Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit, BWV 106
Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit (God's time is the very best time), BWV 106, also known as Actus tragicus, is an early sacred cantata composed by Johann Sebastian Bach in Mühlhausen, intended for a funeral.
|Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit|
|Church cantata by J. S. Bach|
|Other name||Actus tragicus|
|Vocal||SATB solo and choir|
The earliest source for the composition is a copied manuscript dated 1768, therefore the date of the composition is not certain. Research leads to a funeral of a former mayor of Mühlhausen on 16 September 1708. The text is a carefully compiled juxtaposition of biblical texts, three quotations from the Old Testament and four from the New Testament, combined with funeral hymns, of which two are sung and one is quoted instrumentally, and some additions by an anonymous author. Bach scored the work for four vocal parts and a small ensemble of Baroque instruments, two recorders, two violas da gamba and continuo. The work is opened by an instrumental Sonatina, followed by through-composed sections which have been assigned to four movements. The structure is symmetrical around a turning point, when the lower voices, who contemplate the Old Covenant, are overcome by a soprano calling for Jesus.
Although Bach's manuscript is lost, the work is agreed to be one of the earliest Bach cantatas, probably composed during the year he spent in Mühlhausen 1707/1708 as organist of the Divi Blasii church, at the age of 22. Various funerals known to have taken place at this time have been proposed as the occasion for the composition, for example that of his uncle Tobias Lämmerhirt from his mother's family, who died in Erfurt on 10 August 1707, and that of Adolph Strecker, a former mayor of Mühlhausen, whose funeral was 16 September 1708.
The earliest surviving manuscript, in the hand of Christian Friedrich Penzel, was copied in 1768 after Bach's death. It introduced the title Actus tragicus. The cantata was published in 1876 as part of the first complete edition of Bach's works: the Bach-Gesellschaft-Ausgabe, edited by Wilhelm Rust.
The text consists of different Bible passages from the Old and New Testament, as well as individual verses of hymns by Martin Luther and Adam Reusner, which all together refer to finitude, preparation for death and dying. There are two distinct parts to the cantata: the view of the Old Testament on death shown in the first part is confronted by that of the New Testament in the second part, leading to a symmetrical structure. The juxtaposition of texts from the Old and New Testament appeared before in the Christliche Betschule (Christian school of prayer) by Johann Olearius. Markus Rathey, professor at the Yale Institute of Sacred Music, has argued that the sermon given at the funeral of Strecker is similar in ideas to the themes of the cantatas. This may be an indication that Bach composed the work for this occasion.
Structure and scoring
Bach scored the cantata for four vocal parts (soprano (S), alto (A), tenor (T), and bass (B)) and a chamber ensemble of Baroque instruments: two alto recorders (Fl), two violas da gamba (Vg), basso continuo. The duration is given as 23 minutes.
The sections comprising the cantata are traditionally grouped into four movements. The musicologist Carol Traupman-Carr notes: "Although movements are marked by tempo changes, occasionally key changes, meter changes, and double bar lines, Cantata 106 appears to be a continuous work. Bach helps create a more seamless effect by occasionally resolving the cadence of one section at the downbeat of another, thus blurring the beginnings and endings of traditional movements." The keys and tempo markings are taken from the first publication. The keys in the Neue Bach-Ausgabe and other more recent publications start in F major.
|1||Sonatina||2Fl 2Vg||E♭ major||Molto adagio|
|2||2a||Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit||Chorus||SATB||2Fl 2Vg|
|2b||Ach, Herr, lehre uns bedenken||Psalms 90:12||Arioso||T||2Fl 2Vg||C minor||Lento|
|2c||Bestelle dein Haus||Isaiah 38:1||Aria||B||2Fl 2Vg||C minor||3|
|2d||Es ist der alte Bund|
Ja, komm, Herr Jesu, komm!
