Lobe den Herrn, meine Seele, BWV 143
Lobe den Herrn, meine Seele (Praise the Lord, O my soul), BWV 143, is a church cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach. It is not known if he composed the cantata for New Year's Day in Mühlhausen or Weimar, between 1708 and 1714. The librettist is unknown. The cantata draws from Psalm 146 and the hymn Du Friedefürst, Herr Jesu Christ by Jakob Ebert to develop its seven movements.
History and text
Bach wrote the cantata for New Year's Day, which is also the Feast of the Circumcision of Christ. The prescribed readings for the day were from the Epistle to the Galatians, "by faith we inherit" (Galatians 3:23–29), and from the Gospel of Luke, the circumcision and naming of Jesus eight days after his birth. However, most of the text for the cantata was taken by the unknown librettist from Psalms 146. Movements 2 and 7 are the first and third stanza from the chorale "Du Friedefürst, Herr Jesu Christ" by Jakob Ebert, written in 1601.
The provenance of this cantata is disputed: some suggest that it may not be a Bach work because of its "unpretentious" nature and the lack of authoritative original music, or perhaps it was a transposition of an earlier work. Alternatively, part of the cantata may have been written by Bach, while other parts (likely the choruses and the bass aria) were added or amended by other composers.
Scoring and structure
The cantata is scored for three vocal soloists (soprano, tenor, and bass), a four-part choir, three corni da caccia, timpani, bassoon, two violins, viola, and basso continuo. It is the only Bach cantata to combine three corni da caccia with timpani.
The piece is in seven movements:
- Chorus: Lobe den Herrn, meine Seele
- Chorale (soprano): Du Friedefürst, Herr Jesu Christ
- Recitative (tenor): Wohl dem, des Hülfe der Gott Jakob ist
- Aria (tenor): Tausendfaches Unglück, Schrecken
- Aria (bass): Der Herr ist König ewiglich
- Aria (tenor): Jesu, Retter deiner Herde
- Chorus: Halleluja – Gedenk, Herr Jesu, an dein Amt
The opening chorus is quite short, using imitative fanfare figures without much harmonic development. It employs a ritornello theme on the tonic and dominant chords, incorporating a descending-third sequence. Its text is the opening of Psalm 146.
The soprano chorale is accompanied by a violin obbligato. Although the vocal line is mostly undecorated, it is accompanied by a rhythmically active violin counterpoint following the circle of fifths. The obbligato line reaches a double cadence before the soprano entrance.
The fourth movement is a tenor aria in free verse. The vocal line is "convoluted and angular", reflecting the themes of misfortune, fear and death. Musicologist Julian Mincham suggests that these themes suggest that Salomon Franck may be the poet, as these were recurrent images in his texts, but also notes a lack of integration atypical of Franck's oeuvre.
The sixth movement is another tenor aria characterized by the layered scale figuration in the instrumental accompaniment. The bassoon and continuo perform as a duet against the chorale melody in the strings.
- Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra & Choir. J.S. Bach: Complete Cantatas. Antoine Marchand, 2001.
- Frankfurter Kantorei / Bach-Collegium Stuttgart. Die Bach Kantate. Hänssler, 1975.
- Monteverdi Choir / English Baroque Soloists. Bach Cantatas vol. 17. Soli deo Gloria, 2000.
- Thomanerchor / Neues Bachisches Collegium Musicum. Kantaten Mit Corno da Caccia. Eterna, 1984.
- Bach, Johann Sebastian (1985). Cantata No. 143 – Lobe Den Herren, Meine Seele: Kalmus Edition. Alfred Music Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7692-8376-0.
- "Cantata BWV 143". bach-cantatas. Retrieved 27 May 2013.
- "BWV 143". University of Alberta. Retrieved 27 May 2013.
- Pommer, Max. Liner notes to Kantaten Mit Corno da caccia, Thomanerchor Leipzig / Neues Bachisches Collegium Musicum, Eterna, 1984
- Mincham, Julian. "Chapter 65 BWV 143". The Cantatas of Johann Sebastian Bach. Retrieved 27 May 2013.
- "BWV 143". Emmanuel Music. Retrieved 27 May 2013.
- Cantatas, BWV 141–150: Free scores at the International Music Score Library Project
- Lobe den Herrn, meine Seele: history, scoring, Bach website (German)
- BWV 143 Lobe den Herrn, meine Seele: English translation, University of Vermont