BACH: Fantasia Super: Komm, Heiliger Geist, Herre Gott, BWV 651
FULL POWER!!! The overwhelming opening of Fantasia Super: Komm, Heiliger Geist, Herre Gott, performed by Leo van Doeselaar for All of Bach, refers almost literally to the opening lines of Acts 2 from the Bible, which say about Pentecost: “And when the day of Pentecost fully came, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a mighty rushing wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance”.
The underlying melody, which Bach used for various Pentecost cantatas, is heard in the pedal, but only after the drone of a sustained note (a ‘pedal point’) has resounded in our ears.
Then – with short interruptions – we are presented with the whole chorale melody, which remains a beacon of tranquillity in the midst of the notes tumbling over one another in the upper parts. As in the much shorter original version of this chorale, which most probably originated in Weimar, Bach imaginatively draws on many different compositions. He does so, for instance, in his fervent illustration of the commotion of ‘speaking in tongues’, to which the words of the chorale also refer. Finally, all the turbulence ends in a short but powerful hallelujah.
18 Choräle/Leipziger Choräle, BWV 651-668
In the last ten years of his life, Bach gathered together and completed a series of chorale arrangements, presumably planning to have them published, just like the third part of the Clavier-Übung in 1739. It concerns a selection of his compositions from much earlier years when he was working as an organist in Weimar, Arnstadt and Mühlhausen. The collection became known as the 18 Choräle or Leipziger Choräle. Incidentally, 18 Choräle is a misleading title, as the set originally comprised 17 pieces. The eighteenth, Vor deinen Thron tret ich (BWV 668), was added to Bach’s manuscript later on.
Recorded for the project All of Bach on October 21st 2014 at St Catharine’s Church, Hamburg.
From Heaven Satan fell
I heard the death knell
Pride led him to revolt
For all his intelligence he was a dolt
He desired to be like God completely
To have supreme sovereignty
He was the chief archangel of light
Now he’s full of blight
Satan is our adversary
But in Christ we have victory
The Devil prowls like a hungry beast
Looking for souls on which to feast
He despises man
We are part of God’s plan
Man alone was chosen for redemption
The fallen angels were excluded without exemption
In Christ we triumph over Satan
Our joy is overladen
BACH: Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott, BWV 80
This sacred cantata by Bach is a combative cantata written for Reformation Day (October 31st) as a battle song of the Reformation. Military references are found not just in the words, but in the music as well, built up by Bach over the years.
I love Bach’s masterful use of word painting in this cantata.
This cantata can be interpreted as a literal battle cry urging physical combat, or it can be seen as calling each Christian, who is a spiritual soldier in God’s Army, to combat sin, both in ourselves and as we find it in the world, in others.
In the seventeenth century, there were closer links between music and warfare than nowadays. A soldier with a flute was a cliché in the sixteenth century. This connection was due in part to metaphors about belief and battle that were set to music; metaphors that had only recently become merely metaphorical. In Bach’s day the thirty-year war had only just ended – in 1648 – and this war trauma was still fresh in everyone’s memory.
This militancy is seen primarily in the words of the cantata Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott: in the chorale of the same title, written by Luther. The war metaphors with which the text begins, based on psalm 46, soon turned the chorale into the battle song of the Reformation. So no wonder it was sung on 31 October: Reformation Day, which was a festival in Saxony, in Bach’s day. The definitive version of the cantata was built up by Bach over the years. The first version for Leipzig, performed in 1730, was based on music he had already composed in Weimar. The big opening chorus was still missing, but he did add the fifth movement. It was only for a new performance in 1735 that Bach started the cantata with a large-scale opening chorus.
Military references are found not just in the words, but in the music as well. In the seventeenth century, the oboe was still strongly associated with the army, and Bach used no fewer than three in this cantata. The sound of three oboes playing exactly the same, as in the opening chorus, was a typical ‘marching noise’. The concordant chorus in unison is reminiscent of the uniformity and order of a well trained army. In the midst of instrumental tumult – as in the fifth movement of the cantata – the chorus sounds like a disciplined military unit that marches in perfect synchrony across the battlefield.
By the way, this performance by the Netherlands Bach Society has become my favorite performance of the piece. My second favorite is the one conducted by Joshua Rifkin (probably the foremost pioneer in the HIP – Historically Informed Performance [Practice] movement) with the Bach Ensemble recorded in September 1985. Rifkin and Shunske Sato (conductor of the piece we’re listening to in this post) both employ OVPP (one voice per part) for the soloists (SATB), but the tempo is noticeably slower. This has pluses and minuses. One positive, in my view, is that it allows the vocal lines to be clearly articulated and differentiated contrasting with the instruments. However, one potential negative is that it can get a bit too languid and the performance may lose some of its dynamic impact on listeners. Also, the instruments seem much more in the background and softer in the Rifkin recording than in this performance conducted by Sato. You can enjoy the Rifkin recording here.
Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott (“A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”), BWV 80 (also: BWV 80.3), is a chorale cantata for Reformation Day by Johann Sebastian Bach. He reworked it from one of his Weimar cantatas, Alles, was von Gott geboren, BWV 80a (also: BWV 80.1). The first Leipzig version of the church cantata, BWV 80b (also: BWV 80.2), may have been composed as early as 1723, some five months after Bach had moved to Leipzig. Some years later he reworked the cantata one more time, writing an extended chorale fantasia as its opening movement. The text of the BWV 80a version was written by Salomon Franck and contained one stanza of Martin Luther‘s hymn “Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott“; for his chorale cantata versions, BWV 80b and 80, Bach added the complete text of this Lutheran hymn.
Bach scored the cantata for four vocal soloists, a four-part choir and a Baroque chamber ensemble of up to three oboes of different kinds, strings and continuo.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ein_feste_Burg_ist_unser_Gott,_BWV_80
Netherlands Bach Society
Shunske Sato, violin and conducting
Isabel Schicketanz, soprano
Franz Vitzthum, alto
Thomas Hobbs, tenor
Wolf Matthias Friedrich, bass
0:00 Ein feste Burg (Chor)
5:23 Mit unser Macht (Arie)
8:51 Erwäge doch (Rezitativ)
10:53 Komm in mein Herzenshaus (Arie)
14:01 Und wenn die Welt (Choral)
17:10 So stehe dann (Rezitativ)
18:33 Wie selig sind (Duet)
22:31 Das Wort sie sollen lassen (Choral)
Cantata BWV 80
Ein’ feste Burg ist unser Gott
English Translation in Interlinear Format
Cantata BWV 80 – A mighty fortressis our God
Event: Feast of the Reformation
Readings: Epistle: 2 Thessalonians 2: 3-8; Gospel: Revelations 14: 6-8
Text: Martin Luther (Mvts. 1, 2, 5, 8); Salomo Franck (Mvts. 3, 4, 6, 7)
1 Chorus [S, A, T, B] Oboe I-III all’ unisono, Violino I/II, Viola, Violoncello, Violone, Organo Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott,
A mighty fortress is our God,
Ein gute Wehr und Waffen;
a good defence and weapon;
Er hilft uns frei aus aller Not,
he helps us freely out of the distress
Die uns itzt hat betroffen.
that we have now met with.
Der alte böse Feind,
The old evil enemy
Mit Ernst er’s jetzt meint,
earnestly plots against us,
Groß Macht und viel List
great might and many forms of deceit
Sein grausam Rüstung ist,
are his fearsome weapons,
Auf Erd ist nicht seinsgleichen.
on earth there is none to match him.
2 Aria [Bass] and Chorale [Soprano] Oboe, Violino I/II, Viola all’ unisono, Continuo Alles, was von Gott geboren,
All that is born of God
Ist zum Siegen auserkoren.
Is destined for victory.
Mit unsrer Macht ist nichts getan,
By our own power nothing is accomplished
Wir sind gar bald verloren.
We are very soon lost.
Es streit’ vor uns der rechte Mann,
the right man fights for us
Den Gott selbst hat erkoren.
Whom God himself has chosen.
Wer bei Christi Blutpanier
Those who by the bloodstained banner of Christ
In der Taufe Treu geschworen,
have sworn faithfulness in baptism
Siegt im Geiste für und für.
gain victory in the spirit for ever and ever.
Fragst du, wer er ist?
Do you ask who he is?
Er heißt Jesus Christ,
he is called Jesus Christ,
Der Herre Zebaoth,
the Lord of Sabaoth,
Und ist kein andrer Gott,
and there is no other god
Das Feld muss er behalten.
He shall hold the field of battle.
Alles, was von Gott geboren,
All that is born of God
Ist zum Siegen auserkoren.
is destined to victory.
3 Recitative [Bass] Continuo Erwäge doch, Kind Gottes, die so große Liebe,
Only consider, child of God how great his love,
Da Jesus sich
since Jesus himself
Mit seinem Blute dir verschriebe,
with his blood has given his pledge for you,
Wormit er dich
Zum Kriege wider Satans Heer und wider Welt, und Sünde
for the war against Satan’s army and against the world and sin,
He has enlisted you!
Gib nicht in deiner Seele
Do not give any place in your soul
Dem Satan und den Lastern statt!
to Satan and depravity!
