Wer Dank opfert, der preiset mich

BWV 017 // For the Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity

(Who thanks giveth, he praiseth me) for soprano, alto, tenor and bass, vocal ensemble, oboe I+II, strings and basso continuo

J.S. Bach-Stiftung Kantate BWV 17

Video

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Workshop
Reflection lecture

Audio

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

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Performers

Soloists

Alto
Jan Börner

Tenor
Soeren Richter

Bass
Daniel Pérez

Choir

Soprano
Jessica Jans, Simone Schwark, Susanne Seitter, Alexa Vogel, Anna Walker, Mirjam Wernli

Alto
Jan Börner, Antonia Frey, Liliana Lafranchi, Lea Pfister-Scherer, Lisa Weiss

Tenor
Marcel Fässler, Zacharie Fogal, Manuel Gerber, Joël Morand

Bass
Johannes Hills, Grégoire May, Daniel Pérez, Philippe Rayot, Tobias Wicky

Orchestra

Conductor
Rudolf Lutz

Violin
Eva Borhi, Lenka Torgersen, Christine Baumann, Petra Melicharek, Dorothee Mühleisen, Ildikó Sajgó

Viola
Peter Barczi, Sonoko Asabuki, Nadine Henrichs

Violoncello
Maya Amrein, Daniel Rosin

Violone
Shuko Sugama

Oboe
Philipp Wagner, Katharina Arfken

Bassoon
Gilat Rotkop

Harpsichord
Thomas Leininger

Organ
Nicola Cumer

Musical director & conductor

Rudolf Lutz

Workshop

Participants
Rudolf Lutz, Pfr. Niklaus Peter

Reflection lecture

Speaker
Vanessa Wood

Recording & editing

Recording date
20.09.2019

Recording location
Teufen AR (Schweiz) // Evangelische Kirche

Sound engineer
Stefan Ritzenthaler, Nikolaus Matthes

Producer
Meinrad Keel

Production manager
Johannes Widmer

Production
GALLUS MEDIA AG, Schweiz

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

On the work

Librettist

First performance
22 September 1726, Leipzig

Text
Psalm 50, 23 (movement 1); Luke 17:15–16 (movement 4); Johann Gramann (movement 7); unknown poet (perhpas Herzog Ernst Ludwig v. Sachsen-Meiningen: movements 2, 3, 5, 6)

In-depth analysis

Cantata BWV 17 “Wer Dank opfert, der preiset mich” (Who thanks giveth, he praiseth me) also belongs to the two-part “Meiningen-style cantatas” that Bach composed in 1726. In contrast, however, to his otherwise rather sombre and melancholic compositions for the Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity (BWV 25 and 78), the theological focus of BWV 17 lies on the sacrifice of praise owed to God for his healing and comfort and thus embraces a music of brighter tones.

Set in the clear key of A major, the introductory chorus opens with an instrumental setting of interweaving oboe and violin parts over a quaver continuo line, ere a motet style emerges with the fugue-like entries of the choral voices. As the movement progresses, free counterpoint and brief interludes meld to realise a complete setting, whose unhurried length transforms a lifelong obligation to offer thanks (taken from Psalm 50) into an inviting prospect.

“Luft, Wasser, Firmament und Erden” (air, water, firmament and earth) – in the alto recitative, the whole of creation is called upon to witness God’s majesty. Through its balance of descriptive declamation and consoling contemplation, the movement aptly sets the stage for the touching vibrance of the soprano aria, “Herr, deine Güte reicht, so weit der Himmel ist” (Lord, thy goodwill extends as far as heaven is), a hymnic, inspiring text that no doubt would have captivated every baroque composer. And Bach was no exception. His setting, in a radiant E major key, indeed showcases both his skill and unique style: the entry of the soloist is preceded by an intense trio setting for two violins and continuo, which, when joined by the thematically equal soprano melody, evolves into a full quartet – the compositional form that in Telemann’s opinion constituted the true “touchstone” of musical art.

