Bach: The Cantatas

Bach Cantatas

– Whitsunday- 28th May 2023 – J.S.Bach cantata BWV 74 – ‘Wer mich Liebet, der wird mein Wort halten’ –

May 27, 2023

This Whitsunday cantata is of 8 movements, featuring a festive orchestra, 3 x trumpets + timpani, a trio of oboes, including 1 x oboe da caccia, strings, 4-part chorus and soloists, with continue accompaniment.

Strong similarities, with BWV 59, movements 1 and 4.


‘Whoever loves me, will keep my word,
and my Father will love him,
and we will come to him,
and make our abode, with him’

Instrumentation is applied, using groups of similar instruments, as ‘choirs’, or blocks, of sound, presumably Bach demonstrating that love, is an interaction and fusion, between two different parties.

The strings introduce a motif,
-crochet, dotted rise, quaver drop, and this is immediately answered by a trumpet trio fanfare,
-quaver upbeat, semiquaver ornament, quaver drop.

Before this fanfare has finished, three oboes re-iterate the string motif, being joined by those strings, for an extended ‘fantasia, with trumpet semiquavers, 5 bars, after which trumpets again sound their signal and the chorus begins, bar 8, taking the place of the strings, with the opening words, ‘Whoever loves me…’, followed again,
-and as expected, by the oboes,
-and then a lone trumpet and finally the next piece of text, ‘…will keep my word.’

Here, the choir itself, reduces, to a ‘choir’, of two voices, soprano/alto, for 6 bars, accompanied, with 2 x oboes, and a short piece of trumpet fanfare, bar 13,
-and so is goes on, 2 x voices, tenor/bass, and then full chorus, 27, with an imitative fantasia, until bar 35.

Bar 37, soprano/tenor, alternate with alto bass voices.

Varied examples of this sort of choral and orchestral interplay continue until a final ritornello, 51, to the end.


‘Come. My heart is open to you. Let it be your dwelling place.
I love you, so I must hope that your word will come true in me,
for whoever seeks, fears, loves and honours you,
to him, the Father, is devoted.
I do not doubt that you have heard me,
so i can have confidence, in you.’

This regrettably short but subtly beautiful movement, is possibly derived from BWV 59 and if so, has been transposed into F major, suiting the mellowness of this caccia colour.

The seven-and-one-half-bar introduction, flows from the heart, to the word and back again. Even so, the vocal entry seems rushed, surely reflecting the very openness that we are hearing about.
This is reflected, again, at bar 23, with a similarly over enthusiastic entry,
-and with an octave leap, moving, eventually, towards a high Eb, no doubt, reflecting the true traumatic feelings of doubt, always of course experienced, when the opposite is articulated verbally.
Still, comfort and confidence is certainly heard as well, in bar 23, through 24, as the voice is ‘caught-in’,
-last beat-and-a-semiquaver, and via some alien harmonic moments, 29/30, flows on towards the rising scale of comfort, 32, through 34.


‘Your dwelling is ready and prepared,
and you have found a heart, that is devoted to you alone.
Do not let me suffer, as I think of you possibly leaving me.
I shall never let that happen.’

Notice that the ‘…suffering,,,’ bar 4, is worse than the ‘…leaving…’, bar 5 and the diminished chord, on ‘…geschehen…’, is unthinkable.


‘I go away but will come again to you.
If you love me, you will rejoice.’

The ‘comings-and-goings’ in this aria, of these words of Jesus, are exemplified, by a quasi-ostinato continuo bass line, that, up to bar 19, just keeps returning, back to the note E.

The rejoicings, of the middle section, 44, 56, and particularly, 61 onwards, manage somewhat, to break this pattern down into more lyrical moments of longer phrase lengths.


‘Quickly, tune your strings and sing your hymns,
to make lively, happy sounds and songs.
Although he is leaving, He will return,
this highly praised, Son of God.
Satan will attempt to curse His people,
– he is my hindrance and obstacle.
But I have faith, o Lord, in you.’

This joyful, yet difficult and vocally challenging da capo aria seems long.
The somewhat complex arrangement of the ritornello bar structure,
-and a repeated middle section, does, I think, contribute, to this.
The 2-in-a-bar-feel set’s the timing into 2/2.

An all string affaire, dominated by the first violins, the others providing the accompaniment.

Two full chords introduce and in between these, the first fiddles play 2 x fanfares, comprising of ‘filled-in’ arpeggios.
At bar 3, three phrases, each of 2 x crochet beats, lead into 3 more fanfares, each of 4 x crochet beats,
-and across the bar, followed by a derivative, played by the first violins, accompanied with dotted feature, all leading towards the vocal entry.

This first half of the text is a triumphant song, or hymn, of praise and the tenor coloratura is certainly gives the space and the notes to thoroughly explore this.

At ‘…Geht er gleich weg,’, ‘…Although He is leaving,’ bar 24, Bach has inserted 2 x 3/2 bars, to mark this important information..

At 38, a sudden arrival in f# minor/B major tonality, signals the arrival of some discussion of Satan and 2 x 3/2 bars, ones previously associated with the ‘comings-and-goings’ of Christ, are now framing the cursing’s, of His people.

At bar 40, the last quaver, a vocal phrase, exactly similar to one heard at 24, this time, leaves us in familiar metre, yet unfamiliar phrase make-up,
-really, right through until bar 51, as satanic hinderance is off-set, with serious and true faith.

Listen out for long held note, ‘…glaub…’, bar 54.


‘There is, therefore, now, no condemnation,
for those who are in Christ Jesus.’

This is an all-wind-affair and as such, sustains both this ‘…no condemnation…’,
-with its diminished terror, as well as the beautiful and expansive evocation, of Christ, for those, who are ‘in’.


‘Nothing can deliver me, Lord Jesus, from the chains of hell,
except your blood.
Your passion and your dying, make me an heir to an inheritance.
I can laugh at hell’s anger.’

This prim minuet does indeed ‘laugh-out-loud’ at the anger of hell.

A busy, virtuoso solo fiddle, constantly interrupts,
-at least up to bar 110, the middle section, a prim-and-proper exterior, with cackling and raucous laughter, a continual accompaniment to this serious text, one of sincere acknowledgement, of debt to and inheritance, in.

This middle section is certainly darker and clearly much more serious, fully understanding this debt, through blood. Here, the singer laughs away to themselves, without any fiddling, especially during the final four bars.


‘No child of man, here on this earth, is worthy of this wonderful and noble gift.
In us there is no merit and nothing here, but love and grace, count for anything.
These, Christ has earned for us, with atonement and reconciliation.’

This is a superb chorale, giving and leaving, an overall masterly harmonization, effect and impact.

‘…child of man…’, is given stately and memorable presence, with a d minor 6/3, + an added E, for added bite,
-second bar, second beat, followed by a minor, also 6/4.

‘…love and grace…’, get highlighted, bar 8 and consecutives, between alto and tenor, bar 10, are justified, taking into consideration the text, as the tenor ‘B’, on ‘…verdieNET’, or ‘earned’, is nicely prepared.

Notice the wandering ‘G#’, bar 11, first alto,
-then soprano, then, finally, tenor, as we find ourselves vacillating, floating and moving, between atonement and reconciliation, then and then, finally resting, wit the C#, in A major.

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