Laß nicht dein Herz,
Do not let your heart,
Den Himmel Gottes auf der Erden,
God’s heaven on earth,
Zur Wüste werden!
become a desert!
Bereue deine Schuld mit Schmerz,
Repent your guilt with sorrow
Dass Christi Geist mit dir sich fest verbinde!
so that Christ’s spirit may be firmly united with you!
4 Aria [Soprano] Continuo Komm in mein Herzenshaus,
Come into my heart’s house,
Herr Jesu, mein Verlangen!
Lord Jesus, my desire!
Treib Welt und Satan aus
Drive out the world and Satan
Und lass dein Bild in mir erneuert prangen!
and let you image renewed within me shine in splendour!
Weg, schnöder Sündengraus!
Away, loathsome horror of sin!
5 Choral [S, A, T, B] Oboe d’amore I/II, Taille, Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo Und wenn die Welt voll Teufel wär
And if the world were full of devils
Und wollten uns verschlingen,
and they wanted to devour as
So fürchten wir uns nicht so sehr,
then we would not be very afraid,
Es soll uns doch gelingen.
we would still be successful.
Der Fürst dieser Welt,
The Prince of this world,
Wie saur er sich stellt,
however grimly he presents himself
Tut er uns doch nicht,
can do nothing against us,
Das macht, er ist gericht’,
since he is already condemned,
Ein Wörtlein kann ihn fällen.
a little word can fell him.
6 Recitative [Tenor] Continuo So stehe dann bei Christi blutgefärbten Fahne,
Then take your stand by Christ’s bloodstained banner,
O Seele, fest
O soul, firmly,
Und glaube, dass dein Haupt dich nicht verlässt,
and believe that your leader will not forsake you,
Ja, dass sein Sieg
yes, that his victory
Auch dir den Weg zu deiner Krone bahne!
Will open the way to your crown!
Tritt freudig an den Krieg!
March joyfully to war!
Wirst du nur Gottes Wort
If only God’s word
So hören als bewahren,
is both heard and kept by you
So wird der Feind gezwungen auszufahren,
then your enemy wull be forced to withdraw,
Dein Heiland bleibt dein Hort!
your saviour remains your protector!
7 Aria (Duet) [Alto, Tenor] Continuo Wie selig sind doch die, die Gott im Munde tragen,
How blessed are those who bear God in their mouths,
Doch selger ist das Herz, das ihn im Glauben trägt!
but more blessed is the heart that bears God in faith
Es bleibet unbesiegt und kann die Feinde schlagen
Such a heart remains unconquered and can strike its enemies
Und wird zuletzt gekrönt, wenn es den Tod erlegt.
and will in the end be crowned after death has been defeated.
8 Chorale [S, A, T, B] Violino I e Oboe d’amore I, Violino II e Oboe d’amore II, Viola (Taille), Continuo (Organo) Das Wort sie sollen lassen stahn
They shall pay no heed to God’s word
Und kein’ Dank dazu haben.
And have no thanks for it.
Er ist bei uns wohl auf dem Plan
He is indeed with us on the field of battle
Mit seinem Geist und Gaben.
With his Spirit and his gifts.
Nehmen sie uns den Leib,
Let them take our body
Gut, Ehr, Kind und Weib,
wealth,honour, child and wife
Laß fahren dahin,
let them be taken away,
Sie habens kein’ Gewinn;
they gain nothing by this;
Das Reich muss uns doch bleiben.
The kingdom must still remain ours.