Ich hab mein Sach Gott heimgestellt (instrumental)
|Jesus Sirach 14:17|
|Chorus & Solo||ATB S||2Fl 2Vg||F minor||Andante|
|3||3a||In deine Hände befehl ich meinen Geist|
du hast mich erlöset, Herr, du getreuer Gott.
|3b||Heute wirst du mit mir im Paradies sein|
Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin
Martin Luther after Nunc dimittis
|Arioso & chorale||B A||2Vg||C minor|
|4||Glorie, Lob, Ehr und Herrlichkeit||Adam Reusner||Chorus||SATB||2Fl 2Vg||E♭ major|
The first vocal movement combines several aspects of getting ready to die, based mostly on texts from the Old Testament. Bach expresses their ideas in a variety of musical form and scoring. The movement opens (2a) on a text in free poetry, "Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit" (God's time is the best of all times). The chorus has no initial tempo marking, but has a fugal section marked Allegro, and the end is Adagio assai.
The thought from Psalm 90 (2b), "Ach, Herr, lehre uns bedenken, daß wir sterben müssen" (Ah, Lord, teach us to consider that we must die) is rendered as an arioso of the tenor, marked Lento. The melodic line is broken by rests of reflection.
The warning to be prepared for death (2c) from Isaiah, "Bestelle dein Haus; denn du wirst sterben" (Put your house in order; for you will die), is performed as an aria by the bass, marked Vivace. Arpeggios of the recorder accompany the voice which has been described as "evocative of the command of God".
Marked Andante, the movement concludes (2d) with the central piece in the symmetrical composition. It presents a contrast: while the lower choral voices recall the Old Covenant, "Es ist der alte Bund: Mensch, du mußt sterben!" (It is the ancient law: human, you must die!), based on Jesus Sirach, the solo soprano turns to accepting death as a union with Jesus, singing three times "Ja, komm, Herr Jesu, komm!" (Yes, come, Lord Jesus!). The personal decision is supported by the instrumental quotation in the recorders of Johann Leon's hymn "Ich hab mein Sach Gott heimgestellt" (I have brought my affairs home to God). The final call to Jesus closes the movement, leading to a long rest. The musicologist Wendy Heller writes:
The second vocal movement is a similar combination of ideas, now mostly from the New Testament. It quotes twice what Jesus said on the cross according to the Gospel of Luke. The first quotation (3a), "In deine Hände befehl ich meinen Geist" (Into Your hands I commit my spirit), with an added explanation "du hast mich erlöset, Herr, du getreuer Gott" (You have redeemed me, Lord, faithful God), from Psalm 31, is rendered as an alto aria.
The second quotation (3b), "Heute wirst du mit mir im Paradies sein" (Today you will be with Me in Paradise), is a bass arioso, supported by Martin Luther's hymn "Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin" (With peace and joy I depart), after the Nunc dimittis (also following Luke), sung by the alto as a cantus firmus.
The work concludes with the closing seventh stanza of Adam Reusner's hymn "In dich hab ich gehoffet, Herr", "Glorie, Lob, Ehr und Herrlichkeit" (Glory, praise, honor, and majesty), as a choral movement, but not a simple four-part setting. Introduced by an instrumental passage recalling motifs from the Sonatina, the first lines of the hymn are set for four parts. The movement ends in a double fugue on Amen marked Allegro. The musicologist Julian notes that the fugal section became the "major focus of the piece".
The cantata can be performed with only four singers, as in the recording by Joshua Rifkin, while other recordings feature a choir with multiple voices to a part. The following entries are taken from the listing on the Bach Cantatas Website. Choirs with one voice per part (OVPP) and instrumental groups playing period instruments in historically informed performances are marked by green background.
|Title||Conductor / Choir / Orchestra||Soloists||Label||Year||Choir type||Instr.|
|Cantata BWV 106||Günther RaminThomanerchorGewandhausorchester||
|J. S. Bach: Kantaten 106 · 182||Jürgen JürgensMonteverdi-ChorLeonhardt-Consort||
|Les Grandes Cantates de J.S. Bach Vol. 19||Fritz WernerHeinrich-Schütz-Chor HeilbronnPforzheim Chamber Orchestra||
|Johann Sebastian Bach: Kantaten "Actus Tragicus", BWV 106||Karl RichterMünchener Bach-ChorMünchener Bach-Orchester||
|Die Bach Kantate Vol. 68||Helmuth RillingGächinger KantoreiBach-Collegium Stuttgart||
|J. S. Bach: Das Kantatenwerk • Complete Cantatas • Les Cantates, Folge / Vol. 26||Gustav Leonhardt
|Bach: Actus Tragicus – Cantatas 106, 131, 99, 56, 82 & 158||Joshua RifkinThe Bach Ensemble||
|Bach: Funeral Cantatas||John Eliot GardinerMonteverdi ChoirEnglish Baroque Soloists||
|J. S. Bach: Cantatas Vol. 2||Masaaki SuzukiBach Collegium Japan||
|Bach Edition Vol. 8 – Cantatas Vol. 3||Pieter Jan LeusinkHolland Boys ChoirNetherlands Bach Collegium||
|Bach: Actus Tragicus – Cantatas BWV 4, 12, 106 & 196||Konrad JunghänelCantus Cölln||
||Harmonia Mundi France||2000||OVPP||Period|
- "BWV" is Bach-Werke-Verzeichnis, a thematic catalogue of Bach's works.
