Sunday 1 March 2020

1st Sunday of Lent or Invocabit

Today is the first Sunday of Lent, also called Invocabit. In Leipzig, the longest and most productive period in Bach's life as a composer, no music was performed in mass during Lent. This was called Tempus Clausum. Weimar did not observe Tempus Clausum, as you will see in a few weeks. All this to say that there are no cantatas for this day, and many Sundays up until Palm Sunday.

But I would not want your Sunday morning to go without heavenly music, so I'm making some personal choices for your entertainment.

There are many cantatas of which it is not perfectly known for what occasion they were created, and it would be a shame not to present them to you, so I've picked three cantatas for today.

First off is a very early cantata from the Mühlhausen period, so created in 1707-1708 for an unknown occasion. It is very likely that this is Bach's oldest cantata, because stilistical analysis puts it earlier than BWV 4 or 131. However, the oldest surviving copy was made after Bach's lifetime, in 1768. Bach was 22 years old when he composed this cantata, most likely for a funeral service, possibly someone very close to him.

From a funeral we move to a wedding occasion, and from possibly the earliest Bach cantata we move to the very last cantata he ever worked on, Dem Gerechten muß das Licht, BWV 195, dating from 1748. At the time Bach was focusing on his last magnum opus, the Hohe Messe, and this cantata is a work he made in between. He only composed the recitatives and had his copyists paste already existing chorals and aria's into the work. Nonetheless a very luxurious cantata with a rather large orchestral setting, so the marriage couple must have been important.

Lastly, Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan, BWV 100, one of the three cantatas with the same name, based on a poem by Samuel Rodigast (1649-1708), which he wrote as a consolation for a friend, the cantor from Jena Severus Gastorius (1646-1682), very ill at the time. He was so moved by the text, that when he recovered he wrote a melody to it, which made it famous and used several times by Bach as an opening choral. It is unknown for what kind of occasion Bach wrote this cantata.


  • Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit, BWV 106
    (first performance ? 1707–08, Mühlhausen period)
  • Dem Gerechten muß das Licht, BWV 195
    (first performance 1727–31?, Leipzig period)
  • Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan, BWV 100
    (first performance ? 1732–1735, Leipzig period)

Extra information

The Netherlands Bach Society website has more information and a performance of BWV 106 and BWV 100: