All of Bach: a project by the Netherlands Bach Society

Der Herr denket an uns

BWV 196 performed by the Netherlands Bach Society conducted by Jos van Veldhoven.
Oostkerk, Middelburg

Soprano Dorothee Mields, conductor Jos van Veldhoven and tenor Charles Daniels discuss the cantata.

Wedding present

Did Bach go to Dornheim in June 1708 with a new composition under his arm?

It’s a nice story. One sunny day, Bach walked with his wife Maria Barbara to the lovely little church in Dornheim, carrying his latest composition Der Herr denket an uns. The church where he was to perform his latest piece was familiar territory, as it was where he had married Maria Barbara six months earlier. Their marriage was solemnised by a friend of the family, Johann Lorenz Stauber. And today it was Stauber’s turn to get married. As a wedding present, Bach composed a new cantata, for which he had carefully selected the text, possibly along with Stauber himself. It comprises four verses from Psalm 115, in which the word ‘bless’ plays an important role. This provided Bach with some nice musical possibilities, as explained in the interview. The words were also very apt. The ‘house of Aaron’ refers to the fact that it concerns a clergyman. Both spouses were blessed, as well as their children, as it was not Stauber’s first marriage, his first wife having died the previous year.

Like the text, the cantata is brief and to the point. Without recitatives, it almost appears to be a seventeenth-century piece in the style of Schütz. But in the central aria for soprano, Bach reverts to a ‘modern’ technique from Italian opera: the da capo aria, in which the first section of the piece is repeated at the end. The powerful final movement leads up to a closing ‘Amen’, in which the four voices tumble over one another in their enthusiasm.

The idea that this cantata was written for Stauber’s wedding was first put forward over 100 years ago by the musicologist Philipp Spitta. Because it is such a nice story, it is often adopted without question. Nevertheless, opinions vary. Although the words do fit a wedding service nicely, they would be an even better match for a more general service of thanksgiving. The music clearly dates from the period before Bach became cantor in Leipzig, but a more precise dating is impossible, as there is no surviving score from that period. So we will never know whether the premiere of the piece really took place in Dornheim – but it remains a lovely story nevertheless.


BWV
196

title
Der Herr denket an uns

genre
cantata

year
1708?

city
Mühlhausen?

Lyricist
unknown, Psalm 115:12-15

Occasion
wedding?/thanksgiving

First performance
Possibly on 5 June 1708 in Dornheim at the wedding of Johann Lorenz Stauber and Regina Wedemann.

Cast & Crew

release date 4 December 2015
recording date 16 May 2015
Location Oostkerk, Middelburg
Conductor Jos van Veldhoven
Soprano Dorothee Mields
alto Alex Potter
tenor Charles Daniels
bass Tobias Berndt
ripieno soprano Marjon Strijk
ripieno alto Barnabás Hegyi
ripieno tenor Immo Schröder
ripieno bass Jelle Draijer
VIOLIN 1 Shunske Sato
VIOLIN 2 Lucia Giraudo
viola Anneke van Haaften
cello Lucia Swarts
DOUBLE BASS James Munro
bassoon Benny Aghassi
organ Siebe Henstra
theorbo Mike Fentross
FILM DIRECTORS AND EDITORS Jasper Verkaart, MaNOj Kamps
MUSIC RECORDING PRODUCERS Guido Tichelman, Bastiaan Kuijt, Micha de Kanter
CAMERA Maarten van Rossem, Paul Caspers, Jorrit Garretsen, Rieks Soepenberg
GAFFER Daan de Boer, Denny Schoute
Make-up Erica Stuyfzand
colorist Daphne Maierna
concert Production Erik van Lith, Marco Meijdam
ProducER Jessie Verbrugh

Vocal Texts

Original

1. Sinfonia

 

2. Chor

Der Herr denket an uns
und segnet uns.
Er segnet das Haus Israel,
er segnet das Haus Aaron.
 

3. Arie (Sopran)

Er segnet,
die den Herrn fürchten,
beide, Kleine und Grosse.
 

4. Duett (Tenor, Bass)

Der Herr segne euch
je mehr und mehr,
euch und eure Kinder.
 

5. Chor

Ihr seid die Gesegneten des Herrn,
der Himmel und Erde gemacht hat.
Amen.
 


Translation

1. Sinfonia


2. Chorus

The Lord hath been mindful of us:
He will bless us;
He will bless the house of Israel;
He will bless the house of Aaron.

3. Aria

He will bless
them that fear the Lord,
both small and great.

4. Duet

The Lord shall increase you
more and more,
you and your children.

5. Chorus

Ye are blessed of the Lord
which made heaven and earth.
Amen.

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