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Bach Cantata Listener's Guide

Gott, wie dein Name, so ist auch dein Ruhm (According to Thy name, O God, so is also Thy praise)

Cantata 171

  • Circumcision (New Year's Day)
  • Epistle: Gal iii. 23-29 (We are all one in Christ)
  • Gospel: Luke ii. 21 (His name shall be called Jesus)
  • Rating: 2+

The survival of an autograph score of BWV 171 allows us to infer much about the history of this cantata. For example, the fine and lively fugal opening chorus which was later to be adapted into the Patrem omnipotentem of the b minor mass (BWV 232), appears as such a clean copy in the autograph that one may infer that it was literally copied direct from an earlier (and now lost) source. A very fine and enjoyable movement it is here too. The first aria is the weak link in this cantata. A rather uninteresting vocal line is accompanied by a far more interesting and decorative violin line but still the product of the two doesn't stay in the memory. The soprano aria that follows the next recitative is a different matter entirely. A lovely violin obbligato accompanies a fine melody to provide a joyous welcome to the new year and to the appearance of the saviour. Listeners should refer to the aria Angenehmer Zephyrus from the secular Cantata (BWV 205) to see where the music of this aria came from. The final recitative is followed by a chorale setting, complete with trumpet fanfares, that is lifted lock, stock and barrel from BWV 41 (after having been raised by a tone).

For more details of the genesis of BWV 171, refer to Robert Marshall's ,i>Composing scores and fair copies in his collection of essays The Music of Johann Sebastian Bach.

Copyright © 1996 & 1998, Simon Crouch.