Bach: The Cantatas

Bach Cantatas

– 12th Sunday after Trinity – 4th September 2022 – J.S.Bach cantata BWV 69 -,Lobe den Herrn, meine Seele’ –

Aug 25, 2022

Another town council election cantata, with a large orchestra, of strings, -with a trio of oboes and 1 oboe d’amore, chorus and continuo, -with bassoon, for extra bass support, and a trio of trumpets with timps, all contributing towards the ceremonial, aspects of this occasion and work.


‘Bless The Lord, oh my soul and do not forget all His benefits.’

This long opening movement, is more festive than memorable and ‘fugue’, to one degree, or another, dominates, it bi-part structures, which are themselves, inspired, by a bi-part text, -‘bless the lord’ and ‘do not forget’,

Instrumental sinfonia, along with chordal and concertante accompanying strings, canonic and accompanying wind and of course those ceremonial and text-inspired triumphant trumpets and drums, all come together, to make the best, of what is standard stuff, for what is most probably, the stuffy-standards, that Bach, on this occasion, was forced, to co-operate with.

These forces are stood down, for the duration of almost all that follows, but are a required and necessary garnish, for the closing chorale, where Bach pulls himself together, creating a real feast and raising morale, before a inevitable and real meal ( and one with beer) that most certainly would have followed these proceedings.

The stuffy, become, the stuffed.

Something to look forward to.


‘How great is God’s kingdom. He brought us, into the light and He sustains us. Where can we see a single person, that lacks sustenance? Consider, my soul, God’s unhidden, visible presence, which, even in the small things, seems large. If only I were able, mighty God, to bring, to you, a worthy, song of thanks. Should I lack the strength for this, I shall still speak of your fame.’

This secco and quite sombre recit, tells its narrative, nearly without any emotional involvement, at all, save almost breaking into a joyful and dancing ‘…worthy song of thanks…’, 13, where sobriety just wins the day and the story continues, coming to a careful and serious ending, in due course.

In any case, it is still worthy.


‘My soul, rise up and tell what God has shown you. Praise His wonderful work and, to please Him, the most high, let a happy song of thanks, ring out.’

A worthy dance, earnest but not too serious and here, in three-time is, yet another ‘…song of thanks…’

Praise, song and ‘telling’, to a free-spirit, will always result in movement and dance, both of body and mind.

Violin and oboe, intertwine their praises, for 12 bars, -with a tag, or an ‘over-indulgence’, of four bars, before the alto voice picks-up, on Bach’s lead, to swing every beat, except the first one.

Throughout bars 16, through 25, much time is spent on the ‘rising’ and the rousing, of this soul, the object of praise, -what God has ‘shown and told’, only really featuring, 23, onwards.

The bassoon is indicated in the continuo part, with at least 2 separate annotations, octave transpositions, indicated.

The central ‘…froher Danklied…’ gives some impressions, of sprightly pleasures by, mostly, eliminating longer notes, within the rhythmic impetus.


The Lord has done great things. He provides for us, sustains, protects and governs, the world. He does more than can really and realistically be said. But, consider this: what better thing could God have done, for us, than to grant our governors, a soul of wisdom, which will, at all times, punish evil and love good and day and night, watch over us? Let us praise the most high. Rise up! Call to Him, that, from now on, He will show us favour, -as opposed to all that might harm our land. You will, O highest God, defend us and send us any help, that we may desire. You may even chastise us, with affliction. But, please, do not kill us.’

These mighty…and weighty things, require strong support.

So, enter strings, to give that very thing.

‘What better things…’ heralds their distinctive entrance, and ‘…the soul of wisdom…’ is certainly acknowledged and ‘…watch over us…’, is again acknowledged, with a semiquaver tag, bar 15.

‘Let us praise the most high…’ , bars 15-6, mark the end of recit and the beginning of arioso (a tempo in the score, bar 18) as the text turns, to ‘…favor…’ and ‘…defense…’.

The mention of ‘chastisement’, ‘affliction’ and ‘death’ seems not to upset this already, melancholy ending, any more.


‘My redeemer and preserver, forever protect and watch, over me. Stand by me, in affliction and suffering and my mouth will sing, with gladness. God has done great things.’

This statement of faith, in the Savior, as protector, from the suffering, of affliction, 38 through 42, is strong, as reflected, by the ‘mouth-that-sings-with-gladness’, -the song of gladness, 43, through 48, with its final trumpet-like affirmation, ‘God has done great things’.

The affliction and suffering, of the repeat, seems more challenging, 57, with a correspondingly more hearty gladness-song, and this time, a more excited oboe, 64.

-‘wohlgemacht’, is ‘well-done’.


‘May the people thank you and praise you, O God, through their good deeds. The land bears fruit and mends its ways, because your word has prospered well. May the Father and the Son, bless us, May God and the Holy Ghost, bless us, -whom all the world glorifies and holds in the greatest respect, sincerely saying, Amen.’

The thanks and praise of the people, heralds the return of the trumpets + drum, with independent parts, for, initially, the last bar and three-quarters.

At, ‘…your word has prospered well…’, they continue to the end and at ‘…the whole world glorifies…’ the rhythmic impetus of quaver + 2 semiquavers, reminds us that this is a political event, where Bach reminds us, that all leadership, is chosen, by God.

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