Gott der Herr ist Sonn und Schild

BWV 079 // For Reformation Sunday

(God is our true sun and shield!) for soprano, alto, tenor and bass, oboe I+II, horn I+II, timpani, strings and basso continuo

Composed for Reformation Day in 1725, cantata BWV 79 (“God is our true sun and shield!”) is conceptually distinct from its more famous relation, BWV 80.

J.S. Bach-Stiftung Kantate BWV 79

Video

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Workshop
Reflective lecture

«Lutzogram» for the introductory workshop

Rudolf Lutz’s manuscript for the workshop
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Audio

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

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Performers

Orchestra

Conductor & cembalo
Rudolf Lutz

Violin
Plamena Nikitassova, Lenka Torgersen, Christine Baumann, Karoline Echeverri, Dorothee Mühleisen, Ildikó Sajgó

Viola
Martina Bischof, Sarah Krone, Katya Polin

Violoncello
Maya Amrein, Hristo Kouzmanov

Violone
Markus Bernhard

Oboe
Andreas Helm, Ingo Müller

Bassoon
Susann Landert

Corno
Olivier Picon, Thomas Müller

Timpani
Martin Homann

Organ
Nicola Cumer

Musical director & conductor

Rudolf Lutz

Workshop

Participants
Karl Graf, Rudolf Lutz, Stefan Stirnemann

Reflective lecture

Speaker

Elisabeth Binder

Recording & editing

Recording date
28.04.2017

Recording location
Trogen AR (Schweiz) // Evangelische Kirche

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

About the work

Librettist

Text No. 1
Psalm 84:12

Text No. 3
Martin Rinckart (1636)

Text No. 6
Ludwig Helmbold (1575)

Text No. 2, 4, 5
Author as yet unknown

First performance
31 October 1725

In-depth analysis

The opening chorus, orchestrated with two horns, timpani, woodwinds, strings and four vocal parts, is not based on a wellknown chorale hymn, but instead presents splendid celebratory music in masterful form; here the light pulsing rhythm of the orchestra provides for a structural constancy, rather like a well-regulated valve, which could nonetheless cause the boiler to burst at any time. Free imitation and block-like sections alternate with colourful concertante-style passages that merge seamlessly into an extended doublefugue on the dictum’s third phrase “he will no worthy thing withhold from the righteous”. The setting of this key phrase echoes elements of the orchestral prelude before flowing into a magnificent quasi-reprise that surprisingly culminates in a serene restatement of the full dictum. Indeed, the listener gains the impression that Bach went to considerable lengths to present the text as clearly as possible; at the same time, Luther’s admiring statement on Josquin – that he is the only composer where the notes have to do as he says, and not the other way around – seem equally applicable here to Bach. In the version on our recording, the chorus is performed by an ensemble of only four concertists – a variant that is undoubtedly plausible considering the performance conditions of Bach’s day; indeed, this practice may well have been the norm.
Aria number two, set for alto voice, oboe and continuo, proffers an elegantly formulated extension of the opening dictum. In this compact setting, the music blissfully expresses the confidence and refuge found in God’s love, and thus the somewhat stilted text of the closing lines (“Though our foes their arrows sharpen, And the hound of hell should howl”) slips by more or less unnoticed.
The chorale “Now thank ye all our God”, a veritable hymn of celebration, then provides for a shift to the worldly sphere of congregation and community; in our recording, we therefore included the rousing voices of the audience. The distinctive horn ritornello of the introductory movement is employed as an interlude, thus recalling this theme for the listener and establishing a charming sense of structural continuity. The bass recitative “Thank God we know it, the proper path to blessedness”, then reveals a confessional polemic of the “us against them” variety: those not adhering to the right path of Lutheran faith are blinded. In view of the emphasis given to Christ as the only intercessor between humans and God, it is fair to presume that the “alien yoke” refers to the Roman Papal Church and its priesthood that was abolished by Luther. This is followed by a distinctive vocal duet in which the soprano and bass take up the ritornello theme of the first movement to declaim the words “God, O God, forsake thy people nevermore!”, while the unison violins interject with a distinctive motive of octave leaps, rather like an ostinato continuo part, to provide solo interludes. In the resulting solemn yet feisty miniature, the bluster of the enemy is broken by the child-like determination of the vocal protagonists.
The closing chorale, which retains the theme of preserving the “true path”, is lent a spirit of communal rejoicing by the addition of horn and timpani parts. The vibrant combination of strings, woodwinds and voices is particularly audible with the small vocal ensemble – in Bach’s vivid settings, the instruments are assigned an equal role in expressing the import of the text.

Libretto

1. Chor

«Gott der Herr ist Sonn und Schild.
Der Herr gibt Gnade
und Ehre, er wird kein Gutes mangeln
lassen den Frommen.»

2. Arie (Alt)

Gott ist unsre Sonn und Schild!
Darum rühmet dessen Güte
unser dankbares Gemüte,
die er für sein Häuflein hegt.
Denn er will uns ferner schützen,
ob die Feinde Pfeile schnitzen
und ein Lästerhund gleich billt.

3. Choral (mit Publikum)

Nun danket alle Gott
mit Herzen, Mund und Händen,
der große Dinge tut
an uns und allen Enden,
der uns von Mutterleib
und Kindesbeinen an
unzählig viel zugut
und noch itzund getan.

4. Rezitativ (Bass)

Gottlob, wir wissen
den rechten Weg zur Seligkeit;
denn, Jesu, du hast ihn uns durch dein Wort gewiesen,
drum bleibt dein Name jederzeit gepriesen.
Weil aber viele noch
zu dieser Zeit
an fremdem Joch
aus Blindheit ziehen müssen,
ach! so erbarme dich
auch ihrer gnädiglich,
daß sie den rechten Weg erkennen
und dich bloß ihren Mittler nennen.

5. Arie (Duett Sopran, Bass)

Gott, ach Gott, verlaß die Deinen
nimmermehr!
Laß dein Wort uns helle scheinen;
obgleich sehr
wider uns die Feinde toben,
so soll unser Mund dich loben.

6. Choral

Erhalt uns in der Wahrheit,
gib ewigliche Freiheit,
zu preisen deinen Namen
durch Jesum Christum. Amen.

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.

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