Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin, BWV 125

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Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin
BWV 125
Chorale cantata by J. S. Bach
Aert de Gelder - Het loflied van Simeon.jpg
Simeon's Song of Praise by Aert de Gelder, around 1700–1710
Occasion Purification
Performed 2 February 1725 (1725-02-02) – Leipzig
Movements 6
Cantata text anonymous
Chorale Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin
  • SATB choir
  • solo: alto, tenor and bass
  • horn
  • flauto traverso
  • oboe
  • oboe d'amore
  • 2 violins
  • viola
  • continuo

Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin (With peace and joy I depart), BWV 125, is a church cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach. He composed the chorale cantata in Leipzig in 1725 for the Feast of the purification of Mary and first performed it on 2 February 1725. The text is based on the hymn "Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin" in four stanzas by Martin Luther, a paraphrase of the Nunc dimittis, published in 1524.

History and words[edit]

Bach wrote the chorale cantata in his second year in Leipzig for the Feast of Purification.[1] The prescribed readings for the feast day were from the book of Malachi, "the Lord will come to his temple" (Malachi 3:1–4), and from the Gospel of Luke, the purification of Mary and the presentation of Jesus at the Temple, including Simeon's canticle Nunc dimittis (Luke 2:22–32).

Luther's chorale in four stanzas is a paraphrase of this canticle, "With peace and joy I depart in God's will".[2] Luther phrased each verse of the canticle in one stanza. An unknown librettist kept the first and the last stanza and paraphrased the inner stanzas in four movements. Movement 2 takes Luther's second stanza as a starting point and relates Simeon's view as an example on how to look at death. Movement 3 comments the complete text of Luther's second stanza in recitative. The allusion to "light for the heathen" from the Gospel and the hymn is seen related to "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved" (Mark 16:16). Movements 4 and 5 are derived from the third stanza, 4 relates to Paul's teaching about God's grace, "Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God" (Romans 3:25), thus declaring the Lutheran teaching of justification "by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone" even more clearly than Luther's song.[1]

Scoring and structure[edit]

The cantata in six movements is scored for three vocal soloists (alto, tenor, and bass), a four-part choir, horn, flauto traverso, oboe, oboe d'amore, two violins, viola, and basso continuo.[1]

  1. Chorus: Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin
  2. Aria (alto): Ich will auch mit gebrochnen Augen
  3. Recitative and chorale (bass): O Wunder, daß ein Herz – Das macht Christus, wahr' Gottes Sohn
  4. Aria (tenor, bass): Ein unbegreiflich Licht
  5. Recitative (alto): O unerschöpfter Schatz der Güte
  6. Chorale: Er ist das Heil und selig Licht


The opening chorus begins with a concertante ritornello, in which the flute and the oboe play opposed to the strings. A motif in triplets rises a fifth, related to the first interval of the chorale tune.[3][4] The soprano sings the cantus firmus in Phrygian mode in long notes.[5] The lower voices participate in the instrumental motifs for lines 1, 2, 3 and 5, but lines 4 and 6 are treated differently. In accordance to the text, "sanft und stille" (calm and quiet) and "der Tod ist mein Schlaf worden" (death has become my sleep), they are performed softly (piano), in homophony, chromatic, and modulating to distant keys.[1]

The alto aria is richly ornamented and accompanied by the flute and oboe d'amore, on a calm foundation of repeated notes in the continuo, marked "legato".[1] The phrase "gebrochene Augen" (broken eyes) is pictured by a broken vocal line, flute and oboe d'amore play dotted rhythm to the "almost trembling declamation" of the voice.[5] In the bass recitative with chorale, the chorale tune is unadorned but for the last line, "im Tod und auch im Sterben" (in death and also in dying), where the music is extended by two measures and coloured in chromatic and rich ornamentation. The elements recitative and chorale are unified by a motif in the strings, called "Freudenmotiv" by Alfred Dürr, which "always indicates an underlying mood of happiness".[4] The closing chorale is a four-part setting.[1]

Julian Mincham relates the opening movement to that of Bach's later St Matthew Passion. It is similar in its motifs in triplets, density of counterpoint, and is in the same key of E minor, shared by the Crucifixus of his Mass in B minor which he derived from the 1714 Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen, BWV 12 (Weeping, lamenting, worrying, fearing). Mincham concludes: "death, sleep, a journey of departure, peace and consolation are some of the intertwined themes and images. Bach is always at his most creative and imaginative when dealing with such complexities".[6]

Selected recordings[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Dürr, Alfred (1981). Die Kantaten von Johann Sebastian Bach (in German) 1 (4 ed.). Deutscher Taschenbuchverlag. pp. 539–542. ISBN 3-423-04080-7. 
  2. ^ "Mit Fried und Freud / Text and Translation of Chorale". 2008. Retrieved 26 January 2012. 
  3. ^ "Chorale Melodies used in Bach's Vocal Works / Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin". 2006. Retrieved 26 January 2012. 
  4. ^ a b Hofmann, Klaus (2006). "Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin / In peace and joy I shall depart, BWV 125" (PDF). p. 8. Retrieved 26 January 2012. 
  5. ^ a b Wolff, Christoph. "Conclusion of the second yearly cycle (1724–25) of the Leipzig church cantatas" (PDF). p. 3. Retrieved 2 February 2012. 
  6. ^ Mincham, Julian (2010). "Chapter 38 BWV 125, Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin". Retrieved 2 February 2012.