Tue Rechnung! Donnerwort

Tue Rechnung! Donnerwort

BWV 168 performed by the Netherlands Bach Society
conducted by Shunske Sato
Walloon Church, Amsterdam

  • Menu
  • 1. O Ewigkeit (Arie)

Behind the music

Story
Story
Texts
Texts
Credits
Credits

Spare your debtors

In this cantata, Bach preaches the most economical gospel

You cannot serve God and money at the same time, at least according to the Gospel of St Luke. This cantata from 1725, to words by Salomon Franck, bombards you with financial metaphors. As a believer, how do you justify yourself to God, the keeper of the earthly purse?

This financial explanation of God’s judgement may sound strange to us, but it is logical that Bach opts for precisely this dimension. Bach wrote the work for 29 July 1752, the ninth Sunday after Trinity. As was the case for all Sundays, the Bible reading for this date was fixed: the first nine verses of the Gospel of St Luke, in which Jesus not only speaks the aforementioned words, but also tells a mysterious financial parable, which has caused a great deal of theological ink to flow.

Jesus compares his disciples to a steward, or asset manager, who was dismissed by his master for financial misconduct. When he heard this, the steward ran to his master’s debtors and quickly wrote off part of their debts, hoping to be able to count on their hospitality after his dismissal. Although his master thus incurred losses, he complimented the steward, grudgingly acknowledging his exceptional shrewdness.

 The function fulfilled by each element is unclear. Who does the master stand for, and who do the debtors represent? In this cantata, the librettist Salomon Franck opts for a loophole; rather than a literal interpretation of the parable, he makes his own connections between the business world and God. Franck’s background as a lawyer came in handy. His moral is simple: spare your debtors and God will spare you in turn.

Bach preaches the gospel of financial ethics through musical means. Following a tempestuous aria, which addresses the frightening judgement of God, the instrumentation dwindles a bit at a time. In the clever penultimate section for soprano, alto and bass group, Bach’s musical efficiency reaches a climax. Above a much repeated bass line, the soprano and alto sing in canon a lot; polyphony reduced to its basic elements. It is only in the austere closing chorale that all the voices come together for the first time.

BWV
168
Title
Tue Rechnung! Donnerwort
Instrument
alto, bass, soprano, tenor
Genre
cantatas
Year
1725
City
Leipzig
Lyricist
Salomon Franck
Occasion
9th Sunday after Trinity
First performance
29 July 1725

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Vocal texts

Original

1. Arie (Bass)
Tue Rechnung! Donnerwort,
das die Felsen selbst zerspaltet,
Wort, wovon mein Blut erkaltet!
Tue Rechnung! Seele, fort!
Ach, du mußt Gott wiedergeben
seine Güter, Leib und Leben!
Tue Rechnung! Donnerwort!

2. Recitativ (Tenor)
Es ist nur fremdes Gut,
was ich in diesem Leben habe;
Geist, Leben, Mut und Blut
und Amt und Stand ist meines Gottes Gabe,
es ist mir zum Verwalten
und treulich damit hauszuhalten
von hohen Händen anvertraut.
Ach! aber ach! mir graut,
wenn ich in mein Gewissen gehe
und meine Rechnungen
so voll Defekte sehe!
Ich habe Tag und Nacht
die Güter, die mir Gott verliehen,
kaltsinnig durchgebracht!
Wie kann ich dir, gerechter Gott, entfliehen?
Ich rufe flehentlich:
Ihr Berge fallt! ihr Hügel, dekket mich
vor Gottes Zorngerichte
und vor dem Blitz von seinem Angesichte!

3. Arie (Tenor)
Kapital und Interessen,
meine Schulden groß und klein
müssen einst verrechnet sein.
Alles, was ich schuldig blieben,
ist in Gottes Buch geschrieben
als mit Stahl und Demantstein.

4. Recitativ (B)
Jedoch, erschrocknes Herz, leb und verzage nicht!
Tritt freudig vor Gericht!
Und überführt dich dein Gewissen,
du werdest hier verstummen müssen,
so schau den Bürgen an,
der alle Schulden abgetan!
Es ist bezahlt und völlig abgeführt,
was du, o Mensch, in Rechnung schuldig blieben;
des Lammes Blut, o großes Lieben!
hat deine Schuld durchstrichen
und dich mit Gott verglichen!
Es ist bezahlt, du bist quittiert!
Indessen, weil du weißt,
daß du Haushalter seist,
so sei bemüht und unvergessen,
den Mammon klüglich anzuwenden,
den Armen wohlzutun,
so wirst du, wenn sich
Zeit und Leben enden,
in Himmelshütten sicher ruhn.