— English Translation by Francis Browne (July 2008)apologetics, Bach, Bible, cantatas, Christian theology, Christianity, Lutheran, music, musicology, Protestant, Reformed, theology, Western EuropeA Mighty Fortress Is Our God, Bach, Baroque, BWV 80, cantata, chamber ensemble, chorale cantata, Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott, four-part choir, Franz Vitzthum, HIP, Historically Informed Performance Practice, Isabel Schicketanz, J.S. Bach, Johann Sebastian Bach, Martin Luther, Netherlands Bach Society, October 31, One Voice per part, OVPP, Reformation Day, sacred cantata, Salomon Franck, SATB, Shunske Sato, Thomas Hobbs, Wolf Matthias Friedrich
The United States of Babylon
Is this the place where freedom lies
Beneath the wicked cocaine skies
The land of the free
Freedom to sin and create misery
The love of God and country has long grown cold
For most in this Satanic fold
Where have you gone halcyon days
Now we live in a haze
Wrong is right and the insane are sane
This is the madness of America’s brain
Vice rules the days
Pursued with zealousness in myriad ways
Once we had a godly nation
Now it has become an abomination
Do as thou wilt has become the slogan of our time
This demonic refrain should be a crime
The strong prey on the weak
Yet Jesus said blessed are the meek
God is not mocked
This nation shall soon be defrocked
A small remnant of God’s family is still here
The Lord’s return is nearer every day so let’s cheer
Christ shall appear at the last trumpet’s blast
Godly people stand steadfast
The armies of Satan shall fall like wheat being chaffed
By the power of Jesus’ words shall they be slayed
But for now the United States of Babylon continues its descent
The only hope for America is for its people to repent
by Zachary Uram
(c) 2023America, apologetics, Bible, Christian theology, Christianity, degeneracy, global, history, poetry, popular culture, Reformed, theology, writing
Christmas in Yellowstone
I arrive at Yellowstone
On a cold and sunny morning
It’s Christmas Eve
Here I will celebrate Christ’s birth
I spot a majestic eagle
If only I could see with its eyes
To experience such freedom and exhilaration
The eagle circles above
It’s on the hunt
Suddenly the great bird swoops down
And catches a plump rabbit in its talons
I walk into a valley
Covered in two feet of snow
My snow shoes help but my progress is slow
Pine trees tower above the ridge
I came across a mother grizzly and her cubs
I’m sure to stay upwind from them
My distance is respectful
The cubs are enjoying the snow
I see an energetic red-tailed fox
It leaps into the air
And down under the snow
It emerges with a mouse for its meal
After traversing the valley
I come across a grove of pine trees
I’ll make my home here for the night
It has cover from the wind and snow
I create a hut using pine branches
And the tarp I brought in my backpack
Good thing I have a sleeping bag
This shall make for a cozy home
At the lake I catch some rainbow trout
I make a fire and fry the fish in a pan
I season it with a pack of herbs and spices I had
It was the best fish I ever ate
Evening is now approaching so I go back to my hut
There by kerosene lamp I read the Christmas story
In the Gospel of Luke
I feel at peace and thankful for my Lord and Savior Jesus
I am struck by the blissful silence of my environment
I enjoyed the solitude, but only for a season
I have a wonderful feeling of serenity
I am happy to be alive
I wake up after a sound night’s sleep
It’s Christmas day
I pack up my things and head home
This was an experience I’ll never forget
by Zachary Uram
(c) 2023America, Bible, Christian theology, Christianity, Christmas, personal, poetry, Reformed, theology, weather, writing
A Spring Journey
The rain falls gently down
Covering hills of green and brown
The air smells fresh and new
Like early morning dew
A songbird chirps a sweet melody
It seems to recognize me
I love being connected to nature
There is nothing greater
Observing God’s glorious creation
Fills me with elation
All this was made for man
Following God’s master plan
We must be good stewards of the earth
From our dying days to our birth
Pollution must be limited
In this task, we must be committed
Walking slowly in the park
I spotted a lone lark
It was standing near a daisy
Looking rather lazy
Eventually subsides the rain
I noticed I feel less emotional pain
A dazzling rainbow stretches across the sky
It delights my eye
I rest under a mighty oak tree
Free from misery
What history this oak has seen
Rivaled only by the secrets in my gene
I slowly make my way home
Today ’twas lovely to roam
I’ll cherish these memories forever
They shall always bring me such pleasure
by Zachary Uram
(c) 2023birds, green hills, journey, nature, oak, Pennsylvania, personal, Pittsburgh, rainbow, roam, Spring, Springtime, stroll, trees
My Broken Mind
I am crazy and barking mad
I’m quite insane
This is my sad refrain
At the turn of the millennium
‘Twas a score and three
Since I lost my sanity
Now my days are troubled
Filled with pain and woe
We truly reap what we sow
My thoughts are speeding past
It’s a superluminal race
I can’t keep up the pace
Delusions and hallucinations
Rule the day
I’m left with feeling dismay
What’s it like
To be in a psychotic state
It ain’t great
My mind is not well
Thoughts are disjointed and broken
Am I forsaken
I’ll take my meds
See my psychiatrist and pray
And dream of a better day
Sometimes I get
A dissociative event
At least it’s not permanent
I zone out
And lose all touch with reality
It’s very scary
My depression makes me lie
In bed like a beached whale
Here ends my sad tale
by Zachary Uram
Thoughts on a Sunny Day
Woe is me
From happiness I doth flee
Time races past
I’m a ship without a mast
The days are dark and filled with pain
Will I ever be sane
Days turn into years
Who can erase my fears
I cling to hope and pray
Of a future happy day
For now I’ll bide my time
And dream of green hills I may climb
With no strength or energy
I’m a prisoner of my own body
I’ll retreat into my mind
What wonders I will find
Traveling the universe faster than light
I’ll return in a fortnight
If you care pray for me
Of a day when I’m happy and fancy free
By Zachary Uram