From Heavenly Harmony
Consolation in Death
On Bach's Cantata BWV 106, Gottes Zeit ist die allerbesteZeit ("God's time is the very best time")
by Ken Myers
We really don't know whose funeral it was. For some time, it was suggested that Johann Sebastian Bach composed one of his earliest cantatas to honor the death of his maternal uncle, Tobias Lämmerhirt, who was buried on August 14, 1707. But that is now regarded as more a legend than a reliable fact.
What we do know is that Cantata BWV 106, Gottes Zeit ist die allerbesteZeit ("God's time is the very best time") is both a musical and theological tour de force. In this 20-minute-long work (also known as Actus tragicus) Bach organizes biblical texts, Lutheran melodies, and instrumental textures to convey the comforting message of the gospel in the face of death. Musicologist Eric Chafe observes that "the chronological aspect of the text mirrors the eras of 'salvation history'—the time of Israel, time of Christ, and time of the church."
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Ken Myers is the host and producer of the Mars Hill Audio Journal. Formerly an arts editor with National Public Radio, he also served as editor of Eternity, the Evangelical monthly magazine, and This World, the quarterly predecessor to First Things. He also serves as music director at All Saints Anglican Church in Ivy, Virginia. He is a contributing editor for Touchstone.
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