5. Duett (Sopran, Alt)
Herz, zerreiß des Mammons Kette!
Hände, streuet Gutes aus!
Machet sanft mein Sterbebette,
bauet mir ein festes Haus,
das im Himmel ewig bleibet,
wenn der Erden Gut zerstäubet.

6. Choral
Stärk mich mit deinem Freudengeist,
heil mich mit deinen Wunden,
wasch mich mit deinem Todesschweiß
in meiner letzten Stunden;
und nimm mich einst, wenn dirs gefällt,
in wahrem Glauben von der Welt
zu deinen Auserwählten.

Translation

1. Aria
Give an account of thyself! Thundrous words,
that even cleave the cliffs in two,
words that make my blood run cold!
Give an account of thyself! Soul, go forth!
Ah, you must return to God
His possessions, body and life.
Give an account of thyself! Thundrous words!

2. Recitative
They are but borrowed goods,
the things I have in this life:
spirit, life, will and blood
and post and rank are gifts from my God,
exalted hands have entrusted them to me
that I might manage
and administer them faithfully.
Alas! But alas! I shudder
when I inspect my conscience
and see my accounts
so full of errors!
Day and night
I have callously squandered
the things that God has lent me!
How can I, righteous God, escape Thee?
Fervently I cry:
mountains, fall on me! Hills, protect me
from God’s angry judgement
and the flash of His countenance!

3. Aria
Capital and interest,
my debts, both large and small,
must one day be reckoned up.
All for which I’m still in debt
is written in God’s book
as with steel and diamond.

4. Recitatief
Yet, O frightened heart, live and do not despair!
Step gladly before the court!
And if your conscience convicts you,
you must be silent here;
gaze on your guarantor,
He has disposed of all your debts!
All is repaid and wiped clean
that you, O man, still owed.
The lamb’s blood, O mighty love!
has cancelled out your debt
and has settled all with God.
It is repaid, you are cleared!
Meanwhile,
because you know
that you are a steward,
be concerned and ever mindful
to make prudent use of Mammon
to benefit the poor,
and you shall, when time and life both end,
rest secure in heaven’s shelter.

5. Duet
Burst the bonds of Mammon, O heart,
hands, scatter good abroad!
Make soft my death-bed,
build for me a solid house,
that will last in heaven forever,
when all earth’s goods are scattered.

6. Koraal
Strengthen me with Thy spirit’s joy,
heal me with Thy wounds,
wash me with Thy sweat of death
in my final hour;
and take me, when it pleases Thee,
in true faith from the world
to Thy chosen people.

Credits

  • Release date
    10 August 2023
  • Recording date
    26 August 2021
  • Location
    Waalse Kerk, Amsterdam
  • Violin and direction
    Shunske Sato
  • Soprano
    Dorothee Mields
  • Alto
    Alex Potter
  • Tenor
    Thomas Hobbs
  • Bass
    Stephan MacLeod
  • Violin 2
    Pieter Affourtit
  • Viola
    Femke Huizinga
  • Cello
    Lucia Swarts
  • Double bass
    Robert Franenberg
  • Oboe d’amore
    Marcel Ponseele, Nienke van der Meulen
  • Bassoon
    Benny Aghassi
  • Harpsichord
    Siebe Henstra
  • Organ
    Matthias Havinga
  • Director and editor
    Bas Wielenga
  • Music recording
    Guido Tichelman, Bastiaan Kuijt, Pim van der Lee
  • Music edit and mix
    Guido Tichelman
  • Camera
    Martin Struijf, Jesper Blok, Bjorn Tiebout
  • Lights
    Emile Groenewoud
  • Grip
    Tommie Janssen, Thomas Leur
  • Assistent director
    Lilita Dunska
  • Set technique
    Renger Hartog
  • Project manager nep
    Marco Korzelius
  • Assistant music recording
    Marloes Biermans
  • Producer concert
    Marco Meijdam
  • Producer film
    Jessie Verbrugh
  • With support from
    MWH4impact

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