Ach Gott, vom Himmel sieh darein, BWV 2

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Ach Gott, vom Himmel sieh darein
Chorale cantata by J. S. Bach
Thomaskirche, Leipzig 1885
Occasion Second Sunday after Trinity
Performed 18 June 1724 (1724-06-18): Leipzig
Movements 6
Cantata text anonymous
Chorale "Ach Gott, vom Himmel sieh darein"
by Martin Luther
  • SATB choir
  • solo: alto, tenor and bass
  • 2 oboes
  • 4 trombones
  • 2 violins
  • viola
  • continuo

Ach Gott, vom Himmel sieh darein (Oh God, look down from heaven),[1] BWV 2,[a] is a church cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach, composed in Leipzig for the second Sunday after Trinity and first performed on 18 June 1724. It is the second cantata of his second annual cycle of chorale cantatas, and is based on Martin Luther's hymn "Ach Gott, vom Himmel sieh darein", published in 1524 in the first Lutheran hymnal.

History and words[edit]

Bach composed the cantata for the Second Sunday after Trinity in Leipzig as the second cantata of his second annual cycle, which began a week before with O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort, BWV 20.[2][3] The prescribed readings for the Sunday were from the First Epistle of John, "He that loveth not his brother abideth in death" (1 John 3:13–18), and from the Gospel of Luke, the parable of the great banquet (Luke 14:16–24). The cantata is based on the six-stanza chorale Ach Gott, vom Himmel sieh darein, published by Martin Luther in 1524 in the Achtliederbuch, paraphrasing Psalm 12. The words are used unchanged in movements 1 and 6. An unknown poet transcribed the ideas of stanzas 2–5 into recitatives and arias.[2][3] Bach first performed the cantata on 18 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, four trombones, two oboes, two violins, viola, and basso continuo. The trombones play colla parte with the choir.[2]

  1. Chorus: Ach Gott, vom Himmel sieh darein
  2. Recitative (tenor, bass): Sie lehren eitel falsche List
  3. Aria (alto, violin solo): Tilg, o Gott, die Lehren
  4. Recitative (bass, strings): Die Armen sind verstört
  5. Aria (tenor): Durchs Feuer wird das Silber rein
  6. Chorale: Das wollst du, Gott, bewahren rein


In the first and last movements, which use the original words of Luther's hymn, the style of the music is "archaic"—the instruments include a choir of trombones doubling the voices.[3][4] In the first movement the melody of the chorale is sung by the alto in long notes, doubled by two oboes. Each line is prepared by fugal entrances of the other parts on the same theme.[5] The second movement is a secco recitative, changing to arioso for two lines that resemble the words of the chorale, marked adagio. The alto aria is written in "modern" style with a solo violin in lively figuration. The bass recitative is accompanied by the strings. In contrast, the tenor aria is accompanied by a concerto of the oboes and strings, which are silent in the middle section until its transition to the da capo. The closing chorale is a four-part setting.[2]

Selected recordings[edit]

The sortable listing is taken from the selection provided by Aryeh Oron on the Bach-Cantatas website.[6] The type of choir and orchestra is roughly shown as a large group by red background, and as an ensemble with period instruments in historically informed performance or a choir of one voice per part (OVPP) by green background.

Recordings of Ach Gott, vom Himmel sieh darein, BWV 2
Title Conductor / Choir / Orchestra Soloists Label Year Choir type Orch. type
J. S. Bach: Das Kantatenwerk – Sacred Cantatas Vol. 1 Harnoncourt, Nikolaus Nikolaus Harnoncourt
Concentus Musicus Wien
Teldec 1971 (1971) Period
Die Bach Kantate Vol. 39 Rilling, HelmuthHelmuth Rilling
Gächinger Kantorei
Bach-Collegium Stuttgart
Hänssler 1979 (1979)
J. S. Bach: Complete Cantatas Vol. 10 Koopman, TonTon Koopman
Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra & Choir
Antoine Marchand 1998 (1998) Period
J.S. Bach: Cantatas Vol. 8 – Leipzig Cantatas Suzuki, MasaakiMasaaki Suzuki
Bach Collegium Japan
BIS 1996 (1996) Period
Bach Edition Vol. 12 – Cantatas Vol. 6 Leusink, Pieter JanPieter Jan Leusink
Holland Boys Choir
Netherlands Bach Collegium
Brilliant Classics 1999 (1999) Boys Period
Bach Cantatas Vol. 2: Paris/Zürich Gardiner, John EliotJohn Eliot Gardiner
Monteverdi Choir
English Baroque Soloists
Archiv Produktion 1999 (1999) Period
J.S. Bach: Cantatas for the First and Second Sundays After Trinity Smith, CraigCraig Smith
Chorus of Emmanuel Music
Orchestra of Emmanuel Music
Koch International 2001 (2001)
J.S. Bach: "O Ewigkeit du Donnerwort" – Cantatas BWV 2, 20 & 176 Herreweghe, PhilippePhilippe Herreweghe
Collegium Vocale Gent
Harmonia Mundi France 2002 (2002) Period
J.S. Bach: Cantatas Vol. 29 – Cantatas from Leipzig 1724 Suzuki, MasaakiMasaaki Suzuki
BIS 2004 (2004) Period
J. S. Bach: Cantatas for the Complete Liturgical Year Vol. 11 Kuijken, SigiswaldSigiswald Kuijken
La Petite Bande
Accent 2007 (2007) OVPP Period


  1. ^ "BWV" is Bach-Werke-Verzeichnis, a thematic catalogue of Bach's works.


  1. ^ Dellal, Pamela. "BWV 2 – Ach Gott, vom Himmel sieh darein". Emmanuel Music. Retrieved 23 June 2015. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Dürr, Alfred (1981). Die Kantaten von Johann Sebastian Bach (in German). 1 (4 ed.). Deutscher Taschenbuchverlag. pp. 340–342. ISBN 3-423-04080-7. 
  3. ^ a b c Hofmann, Klaus (2004). "Ach Gott, vom Himmel sieh darein, BWV 2 / Oh God, Look Down from Heaven" (PDF). p. 6. Retrieved 11 June 2012. 
  4. ^ Julian Mincham (2010). "Chapter 3 BWV 2 Ach Gott, vom Himmel sieh darein". Retrieved 11 June 2012. 
  5. ^ John Eliot Gardiner (2010). "Cantatas for the Second Sunday after Trinity / Basilique Saint-Denis, Paris" (PDF). p. 1. Retrieved 11 June 2012. 
  6. ^ Oron, Aryeh (2012). "Cantata BWV 2 Ach Gott, vom Himmel sieh darein". Retrieved 23 June 2015. 

External links[edit]