True to form, the second part of the cantata opens with a passage from the New Testament: the gospel on cleansing ten lepers. With exceptional artistry, Bach transforms this tenor recitative into a dramatic short story culminating in the exemplary expression of thanks offered by just one among the cured, a Samaritan – and it indeed seems to be that particular soul, ready to receive mercy, who, in the ensuing tenor aria, extols the wealth of favours bestowed. Featuring long echoing passages and a merrily circling bass figure, the dance-like movement is set in three sections in line with the form of the text. Because the head motive is unusually catchy, Bach scholar Hans-Joachim Schulze suggested it may stem from an – as yet undiscovered – popular folk tune; beneath the humble folkloric style there is certainly no shortage of musical confidence. Given the context of singing praises of thanks, perhaps no further explanation is required.

The themes of accepting the limits of human possibility and appreciating the liberating presence of mercy are further addressed in the bass recitative, a setting that interprets the healing mentioned in the gospel as a promise of future splendour. In contrast, the closing chorale “Wie sich ein Vatr erbarmet” (As hath a father mercy), is less a triumphant conclusion than a prayer pervaded by the burdens of life and premonitions of death; its text, the third stanza of the hymn “Nun lob, mein Seel, den Herren” (Johann Gramann, 1530), composed in 12-line stanzas, is of unusual length. In this recording, we have interspersed organ interludes throughout the setting – a delicate undertaking that can be understood as a reference to Bach’s introspective double-chorus treatment of the same text in the middle movement of the motet “Singet dem Herrn” BWV 225.

Text of the work and musical-theological comments

1. Chor

Wer Dank opfert, der preiset mich,
und das ist der Weg,
daß ich ihm zeige das Heil Gottes.

2. Rezitativ — Alt

Es muß die ganze Welt ein stummer Zeuge
werden von Gottes hoher Majestät,
Luft, Wasser, Firmament und Erden,
wenn ihre Ordnung als in Schnuren geht;
ihn preiset die Natur mit ungezählten Gaben,
die er ihr in den Schoß gelegt,
und was den Odem hegt,
will noch mehr Anteil an ihm haben,
wenn es zu seinem Ruhm so Zung
als Fittich regt.

3. Arie — Sopran

Herr, deine Güte reicht,
so weit der Himmel ist,
und deine Wahrheit langt,
so weit die Wolken gehen.
Wüßt ich gleich sonsten nicht,
wie herrlich groß du bist,
so könnt ich es gar leicht
aus deinen Werken sehen.
Wie sollt man dich mit Dank davor
nicht stetig preisen?
Da du uns willt den Weg des Heils
hingegen weisen.

4. Rezitativ — Tenor

Einer aber unter ihnen, da er sahe,
daß er gesund worden war,
kehrete um und preisete Gott
mit lauter Stimme und fiel auf sein
Angesicht zu seinen Füßen und dankete ihm,
und das war ein Samariter.

5. Arie — Tenor

Welch Übermaß der Güte
schenkst du mir!
Doch was gibt mein Gemüte
dir dafür?
Herr, ich weiß sonst nichts zu bringen,
als dir Dank und Lob zu singen.

6. Rezitativ — Bass

Sieh meinen Willen an, ich kenne, was ich bin:
Leib, Leben und Verstand, Gesundheit, Kraft und Sinn,
der du mich läßt mit frohem Mund genießen,
sind Ströme deiner Gnad,
die du auf mich läßt fließen.
Lieb, Fried, Gerechtigkeit
und Freud in deinem Geist sind Schätz,
dadurch du mir schon hier ein Vorbild weist,
was Gutes du gedenkst mir dorten zuzuteilen
und mich an Leib und Seel vollkommentlich
zu heilen.

7. Choral

Wie sich ein Vatr erbarmet
übr seine junge Kindlein klein:
So tut der Herr uns Armen,
so wir ihn kindlich fürchten rein.
Er kennt das arme Gemächte,
Gott weiß, wir sind nur Staub.
Gleich wie das Gras vom Rechen,
ein Blum und fallendes Laub,
der Wind nur drüber wehet,
so ist es nimmer da:
also der Mensch vergehet,
sein End, das ist ihm nah.

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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