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Bach Cantata Listener's Guide

Tue Rechnung! Donnerwort! (Make a reckoning! Thunderword!)

Cantata 168

  • Ninth Sunday after Trinity
  • Epistle: 1 Corinthians x. 6-13 (Take heed lest you fall)
  • Gospel: Luke xvi. 1-9 (Parable of the unjust steward)
  • Rating: 3

Perhaps the major reason for paying some attention to this short cantata is the libretto (by Salomo Franck), I do recommend that you take a look at it. If one was asked to set this to music these days one would probably think the librettist to be stark staring mad! Granted, the words do take their inspiration from the Gospel for the day, the parable of the unjust steward, but the opening movement (perhaps the most interesting musically) sees the bass soloist cast as a rather demented bank manager having a bad day. (Thine accounting, Judgement Day! When the mountains split to pieces, Hark the blood within me freezes, Thine accounting! Thou must pay! All thy chattels thou must tender…) It doesn't get much better, the two recitatives in the cantata paint a picture of life as being a loan that needs repayment on judgement day and the Lord is the best bet for repayment. The remaining two arias hardly raise ones spirits much higher. It seems, to my ears at least, that Bach had some difficulty in making much of this material and perhaps he didn't try too hard! The concluding chorale setting is a good sing, however, and is a bit more spiritually uplifting.

Copyright © 1997 & 1998, Simon Crouch.