- Dellal, Pamela. "BWV 106 – Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit (Actus Tragicus)". Emmanuel Music. Retrieved 13 February 2016.
- Isoyama, Tadashi (1995). "Cantata No.106: Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit (BWV 106)" (PDF). Bach Cantatas Website. pp. 5, 7–8. Retrieved 13 February 2016.
- Rathey, Markus (2006). "Bach, a Funeral and the Lamb of God: Notes on recent research" (PDF). Prism. Yale Institute of Sacred Music. 15 (3). Retrieved 25 February 2016.
- Joh. Seb. Bach's Kirchencantaten ; Bd. 11 / No. 101 – 110. Universitätsbibliothek Heidelberg. 1876. Retrieved 8 April 2013.
- Dürr, Alfred (1981). Die Kantaten von Johann Sebastian Bach (in German). 1 (4 ed.). Deutscher Taschenbuchverlag. pp. 447–450. ISBN 3-423-04080-7.
- Wendy, Heller (2015). ""Aus eigener Erfahrung redet": Bach, Luther, and Mary's Voice in the Magnificat, BWV 243" (PDF). bachnetwork.co.uk. Retrieved 13 February 2016.
- Bischof, Walter F. "BWV 106 Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit / Actus tragicus". University of Alberta. Retrieved 13 February 2016.
- "God's own time is the time appointed / Actus tragicus. Trauermusik / BWV 106, 1707/1708". Carus-Verlag. Retrieved 25 February 2016.
- Traupman-Carr, Carol (2006). "Cantata BWV 106 Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit". The Bach Choir of Bethlehem. Retrieved 24 February 2016.
- Towe, Teri Noel. "The Portrait in Erfurt Alleged to Depict Bach, the Weimar Concertmeister". The Face Of Bach. Archived from the original on 16 July 2011. Retrieved 28 April 2014.
- Mincham, Julian (2010). "Chapter 79 BWV 106 Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit / God's time is the best time. (Actus tragicus)". jsbachcantatas.com. Retrieved 13 February 2016.
- Wolff, Christoph (1995). "Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit, BWV 106" (PDF). Bach Cantatas Website. pp. 11–14. Retrieved 13 February 2016.
- Dürr, Alfred (2006). The Cantatas of J. S. Bach: With Their Librettos in German-English Parallel Text. Translated by Richard D. P. Jones. Oxford University Press. pp. 758–760. ISBN 978-0-19-929776-4.
- Oron, Aryeh. "Cantata BWV 106 Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit (Actus Tragicus)". Bach Cantatas Website. Retrieved 13 February 2016.
- Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit, BWV 106: performance by the Netherlands Bach Society (video and background information)
- Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit, BWV 106: Scores at the International Music Score Library Project
- God's time is the very best time (Actus tragicus) BWV 106; BC B 18 / Sacred cantata (Funeral)) Bach Digital on Bach digital
- Cantata BWV 106 – Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit (Johann Sebastian Bach) ChoralWiki
- Bach Cantata Gottes Zeit (Actus Tragicus) – BWV 106 score Downloadable score (pdf) with modern clefs by atticbooks, 2016
- Brian Robins: Johann Sebastian Bach / Cantata No. 106, "Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit," ("Actus Tragicus"), BWV 106 (BC B18) AllMusic
- Joe Hickman: A Performers Guide To J.S. Bach's Cantata BWV 106 in The Choral Journal, Vol. 27, No. 2 (September 1986), pp. 15–18, American Choral Directors Association