, bless us, whom all the world glorifies and holds, in the greatest, of awe. Sincerely say: Amen.’

The tromba again joins in, for this, the final number, which is a repetition, of number 7, the closing movement, of the first half.

Whereas that, was an ‘asking-text’, for a time to come, -one of mercy, healing and strength, this is a ‘thank-giving’ text, for a time of now, -one of good deeds, wellness and awe.

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