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Wer Dank opfert, der preiset mich, BWV 17

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Wer Dank opfert, der preiset mich, BWV 17

Wer Dank opfert, der preiset mich ("He who offers thanks praises me"), BWV 17, is a church cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach. He composed it in Leipzig for the 14th Sunday after Trinity and first performed it on 22 September 1726.

History and words

Bach wrote the cantata in 1726, his fourth year in Leipzig, for the Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity. The prescribed readings for the Sunday were from the Epistle to the Galatians, Paul's teaching on "works of the flesh" and "fruit of the Spirit" (Galatians 5:16–24), and from the Gospel of Luke, Cleansing ten lepers. (Luke 17:11–19).[1]

That year, Bach presented 18 cantatas by his relative Johann Ludwig Bach who was court musician in Meiningen. Bach seems to have been impressed also by the texts of those cantatas and follows similar structures: seven movements, divided in two parts to be performed before and after the sermon, both parts opened by Bible words, Part I by a quotation from the Old Testament, Part II by one from the New Testament.[1][2] Bach composes some texts that his relative set before, including this cantata, which was written by Ernst Ludwig, Duke of Saxe-Meiningen, according to Christoph Wolff. The cantata is regarded as part of Bach's third annual cycle.[3]

The poet derived from the Gospel the idea that thanks to God for his goodness are man's obligation.[1] A profound scholar of the Bible, he quotes for the opening chorus a verse from Psalm 50 (Psalms 50:23) and for the first recitative in Part II verses 15 and 16 from the Gospel.[1] He alludes to the Bible several times, for example telling about God's creation by Psalms 19:5 in movement 2 and Psalms 36:6 in movement 3,[2] to Romans 14:17 in movement 6, "Lieb, Fried, Gerechtigkeit und Freud in deinem Geist" (Love, peace, righteousness and joy in Your spirit).[1] The closing chorale is the third stanza of "Nun lob, mein Seel, den Herren" (1525) by Johann Graumann (Poliander).[4]

Bach first performed the cantata on 22 September 1726.[1] He later used the opening movement for the movement "Cum sancto Spritu" in the Gloria of his Missa in G major, BWV 236.[2]

Scoring and structure

The cantata is scored for four soloists, soprano, alto, tenor and bass, a four-part choir, two oboes, two violins, viola, and basso continuo.[5]

Part I
1. Chor: Wer Dank opfert, der preiset mich
2. Recitativo (alto): Es muss die ganze Welt ein stummer Zeuge werden
3. Aria (soprano): Herr, deine Güte reicht so weit
Parte seconda
4. Recitativo (tenor): Einer aber unter ihnen, da er sahe
5. Aria (tenor): Welch Übermaß der Güte schenkst du mir
6. Recitativo (bass): Sieh meinen Willen an
7. Choral: Wie sich ein Vatr erbarmet

Music

The opening chorus presents the verse from the psalm in two choral sections, preceded by an instrumental sinfonia. All recitatives are secco. In the first aria, soprano and two obbligato violins illustrate in raising lines the text "so weit die Wolken gehen" (as far as the clouds soar), adding extended coloraturas on "preisen" (praise) and "weisen" (indicate [the way]).[5]

The recitative beginning Part II is of narrative character and therefore given to the tenor voice, similar to the Evangelist in Bach's Passions. The second aria is accompanied by the strings. Both arias share a structure of three vocal sections, avoiding a vocal da capo, but combining the last section with the ritornello, thus achieving a unity of the movement.[5] John Eliot Gardiner admires particularly the closing chorale for its "wonderful word-painting for the 'flower and fallen leaves' and 'the wind [which] only has to pass over'". He compares it to the central movement of the motet Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied, BWV 225.[6]

Recordings

References

Sources

The first source is the score.

Several databases provide additional information on each cantata:

  • Cantata BWV 17 Wer Dank opfert, der preiset mich history, scoring, sources for text and music, translations to various languages, discography, discussion, bach-cantatas website
  • Emmanuel Music
  • Wer Dank opfert, der preiset mich history, scoring, Bach website (German)
  • University of Vermont
  • University of Alberta
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