Bach: The Cantatas

Bach Cantatas

– 20th Sunday after Trinity – 30th October 2022 – J.S.Bach cantata BWV 180 – ,Schmücke dich, o liebe Seele‘ –

Oct 21, 2022

This single oboe orchestra, with 4-part chorus and soloists, is augmented, with a single oboe da caccia and a single flauto transverso and 2 x flauto dolce. The whole is spiced-up, by the unforgettable presence of the violoncello piccolo, in third recitativo movement.


(c) ‘Adorn yourself, beloved soul, leave the dark cavern of sin and come into the light. Begin to shine in all your splendour, because The Lord, -who is full of salvation and grace, invites you now, as His guest. He, who rules in heaven, wants to live, in you.’

As this very bouncy jig gets going, the flauto sustain, -and right up to top ‘F’, above, as the bass drops, below.

This whole, gives impression, of a coming out, (of sin) and an taking and and an opening up, (of adornment).

This is very good news, for all concerned and the handshake of complimentary nods, between wind and strings, 5 through 6, seals this.

A familiar story, the setting of the choral melody, firmly with the soprano line, is supported, by independent and self sufficient lower vocal parts.

Imitation texture and antiphonal structure permeate.

Notice the reasonably constant, although not overwhelming use of an Eb colour, in tonic chords, for instance, bars 14 and 32.

A three part handshake appears at 54.

-and an exciting tenor lead, 70, and again, at 78.


‘Stir yourself, your Saviour knocks. Open soon, the door, of your heart, even though, you, -in your rapture, can only utter muffled and half-broken words, of delight and joy.’

This hectic badinage sets off with an agile quick-moving flute.

There seems to be not much knocking, -although the repeated continuo chords in the first three bars may fulfil this, but plenty of rousing and difficult runs.

As the voice joins in, this conversation can really get going but with plenty of sluggardly gaps, presumably, for those lazy ones.

But whatever the imagery, we are left in no doubt, that the heart is what is being knocked on and roused, 30 through 34 and the muddle section, is all about, those muffled, but enraptured, words.


‘How precious those gifts, of the sacred supper, nowhere else, is their like, to be found, and things that the world deems precious, are glittering nothings. The child of God desires this sacred treasure: (c) How my spirit hungers, friend of humanity, for your goodness and how, -and with weeping, I yearn, for that food. How I thirst for a drink, from the Prince of life, . and all the time, I wish that my body, could be united, through God and with God.’

This is a recit, only in name, -and certainly only for the first 6 bars and two beats, which introduces us, secco style, to the sacred supper.

A short introduction, it is, that prepares. for the choral verse to start, -note the high point, ,Goteskind’, bar 6, in the last two beats, of 7, arioso style.

Here, Bach picks up his favourite instrument, this slung-cello and off he goes, with music, that we have, over the months and years, grown used to, when he gets this instrument between his compositional teeth.

He certainly makes a harty meal of it all, arpeggios and leaps abounding, as we find ourselves, building up an appetite, for the goodness and fulfilment, of the food and drink on-offer, at this sacred supper.

The hungry spirit abounds, chomping away on these tasty semiquavers, -you can certainly hear jaws moving, teething chewing and juices flowing…. that just go on and on, never stopping, even to breath.

Terrible table manners.

Despite this, there are many references, -to goodness, with weeping, more yearning for food and drink, via this Prince of Life and finally, total unity, in mysticism.

Good meals are always an excellent time, to chew over your situation.


‘My heart feels, both fear and joy. Fear is aroused, when my heart ponders the highest, and when it cannot quite fathom the mystery, nor reasonably grasp the truth, of this wonderful work, -how that souls, who in faith, have found each other and are then nurtured, here on earth. Our joy is increased, when we understand, The Saviour’s heart and the greatness of His love.’

Fear and joy and especially fear, in the misunderstanding of ‘…this wonderful work…’.

Understanding brings joy and that appears to be the flavor of the opening chords, dominated by recorders, as that joy of understanding, is rather spectacularly pre-emptied.

The ecstatic enunciation, of joy, bar 11, at understanding the Saviour’s heart, is tinged and underlined, with a seriousness, that almost breaks into a spontaneous arioso.


‘Sun of life, light, of the mind, -you, who are my all. You see my faithfulness and do not despise my belief, even though, it is still weak and fearful.’

This is a dance movement, a polonaise, -defined by a rather strange presentation of the notes, which emphasises the second half of the second beat, that praises the almighty, albeit, lacking in confidence, resulting from a poor self image. This is really faith-in-action, believing, even though the view doesn’t look promising.

The da caccia makes its second appearance, partnered with its oboe cousin. Together, they and their recorder friends, go solo, punctuating the dance routine, antiphonally, 11/12 and 19, through 22 and again, 45, through 47, ‘…faithfulness…’

This is a dance of light lightness. No cloud casts a shadow, over this sun.


‘Lord, let your true love, that brought you down from heaven, be not spent, on me in vain. Move my spirit, with that love, so that it is directed, in faith, to heavenly things, mindful only, of your love.’

This secco recit, ‘let-it-not-be-in-vain’, moves nicely through the sort of emotions we might expect from this text, as read through the sound-prism, of music.

Mindfulness, of The Saviours love, again almost kindles a skip and a hop of arioso, 8, through to the end.


‘Jesus, true bread of life, help me, not to be invited, in vain, -or perhaps, even to my harm, to your table. Let me, -and through my soul’s meal, rightly appreciate, your love, that I too, -and even now, here on earth, may become a guest, in heaven.’

The beauty, of this chorale, is in the economy of movement, within parts, the amount of step-wide only part writing and the ample evidence, of contrary motion, between top and bottom.

All this, promotes stability and therefore completeness, in the ear of the listener, so much in-keeping, with bringing-onto-line, the somewhat agitated text.

Take note.

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