Preise dein Glücke, gesegnetes Sachsen

BWV 215 // Anniversary of the Election of Augustus III as King of Poland

(Praise now thy blessings, O fortunate Saxon) for soprano, tenor and bass, vocal ensemble, trumpet I–III, timpani, oboe and oboe d’amore I+II, transverse flute 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...

Workshop
Reflective lecture
Bonus material

«Lutzogram» for the introductory workshop

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

Audio

The sound recording of this work is available on several streaming and download platforms.

LISTEN ON

LISTEN ON

LISTEN ON

Performers

Soloists

Soprano
Miriam Feuersinger

Tenor
Daniel Johannsen

Bass
Peter Kooji

Choir

Soprano
Lia Andres, Simone Schwark, Susanne Seitter, Noëmi Sohn, Alexa Vogel, Mirjam Wernli

Alto
Laura Binggeli, Antonia Frey, Tobias Knaus, Lea Pfister-Scherer, Alexandra Rawohl, Jan Thomer

Tenor
Marcel Fässler, Manuel Gerber, Tobias Mäthger, Joël Morand, Christian Rathgeber, Nicolas Savoy

Bass
Jean-Christophe Groffe, Johannes Hill, Daniel Pérez, Retus Pfister, Philippe Rayot, Tobias Wicky

Orchestra

Conductor
Rudolf Lutz

Violin
Renate Steinmann, Monika Baer, Elisabeth Kohler, Olivia Schenkel, Marita Seeger, Salome Zimmermann

Viola
Susanna Hefti, Claire Foltzer, Stella Mahrenholz

Violoncello
Daniel Rosin, Hristo Kouzmanov

Violone
Markus Bernhard

Trumpet
Lukas Gothszalk, Peter Hasel, Klaus Pfeiffer

Timpani
Martin Homann

Oboe, Oboe d’amore
Katharina Arfken, Philipp Wagner

Transverse flute
Tomoko Mukoyama, Sarah van Cornewal

Bassoon
Susann Landert

Harpsichord
Thomas Leininger

Musical director & conductor

Rudolf Lutz

Workshop

Participants
Anselm Hartinger, Rudolf Lutz

Reflective lecture

Speaker
Anselm Hartinger

Recording & editing

Recording date
25/06/2021

Recording location
St. Gallen (Switzerland) // Olma-Halle 2.0

Sound engineer
Stefan Ritzenthaler

Producer
Meinrad Keel

Executive producer
Johannes Widmer

Production
GALLUS MEDIA AG, Schweiz

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

About the work

Librettist

First performance
5 October 1734, Leipzig

Text
Johann Christoph Clauder

In-depth analysis

In the early evening of 5 October 1734, Leipzig marketplace was the scene of a spectacular event. According to a report by city chronicler Riemer, 600 students bearing torches took part in a procession to honour the visiting royal couple; in addition, four noble “marshals” led music ensembles distributed across several balconies. The performance was a further instalment in Bach’s ongoing efforts to gain the protection of the Saxon-Polish court by composing elaborate congratulatory cantatas and, as such, to compensate for his difficult relationship with the Leipzig city council. Among the total of around twenty homage cantatas composed by Bach, “Preise dein Glücke” (Praise now thy blessings) stands out not only on account of its double choir but also due to the quality of its libretto by jurist Johann Christoph Clauder (1701–1779), which, beyond expressing the necessary flatteries, also addresses the political power struggles and the ongoing war for the Polish throne.

Of particular splendour is the introductory chorus, which employs the full gamut of festive musical formulae and no doubt transformed the spacious marketplace into a stage for musical praise. Considering that Bach had only a few days’ notice to compose the cantata, he likely reused an earlier setting written in honour of August the Strong, “Es lebe der König, der Vater im Lande” (Long life to the King now, the nation’s true father, BWV Anh. 11), a plausible choice that highlights the dynastic continuity from father to son. In the late 1740s, Bach reworked the A section of this movement as the Osanna of the B Minor Mass, which has assured the setting lasting fame.

With its ostinato oboe interjections, the contrasting tenor recitative emphasises the submissive adoration of the loyal subjects, who, in the “Bild und Wesen” (form and being) of August III, recognise his father, August II, who had died one year earlier. The ensuing aria, “Freilich trotzt Augustus’ Name” (True, Augustus’ name defieth), through its transparent and short-phrased format, jaunty syncopation and echo effects – not to mention its for Bach unusually showy solo coloraturas – aims to capture the popular style of the Dresden Opera, with which Bach was well acquainted. In this setting, librettist Clauder refers to diverse “Provinzen” (provinces) – a surprising image for the middle power of Sachsen – and also conjures up Virgil’s metaphor of a renewed “Güldnen Zeit” (golden age), thus lending the governance of August III, despite his personal mediocrity, an ancient Roman aura that simultaneously underscored the claims of the house of Wettin to the imperial throne, claims that were consolidated through August III’s marriage to the Hapsburg princess Maria Josepha.

