Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern, BWV 1

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Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern
Chorale cantata by J. S. Bach
BWV 1.jpg
First page of the manuscript of the violin part
Performed 25 March 1725 (1725-03-25) – Leipzig
Movements 6
Cantata text anonymous
Chorale Philipp Nicolai: "Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern"
  • SATB choir
  • S T B soloists
  • 2 horns
  • 2 oboes da caccia
  • 2 violins
  • viola
  • continuo

Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern (How beautifully the morning star shines),[1] BWV 1, is a church cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach. He composed the chorale cantata in 1725 in Leipzig for the feast of the Annunciation and first performed it on 25 March 1725, which fell that year on Palm Sunday. The cantata is based on the hymn "Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern" (1599) by Philipp Nicolai.

History and words[edit]

Bach wrote this chorale cantata in his second annual cycle for the feast of the Annunciation on 25 March. This feast was celebrated with music even in Leipzig, although it typically falls in Lent, when Leipzig observed tempus clausum. Bach first performed it on 25 March 1725, which in that year was also Palm Sunday. The cantata is based on the hymn "Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern" (1599) by Philipp Nicolai, which was associated with Epiphany but also with the Annunciation.[2] The cantata was the last chorale cantata in Bach's second annual cycle, begun on the first Sunday after Trinity 1724.

The prescribed readings for the day are Isaiah's prophecy of the birth of the Messiah (Isaiah 7:10–16) and from the Gospel of Luke, the angel Gabriel announcing the birth of Jesus (Luke 1:26–38). The unknown librettist kept the first and the last verse, and paraphrased the other stanzas to recitatives and arias, using stanza 2 for the first recitative, stanza 3 for the first aria, stanza 4 and part of stanza 5 for the second recitative, and stanza 6 for the second aria. The chorale, speaking of a longing for the arrival of the Saviour, can be connected to Jesus' birth being announced to Mary. The theme of arrival was especially fitting for Palm Sunday.[3]

The cantata was chosen by the Bach-Gesellschaft to begin their first publication of Bach's complete works in 1851.

Scoring and structure[edit]

The cantata in six movements is scored for soprano, tenor, and bass soloists, a four-part choir, two horns, two oboes da caccia, two violins obbligato, viola and basso continuo.[3] A festive scoring like this, including brass, was usually performed on holidays. Bach would later use the pair of horns in Part IV of his Christmas Oratorio, dealing with the naming of Jesus as announced to Mary.

  1. Chorus: Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern
  2. Recitative (tenor): Du wahrer Gottes und Marien Sohn
  3. Aria (soprano): Erfüllet, ihr himmlischen göttlichen Flammen
  4. Recitative (bass): Ein irdscher Glanz, ein leiblich Licht
  5. Aria (tenor): Unser Mund und Ton der Saiten
  6. Chorale: Wie bin ich doch so herzlich froh


The scoring provides a rich orchestration, the sparkle of the morning star is illustrated by two solo violins. The scoring is reminiscent of Sie werden aus Saba alle kommen, BWV 65, written for Epiphany.[4] The cantus firmus in the chorale fantasia of the opening chorus is sung by the sopranos. The other voices support the melody, sometimes preparing it.

Both recitatives are secco, with melismata on the words "Freudenschein" (joyful radiance) and "Erquickung" (refreshment). The first aria combines the soprano voice with the oboe da caccia in alto range. Two violins accompany the tenor in the second aria, reminiscent of the opening chorus.

The closing chorale is embellished by an independent part of the second horn, while the other instruments double the voices.[3]



  1. ^ Dellal, Pamela. "BWV 1 - "Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern"". Emmanuel Music. Retrieved 12 April 2014. 
  2. ^ Mincham, Julian (2010). "Chapter 41 BWV 1 Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern". jsbachcantatas.com. Retrieved 8 April 2011. 
  3. ^ a b c Dürr, Alfred (1981). Die Kantaten von Johann Sebastian Bach (in German) 1 (4 ed.). Deutscher Taschenbuchverlag. pp. 546–549. ISBN 3-423-04080-7. 
  4. ^ Gardiner, John Eliot (2006). "Cantatas for the Annunciation, Palm Sunday and Oculi / Walpole St Peter, Norfolk" (PDF). bach-cantatas.com. p. 5. Retrieved 28 December 2010.