BWV 105 "Herr, gehe nicht ins Gericht"
cantata was written for the Ninth Sunday after Trinity, a common
occasion in the Christian church calendar. (Two other cantatas by
Bach were also written for that feast, BWV 94, "Was frag' ich
nach der Welt," and BWV168, the solo cantata "Tue Rechnung!
Donnerwort!") The work was first performed on July 25, 1723,
during Bach's time in Leipzig. The text of the cantata is anonymous.
The movements are summarized as follows:
plus horns, oboes, strings, continuo
solo and continuo
minor to to B-flat
solo, oboe, upper strings (no cello or continuo!!)
moderate to slow
solo, strings, continuo
solo, horn, strings, continuo
with active orchestral parts
to Dürr, the form of the cantata, is common to several cantatas
from Bach's early Leipzig years:
Chafe, who has written a whole book on Bach's vocal music (Tonal
Allegory in the Vocal Music of J.S. Bach [Berkeley and Los
Angeles: University of California Press, 1991]), says that this
cantata is one of many dealing with God’s judgment. We might not
quite catch that idea, unless we realize that the Gospel reading
(Luke 16:1-9) for the Ninth Sunday after Trinity tells the parable
of the unjust steward. Chafe says that Bach uses "rhythmic
and metric devices in conjunction with the antithesis of chromaticism/diatonicism
to present the complexity of the Lutheran life" (169). That
means that modulation to distant keys, especially with several or
more flats, with sudden returns to major keys with few flats; the
use of chromatic notes help to show our distance from Jesus and
our revival through our hope in the Lord.
opening movement is set in two parts, as you can see from the table
above. The opening is very dark adagio, set primarily in g minor,
with lots of chromaticism, lamenting appoggiatura figures in the
oboe I/horn I part, and occasional strong dissonances. This is consistent
with the text, though in the period following Trinity Sunday we
might be at such a somber text:
gehe nicht ins Gericht mit deinem Knecht
weigh Thou and judge us not by our default,
to this opening.
is followed by a fugue, which maintains the serious feel despite
a faster tempo and more active texture. Again, the text is the key:
vor dir wird kein Lebendiger gerecht.
for then no man alive may Thou acquit.
a short recitative, we reach the soprano aria. This third movement
is so unusual because it lacks a continuo part! I certainly
don't know all of Bach's works (though eventually, I may), but I
only know of one other example in which this occurs, and it's an
example many Bach Choir "faithfuls" will immediately recognize—the
famous aria, also for soprano, from the St. Matthew Passion,
"Aus liebe." In that number, the lack of continuo represents
Christ hanging on the cross without support from his disciples,
and with nothing but the nails holding him. Here, I haven't a clue.
I see nothing in the text to indicate the motivation for this unconventional
scoring. It does, however, create a light, gentle feel, and perhaps
the rationale is as simple as that. Here's an excerpt of the score,
plus a sample of the sound (click on the image to hear the excerpt)...