The indulgent bass recitative “Was hat dich sonst Sarmatien bewogen” (What else hath thee, Sarmatia, persuaded) presents a clever panegyric on the prince’s rule. Reference to the constructed ancestral realm of Sarmatia (a term used by the Polish nobility to distance itself from the Slavic origins of the common people) is duly placed, and the limited resources of the Sachsen prince, who was dependent on Russian military assistance, is reframed as a virtue of his exemplary personage. In a stageworthy “Furia” setting replete with racing broken chords and volleys of scale-like figures, the ensuing bass aria “Rase nur, verwegner Schwarm” (Bluster on, presumptuous mob) showcases the futility of all enemy intrigues; at the same time, however, it makes clear the extent of the ongoing threat and even musters sympathy for August, the misunderstood but virtuous martyr. In view of the unusual rhyme scheme, it is fair to assume that the aria is a parody of a now lost work. Likewise, and bearing in mind Clauder’s background knowledge, the reference in the libretto to the attack on one’s “eigene Eingeweide” (very own bowels) is most probably an allusion to the fratricidal wars between factions of nobles that contributed to Poland’s later division and destruction.

The sole antidote to such raw violence is loving kindness, a quality embodied in the soprano recitative by two transverse flutes, whose short but persistent motif nonetheless suggests a tenacity that seems to pay off, as evidenced by the changing battle fortunes on the Baltic Sea and the Weichsel River described in the libretto. The following aria thus puts forward a standard image of an honourable reign: it is the Caesarean virtue of clemency that transforms August into “Augustus” and allows him to repay “Bosheit mit Wohltat” (wickedness with good), an exceptional act of mercy that is highlighted by the use of an upper-register basset accompaniment to support the high flute, soprano and oboe d’amore parts. Bach later reworked precisely this music as a bass solo with continuo for the Christmas Oratorio – in a setting related to the tyrant Herod, no less – a revision that numbers among the charming paradoxes in his parody writing.

In the following multi-verse recitative, not only the anniversary of the king as commissioner of the cantata is called to mind, but also Bach, the versatile composer, who can write blaring trumpet parts and courtly vocal trios with equal aplomb. That this movement also lauds the sovereign’s wife as the “Landes- Sonne” (nation’s sunshine) and protector of the “Lindenstadt” (Lindentown) indicates that, behind the words of praise, there lurked a military threat that was felt keenly in the trade fair city of Leipzig, which relied on peaceful commerce. Following the glorified comparison of the city to the seat of the muses in the Pindus Mountains, the whole of Leipzig appears to join in the resounding closing chorus, a typical rondo-form setting that praises the divine succession of the Augustan reign. The success of the evening performance, however, was sadly marred for Bach the following day, when Johann Gottfried Reiche, his loyal trumpet player, died suddenly of a stroke that city chronicler Riemer attributed to “torch smoke and the strain” of the event. Today, Bach and Reiche are reunited in the town hall museum, where their impressive portraits are on display – just a short distance from the site of their last performance together.

Around nine o’clock in the evening, the local students presented to their royal majesties a most deferential evening of music with trumpet and timpani composed by capellmeister Joh. Sebastian Bach, Cantor of St. Thomas, at which six hundred students carried wax torches and four noble counts acted as marshals in leading the music. Originating at the “Schwarzes Brett”, the procession led through the Ritterstrasse, Brühl and Catharinenstrasse to the king’s lodgings, and as the musicians reached the weighhouse, trumpets and timpani players ascended the same, as did a choir at the town hall. Upon presenting the libretto, the four counts were allowed to kiss the royal hand. Afterwards, his royal majesty, the royal consort and the royal princes did not leave the window for the duration of the music, but instead listened most graciously, and their majesties were heartily well pleased. (Riemer’s Chronicles, 5 October 1734)

Libretto

1. Chor

Preise dein Glücke, gesegnetes Sachsen,
weil Gott den Thron deines Königs erhält.
Fröhliches Land,
danke dem Himmel und küsse die Hand,
die deine Wohlfahrt noch täglich lässt wachsen
und deine Bürger in Sicherheit stellt.

