Christ unser Herr zum Jordan kam, BWV 7

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Christ unser Herr zum Jordan kam
Chorale cantata by J. S. Bach
José de Ribera 063.jpg
Baptism of Jesus (topic of the chorale) by José de Ribera, 1643
Occasion Feast of St. John the Baptist
Performed 24 June 1724 (1724-06-24) – Leipzig
Movements 7
Cantata text anonymous
Chorale by Martin Luther
  • SATB choir
  • solo: alto, tenor and bass

Christ unser Herr zum Jordan kam (Christ our Lord came to the Jordan),[1] BWV 7, is a church cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach. He composed it in Leipzig for St. John's Day and first performed it on 24 June 1724. It is the third chorale cantata from his second annual cycle of chorale cantatas, based on Martin Luther's hymn "Christ unser Herr zum Jordan kam".

History and words[edit]

Bach composed the cantata for St. John's Day in Leipzig as the third cantata of his second annual cycle, which began about two weeks before with O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort, BWV 20, for the first Sunday after Trinity.[2] The prescribed readings for the Sunday were from the Book of Isaiah, "the voice of a preacher in the desert" (Isaiah 40:1-5), and from the Gospel of Luke, the birth of John the Baptist and the Benedictus of Zechariah (Luke 1:57-80). The cantata is based on Martin Luther's hymn for baptism in seven stanzas "Christ unser Herr zum Jordan kam".[3] The words are used unchanged in movements 1 and 7. An unknown poet transcribed the ideas of stanzas 2 to 6 to a sequence of as many recitatives and arias. He did not refer to the Gospel that relates to the birth of the baptist, or to the baptism of Jesus.[2]

Bach first performed the cantata on 24 June 1724.[2]

Scoring and structure[edit]

The work in six movements is scored for three vocal soloists (alto, tenor, and bass), a four-part choir, two oboes d'amore, solo violins (the second one only for a later performance), two violins, viola, and basso continuo.[2]

  1. Chorus: Christ unser Herr zum Jordan kam
  2. Aria (bass): Merkt und hört, ihr Menschenkinder
  3. Recitative (tenor): Dies hat Gott klar mit Worten
  4. Aria (tenor): Des Vaters Stimme ließ sich hören
  5. Recitative (bass): Als Jesus dort nach seinen Leiden
  6. Aria (alto): Menschen, glaubt doch dieser Gnade
  7. Chorale: Das Aug allein das Wasser sieht


In the opening chorus, the tenor sings the melody[4] as a cantus firmus, while the other voices sing free counterpoint.[5] In the first cantata of the cycle, O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort, BWV 20, Bach gave the cantus firmus of the chorale tune to the soprano, in the second, Ach Gott, vom Himmel sieh darein, BWV 2, to the alto. The opening chorus resembles an Italian violin concerto.[6] Mincham describes the "solo violin's persistent, rocking, wave-like idea".[5] Alfred Dürr compares the vocal sections, all with the solo violin, to the solo sections of a violin concerto, as opposed to the tutti sections with the orchestra.[2] The figuration of the violin has been likened to the waves of the Jordan River.[5]

The first aria is accompanied by the continuo alone. A secco recitative leads to an aria, accompanied by two violins, which are marked solo in the material for a later performance. The following recitative is given to the bass as the vox Christi (voice of Christ) and accompanied by strings, similar to the words of Jesus in Bach's St Matthew Passion. The reference to the command to baptise is set as an expressive arioso. Bach increased the number of accompanying instruments for the arias, from only continuo to two violins, in the last to two oboes d'amore and the strings. The closing chorale is a four-part setting.[2]

Selected recordings[edit]


  1. ^ Dellal, Pamela. "BWV 7 – "Christ unser Herr zum Jordan kam"". Emmanuel Music. Retrieved 30 August 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f Dürr, Alfred (1981). Die Kantaten von Johann Sebastian Bach (in German) 1 (4 ed.). Deutscher Taschenbuchverlag. pp. 561–563. ISBN 3-423-04080-7. 
  3. ^ "Christ unser Herr zum Jordan kam / Text and Translation of Chorale". 2006. Retrieved 17 June 2012. 
  4. ^ "Chorale Melodies used in Bach's Vocal Works / Christ unser Herr zum Jordan kam". 2006. Retrieved 17 June 2012. 
  5. ^ a b c Julian Mincham (2010). "Chapter 4 BWV 7 Christ unser Herr zum Jordan kam". Retrieved 24 June 2012. 
  6. ^ Hofmann, Klaus (2002). "Christ unser Herr zum Jordan kam, BWV 7 / Christ our Lord came to the Jordan" (PDF). p. 8. Retrieved 17 June 2012.