So, to be perfectly honest, I chose this motet because the idea of working with a piece I already know was a lot less daunting than trying to get to know a whole cantata or motet in a short time (and I just really needed something new to think about.) However, I adore the Bach motets, so it’s still an exciting topic. One thing that intrigues me is the purpose of this composition. Several sources have suggested that its main function could have been pedagogical. When considering the text of the first and third movements, this makes a lot of sense to me.
Sing to the Lord a new song!
The congregation of the saints shall praise Him,
Israel rejoices in Him, who has created it.
Let the children of Zion be joyful in their King.
Let them praise His name in dances,
with drums and harps let them play to Him.
Praise the Lord in His works,
praise Him in his great glory.
Everything that has breath, praise the Lord,
What makes me wonder about this theory most is the second movement. I think it’s likely that Bach was thinking pedagogically in terms of texts/faith/theology as much as he was musically, but the text of this middle section is such a drastically different mood. The chorale juxtaposed with commentary feels deep and personal, and the dialogue between the choirs particularly piques my interest. The text makes me wonder if this WAS, in fact, written for a funeral, or with death in mind. Maybe not, but I think it’s worth investigating. So, my plans for continuing research and developing thesis ideas are to look into putting this motet into the context of Bach’s life – especially personal, not just professional, the context of these texts (when would they have been used and what would people associate them with?), what evidence we have of this motet being performed, and to analyze the counterpoint of the motet (perhaps comparing with other works from a similar time but written for other purposes or occasions.)