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BWV 23 Du wahrer Gott und Davids Sohn

Cantata for the Sunday Estomihi

Complete score c-minor
Oboe 1 c-minor
Oboe 2 c-minor
Violin 1 c-minor
Violin 2 c-minor
Viola c-minor
Continuo c-minor

Complete score b-minor
Oboe d’amore 1 b-minor
Oboe d’amore 2 b-minor
Violin 1 b-minor
Violin 2 b-minor
Viola b-minor
Continuo b-minor

With the beginning of Lent, starting after the Sunday Estomihi the figural church music in Leipzig at Bachs time stopped until eastern and the so called “tempus clausum” begun. In 1723 the Town council of Leipzig was in serious trouble, as Bachs predecessor, Johann Kuhnau passed away more than eight months ago and a successor for Kuhnau was still not found. Neither Telemann from Hamburg nor Fasch from Zerbst wanted to become the new Thomaskantor, so the council elected Christoph Graupner from Darmstadt in January 1723. However Graupner did not got the permission to move over to Leipzig from his employer, Ernst Ludwig von Hessen-Darmstadt.

So it was finally Bach who got the chance to realize his project of a “wohlregulierten Kirchenmusic”. The cantata “Du wahrer Gott und Davids Sohn” was one of the two samples of his artistry, which he perfomed on 7th of February in 1723 together with the cantata BWV 22 “Jesus nahm zu sich die Zwölfe”.

A newspaper from Hamburg praised the performance of this cantatas:

Am verwichenen Sonntage Vormittage machte der Hochfürstl. Capellmeister zu Cöthen, Monsieur Bach, allhier in der Kirchen zu St.Thomä wegen der bisher noch immer vacant stehenden Cantor-Stelle seine Probe, und ist desselben damahlige Music von allen, welche dergleichen ästimiren, sehr gelobet worden”.

On past Sunday morning the Hochfürstl. Capellmeister to Cöthen, Monsieur Bach, gave his trial work in the church of St.Thomä (because of the still vacant Cantor position) and has been very much praised by all who became witness [of the performance].

The gospel for the Sunday Esomihi is Luke 18, 31-43, it tells from Jesus passage to Jerusalem and the story of the blind beggar who receives his sight. Both cantatas, BWV 22 & 23 adhere to these to parts of the Gospel. BWV 23 was performed “sub communione”, maybe this was one reason why Bach added an elaborate chorale “Christe, du Lamm Gottes” which he took from a lost passion music of his Weimar time. He later added this piece as the final chorale of his 1725 St.Johns Passion BWV 245.

As mentioned earlier, the St.Thomas choir was without a regular director for more than eight months, so Bach decided to help them out with a cornetto and three trombones (doubling the choir parts). This entailed to transpose the work from the original c-minor key to the lower b-minor version. In this performance the strings tuned their instruments down to b-minor and Bach changed the oboes to oboi d’amore, as b-minor is a very unatural key on the regular baroque oboe. In the later 1730er years he reperformed the cantata in the original c-minor key without the cornetto and trombones.

I added both versions and marked differences of the articulations from the available autograph parts.

Epistle: 1 Corinthians 13, 1-13
Gospel: Luke 18, 31-43

Bach cantatas website
Cantata text
Complete score bach-digital.de
Parts bach-digital.de
Parts bach-digital.de, Oboi d’amore, Cornetto etc.

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