Wo Gott der Herr nicht bei uns hält

BWV 178 // For the Eight Sunday after Trinity

(Where God the Lord stands with us not) for alto, tenor and bass, vocal ensemble, horn, oboe I+II, strings and basso continuo

Video

Experience the introductory workshop, concert and reflective lecture in full length.

Would you like to enjoy our videos ad-free? Subscribe to YouTube Premium now...

YouTube

By loading the video, you agree to YouTube's privacy policy.
Learn more

Load video

Workshop
YouTube

By loading the video, you agree to YouTube's privacy policy.
Learn more

Load video

Reflective lecture
YouTube

By loading the video, you agree to YouTube's privacy policy.
Learn more

Load video

«Lutzogram» for the introductory workshop

Rudolf Lutz’s manuscript for the workshop
Download (PDF)

Performers

Soloists

Alto
Margot Oitzinger

Tenor
Georg Poplutz

Bass
Peter Kooij

Choir

Soprano
Jennifer Ribeiro Rudin, Simone Schwark, Stephanie Pfeffer, Susanne Seitter, Mirjam Wernli, Baiba Urka

Alto
Antonia Frey, Stefan Kahle, Lisa Weiss, Laura Binggeli, Lea Scherer

Tenor
Clemens Flämig, Walter Siegel, Joël Morand, Manuel Gerber

Bass
Tobias Wicky, Christian Kotsis, Daniel Pérez, William Wood, Serafin Heusser

Orchestra

Conductor
Rudolf Lutz

Violin
Renate Steinmann, Patricia Do, Elisabeth Kohler, Monika Baer, Aliza Vicente, Salome Zimmermann

Viola
Susanna Hefti, Claire Foltzer, Stella Mahrenholz

Violoncello
Martin Zeller, Hristo Kouzmanov

Violone
Guisella Massa

Oboe
Katharina Arfken, Clara Espinosa Encinas

Bassoon
Gilat Rotkop

Corno
Thomas Friedländer

Harpsichord
Thomas Leininger

Organ
Nicola Cumer

Musical director & conductor

Rudolf Lutz

Workshop

Participants
Rudolf Lutz, Pfr. Niklaus Peter

Reflective lecture

Speaker
Thomas Hürlimann

Recording & editing

Recording date
18/08/2023

Recording location
Speicher AR (Switzerland) // Evang. Kirche

Sound engineer
Stefan Ritzenthaler

Producer
Meinrad Keel

Executive producer
Johannes Widmer

Production
GALLUS MEDIA AG, Schweiz

Composer of interlude to chorale no. 7 “Die Feind sind all in deiner Hand”
Thomas Leininger

Producer
J.S. Bach-Stiftung, St. Gallen, Schweiz

About the work

Librettist

First performance
30 July 1724, Leipzig

Text sources
Justus Jonas (movements 1, 4, 7 based on psalm 124); unknown (movements 2, 3, 5, 6)

Libretto

1. Chor

Wo Gott der Herr nicht bei uns hält,
wenn unsre Feinde toben,
und er unser Sach nicht zufällt
im Himmel hoch dort oben,
wo er Israel Schutz nicht ist
und selber bricht der Feinde List,
so ist‘s mit uns verloren.

2. Choral und Rezitativ — Alt

Was Menschenkraft und -witz anfäht,
soll uns billig nicht schrecken
;
denn Gott der Höchste steht uns bei
und machet uns von ihren Stricken frei.
Er sitzet an der höchsten Stätt,
er wird ihrn Rat aufdecken.

Die Gott im Glauben fest umfassen,
will er niemals versäumen noch verlassen;
er stürzet der Verkehrten Rat
und hindert ihre böse Tat.
Wenn sie’s aufs klügste greifen an,
auf Schlangenlist und falsche Ränke sinnen,
der Bosheit Endzweck zu gewinnen;
so geht doch Gott ein ander Bahn:
er führt die Seinigen mit starker Hand
durchs Kreuzesmeer in das gelobte Land,
da wird er alles Unglück wenden.
Es steht in seinen Händen.

3. Arie — Bass

Gleichwie die wilden Meereswellen
mit Ungestüm ein Schiff zerschellen,
so raset auch der Feinde Wut
und raubt das beste Seelengut.
Sie wollen Satans Reich erweitern,
und Christi Schifflein soll zerscheitern.

