One of the most enduringly popular of Bach's solo
cantatas, Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen, BWV 51 (for
soprano, trumpet, strings and continuo), was originally
written for the fifteenth Sunday after Trinity. It is
thought to have been composed around 1730, during
Bach's seventh year as Kantor of the Thomaskirche in
Leipzig. Bach may have written the cantata text
himself; it does not correspond closely to the readings
for its appointed Sunday, which speak of vanity and
faithlessness, hence his addition of "et in ogni tempo"
(at any time) to the designation for its use.
The four movements are structured in the traditional
chorale cantata form. The opening da capo aria, in
ritornello form, features brilliant passagework for
both soloists, with a forthright, unison C major
arpeggio announcing the initial, somewhat Vivaldian,
theme. The intricate counterpoint between trumpet and
soprano throughout the first movement is an outstanding
example of Bach's writing for voice and obbligato
instrument. Each of the solo lines interlocks with the
other in a finely balanced duet, and abundantly
illustrates the call to "praise God in every nation."
The second movement is a recitative that begins with a
clear, restrained chordal accompaniment in the upper
strings coupled with a bass ostinato. The soprano
melody is gentle and mostly syllabic until the eighth
bar, when the bassline "walks" underneath a highly
ornate, melismatic vocal line. At the word "lallen"
(stammer) Bach displays his interest in word-painting
with a particularly elongated phrase that is both
meandering and jagged.
The ensuing dal segno aria, in an expansive 12/8 meter,
accompanied by continuo, features a largely stepwise
bassline that constantly flows upward. Although it is
nominally in A minor, no hint of melancholy intrudes.
The text, a prayer for God to bestow his mercies every
new day, is set to a complex, wide-ranging melodic line
that has an instrumental quality. Offbeats and weak
beats are given particular stress in an unusual section
where the bassline abruptly drops away as the vocal
phrases become suddenly rapturous and quite independent
of the occasional continuo punctuation.
The final movement starts as a violin duet, while the
soprano sings the chorale tune "Nun Lob', mein Seel',
den Herren," exhorting all to "give praise, glory, and
honor to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost." In a gracious
3/4 meter, its long instrumental sections are both
playful and confident, making much of imitative
passages for the violins that tumble against and tease
each other. The lengthy, concluding "Alleluja,"
rejoined by trumpet, is a noteworthy example of the
virtuosic demands Bach often places on soloists. Its
rollicking exuberance lends a particularly joyous tone
to the cantata's conclusion.
Although originally written for solo voice (bass), viol
& continuo, I created this arrangement for Bb Trumpet,
French Horn & string Quartet (Violin, Viola, Cello &