Cantata 102 was written in 1726 in Leipzig for the 10th Sunday after Trinity. This was one of the first of Bach’s cantatas (along with BWV 101 and 103) to be published in the 19th century, when A.B. Marz published them in 1830. The librettist is unknown, though there is some speculation that Ernst Ludwig (1672-1724) may have been the author. Some of the text comes from the Bible. Composed in seven movements, Bach groups them into Part I (nos. 1-4) and Part II (nos.5-7).

The movements are summarized in the table below:

Movt. Meter, tempo Key Text Scoring Texture
1 4/4, moderate g minor Jeremiah 5:3 SATB choir, 2 oboes, strings, continuo part 1 is ornamented homophonic; part 2 is imitative; part 3 is fugal
2 4/4 B-flat major Poetic; source unknown solo bass, continuo Secco recitative
3 4/4, adagio f minor Poetic; source unknown Alto solo, oboe solo, continuo Trio sonata texture; polyphonic
4 3/8, vivace E-flat major Romans 2:4-5 bass solo, strings, continuo Ornamented homophonic; active string parts fill out the texture when the bass sings, but are clearly secondary characters
5 3/4, moderate g minor Poetic, source unknown Tenor solo, flute (or violino piccolo), continuo. Note: dal segno aria Homophonic initially; later, the flute takes on a more active role, making the texture more like a trio sonata
6 4/4 c minor Poetic, source unknown Alto solo, 2 oboes, continuo simple recitative
7 4/4 c minor Chorale tune – vs. 6 &7 of “So wahr ich lebe, spricht dein Gott” SATB choir, doubled by orchestra 4-part chorale texture (homophonic)

Perhaps because the “Zweiter Teil” contains only a tenor aria, a recitative, and a four-part chorale, most scholars and performers find the first part of this cantata the most musically interesting. Some find the first movement the most interesting because it is the longest and most varied movement of Cantata 102. This movement begins with a lengthy orchestral introduction that sets the mood of the movement; because the primary melodic material is different from what we hear later in the choir, this instrumental introduction serves almost as an independent prelude – though the transition to the choral music is seamless. The oboe melody (marked in red in the excerpt below) returns occasionally as a ritornello underneath the choral singing. A motive first introduced in the continuo (marked in green) actually foreshadows the first ornamental idea in the choir (which appears initially in the altos, then later in other parts) (shown in green in the second excerpt). In the continuo part, this idea appears as part of a sequence (marked in pink). This motive then is stated numerous times in the oboes and strings, and becomes a prominent figure throughout this first section of the movement.

BWV 102 Example 1

Two imitative sections follow, introducing new melodic material, though musical elements from the first section spill over; most notably, this includes the green motive identified above, and an undulating motive, initially heard in the oboes, but appearing later in the voices an in the oboes again. This resurfacing of certain motives helps provide musical unity in this long movement, despite the textual, textural, and melodic variety we hear along the way.

The third movement is notable because Bach re-crafts this movement as part of his Mass in F Major (“Qui tollis” movement). For our purposes, we note the reappearance of the “green” motive above, in the following passage:

BWV 102 Example 2