Bach: The Cantatas

Bach Cantatas

– Ascension Day – Thursday 18th May 2023 – J.S.Bach cantata BWV43 – ,Gott fahret auf mit Jauchen’ –

May 17, 2023

This 2-part cantata, is long and substantial, with, eleven movements.
An uncomplicated ‘festive’ orchestra is required, 3 x  trumpets + timps, 2 x oboes, strings, a 4-part choir/soloists and continuo.


‘God is gone up with a shout,
The Lord with the sound of a trumpet.
Sing praises to God, sing praises.
Sing praises to our king, sing praises.’

Six bars of adagio introduction,
-a French-feel, but without the dot -, introduces the whole.

This might be seen as the, ‘…gone up…’

The ‘…shout…’, begins at bar 7, where, in the new allabreve time,
-two lots of 2-time, a lone trumpet, quickly and with only 1 beat to spare, sets off, with shouting stuff, to be handsomely joined, by his other two fellows and chorus, at bar 19.

Praising stuff this is and if not of outstanding effect, it certainly is the stuff of shouting, a praising-romping-noise, with thickening textures and one fit for any ascension.
Bach manages to tick all the boxes here, with a good strong fugal subject, imitative winds, long choral lines and trumpet interjections.

Listen out for the fine choral moment, bar 85, where the text, ‘…Sing praises to God…’ stands out, alone and homophonic, answered, in agreement, by trumpets and drums.


‘The highest would prepare for Himself, a victory parade,
because He has led captivity captive.
Who acclaims Him?
Who sounds the trumpets?
Who walks at His side?
Is it not God’s own host, that sing of His name’s honour,
salvation, praise, kingdom, power and might,
-and all with a loud voice-
that now brings Him an alleluia, for ever?

It seems that this ‘…leading captivity captive.’, is serious stuff as Bach proceeds in minor tonality.

However, this is only a springboard to a revelation, as the mood brightens, according to the text and as ‘…God’s own host…’ appears, walking, at His side, this revelation becomes clear:
-The Eternal Alleluia.



‘Yes, thousands attend the chariot,
singing praises to the King of Kings,
so that heaven and earth bow down before him.
All He has vanquished, now, fully submit.’

This is triumphant triumph, trumpet-like really, with ‘trumpet’ arpeggios and where each reiterated note, is trying to sustain, on these strings, this triumph.
Half-way through the first phrase, there is a glissando, probably impossible on a trumpet, but do-able, even on a multitude of strings.

The 2…or 4 bars, 8 through 9, are repeated, perhaps reminding us, that this triumph, with its thousands attending, at His side, is a long triumph, in physical length and surely requires more time, to see it through.

The tenor voice has some treacherous vocal gymnastics to negotiate and ‘…bow before Him…’, bar 54, is evidently a low blow, as is’…all He has vanquished, fully submit.’. At 61, notice the long and low note,
and this only proliferates, as the final phrase, 104 through 116, shows no mercy at all for the singer, as all of that sort of thing, is reserved, for the vanquished.


‘The Lord,
-after He has spoken to them,
was lifted up, into heaven,
sitting down,
at the right hand, of God.’

Unusually assigned to the soprano voice, instead of a tenor-evangelist, the music at ‘…Himmel…’, bar 3, an E major dominant 7th chord, perhaps suggests that this sitting-down, is a surprise.

One of the jobs of any recitativo, is to prepare for the continuing action and this short and telling few bars, in e minor, prepares and leads into the first-part-closing-aria, e minor, where the triumph, of No 3, seems not to be continued.


‘My Jesus has now completed His work of salvation,
and returns again, to Him who sent Him.
His earthly journey is closed.
Now, you heavens, open up and take Him back.’

This soprano aria is virtually a trio sonata, the two lower parts,
-second oboe + second violin, working as one, throughout.

A dancing gavotte, with sufficient weight, presence and stature,
-and the feel of finality about it, that brings the first half of this cantata to a close, with a celebration of the completed work of salvation.

Nevertheless, there is still some heaviness hanging about and over, what surely should be a joyful celebration,
-Bach aware, no doubt, of the cost involved in securing such a celebration.

