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Die Zeit, die Tag und Jahre macht, BWV 134a

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Title: Die Zeit, die Tag und Jahre macht, BWV 134a  
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Subject: Leopold, Prince of Anhalt-Köthen, Johann Sebastian Bach, Bach cantata, Erfreut euch, ihr Herzen, BWV 66
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Die Zeit, die Tag und Jahre macht, BWV 134a

Die Zeit, die Tag und Jahre macht (Time, which day and year doth make), BWV 134a, is a secular cantata or serenata by Johann Sebastian Bach. He composed it in Köthen for the court of Leopold, Prince of Anhalt-Köthen as a congratulatory cantata for the New Year of 1719, the day of its first performance.

History and words

The cantata is based on words of Christian Friedrich Hunold,[1] one of the notable novelists of his time, published in Auserlesene und theils noch nie gedruckte Gedichte unterschiedener Berühmten und geschickten Männer, part 2, Halle, 1719. Bach used the cantata as a basis for the Easter cantata Ein Herz, das seinen Jesum lebend weiß, BWV 134, in Leipzig in 1724. The music of the former work was lost because he had used the sheets for his Leipzig performance. Therefore, only a fragment of the cantata appeared in the Bach Gesellschaft edition under the title Mit Gnade bekröne der Himmel die Zeiten. Philipp Spitta, who wrote a three-volume biography of Bach in 1881,[2] found the printed text, however, making reconstruction possible.

The text of the Serenata is, for most of the movements, a dialogue of two allegorical figures, Time, representing the past, and Divine Providence for the future.[3]

Scoring and structure

The cantata is scored for two soloists, a four-part choir, two oboes, two violins, viola and basso continuo. Time is sung by a tenor, Divine Providence by an alto;[1] only the final of eight movements employs the choir.

  1. Recitativo (tenor, alto): Die Zeit, die Tag und Jahre macht
  2. Aria (tenor, strings): Auf, Sterbliche, lasset ein Jauchzen ertönen
  3. Recitativo (tenor, alto, oboes): So bald, als dir die Sternen hold
  4. Aria (alto, tenor, strings): Es streiten, es siegen, die künftigen Zeiten
  5. Recitativo (alto, tenor): Bedenke nur, beglücktes Land
  6. Aria (alto): Der Zeiten Herr hat viel vergnügte Stunden
  7. Recitativo (tenor, alto): Hilf, Höchster, hilf, daß mich die Menschen preisen
  8. Coro: Ergetzet auf Erden, erfreuet von oben[3]


The cantata develops from a sequence of recitatives and arias to a final chorus. This structure is similar to other cantatas Bach composed at Köthen, but is unlike most of his church cantatas.

The dialog recitatives are mostly secco recitatives, accompanied only by the continuo. The first aria of Time is dominated by the first oboe. The second aria is a duet talking about the competition of the times, illustrated by figurations in the first violins. In the last aria, the voice of Divine Providence is accompanied only by the continuo in ostinato motives and can freely express the Harmonie der Seelen (harmony of the souls).[3]

The cantata culminates in a choral movement opened by the tenor's Ergetzet auf Erden (Give pleasure terrestrial), followed by the alto's erfreuet von oben (give gladness celestial), then all voices sing together in homophony Glückselige Zeiten, vergnüget dies Haus! (O fortunate ages, bring joy to this house). The pattern is repeated two more times, increasing in richness. The middle section of the movement is again started by alto and tenor, but this time together. On the following words, sie blühen, sie leben (they flourish, they live), a fugal development of all voices begins, quite similar to the opening chorus of Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben, BWV 147, a fast succession of the voices and a long melisma on the word leben, creating lively music. Alto and tenor start a fugue twice more, singing increasingly embellished lines on durchlauchtigsten Seelen (most illustrious spirits). Close to the end of the middle section all voices shout together the word "ruft" (shout) twice, accented by a following rest. Then, the complete first part is repeated da capo.[3][4]




The first source is the score.

General sources are found for the Bach cantatas. Several databases provide additional information on each single cantata:

  • Cantata BWV 134a Die Zeit, die Tag und Jahre macht history, scoring, sources for text and music, translations to various languages, discography, discussion, bach-cantatas website
  • Die Zeit, die Tag und Jahre macht history, scoring, Bach website (German)
  • University of Vermont
  • University of Alberta
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