Our cantata today was written for the seventeenth Sunday after Trinity. The beautiful exhortation of Paul to the Ephesians for generosity and selflessness is combined with the parable of the man invited to the rich man’s dinner. Both readings emphasize humility and modesty. The resultant text is unusually sunny, without any of the dark shadows that permeate most of Bach’s cantata texts.
The opening chorus, a quote from Psalm 29, is a brilliant and densely fugal work for trumpet, oboe, and strings. It is something of a curiosity that Bach, in a very unusual move, sets the whole text at the outset and then divides it up into sections for the various fugues that make up the rest of the piece. The texture, while joyous, is unremittingly dense. Clearly Bach wants to give the effect of an enormous crowd singing these ringing words. The tenor aria is a virtuoso affair both for the solo violin as well as for the high-flying tenor part. The alto goes much deeper. The recitative starts with a famous quote from Psalm 42 and then goes into the main message of the parable, that good works can be done on the Sabbath as well as the rest of the week. The beautiful aria with three oboes has a calm and warmth that brings to a wonderful close the ringing affirmation of the opening chorus. This cantata is a wonderful example of Bach’s ability to take ideas that don’t seem to have much contrast and build a convincing and moving structure of faith. The work ends with a rich and warm harmonization of the chorale “Auf meinem lieben Gott.”