Notice the vocal drops, minor 6th, bars 25 and 27.

The non da capo, is surely proof, that Bach is certainly aware of the passing of time.

—————–SECONA PARTE——————


‘The hero of heroes comes,
-Satan’s prince and terror,
who destroyed death itself,
erased the stain of sin,
and scattered the crowd of enemies.
So, quick now, you powers.
Raise up the victor.’

This is a masterly setting, where an accompanied, strings + continuo only, recitativo, where fanfares, bar 1, through 2, announce victory,
-with benefits and tremolos, bar 3 and 10, through 11,condemn Satan and his meddling’s.

listen-out for some vocal gymnastics, 10, through 11, where an initial leap, of an augmented 4th, sets up quite a display of emotion, as this victor is raised up.


‘It is He, who, quite alone,
has trodden the winepress,
-full of anguish, torment and pain,
to save the lost, at a very costly price.
Thrones! Stir yourselves and place garlands, on His brow.’

This winepress is trodden, by firm footed continuo players, as if standing, each one, on their own organ pedal, where, one has to imagine, they tread down these grapes, alternately, left and right footed, in these semiquaver rhythms, albeit, with a monotony that only continuo players know.

Both the trumpet and the voice are plagued by upward and downward leaps, -particularly 6s and 7s.

This victory comes, with undertakings, required from us.

At 22, anguish, torment and pain make themselves known,
-with extended note lengths and chromaticism’s and even more awkward and un-savoury leaps and twists, bars 22, through 26.

The stirring-of-thrones, 35, begins with vocal scales, more-so than leaps, although these recede, back towards those opening figures, ultimately treading the same ground as our stoically-monotonous-continuo- treaders, reminding us, yet again, of our part in all this stoic monotony.


‘The Father has destined for Him,
an eternal kingdom.
Now, the hour is at hand,
when He shall receive that crown,
for enduring all those countless hardships.
I shall stand here, by this wayside,
and joyfully gaze after Him.’

This recit is, in the main, on the ‘up’, rising up, through the ‘…eternal kingdom…’, the hour of the ‘…receiving of the crown…’ and the joyful and ecstatic gaze, 7 through 8, after Him.


‘I see already,
-in the spirit,
how, at God’s right hand,
He dashes His enemies, to pieces,
to set free all His servants,
from grief, affliction and shame.
I shall stand here, by this wayside,
and yearningly gaze after Him.’

This aria is able to generate intense excitement and energy, via long phrasing,
-two bars in length and starting from the second bar.
Rhythmic drive, created with groups of semiquavers, generates prophesy, of being able to ‘see’
-and at this moment, this reality, of the dashing-of-enemies and the setting-free-of-servants.

This aria is a vision, of achieved victory.

Rhythmic generators, a pair of oboes, function, one exception withstanding, as one unit, interacting, along with the continuo bass, setting up a strong base, onto which this alto voice, can build a musical and rhythmic counterpoint.

The ‘exception’ arrives at bar 48, where, after the text turns towards thoughts of grief, affliction and shame, momentarily, the pair of oboes dislocate, and into a chromatic shock, which continues, right up to the end of the vocal drop, at 60.


‘He will prepare for me, a dwelling,
a mansion, next to Him,
so that, forever, I shall stand by His side,
freed from grief and woe.
I shall stand here, by this wayside
and call after Him, gratefully.’

Listen for an extended ‘…erwiglich…’, bar 3 through 4 and chromaticism, 5 through 6, ‘…Befriet von Weh und Ach’.


‘Prince of life, Lord Jesus Christ,
you have been taken up into heaven,
to be with your Father and all the faithful throng.
How can I praise your great victory,
-which through a hard fight,
you have achieved,
demonstrating and showing to you, your honour?
Draw us and we shall run,
-give us wings of faith,
help us flee, far from here,
-away, to Israel’s hills.
My God, where shall I go from here,
where, for ever, shall I be happy?
Where shall I stand before you and look upon your countenance?’

This extensive text is set, tutti, simply and uncomplicatedly, both harmonically and musically.
Nevertheless, it succeeds in creating it’s sense of finality.

There is no 3rd in the chord, at 18 and finally, at 27, mysterious, to the end.





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