Bach: The Cantatas

Bach Cantatas

3rd Sunday of Advent – December 11th 2022 – J.S.Bach cantata BWV 29 – ,Wir danken dir, Gott, wir danken dir’ –

Dec 9, 2022

An oboe orchestra, with additional trumpets and drums, is joined, by a substantial organ obbligato part, which appears twice, this opening sinfonia and the arioso, movement 7.


Bach shamelessly cannibalizes form previous works. In this opening sinfonia, he uses the opening Preludio, from the Partita in ‘E’, for solo violin, BWV 1006, composing an accompaniment, to the original violin part, which is taken over by the organ.

This resulting sinfonia, has, in turn, been transcribed for the piano and then, separately, for the organ, by various composers and pianists. The results, to my mind, are interesting.

I prefer the original solo, followed closely, by the piano arrangements, firstly by Rachmaninov -presumably after hearing the violin solo- and secondly, Wilhelm Kempff.

Bach’s arrangement is uninteresting. There is almost no canonic invention and no attempt to elaborate the basic fiddle part. It all sounds so much better in the original version. The trumpet/drum combination is festive and occasional and the movement is successful.

Despite its Presto marking, it must not be too fast, or it will loose its festival-ness.

The bigger question, is what to do with the repeated notes, continuo, bar 17 onwards? They are marked with a long slur, but surely, they must be enunciated and separate?


‘We give you thanks, O God, we give you thanks,
and declare, your wonderous works.’

This chorus is familiar, from the b min mass. Two themes comprise the whole, dense texture, one, initially, upwardly rising and the other, with a noticeable quaver movement.

There is something antiquarian about this music, as if we hold, in our hands, an antique of beauty and value.

The trumpet entry, 30 and 52, although doubling strings, colour the brilliance of the orchestra. This is enhanced by the 2nd trumpet entry, 62, again with strings and the 1st, at 63, a canon at the 5th and further, with drum entry and 3rd trumpet, bar 70.

Bars 82, to the end, follows similar, with the additional and important completing, 3rd trumpet part.


‘Alleluia and strength and might,
be to the name of the most high.
Zion is still His city,
where He has His dwelling,
and where, with our offspring,
He still remembers our fathers’ covenant.’

This trio, of equality, bounces along, with a confidence and joy, that befits this confident and faithful text.

The wide leaps, from 12, onwards,  although characteristic of the solo instrument, surely illustrate, a carefree attitude of faith.
-notice the ‘Hallelujah’, 29, through 33.and again, really right through, to 80.

The second half, is darker and thoughtful. The Father’s covenant’, is ornamented, as if special.


‘Praise God, we are blessed.
God is still our hope,
His shield, comfort and light,
protect the towns and palaces,
His wings, hold the walls in place.
He blesses us everywhere,
and faithfulness,
-which kisses peace,
must, for ever and ever, meet righteous.
Where else is there such a people as us,
to whom God is so near and so gracious?’

This is a serious and circumspect rendition of these words of faith.

The wings that hold the walls in place, take flight at bar 6. Seriousness  continues, through righteousness, faith and peace.

The last line, is one, of wonder.


‘Remember us with your love,
Embrace us in your mercy.
Bless those who govern, guide,
protect and lead us,
Bless those who are obedient.’

This warm oboe siciliano, with strings and organ-only-continuo, brings security of relationship.
‘Mercy’, comes from experience, 14, through,15 and more-so, 30, through, 32.
The blessings, 37, are given, with longer, varied phrasings, culminating, in one of obedience, where a haunting oboe, anticipates, shadows and extends, the vocal line.

The organ, is tasto solo, -harmony-free and following the viola line-  during the vocal passages.
Openness, an every present characteristic.


‘Do not forget,
-and with your hand,
to show us good things.
Then, our city and our country,
-which are full of your honour,
Shall praise you with sacrifice and thanks-giving
and the people, shall say, Amen.’

This alto secco, is confident enough to enlist the help of the people, in their guise as chorus, in a hearty and unison, ‘Amen’, which leads straight into the following arioso…


‘Alleluia, strength and might,
be to the name of God almighty,
The name, of the most high God.’

We have heard this music before,
-Aria, movement 3-
transposed now, down to D major, from the original, A major, for this alto version.
An organ obbligato replaces the solo violin. Coherence is generated, with the first and third movements, via shared material and instrument.


‘Blessing and Praise and Honour,
be to God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
who would increase, in us, what was promised,
-through grace,
that we may hold fast to our confidence in Him,
abandon ourselves and build on Him, wholly,
-and from our hearts.
That our heart, mind and will, can cling to Him, with comfort.
Of this, now let us sing ‘Amen’.
We shall obtain it,
if we believe, from the depth of our heart.’

‘Blessing, praise and honour’, words that mirror the actual sound of this choral, the vocal parts overlapped, with sustained strings and punching brass and drum parts.
The orchestral colours, line 5, are initially brass free. They speak of trust, reliance and ‘holding-fast’.
Brass and drums join in again, for the final and definitive, Amen.


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