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The Effect of

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Introduction

Philip Loos Jeffery Thomas T.A. Steve Lehning The Effect of the Lyrical and Musical Reciprocation in Bach Cantatas 106 and 80 Johann Sebastian Bach was an 18th century composer, not a theologian, yet there are few men in the history of the world who have so thoroughly captured God's character and even fewer still who have so passionately impressed that character upon men's hearts. While the music or lyrics of his cantatas alone are often enough to stir a man to action or reduce him to tears, it is the relationship between the two that truly seems to reflect all that encompasses God's greatness. Two of Bach's most renowned cantatas, "Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit" (BWV 106) and "Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott" (BWV 80), are prime examples of this. The two have few similarities and yet they seem to bookend much of who God is. With these pieces, Bach succeeds in a task where most composers cannot: creating a perfect relationship between music and lyrics. Through this relationship, he succeeds where most theologians cannot: transforming this perfect God from one who is simply feared, to one who is revered and adored in the hearts of men. The first written of the two cantatas, "Gottes Zeit ist allerbeste Zeit" (BWV 106), was most likely written by Bach in August of 1707 in M�hlhausen, during his earliest years of composition. ...read more.

Middle

This line, as the voice of Christ often is, is sung by the bass and simply repeated over and over as the alto soothingly sings of the assurance and peace we have in Christ (Luke 23). The cantata ends with choral lines lauding praise upon the trinity, each of which is echoed by the recorders. Then the final line breaks apart from this theme into a fugal, uplifting style to emphasize that our triumph over death is "through Jesus Christ, Lord, Amen." At this cantata's conclusion one cannot help but have deep admiration for the insight Bach brings to the relationship between our two lives, one that must end and the other that is eternal and the brief separation between the two: death. But even more so, one is astonished by the brilliance with which he fuses this insight with his musical talent all at age 22. It is truly a masterpiece. Another of Bach's cantatas, one which is probably more recognizable to the general public because of its continued use today as a church hymn, is BWV 80, or, "Ein feste Burg is unser Gott". This piece is in stark contrast to the previously discussed cantata in that it does not dwell on God's grace and mercy as it does on His power, strength and inevitable destruction of Satan's realm. ...read more.

Conclusion

When it finished, the congregation must have wanted to jump out of their seats and give their lives for this great and powerful king, for to hear it so drastically changed would have been a treat. Again, Bach's mastery in using his music to truly reflect his message is abundantly clear. Its popularity in churches today is a testament to this. Neither of these two pieces, though uniquely different in style, can be truly enjoyed to their fullest effect if not listened to as historically informed performance. The difference is not as stark in the performance of "Ein feste burg" even though the roundness of the oboe d'amore is noticeable, but it is the tenderness of the viola da gambas and unique sound of the flautos in "Gottes Zeit", especially in the opening sonatina, that is of paramount importance to the listening experience. Bach wrote 224 cantatas, and yet through cantatas 80 and 106 alone, he takes us through a rollercoaster of emotions concerning our relationship to God - from confident to mournful, from grateful to revering, from fearful to hopeful and back again. No one man can fully encompass or explain who God is, but it is doubtful that any man so beautifully portrayed as much of Him to mankind as did Bach. ...read more.

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