2. Rezitativ — Tenor

Wie können wir, großmächtigster August,
die unverfälschten Triebe
von unsrer Ehrfurcht, Treu und Liebe
dir anders als mit größter Lust
zu deinen Füßen legen?
Fließt nicht durch deine Vaterhand
auf unser Land
des Himmels Gnadensegen
mit reichen Strömen zu?
Und trifft nicht unsre Hoffnung ein,
wir würden noch zu unsrer Ruh
in deiner Huld, in deinem Wesen
des großen Vaters Bild und seine Taten lesen?

3. Arie — Tenor

Freilich trotzt Augustus‘ Name,
ein so edler Götter Same,
aller Macht der Sterblichkeit.
Und die Bürger der Provinzen
solcher tugendhaften Prinzen
leben in der güldnen Zeit.

4. Rezitativ — Bass

Was hat dich sonst, Sarmatien, bewogen,
dass du vor deinen Königsthron
den sächsischen Piast,
des großen August‘ würdgen Sohn,
hast allen andern fürgezogen?
Nicht nur der Glanz durchlauchter Ahnen,
nicht seiner Länder Macht,
nein! Sondern seiner Tugend Pracht
riß aller deiner Untertanen
und so verschiedner Völker Sinn
mehr ihn allein,
als seines Stammes Glanz und angeerbten Schein,
fußfällig anzubeten hin.
Zwar Neid und Eifersucht,
die leider! Oft das Gold der Kronen
noch weniger als Blei und Eisen schonen,
sind noch ergrimmt auf dich, o großer König!
Und haben deinem Wohl geflucht.
Jedoch ihr Fluch verwandelt sich in Segen,
und ihre Wut
ist wahrlich viel zu wenig,
ein Glücke, das auf Felsen ruht,
im mindsten zu bewegen.

5. Arie — Bass

Rase nur, verwegner Schwarm,
in dein eignes Eingeweide!
Wasche nur den frechen Arm,
voller Wut,
in unschuldger Brüder Blut,
uns zum Abscheu, dir zum Leide!
Weil das Gift
und der Grimm von deinem Neide
dich mehr als Augustum trifft.

6. Rezitativ — Sopran

Ja, ja!
Gott ist uns noch mit seiner Hülfe nah
und schützt Augustens Thron.
Er macht, dass der gesamte Norden
durch seine Königswahl befriedigt worden.
Wird nicht der Ostsee schon
durch der besiegten Weichsel Mund
Augustus‘ Reich
zugleich
mit seinen Waffen kund?
Und lässet er nicht jene Stadt,
die sich so lang ihm widersetzet hat,
mehr seine Huld als seinen Zorn empfinden?
Das macht, ihm ist es eine Lust,
der Untertanen Brust
durch Liebe mehr denn Zwang zu binden.

7. Arie — Sopran

Durch die von Eifer entflammeten Waffen
Feinde bestrafen,
bringt zwar manchem Ehr und Ruhm;
aber die Bosheit mit Wohltat vergelten,
ist nur der Helden,
ist Augustus‘ Eigentum.

8. Rezitativ — Sopran, Tenor und Bass

Tenor
Lass doch, o teurer Landesvater, zu,
dass unsre Musenschar
den Tag, der dir so glücklich ist gewesen,
an dem im vorgen Jahr
Sarmatien zum König dich erlesen,
in ihrer unschuldvollen Ruh
verehren und besingen dürfe.

Bass
Zu einer Zeit,
da alles um uns blitzt und kracht,
ja, da der Franzen Macht
(die doch so vielmal schon gedämpfet worden)
von Süden und von Norden
auch unserm Vaterland mit Schwert und Feuer dräut
kann diese Stadt so glücklich sein,
dich, mächtgen Schutzgott unsrer Linden,
und zwar dich nicht allein,
auch dein Gemahl, des Landes Sonne,
der Untertanen Trost und Wonne,
in ihrem Schoß zu finden.

Sopran
Wie sollte sich bei so viel Wohlergehn
der Pindus nicht vergnügt und glücklich sehn!

Alle
Himmel! lass dem Neid zu Trutz
unter solchem Götterschutz
sich die Wohlfahrt unsrer Zeiten
in viel tausend Zweige breiten!

9. Chor

Stifter der Reiche, Beherrscher der Kronen,
baue den Thron, den Augustus besitzt.
Ziere sein Haus
mit unvergänglichem Wohlergehn aus,
lass uns die Länder in Friede bewohnen,
die er mit Recht und mit Gnade beschützt.

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: