Bach: The Cantatas

Bach Cantatas

– Sunday 3rd December 2022 -J.S.Bach wedding cantata BWV 195 – ,Dem Gerechten muss das Licht’ –

Dec 3, 2022

This Sunday 3rd December, is the second Sunday, of Advent. There is no surviving cantata by Bach, for this particular Sunday, so I have chosen this wedding cantata BWV 195, in its place. 

An oboe orchestra, with supplementary violone and possibly bassoon continuo, is joined by 2 flutes and three trumpets + drums. This is an unusually large orchestra, for a wedding. The soloists join the chorus, marked ripieno and they share the same parts, unless they are obviously solo, e.g, bars 14, through 16 and bars 19, through 21.  This seems unnecessarily complicated…

The history of this 2 part cantata is complicated, to say the least and even with Bach’s thorough revision and a score and parts, dating from the late 1740’s, we are still missing the whole of part 2, which has been replaced, by a single chorale. 


‘For the just, the light must arise, time and time again and also joy, for devout hearts. 
The just rejoice in The Lord and thank Him and praise, His faithfulness.’

Light and joy are the key words here and Bach seizes upon these to inspire his opening ritornello. The festive fugal sound is coloured with trumpets and balanced by interlocking strings and winds, with the timp rest-and-semiquaver rhythm, quickly becoming the supporting, although not driving, energy, the whole making its way, towards the bass ‘A’, bar 11, sounding, under the dragged-on, trumpet ‘D’.

As hinted above, the soli and ripieno interlock, until they don’t, 14/18/23/25, etc, and so solo voices  and chorus interchange, nicely and naturally. An excellent bass line underpins the first of such solos moments, soprano, bars 14, through 16. These inspired bass lines continue. Notice the doubly inspired bass, 31, through 33, where both continuo and ripieno bass, support the soli. 

‘Joy, for devout hearts’, 44, takes through to the time change, 6/8 at 52 and the final, closing fugue. Listen out for the extensive solo trumpet part, which is not reunited with is other two + timps, until bar 104, 16 bars from the end.



‘An ever constant number, must join the joyful light, of the devout, increasing prosperity and fortune. 
And for this new couple, in whom, we honour righteousness and virtue, a joyous light, is ready, today,
offering and bringing them, new wellbeing.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    O happy union. 
This pair can find happiness, in each other.’

This recit teeters on the cusp of  arioso, almost mirroring this text, one that teeters on the cusp, of happiness. The extensive triplety continuo, from bar 2, onwards, suggests perhaps, the changing character, that these two might experience, in the light, of this ‘…joyful light…’, as they start and continue, in their union, changing to a more steady commitment, duplets, 12, as this happiness becomes a reality. 


‘Praise God’s goodness and faithfulness,                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Praise him, with lively joy,                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Praise God, you bridal pair.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Your marriage union today,
presents you, with nothing but blessing.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     
Light and joy, are renewed.’

This, 2-in-a-bar-dance, shorn of brass and drums, is dominated by a featured dotted rhythm, almost an ornament, ‘scotch-snap-like’ and upward and downward groups of two notes, again, ornament-like. The message is one, only of praise. There are also numerous examples in the score, of added piano and forte, light and shade, presumably to highlight, this renewed light and joy.

The middle section seems to strike a note of caution and this is hinted at, in the connecting ritornello, although, ‘…light and joy…’, are still given a hearty outing, 67 and 89.  


‘Form a true bond, that prophesies well-being.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          The priest, by his hand, will now lay the blessing, on your marriage,                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      upon the crowns, of your head.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    And when the power of His blessing, prospers in you,                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Praise God’s fatherly hand.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          He Himself, tied your bond of love and lets that, which He began, achieve its desired end.

Sustained oboes, underneath rising scalic flutes, surely brings to mind a visitation, dove-like and fluttering, of the Holy Spirit, the laying on of hands, the traditional and  priestly way of impartation, of blessing. 

But the music is not just an accompiament to this event, it is, itself, the event, itself, an experience, of mystical proportions, a metaphysical and life changing experience, that of the fatherly hand, bringing to fruition,  the desired end.


‘We come to praise your holiness, everlasting great God.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        This beginning arises from your own hands                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              and because you are omnipotent, you can complete it                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              and powerfully show, your blessing.’    

Another descending bass-line, C.F, opening chorus, bar 11, adds a certain ‘spice’ to what is perhaps, rather like this text, a slightly predictable 3-in-a-bar.  This is perhaps deliberate, on Bach’s part, although choral writing remains varied and thoughtful, using elements, of the opening trumpet’s semiquaver, flourish. The choral parts alternate, between ripieno and soli and the whole is very suitably regal and praiseworthy,
-and all, just before the actual wedding, itself. 

The middle section, ‘…This beginning’…’, sets the serious tone, of blessing and omnipotence.



‘Now, all give thanks and offer praise,                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          To Him, whose praise, the angelic host,                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           forever proclaims, in heaven.’

Leaving aside, that this choral is all that survives, post copulationem, in this later version and that the instrumentation, in my Neuen Bach-Ausgabe, is rather different to the previous 5 movements, this choral is rather interesting. . 

With nice moving parts and bags  of interest, what makes it special, are the added orchestral parts, particularly the second corno and the all important timp part.

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