Bach: The Cantatas

Bach Cantatas

– 21st Sunday after Trinity – 12th November 2023 – J.S.Bach cantata BWV 188 – ‘Ich habe meine Zuversicht’ –

Dec 4, 2023

An oboe orchestra,
-with taille, is supported with continuo, + organ obbligato,
strings and a four part soloist/choir.

The manuscript of this cantata was divided-up, sometime after Bach’s death
and although, literally, small pieces still survive, almost the entire opening sinfonia has been lost.
Without a full re-reconstruction of this, the trio of oboes is not heard until the closing choral.

1/ Sinfonia (fragment):

The opening sinfonia has mostly been lost,
-apart from some of the organ part and the last two bars of the trio of oboe parts.
It most probably corresponded with the third movement of the harpsichord concerto in D min, BWV 1052,
except requiring organ obbligato, rather than harpsichord.

2/Aria:

‘I have put my trust in our faithful God,
and there my hope rests firm.
When all things break, when all things fall,
when no-one keeps his faith or word,
God is indeed, best of all.’

These remaining movements have been re-constructed, from later manuscript copies.

A long and beautiful opening ritornello is mindful of our ‘trust’ and His faithfulness, grounded in ‘rest’ and the phrase structure,
-2 x 2 bars, 1 x 3 bars, 2 x 2 bars and 1 x 3 bars, further emphasizes an experience, of grounded and relaxed rest.

Threats to that scenario approach, bars 47, through 53, but seem dispelled and banished, 54, with a return to the opening text.
A held, low Eb, bar 59, reflects that steadfast hope, even though an un stable phrase structure, originating, way-back, at bar 50,
continues right to the end of this opening section, at bar 68.

At bar 83,
-with presumably a slight increase in tempo, this rather idyllic and idealistic world seems to be shattered,
in a most cutting and brutal way, as the string texture completely changes, reflecting and imitating this breaking,
falling and lack-lustre attitude, to the honouring of faith and word, spoken of in the text.
Broken chord string repetitions,
-with vicious downward stabbing oboe arpeggios, matched by rising vocal imitations,
fill this rather 4-square section.

An understanding that, ‘…God is indeed, best of all.’, bar 97, through 101, brings us very convincingly,
-if not so restfully, back to the opening atmosphere and a return to the opening music.

3/Recitativo:

‘God means well, by everyone,
even in the greatest affliction.
Thought He at first hides his love,
His heart,
-that He can never withdraw,
secretly cares.
And even if The Lord wanted to kill me,
my hope would still rest in Him.
His angered face is nothing but a dark cloud.
It only hinders the sunshine, so that,
-helped by gentle showers,
heavenly blessings may be all the richer.
The Lord transforms Himself into a cruel God,
in order to seem all the more comforting.
He neither would,
nor could mean us harm.
So I will not let him go, unless he blesses me.’

This dramatic recit continues on its way, rising and falling, as the text directs.

At 19, the rhythm stabilizes into 6/8 time and the whole moves towards arioso feel,
as the imported text,
-from Genesis, ‘…I will not let Him go, unless He blesses me’, leads quavers and semiquavers, in a dance of humble faith.

4/Aria:

‘In an unfathomable way,
The Lord leads His people.
Even our cross and pain must be for the best,
to bring glory to His name.’

Despite the fact, that the text is extremely concise, in every way, this is a substantial aria.

The organ part is large, angular and really all dominating, but not overwhelming, with a single ‘cello,
which follows the left hand organ part, in fact the foundational bass line of the whole.

There is no continuo part, as such.

This large organ presence, is colourful in its rhythmic diversity,
-agitated changes through a constant alternation between tied, full value and half value notes, from the opening, through bar 6,
and a smoothing effect, caused by triplet flow, bar 7.
It is angular in shape, possibly in response to the textual reference,
to ‘…our cross and pain…’, the smoothing triplets making the point, that this ‘…brings glory, to His name.’

The alto voice indeed follows the same pattern,
angularity for ‘cross’ and ‘pain’ and a smoothness,
-bars 31, through 47, for the ‘glory’.

5/Recitativo:

‘The might of the world, dies away.
Who can depend on rank and grandeur?
God, however, shall endure for ever.
Blessed are those who trust in Him.’

This accompanied recitativo begins with operatic drama,
-repeated G major 7th chords,
as ‘The might of the world’ dually draws attention to itself,
and dually dies away as well.

All of this is quickly forgotten, as sustained strings,
-both from a harmonic, as well as orchestration point of view,
solemnly remind us of the seriousness of trust, that needs to be given to Him,
to bring about that blessedness.

6/Choral:

‘I trust in my dear God,
both in fear and need.
He can,
-and at all times,
deliver me from sadness, fear and affliction.
He can turn around my misfortune.
Everything lies in His power.’

A changed alto note,
-G sharp to G natural, bar 2, a leaping tenor, a nicely prepared dissonant alto ‘B’,
and the addition of more moving¬† quavers, bar 3, highlights the ‘…fear and affliction.’ that seems to be assailing this soul.

-and again, this is reflected, with a chromatic bass, 6, through 7.

The deliverance from sadness is a triumph, 8 through an embellished 10,
and a restatement of the G major chord,
-although thrown into doubt with an immediate F natural,
followed by a bare 4th chord and rising alto, with dropping tenor,
creates some psychology, reflecting perhaps the seriousness that this soul,
-and composer, attaches to what does in fact lie, in His power.

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