Nameday Augustus III and Dr August Friedrich Müller

Monday 3 August 2020

Nameday Augustus III and Dr August Friedrich Müller

Today is the name day for anyone called August, or at least it was the case in Bach's time. So he wrote a few cantatas for important Augusts in his life.

First up is Zerreißet, zersprenget, zertrümmert die Gruft, BWV 205, commissioned by the students of Leipzig University for the popular professor August Friedrich Müller and premiered on his name day on 3 August 1725 as a dramma per musica under the title Der zufriedengestellte Aeolus (The contented Aeolus). Its libretto was written by Picander (Christian Friedrich Henrici) and begins with Pallas Athene (sung by a soprano) setting up a celebration in honour of Müller. However, she fears that Aeolus (bass) could ruin the celebrations with heavy storms in August. With the help of Zephyrus (tenor), the god of mild winds, and Pomona, the goddess of fruitfulness (alto), Pallas manages to appease Aeolus, and those present grant a vivat in unison for the professor. (Source: Wikipedia)

The most important August in Bach's life was King Augustus III of Poland, who, as Friedrich August II was Elector of Saxony (the German state where Bach lived), and we have two cantatas honouring him. Auf, schmetternde Töne der muntern Trompeten, BWV 207a, from 1735, is a rework of Vereinigte Zwietracht der wechselnden Saiten, BWV 207, from 1726, which in its turn reused the third movement of the first Brandenburg concerto, which he probably wrote while in Weimar, many years earlier. Bach always managed to get the most out of a great melody or theme.

Was mir behagt, ist nur die muntre Jagd!, BWV 208a, dates from 1742 but is again a rework from the original BWV 208 with the same title (also known as the Hunting Cantata), a very early cantata, written for the 31st birthday of Duke Christian of Saxe-Weissenfels on 23 February 1713. The performance I've chosen by the Pauliner Barockensemble and the Leipziger Universitätzschor is the only performance one I've found of 208a. All other performances are of the original 208, not without discussion although it is believed that the music is identical. Nonetheless, enjoy listening to these August cantatas!

Cantatas

  • Zerreißet, zersprenget, zertrümmert die Gruft, BWV 205
    (first performance 3 August 1725, Leipzig period)
  • Auf, schmetternde Töne der muntern Trompeten, BWV 207a
    (first performance 3 augustus 1735, Leipzig period)
  • Was mir behagt, ist nur die muntre Jagd!, BWV 208a
    (first performance 3 August 1740, Leipzig period)

Extra information

The Netherlands Bach Society website (in Dutch) has more information and a performance of BWV 207a:
https://bachvereniging.nl/nl/bwv/bwv-207a/