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Bachs Oboe

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BWV 69 Lobe den Herrn, meine Seele

Cantata for the Town Council Inauguration

Complete score
Oboe 1 & Oboe d’amore
Violin 1
Violin 2

Part of Bachs duties as Cantor and director of music in Leipzig was the delivery of a cantata for the yearly town councils inauguration.

Every year on Monday after St.Bartholomew Day (24th of august) the town council changed (actually rotated) and this event was celebrated with a service in the Nicolai church in Leipzig. Other than in the regular services where the figural music was performed between the gospel reading and the sermon, but on inauguration the cantata was performed after the sermon.

These performances were the rare occasions we have reports about Bachs music from the local newspapers. In 1739, after the performance of BWV 29 we read the following notice

„Den 31.Aug. ward die so genannte Raths-Wahl-Predigt in der Kirche zu St. Nicolai, von Herrn Christian Gottlob Eichlern (…) gehalten, und darauf machte der Königl. und Churfürstl. Hof-Compositeur und Capellmeister, Herr Joh. Sebast. Bach, eine so künstlich als angenehme Music, worzu der Text dieser war: CHORVS. Wir dancken, dir, Gott, wir dancken dir“

The 31.Aug. The so-called Rath-electoral sermon was held in the church at St. Nicolai, by Mr. Christian Gottlob Eichlern (…), and the King- and Churststl. Hof-Compositeur and Capellmeister, Mr. Joh. Sebast. Bach, one so artificial as pleasant music, to which the text of this was: CHORVS. Wir dancken, dir, Gott, wir dancken dir“

The cantata „Lobe den Herrn, meine Seele“ was perfomed on 26th of August in 1748. The St.Bartholomew Day in 1748 was a day before the 11th Sunday of Trinity, maybe this was the reason that Bach choose his cantata with the same name BWV 69a for the 12th Sunday of Trinity from his first year in Leipzig 1723 as a template (and the inauguration between 11th and 12th Sunday after Trinity). He reused the the opening choir, a festive work with 3 trumpets, timpani and no less than 3 oboes, on Psalm 103,2:

Lobe den Herrn, meine Seele, und vergiss nicht, was er dir Gutes getan hat.“

In the first aria Bach changed the text and the instrumentation (tenor, flauto dolce and oboe da caccia in BWV 69a) to soprano, violin and oboe. It seems that in his late Leipzig times Bach did not have a caccia player capable to play this aria anymore.

The second aria is more or less the unchanged version of BWV 69a. So he could reuse his complete score with the only changes in the recitativos and the closing chorale, the 3rd verse of Martin Luthers „Es woll’ uns Gott genädig sein“ from 1524.

Another sign of the change in performing practice in his later years is the oboe d’amore part, it is written in a transposed manner, so the player could play it as on a regular oboe. In his earlier works the parts were not transposed.

Bach cantatas website
Cantata text
Facsimile (parts) bach-digital.de

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