Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott, BWV 80 (Bach, Johann Sebastian)
Free public domain sheet music from IMSLP / Petrucci Music Library
Arrangements and Transcriptions
For Organ solo (Bækgaard)
|Work Title||Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott|
|Alternative Title||A mighty Fortress is our God|
|Composer||Bach, Johann Sebastian|
|Opus/Catalogue Number||BWV 80|
|Year/Date of Composition||1715|
|First Performance||1715-03-15 in Weimar|
|First Publication||1821 (BGA)|
|Average Duration||30 minutes|
|Instrumentation||Vocal — Soloists (SATB), Chorus (SATB)|
Orchestra — 3 Oboes, 2 Oboes d'Amore, Oboe da Caccia, [3 Trumpets and Timpani added by Wilhelm Friedemann Bach and included in the BGA], Strings, BC
|External Links||Wikipedia article|
For the Reformation Festival.
Commentary on the movements
- [Chorale]: Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott. A true acme of Bach's cantata chorale counterpoint, and one of the epitomes of his counterpoint in general. The chorus sings a choral motet, a series of brief fugal sections on subjects closely tied to each verse of the chorale. Around this, Bach writes a canon at the octave (22nd) with the actual chorale melody between the oboes and the basses. The highly expressive content of the minor-key episodes makes the rest of the movement's glory all the brighter.
- Aria (Soprano, Bass): Alles, was von Gott geboren. A "chorale-aria" in which the soprano delivers the chorale melody, virtually accompanied by a flourishing oboe, while the bass sings the "true vocal part," to a vivacious violin accompaniment.
- Recitativo (Bass): Erwäge doch. Secco recitative.
- Aria (Soprano): Komm in mein Herzenhaus. A continuo aria. Despite the attempts of many "realizers" of the continuo, this aria is of a rather stark and barren texture compared to the rich, thick webs of counterpoint in the preceding movement. However, the vocal line is still highly expressive.
- Choral: Und wenn die Welt voll Teufel wär. A different kind of chorale arrangement, full of busy string motion. The chorus, instead of imitation, delivers the chorale in a strong unison.
- Recitativo (Tenor): So stehe dann. Secco recitative.
- Duetto (Alto, Tenor): Wie selig sind doch die, die Gott im Munde tragen. A strange texture of Oboe da Caccia, Violin, Alto, Tenor, and Continuo, makes this movement stand out as "exotic" among the others. Free imitation abounds, but the movement is primarily concerned with sweet homophonic movement.
- Choral: Das Wort sie sollen lassen stahn. A plain chorale setting to conclude.
- Weimar, 1715. BWV 80a (Alles, was von Gott geboren). For the Third Sunday in Lent.
- A second version, totally lost, from 1728-31, for the Reformation Festival.
- The version in question. The date is completely unknown.
- Wilhelm Friedemann Bach added the trumpets and drums to the cantata after his father's death. It is a pity that this version has fallen into disuse; the problems of balance in the first movement's canon could be ameliorated with reinforcement of the bass, and the festiveness of the scoring certainly contributes.
Print Sources Consulted
- Dürr, Alfred. . 2 ed. Richard D.P. Jones (Trans).
- Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.