Tritt auf die Glaubensbahn (Step upon the path of
faith), BWV 152, is a church cantata by Johann
Sebastian Bach. He composed this dialogue cantata in
Weimar for the Sunday after Christmas and first
performed it on 30 December 1714.
On 2 March 1714 Bach was appointed concertmaster of the
Weimar court capelle of the co-reigning dukes Wilhelm
Ernst and Ernst August of Saxe-Weimar. As
concertmaster, he assumed the principal responsibility
for composing new works, specifically cantatas for the
Schloßkirche (palace church), on a monthly schedule. He
composed the cantata for the Sunday after Christmas.
The prescribed readings for the Sunday were from the
Epistle to the Galatians, through Christ we are free
from the law (Galatians 4:1–7), and from the Gospel of
Luke, Simeon and Anna talking to Mary (Luke 2:33–40).
The gospel is the passage following the canticle of
Simeon. The cantata text was written by Salomon Franck,
the Weimar court poet, who published it in
Evangelisches Andachts-Opffer in 1715. The gospel
refers to Isaiah (Isaiah 8:14–15) and Psalm 118 (Psalms
118:22), mentioning "a stone of stumbling and for a
rock of offence" and the "stone which the builders
refused". The poet refers to it, stating that God laid
the stone of foundation, and man should not take
offence. Jesus is then addressed as a stone beyond all
gems. The cantata text is a dialogue of Jesus and the
Soul and concludes with a duet, asking to reject the
"world" and follow Jesus. This cantata is the earliest
extant example of a dialogue, used again in Bach's
third annual cycle of cantatas written in Leipzig.
The cantata is intimate chamber music for only two
voices, soprano and bass, and four solo instruments.
Christoph Wolff notes the "colourful and delicate
effects achievable with these forces". The opening
sinfonia in two sections is reminiscent of a French
overture, which Bach had used with a meaning in Nun
komm, der Heiden Heiland, BWV 61, a few weeks earlier.
The theme of the fugue is similar to that of Bach's
fugue for organ, BWV 536. The fugue is one of few
instrumental fugues in Bach's cantatas.
The first aria is given to the bass as the vox Christi,
who invites the Soul (and the listener) to "step upon
the path of faith". It is accompanied by an obbligato
oboe and seems to illustrate the path (Glaubensbahn) in
scales. The recitative is divided in two sections,
following the contrast of "böse Welt" (evil world) and
"seliger Christ" (blessed Christian) in recitative and
arioso. The words "zum Fall" (for destruction)
(literally: for fall) is pictured in a downward leap of
a tenth. The second aria, sung by the soprano, is like
a prayer. The middle section is only four measures
long, and the da capo repeat is shortened. The voice is
accompanied by recorder and viola d'amore.
The final duet, a love duet of Jesus and the Soul, is
structured in sections, separated by parts of the
ritornello which is repeated completely in the end.
Each section contains first dialogue, then a canon
illustrating unity. Klaus Hofmann notes: "With its
dance rhythm, reminiscent of a gigue, the music
delightfully illustrates the image of the heart turning
to holy unity".
Although the cantata was originally scored for two
soloists—soprano and bass—and four solo instruments:
recorder, oboe, viola d'amore, viola da gamba and basso
continuo, I created this arrangement for String Trio
(Violin, Viola & Cello).