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Bach Cantata Listener's Guide

Die Himmel erzählen die Ehre Gottes (The heavens declare the glory of God)

Cantata 76

  • Second Sunday after Trinity
  • Epistle: 1 John iii. 13-18 (Christian brotherly love)
  • Gospel: Luke xiv. 16-24 (Parable of the great supper)
  • Rating: 1

If we disregard BWV 22 and BWV 23 (which were test pieces for his cantorate) cantata BWV 76 was the second cantata that Bach composed for Leipzig (BWV 75 being the first) so it might be fair to assume that he was trying to impress. This is a long piece in two parts, each with seven movements.

The first part starts with a choral movement. The trumpet fanfares the bass soloist who in turn introduces the rest of the choir singing verse 1 of psalm 19. The movement continues with a well crafted and attractive choral fugue on verse 3 of the psalm. After a recitative, there's a pleasing soprano aria with an attractive violin accompaniment. The next recitative is followed by a rousing battle aria (Out ye idolatrous mob!) that gives the trumpet and bass soloists ample opportunities to shine. After a further recitative, the first part ends with a beautiful setting of the first verse of Luther's hymn Es woll' uns Gott genadig sein. The trumpet is to the fore here too, but plaintive rather than aggressive this time.

The second part opens with a sinfonia for oboe d'amore, viola da gamba and continuo. You may well recognise it from the organ sonata BWV 528. Apart from the opening sinfonia, the structure of the second part is the same as that of the first part. Following a recitative is a curious tenor aria (Hate ye me, hate ye me well) where the word hate is given prominent and repetetive treatment! It does calm down a bit later, though. The next aria (for alto) has a lovely accompaniment with the same instrumentation and a similar texture to the opening sinfonia. The closing chorale is verse 3 of the hymn used to close the first part of the cantata, with identical setting.

Copyright © 1996 & 1998, Simon Crouch.