Date Sunday, January 26th, 2020
Time 6:30 pm
Location St. Margaret's Church, Topsham
Tickets Admission is free.
- Chorus: Ich hab’ in Gottes Herz und Sinn
- Recitative (bass) & chorale: Es kann mir fehlen nimmermehr!
- Chorale: Zudem ist Weisheit und Verstand
- Recitative (tenor): Wir wollen uns nicht länger zagen
- Chorale & recitative (bass, tenor, alto, soprano): Ei nun, mein Gott, so fall ich dir
- Aria (soprano): Meinem Hirten bleib ich treu
- Chorale: Soll ich denn auch des Todes Weg
The chorale ”Was mein Gott will, das g’scheh allzeit” is also known with another set of words “Ich hab’ in Gottes Herz und Sinn.” It is something of a tour de force that Bach uses the same tune with different words on adjacent Sundays. His setting of “Was mein Gott will,” was, particularly in its chorale portions, militant, brimming with energy and straightforward. For Septuagesima, the use of the tune is ambiguous, even mysterious. Much of these qualities have to do with the new words but there is also a feeling that Bach can do anything he wants with these melodies.
The first verse of the chorale speaks of the soul surrendering only to find the sure way to heaven. The opening orchestral statement has a submissive motive in the oboes d’amore. Its tonal answer by the violins is not only submissive but positively awkward in its melodic shape. All other musical material throughout the movement illustrates the climb back to heaven. With this simple group of opposing materials Bach builds a large and very impressive chorus. The mood is of quiet pleading and supplication. It couldn’t be more different than the military briskness of the Cantata BWV 111. The one interesting similarity of the two movements is that the repetition of the Stollen at the end of the Abgesang is again identical. It is a clever device for keeping the listener grounded as to where he is in this long and diffuse bar-form piece.
The second movement is one of Bach’s most difficult chorale-with-tropes movements. Here the distinction between chorale and recitative is blurred. For instance that bass coloration of the line of chorale “Wenn er mich auch gleich wirt ins Meer” melds into the tune underneath the following recitative. We have occasionally seen this in chorale tropes before, but not to this extent. The effect is of confusion and storminess. The one reference to the sea in this verse becomes important.
In this cantata, the chorale always returns as the voice of reason. In movement 4, two oboe d’amore play an expressive little motive in canon accompanying the simple alto statement of the chorale theme. The harmony is very much the world of the opening chorus. It is a kind of subtle chromaticism that is remarkably versatile. Look how Bach can colour an opposing idea like “he knows when joy, he knows when sorrow.” In these brief bars, both joy and sorrow are fleeting. Neither is completely formed by the harmony. Each has an element of the other.
After a secco tenor recitative, a chorale returns to bring a sense of calm. Again the chorale-with-trope form is used but this time with the full chorus and solo voices providing the tropes.
It is important to hear the previous sections as sea music because the pastoral elements of the soprano aria are key to its impact. The oboe d’amore plays a naïve and heartbreaking shepherd’s tune over the pizzicato strings. The boy soprano announces: “I will always be true to my shepherd.” After so much music that is in every way “at sea” this simple pastoral piece is remarkably touching. Bach knows that after so much ambiguity and complexity, and make no mistake: this is one of the most psychologically complicated of all of the cantatas, this child-like faith is the only answer. As wonderful as this aria is as a separate piece, in its context it is overwhelming. Although the final chorale takes us back to the harmonic world of the opening, the sense of benediction in the harmonization is unmistakable.
Musical Director: Jonathan Lucas Wood
Leader: Anna Cockroft
Soprano: Josie Walledge
Tenor: Jonathan Lucas Wood
Oboe 1: Lynn Carter
Oboe 2: Andrew Maries
Violin 1: Anna Cockroft
Violin 2: Ruth James
Viola: Nicola Smith
Cello: Hilary Boxer
Double Bass: Patrick Butterly
Organ: Andrew Carter