BWV 174 was composed for Whit Monday (the day after Pentecost) in 1729. The cantatas of this period are notable for the settings of texts by Picander, the pseudonym of the poet Christian Friedrich Henrici. Bach's collaboration with Picander was particularly fruitful, producing the St. Matthew and St. Mark Passions, in addition to a number of secular cantatas.

The cantata opens with a joyful and rousing sinfonia taken from the 1st movement of the Brandenburg Concerto No. 3. Supplementing the original orchestration, Bach adds two horns, two oboes and one English horn, creating a familiar but surprisingly new soundscape.

The alto aria, with its text in first person, lends itself well to the pastoral grace of the two oboes and 6/8 meter. The accompanied recitative for tenor that follows holds the central point in the cantata. As the only movement set in the minor mode, a halo of all the upper strings available – 3 violins and 3 violas- colors the stern sentiments. However, at the point of quoting the bedrock passage from John 3:16, the mode turns to a sunny major.

Employing all the upper strings in unison, the bass aria boasts a virtuosic, yet skittish ritornello that depicts the stretching out and grasping for faith. The final chorale, the same tune that concludes the St John Passion, is simply harmonized.

© Ryan Turner

Back to Bach Notes & Translations