Epiphany IV

Sunday 2 February 2020

Epiphany IV

Today is Epiphany IV, the fourth Sunday after Epiphany. This day only occurs in years with a late Easter.

There was an Epiphany IV during Bach's first Leipzig cycle, so Jesus schläft, was soll ich hoffen?, BWV 81 was created on January 30, 1724. The text refers to the reading of the day from the Gospel of Matthew, the calming of storm on the sea of Galilee.

The next cantata, Wär Gott nicht mit uns diese Zeit, BWV 14, was first performed on January 30 1735, a few weeks after he first performed the complete Christmas Oratorio. It is a chorale cantata, and an addition to the 1724-1725 chorale cantata cycle. In 1725 Easter fell rather early (April 1st), so there was no Epiphany IV, which explains why he did not write in that year. The cantata is based on a hymn by Martin Luther from 1524, and also evokes the storm at Galilee.

As an illustration for today's cantatas I've chosen The Storm on the Sea of Galilee, a painting from 1633 by Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669). It is Rembrandt's only known seascape. This work resided in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. In March 1980 it was stolen from the museum, along with 12 other works, which included a Vermeer, another Rembrandt, a Manet, and five work by Degas. To this day, the theft remains unsolved and the works are still lost. The Vermeer is considered the most valuable stolen piece of art.

Cantatas

  • Jesus schläft, was soll ich hoffen?, BWV 81
    (first performance 30 January 1724, Leipzig period)
  • Wär Gott nicht mit uns diese Zeit, BWV 14
    (first performance 30 January 1735, Leipzig period)

Extra information

The Netherlands Bach Society website (in Dutch) has more information and a performance of BWV 81:
https://bachvereniging.nl/nl/bwv/bwv-81/