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Jesus and Nicodemus, by Dutch painter Crijn Hendricksz Volmarijn 

Today’s Cantata 176 Es ist ein trotzig und verzagt Ding, written for Trinity Sunday in 1725, marks the end of Bach’s 1724/1725 cycle of cantatas as well as the end of his series of nine cantatas on texts by Leipzig poet Christiana Mariana von Ziegler.

My favorite recording of this cantata is by Gustav Leonhardt, with the Leonhardt Consort, Knabenchor Hannover, and Collegium Vocale Gent. Vocal soloists are Matthias Echternach (boy soprano, soloist of the Knabenchor Hannover); Paul Esswood, countertenor; and Max van Egmond, bass. Find it here on YouTube.

Find the texts & translations here, and the score here.

The Gospel story for this day is the story Jesus’ nighttime conversation with Nicodemus, stating that only those who are reborn through water baptism and the Spirit (or Holy Ghost) can reach eternal life, hence the reference to Trinity. Find the text of that part of the Gospel of John here.

However, Von Ziegler doesn’t talk about the water baptism or any other aspects of the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus at all, but instead focuses, four movements long, on the fact that Nicodemus comes to Jesus at night. The highlight of the cantata is the soprano aria “Dein sonst hell beliebter Schein,” which very poetically embellishes on Nicodemus’ wish for the sun to go under.

Only in the last aria do the words “was Jesus verspricht” (what Jesus promises) turn up, and is there a short reference to the Holy Trinity.  To make the reference more clear, the closing chorale ends with the following text, almost as a Roman doxology, so that everyone is clear that it is indeed Trinity today:

Gott Vater, Sohn und Heilger Geist,
Der Frommen Schutz und Retter,
Ein Wesen drei Personen.

(God the Father, son and holy spirit
protector and saviour of the devout
one being, three persons.)

Wieneke Gorter, May 27, 2018.