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Jesus healing a deaf and mute man at Decapolis, by Bartholomeus Breenbergh, 1635

Last week, Bach gave his principal trumpet and horn player Gottfried Reiche a little break, but this week he needs him back: after the “old style” church motet opening chorus for Trinity 11, this week’s cantata for Trinity 12 opens with festive trumpets and timpani.

Listen to this cantata 69a Lobe den Herrn, meine Seele in the recording by Bach Collegium Japan on Spotify, with Toshio Shimada on trumpet.

Find the text here, and the score here.

Even though the text of the Gospel for this Sunday, the story of Jesus healing a deaf and mute man, is a jubilant one, it is still unusual that for a “regular” Sunday Bach would use three trumpets and timpani in the orchestra. Had the council complained about him teaching too much of his stern theology, being too somber, in the past cantatas? Was perhaps Anna Magdalena’s father (the principal trumpeter at the court of Saxe-Weissenfels, and most probably a friend of Reiche, who was from that same region) in Leipzig to see his daughter and grandkids, and wanted to play in the orchestra with his friend? Again, all good material for a movie script …

In his journal of their cantata pilgrimage in 2000, John Eliot Gardiner writes that the trumpet part in the opening chorus makes him think of the last seven bars of the Cum Sancto Spiritu from the Mass in B minor. I agree, but the start of this opening chorus also really makes me think back to cantata 147 for the feast of the Visitation of Mary on July 2.

Just like last week’s cantata, and many other cantatas from this period, today’s composition ended up in Bach’s top 15, in the sense that he re-used it many times afterwards, and reworked it into important other works. In this case he changed the tenor aria with oboe da caccia and recorder into an alto aria for oboe and violin for a performance in 1727, and reworked the entire cantata into a celebratory cantata for the re-election of the council in 1749 (BWV 69).

Wieneke Gorter, August 14, 2016.