4. Choral – Tenor

Sie stellen uns wie Ketzern nach,
nach unserm Blut sie trachten;
noch rühmen sie sich Christen auch,
die Gott allein groß achten.
Ach Gott, der teure Name dein
muß ihrer Schalkheit Deckel sein,
du wirst einmal aufwachen.

5. Choral und Rezitativ — Alt, Tenor, Bass

Auf sperren sie den Rachen weit,

Bass
nach Löwenart mit brüllendem Getöne;
sie fletschen ihre Mörderzähne
und wollen uns verschlingen.

Tenor
Jedoch,
Lob und Dank sei Gott allezeit;

Tenor
der Held aus Juda schützt uns noch,
es wird ihn’ nicht gelingen.

Alt
Sie werden wie die Spreu vergehn,
wenn seine Gläubigen wie grüne Bäume stehn.
Er wird ihrn Strick zerreißen gar
und stürzen ihre falsche Lahr.

Bass
Gott wird die törichten Propheten
mit Feuer seines Zornes töten,
und ihre Ketzerei verstören.
Sie werdens Gott nicht wehren.

6. Arie — Tenor

Schweig, schweig nur, taumelnde Vernunft!
Sprich nicht: Die Frommen sind verlorn,
das Kreuz hat sie nur neu geborn.
Denn denen, die auf Jesum hoffen,
steht stets die Tür der Gnaden offen;
und wenn sie Kreuz und Trübsal drückt,
so werden sie mit Trost erquickt.

7. Choral

1.
Die Feind sind all in deiner Hand,
darzu all ihr Gedanken;
ihr Anschläg sind dir, Herr, bekannt,
hilf nur, daß wir nicht wanken.
Vernunft wider den Glauben ficht,
aufs Künftge will sie trauen nicht,
da du wirst selber trösten.

2.
Den Himmel und auch die Erden
hast du, Herr Gott, gegründet;
dein Licht laß uns helle werden,
das Herz uns werd entzündet
in rechter Lieb des Glaubens dein,
bis an das End beständig sein.
Die Welt laß immer murren.

Reflective lecture

Thomas Hürlimann

I have gladly come to you, ladies and gentlemen – not only because the musical event shines beyond all borders, I have another reason. Appenzell belongs to my childhood country, which I wandered through hill and dale with my uncle in the years before elementary school. We wore the same clothes. On the head, as sun protection, a napkin lined at the corners, knickerbockers, nail shoes, backpack, walking stick. My stick had been shortened by my uncle to half its length; in his face smoked a Rössli stump, in mine burst from time to time the red bubble of a bazooka gum. So we went from “Säntisblick” to “Säntisblick”, my uncle would take a drink every time, and often his passion for introducing me to the secrets of mathematics took on threatening forms in the course of the long day’s hike. At that time, I taught myself to read by means of an illustrated Robinson book and with the gentle help of my grandmother; I was enthusiastic about adventurous sea voyages and had no use for the “sacred clarity of mathematics,” as my uncle invoked it with glazed eyes.

One afternoon it was a matter of probability theory. According to their laws, claimed the uncle, we would meet here, on the country road to Gontenbad, only in the “most unlikely case” an automobile with a Zug license plate. My pride in my homeland hurt, I shouted indignantly, “That’s not true!”

At first, the uncle got angry, but then he said confidently: “You can rely on mathematics. If a Zug car really does come by, you’ll get a nickel.”

After anxious minutes of waiting, a column of three distinguished convertibles crept up, all with sporty costumed crews, whitewall tires, and the foremost car with a clearly visible license plate: ZG, Zug, the blue-and-white crest. Before the uncle had recovered from his fright, the second car passed: ZG, train, the blue-white crest, just behind it car number three: ZG, train, the blue-white crest, and believe me, more important than the fortune won was the experience of the player, who was plunged into pure happiness by his hit.

*

Many years later, I had failed in my studies, I had lost everything playing poker in a gloomy pub at the Stuttgart train station. Hungry, thirsty, desperate, I threw myself on the mattress in the shabby boarding house where I had rented a room but not yet paid for it, took the dusty Bible from the nightstand, opened it above me – and down fluttered a whole bundle of beautiful green dollar bills. I suppressed the impulse to report my find, as well as the temptation to return to the poker game. Instead, I got myself some beer and cigarettes and immersed myself in the Old Testament, in the books of the prophets. Just as a gambler bets on luck, I told myself, the prophet bets on misfortune. So there had to be some kind of relationship, and since Isaiah, Amos and Habakkuk had an amazing hit rate, there was certainly something to learn from them. Now I was not so naive to seriously believe that by studying the Bible I would become a super gambler who knows in advance on which number the roulette ball would click. If this were possible, the casinos would probably be teeming with rabbis and pastors who were constantly breaking the bank. No, it didn’t work out that way. But what gave a simple shepherd like Jeremiah the vision to see beyond the edge of the present? What was his secret, his trick?

