Gelobet sei der Herr, mein Gott

BWV 129 // For Trinity Sunday

(Give honour to the Lord, my God) for soprano, alto and bass, vocal ensemble, trumpets I-III, timpani, flute, oboe I+II, bassoon, strings and continuo.

In his cantata “Gelobt sei der Herr, mein Gott” (Give honour to the Lord, my God) BWV 129 Bach presents a celebratory work of great magnificence and yet extraordinary efficiency. Written in the form of a chorale cantata “per omnes versus”, it is based solely on the verses of a church hymn and does not contain any transitional recitatives or aria texts. The composer was thus not able to depend on variety in form or speech rhythms for effect; rather, he had to draw solely upon his own musical inventiveness and skill for variety. BWV 129 belongs to the cantatas that Bach composed retrospectively in order to complete the choralecantata cycle he prematurely discontinued at Easter of 1725. In light of this, it is no great surprise that the work displays such a masterly command of the chorale technique.

J.S. Bach-Stiftung Kantate BWV 129

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Workshop
Reflection lecture

«Lutzogram» on the introductory workshop

Rudolf Lutz’s script on the workshop
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Audio

The sound recording of this work can be found on all common streaming and download platforms.

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Performers

Soloists

Soprano
Ulrike Hofbauer

Alto
Claude Eichenberger

Bass
Klaus Häger

Choir

Soprano
Susanne Frei, Guro Hjemli, 
Leonie Gloor, Noëmi Tran Rediger

Alto
Antonia Frey, Jan Börner, Olivia Heiniger, Lea Scherer

Tenor
Walter Siegel, Marcel Fässler, Clemens Flämig

Bass
Fabrice Hayoz, William Wood, Manuel Walser

Orchestra

Conductor & cembalo
Rudolf Lutz

Violin
Renate Steinmann, Martin Korrodi, Sylvia Gmür, Sabine Hochstrasser, Fanny Tschanz, Livia Wiersich

Viola
Susanna Hefti, Joanna Bilger, Roberta Centurione

Violoncello
Ilze Grudule

Violone
Iris Finkbeiner

Oboe
Stefanie Haegele

Oboe d’amore
Esther Fluor

Bassoon
Susann Landert

Tromba da tirarsi
Patrick Henrichs, Peter Hasel, Klaus Pfeiffer

Transverse flute
Claire Genewein

Timpani
Martin Homann

Organ
Norbert Zeilberger

Musical director & conductor

Rudolf Lutz

Workshop

Participants
Karl Graf, Rudolf Lutz

Reflection lecture

Speaker

Felizitas Gräfin Von Schönborn

Recording & editing

Recording date
05/16/2008

Recording location
Trogen

Sound engineer
Stefan Ritzenthaler

Director
Meinrad Keel

Production manager
Johannes Widmer

Production
GALLUS MEDIA AG, Switzerland

Producer
J.S. Bach Foundation of St. Gallen, Switzerland

On the work

Librettist

Text
Johann Olearius, 1665

Year of composition
1726

In-depth analysis

The opening chorus, grandly scored with three trumpets, timpani, woodwinds, strings and choir, puts forth a cheerful character. The chorale, delivered by the soprano in long tones, is worked line for line into a lively orchestral ritornello punctuated by sonorous trumpet interjections, while three lower voices provide an accompaniment of partially independent thematic material. As fitting for a festive cantata, the final chorale is also not scored as a simple four-voice movement. Evidently, Bach could not resist devising a magnificent accompaniment that provides a glorious setting for the chorale text. The three inner verses of this movement display a highly sensitive character; the tonal colour and shades of meaning that Bach lends the key word “praise” is nothing short of phenomenal. In these verses, three different temperaments and generations of man seem to contribute to the glorification of the Trinity: from the dignified old man of the bass voice, to the innocent child of the soprano, to the elegant middle years of the alto. It also seems entirely permissible to interpret the three verses as representing the Trinity of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost.
The bass aria, (verse 2), accompanied only by the continuo, provides a stark contrast to the opening chorus. However, the 16 bar ritornello is so melodically energetic that it veritably cries out for an accompanying text. The third aria is a cantabile trio of oboe d’amore, continuo and alto, whose gentle 6⁄8 metre soon has head, hands and body swaying in time. In contrast, the soprano aria – the centrepiece of the cantata – is one of Bach’s most magnificent creations. With is sombre accompaniment of transverse flute, violin and continuo, it constitutes a captivating quartet movement. Composed in an elegiac e minor, yet in perpetual motion, a window of emotional turmoil and ardent rapture is opened amidst the festive splendour – a gesture that touches the souls of listeners even today. One can imagine with what childlike fervency and do-or-die courage that Bach’s young boy sopranos would have tackled the murderously high sections of this movement. The timeless fascination the old chorale melodies held for Bach and still hold for us today is seldom felt so directly as in this poignant aria miniature.

Text of the work and musical-theological comments

1. Chor

Gelobet sei der Herr,
mein Gott, mein Licht, mein Leben,
mein Schöpfer, der mir hat
mein’ Leib und Seel gegeben,
mein Vater, der mich schützt
von Mutterleibe an,
der alle Augenblick
viel Guts an mir getan.

2. Arie (Bass)

Gelobet sei der Herr,
mein Gott, mein Heil, mein Leben,
des Vaters liebster Sohn,
der sich für mich gegeben,
der mich erlöset hat
mit seinem teuren Blut,
der mir im Glauben schenkt
sich selbst, das höchste Gut.

3. Arie (Sopran)

Gelobet sei der Herr,
mein Gott, mein Trost, mein Leben,
des Vaters werter Geist,
den mir der Sohn gegeben,
der mir mein Herz erquickt,
der mir gibt neue Kraft,
der mir in aller Not
Rat, Trost und Hülfe schafft.

4. Arie (Alt)

Gelobet sei der Herr,
mein Gott, der ewig lebet,
den alles lobet, was
in allen Lüften schwebet;
gelobet sei der Herr,
des Name heilig heisst,
Gott Vater, Gott der Sohn
und Gott der Heilge Geist.

5. Choral

Dem wir das Heilig itzt
mit Freuden lassen klingen
und mit der Engel Schar
das Heilig, Heilig singen,
den herzlich lobt und preist
die ganze Christenheit:
Gelobet sei mein Gott
in alle Ewigkeit!

Bibliographical references

All cantata texts were taken from «Neue Bach-Ausgabe. Johann Sebastian Bach. Neue Ausgabe sämtlicher Werke», published by the Johann-Sebastian-Bach-Institut Göttingen and the Bach-Archiv Leipzig, Series I (Cantatas), vol. 1-41, Kassel and Leipzig, 1954-2000.
All introductory texts to the works including the texts " in-depth analysis" as well as the " musical-theological comments" were written by Anselm Hartinger and Rev. Niklaus Peter as well as Rev. Karl Graf (translations by Alice Noger) upon consideration of the following references:  Hans-Joachim Schulze, «Die Bach-Kantaten. Einführungen zu sämtlichen Kantaten Johann Sebastian Bachs», Leipzig, 2nd edition, 2007; Alfred Dürr, «Johann Sebastian Bach. Die Kantaten», Kassel, 9th edition, 2009, and Martin Petzoldt, «Bach-Kommentar. Die geistlichen Kantaten», Stuttgart, vol. 1, 2nd edition, 2005 and vol. 2, 1st edition, 2007.

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