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Die Zeit, die Tag und Jahre macht, BWV 134a

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base for BWV 134


New Year's Day

Die Zeit, die Tag und Jahre macht, BWV 134a

1 January 1719 (1719-01-01): Köthen

Cantata text
Christian Friedrich Hunold

solo: alto and tenor SATB choir

Die Zeit, die Tag und Jahre macht (Time, which day and year doth make), BWV 134a, is a secular cantata or serenata by Johann Sebastian Bach. He composed it in Köthen for the court of Leopold, Prince of Anhalt-Köthen as a congratulatory cantata for the New Year of 1719, the day of its first performance.


History and words

The cantata is based on words of Christian Friedrich Hunold. A novelist as well as a librettist, Hunold taught at the University of Halle about 30 km from Kothen. Bach collaborated with him on several cantatas in the period 1718–20. Hunold published the text in 1719, but the music remained in manuscript.

Bach used the cantata as a basis for the Easter cantata Ein Herz, das seinen Jesum lebend weiß, BWV 134, which was first performed in Leipzig in 1724. The music of the original Kothen work was lost because he had used the sheets for his Leipzig performance. The new text, by an unknown poet, did not require much musical adaptation. This point is explored by the musicologist Julian Mincham who notes that Bach is able to make much use of the monosyllabic "auf" (arise) in the first tenor aria of both versions. Bach however did identify scope for improvement in the Easter cantata, and revised it in the 1730s.

With the revival of interest in Bach's music in the nineteenth century, Philipp Spitta, who wrote a three-volume biography of Bach, found the printed text, making reconstruction of the entire work possible. The cantata was included in the Bach-Gesellschaft-Ausgabe, the first edition of the complete works. However, this edition, while noting its relationship to BWV 134, only presented a fragmentary version of BWV 134a. It was published in 1881 under the title Mit Gnade bekröne der Himmel die Zeiten (a line from the first tenor aria).

The text of the Serenata is, for most of the movements, a dialogue of two allegorical figures, Time, representing the past, and Divine Providence for the future.

Scoring and structure

The cantata is scored for two vocal soloists (alto and tenor), a four-part choir, two oboes, two violins, viola and basso continuo. Time is sung by the tenor, Divine Providence by the alto; only the final of eight movements employs the choir.

  1. Recitative (tenor, alto): Die Zeit, die Tag und Jahre macht
  2. Aria (tenor): Auf, Sterbliche, lasset ein Jauchzen ertönen
  3. Recitative (tenor, alto): So bald, als dir die Sternen hold
  4. Aria (alto, tenor): Es streiten, es siegen, die künftigen Zeiten
  5. Recitative (alto, tenor): Bedenke nur, beglücktes Land
  6. Aria (alto): Der Zeiten Herr hat viel vergnügte Stunden
  7. Recitative (tenor, alto): Hilf, Höchster, hilf, daß mich die Menschen preisen
  8. Chorus: Ergetzet auf Erden, erfreuet von oben


The cantata develops from a sequence of recitatives and arias to a final chorus. This structure is similar to other cantatas Bach composed at Köthen, but is unlike most of his church cantatas.

The dialogue recitatives are mostly secco recitatives, accompanied only by the continuo. The first aria of Time is dominated by the first oboe. The second aria is a duet talking about the competition of the times, illustrated by figurations in the first violins. In the last aria, the voice of Divine Providence is accompanied only by the continuo in ostinato motives and can freely express the "Harmonie der Seelen" (harmony of the souls).

The cantata culminates in a choral movement opened by the tenor's "Ergetzet auf Erden" (Give pleasure terrestrial), followed by the alto's "erfreuet von oben" (give gladness celestial), then all voices sing together in homophony "Glückselige Zeiten, vergnüget dies Haus!" (O fortunate ages, bring joy to this house). The pattern is repeated two more times, increasing in richness. The middle section of the movement is again started by alto and tenor, but this time together. On the following words, "sie blühen, sie leben" (they flourish, they live), a fugal development of all voices begins, quite similar to the opening chorus of Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben, BWV 147, a fast succession of the voices and a long melisma on the word leben, creating lively music. Alto and tenor start a fugue twice more, singing increasingly embellished lines on "durchlauchtigsten Seelen" (most illustrious spirits). Close to the end of the middle section all voices shout together the word ""ruft" (shout) twice, accented by a following rest. Then, the complete first part is repeated da capo.


  • J.S. Bach: Complete Cantatas Vol. 10, conductor Ton Koopman, Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra & Choir, Michael Chance, Paul Agnew, Erato/Antoine Marchand 1998
  • Edition Bachakademie Vol. 139 – Congratulatory and Hommage Cantatas, conductor Helmuth Rilling, Gächinger Kantorei, Bach-Collegium Stuttgart, Ingeborg Danz, Marcus Ullmann, Hänssler 2000
  • References

    Die Zeit, die Tag und Jahre macht, BWV 134a Wikipedia

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