One afternoon he was grazing his flock under a piercing sun. Grumpy mood of dogs and sheep. The ground was sandy, only a few thorny bushes on which they nibbled their muzzles bloody. That the Lord was above them was beyond doubt, after all they were in His creation, but could it be, Jeremiah asked himself, that the Lord was asleep? And behold, the moment he thought this thought, a juniper branch showed itself to him. Thus was revealed to Jeremiah: God is awake.

*

Gambling, as every gambler knows, is unreasonable. As unreasonable as my assertion that a Zug automobile would appear on the road to Gontenbad, as unreasonable as the prophet’s saying that it would soon rain sulfur on Sodom. “What is, is reasonable”, Hegel holds against it, and all functionaries of this world might share his view. The unreasonable prophet and the unreasonable gambler, however, adhere to the cantata text you just heard: “Silence, silence, reeling reason! Speak not.”

Reason, Kant expresses it most clearly, covers only that part of reality which it has created itself. This applies to large parts of our thinking, including that of the planet, and in the field of natural science, where calculation, measurement, analysis, dissection are involved, the method is appropriate. “Man’s true being,” says Hegel, “is his deed.” Tat-logic, reason-determined. The juniper branch alone would never be recognized in this way. It is a beckoning coming from other dimensions. Aletheia, truth, Heidegger defines as that which “unbirches.” What reveals itself to us. As a doer, one has no chance there. In the grasping hand the branch would wither; it is a manifestation of the absolute, it blossoms in the wondering eye. The gambler experiences something similar when he bets against every mathematical probability and gets a full load from Fortuna’s cornucopia. Then the true being of man is not activity, but amazement. To accept. Accepting. Sinking humbly and gratefully to one’s knees when the blessing of money descends from the opened Bible. Or when the third convertible with the license plate ZG, Zug, blue-white coat of arms, purrs past. Reason has nothing more to say. It staggers off into the ditch, stunned.

*

Soon after Stuttgart, I freed myself from my passion for plays by outsourcing it to the stage. For years I occupied myself with Nestroy, in whom the fairy godmother represents the highest dramaturgical principle, but I never succeeded in transferring his tricks from Biedermeier to our thoroughly rationalized times. I was also unsuccessful when I let epiphanic moments flow into prose texts. Most of the time they fell victim to censorship in the final version, the censorship of my reason.

So I am aware that it is almost impossible to penetrate with words into areas which have not been colonized by reason. Sure, in the dreams this happens every night, but evenly, there formations appear to us which burst in the awakening like my bubble gum bubble at that time. Nevertheless, I would like to take the risk, because the mysterious door, which the cantata author and Bach evoke at the end of the tenor aria, is familiar to me – not from music, from the hospital.

It was the night before a life-defining operation. I was lying in sweaty pillows, hooked up to tubes, staring spellbound into the darkness. There, through the wide door, they would roll me out tomorrow and take me down in the goods lift, into the operating room. Last exit? A journey of no return? My fingers were clawed into the sheet, my heart was pounding up to my throat – and strangely, all of a sudden I became calm. How it happened, I don’t know, I can only say that it happened. It. It happened. It happened. The sickroom was suddenly the hall of a museum, and the only picture depicted a door in perfect beauty. It was the door I had just been staring at, but it no longer enclosed me in the confines of my fear, but opened up an unknown space. I was overcome by happiness, as I had been on the road to Gontenbad. Or like in the Stuttgart boarding house room when the blessing of dollars fell on me. I was now all gambler and all prophet, knowing: You have won, one way or the other. Either you will return to this room after the operation and a few days in intensive care, or behind the door of doors the timeless will receive you.

This text has been translated with DeepL (www.deepl.com).

Bibliographical references

All libretti sourced 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 in-depth analyses by Anselm Hartinger (English translations/editing by Alice Noger-Gradon/Mary Carozza) based on the following sources:  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.

Support us

Support the Bachipedia project as a donor – in order to raise the profile of Bach's vocal oeuvre worldwide and improve access to his works, especially for the young. Thank you very much!

JSB Newsletter

Follow us on: