O ewiges Feuer, o Ursprung der Liebe, BWV 34

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For another cantata by Bach with the same title, from which this one was adapted, see O ewiges Feuer, o Ursprung der Liebe (BWV 34a).

O ewiges Feuer, o Ursprung der Liebe (O eternal fire, o source of love), BWV 34, is a church cantata composed by Johann Sebastian Bach.

History and text[edit]

As an adaptation of a previously composed secular cantata, BWV 34a, this piece reached its current form in Leipzig in 1740[1] or by 1746 for the first day of Pentecost. The date of the work's premiere is unknown, but it certainly took place in or before 1746.

The prescribed readings for the day are Acts 2:1–13 and John 14:23–31.[2] The texts are of unknown authorship.[3][4]

Scoring and structure[edit]

The piece is scored for three vocal soloists (alto, tenor, bass) and four-part choir, two oboes, two flauti traversi, timpani (tamburi), three trombe in D, two violins, viola, and basso continuo.[5]

This cantata has five movements:

  1. (Coro): O ewiges Feuer, o Ursprung der Liebe
  2. Recitative (tenor): Herr, unsre Herzen halten dir
  3. Aria (alto): Wohl euch, ihr auserwählten Seelen
  4. Recitative (bass): Erwählt sich Gott die heilgen Hütten
  5. Coro: Friede über Israel


The opening chorus presents the image of eternal heavenly flame. The instrumental ritornello comprises a sustained trumpet entry, active strings, and "flickering" oboes, drums, and trumpets. Unlike in most da capo movements, this ritornello appears only at the beginning and end. Each voice enters on a long note, imitating the trumpet and presenting the notion of "eternal Divine Love shining through the ongoing flames of consecration". The middle section develops these themes in minor keys before the ritornello returns to reprise the A section.[6]

The two recitatives (the second and fourth movements, for tenor and bass respectively) are quite similar in character: they adopt an authoritative tone, are in minor mode, and begin with a bass pedal.[6]

The alto aria conveys images of contentment by incorporating a lilting berceuse-like rhythm, with violin obbligato and flute in tenths and octaves. It is accompanied by a tonic pedal in the continuo. The aria is in adapted ternary form.[6]

The closing chorus adopts the end of the bass recitative as its introduction. The violins and oboes then play an ascending figure to introduce the new melody. The movement is structured as a 12-bar instrumental section, repeated with choir, followed by a 31-bar instrumental section, repeated with choir.[6]



  1. ^ Richard Stokes. J.S. Bach – The Complete Cantatas in German-English Translation, Long Barn Books/Scarecrow Press, 2000, 381 pages, ISBN 0-8108-3933-4
  2. ^ bach-cantatas
  3. ^ Christoph Wolff (Eds.): Die Welt der Bach-Kantaten, Metzler/Bärenreiter, Stuttgart und Kassel, 3 Bände Sonderausgabe 2006 ISBN 3-476-02127-0
  4. ^ C. S. Terry and D. Litti, Bach's Cantata Libretti, Journal of the Royal Musical Association 1917 44(1):71–125; doi:10.1093/jrma/44.1.71
  5. ^ University of Alberta
  6. ^ a b c d Julian Mincham

External links[edit]