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Bachs Oboe

A library of J.S.Bachs music for oboe

BWV 117 Sei Lob und Ehr dem höchsten Gut

Cantata without designation

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

“Sei Lob und Ehr dem höchsten Gut” is a chorale cantata from Bachs later working period, probably composed in the timeframe 1728-1731. It is based on the chorale with the same name from Johann Jacob Schütz. He published it in 1673 as an appendix in a work called “Christliches Gedenkbüchlein zur Beförderung eines anfangenden neuen Lebens” (“Christian memorial booklet for the promotion of a beginning new life”). The church song is based on Deuteronomy 32,3, which ends with the ending line of all verses in Schütz’s song: “…Gebt unserm Gott allein die Ehre!”

The designation of the cantata is not known as the envelope of the complete score, which often had the designation, is lost. Some hymnal books of Bachs time in Saxony and Thuringia assign the chorale to the 12th Sunday after Trinity, the cantata may also be performed for the birthday of Christian von Weißenfels in 1731 (source: Marc Roderich Pfau) - it could also be possible that BWV 117 was written for a wedding service (the complete score is more or less a clean copy which is often an indication for a commissioned work).

Anyway, “Sei Lob und Ehr dem höchsten Gut” is a masterpiece in its own right. Other than in his former chorale cantatas, where only the opening and closing movements used the underlying chorale and free paraphrasing in the arias and recitatives, BWV 117 uses all nine verses of the chorale in every movement of the cantata. Verse 1, 4 and 9 use the chorale melody (which is from Paul Seperatus hymnal “Es ist das Heil uns kommen her”), the other movements are recitatives and arias however on the exact verse texts of the chorale “Sei Lob und Ehr dem höchsten Gut”. The opening choir is a joyful dance, it gets repeated at the end of the cantata on the 9th verse, a technique Bach used in the choir BWV 248/3 “Herrscher des Himmels”.

The text of every verse ends with the aforementioned quote of Deuteronomy 32, 3:

……Gebt unserm Gott allein die Ehre!

so all arias cannot use the traditional da capo form - nevertheless Bachs mastery could fall back on his rich experiences he gained from composing his Leipzig chorale cantata cycle in 1724/25 and take this challenge, resulting in a truly special and unique chorale cantata.

The scores contain the first aria for two oboi d’amore, tenor and basso continuo. They are based on Bachs autograph complete score.

Bach cantatas website
Cantata text
Complete score bach-digital.de

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