Herr Jesu Christ, du höchstes Gut, BWV 113

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Herr Jesu Christ, du höchstes Gut
BWV 113
Chorale cantata by J. S. Bach
Occasion Eleventh Sunday after Trinity
Performed 20 August 1724 (1724-08-20): Leipzig
Movements eight
Cantata text anonymous
Chorale "Herr Jesu Christ, du höchstes Gut"
by Bartholomäus Ringwaldt
Vocal SATB choir and solo
  • 2 oboes d'amore
  • flauto traverso
  • 2 violins
  • viola
  • continuo

Johann Sebastian Bach composed the church cantata Herr Jesu Christ, du höchstes Gut (Lord Jesus Christ, O highest good),[1] BWV 113,[a] in Leipzig for the eleventh Sunday after Trinity and first performed it on 20 August 1724. The chorale cantata is based on the hymn by Bartholomäus Ringwaldt (1588).

History and words[edit]

Bach composed the cantata in Leipzig for the Eleventh Sunday after Trinity as part of his second cantata cycle and first performed it on 20 August 1724. The prescribed readings for the Sunday were from the First Epistle to the Corinthians, on the gospel of Christ and his (Paul's) duty as an apostle (1 Corinthians 15:1–10), and from the Gospel of Luke, the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Luke 18:9–14).[2][3]

The text of the cantata is based on the eight stanzas of Bartholomäus Ringwaldt's hymn (1588),[4] a song of penitence related to the tax collector's prayer "Herr, sei mir armem Sünder gnädig" (God be merciful to me a sinner).[2] The melody is also attributed to Ringwaldt.[5] An unknown poet kept the words unchanged in movements 1, 2, 4 and 8, but inserted recitative in the fourth movement. He transcribed the ideas of the remaining stanzas to arias and a recitative, retaining the beginning of stanzas 3 and 7. He treated stanzas 5 and 6 most freely, including ideas from the epistle such as the promise of mercy, which is only asked, not promised, in the chorale. He refers to several verses from different gospels to underscore that thought, Luke 15:2 in both 5 and 6, Matthew 9:2 (parallel Luke 7:48) in 5, and Matthew 11:28 in 6, paraphrased as "Er ruft: Kommt her zu mir, die ihr mühselig und beladen" (He calls: come here to Me, you who are weary and burdened).[2] The last verse also appears in Handel's Messiah, turned in the third person: "Come unto Him, all ye that labour", in the soprano section of He shall feed His flock like a shepherd.

Scoring and structure[edit]

The cantata in eight movements is for four vocal soloists (soprano, alto, tenor, and bass), a four-part choir, and a Baroque instrumental ensemble of two oboes d'amore, flauto traverso, two violins, viola and basso continuo.[2]

  1. Chorus: Herr Jesu Christ, du höchstes Gut
  2. Chorale (alto): Erbarm dich mein in solcher Last
  3. Aria (bass): Fürwahr, wenn mir das kömmet ein
  4. Recitative + Chorale (bass): Jedoch dein heilsam Wort, das macht
  5. Aria (tenor): Jesus nimmt die Sünder an
  6. Recitative (tenor): Der Heiland nimmt die Sünder an
  7. Aria (soprano, alto): Ach Herr, mein Gott, vergib mirs doch
  8. Chorale: Stärk mich mit deinem Freudengeist


The opening chorus is a chorale fantasia in B minor with the cantus firmus in the soprano, the lower voices set in homophony contrasting to an embellished melody in the soprano. The lines of the chorale are separated by an independent ritornello of the orchestra. Its theme is derived from the chorale melody. A solo violin in virtuoso figuration plays throughout, while the oboes and the other strings are silent during the vocal passages. The second movement treats the chorale in the same way as some of the movements which Bach transcribed to the Schübler Chorales, as a trio of the alto, the violins in unison, and the continuo. Here the chorale melody appears unadorned.[2]

The first aria is accompanied by the two oboes d'amore. The theme is related to the chorale melody, but turned to the major mode and in a swinging 12/8-time. The voice picks up the same theme and elaborates the word "gewandelt" (changed) in an extended coloratura. Musicologist Boyd notes a similarity to the aria Et in Spiritum sanctum from Bach's later Mass in B minor, both are for the bass, in a compound time, in A major and with two oboes.[6] The second aria, movement 5, is accompanied by an obbligato flute, as in the cantatas of the two preceding weeks, Was frag ich nach der Welt, BWV 94, and Nimm von uns, Herr, du treuer Gott, BWV 101.[2] The recitative, movement 6, is accompanied by the strings, after four movements without them. They enter in the second measure on the words "wie lieblich klingt das Wort in meinem Ohren!" (how sweetly this word rings in my ears!),[1] called a "magical moment" by Craig Smith.[3] The recitative culminates in the prayer of the tax collector. The last aria is set for two voices and continuo, concentrated on the words without ritornellos like a chorale concerto of the 17th century. The chorale melody in embellished form appears in several lines, even on words other than the original text. The final stanza is set for four parts.[2]



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


  1. ^ a b Dellal, Pamela. "BWV 113 – Herr Jesu Christ, du höchstes Gut". Emmanuel Music. Retrieved 1 September 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Dürr, Alfred (1981). Die Kantaten von Johann Sebastian Bach (in German). 1 (4 ed.). Deutscher Taschenbuchverlag. pp. 412–414. ISBN 3-423-04080-7. 
  3. ^ a b Smith, Craig. "Bach Cantata Notes / BWV 113". Emmanuel Music. Retrieved 29 August 2011. 
  4. ^ "Herr Jesu Christ, du höchstes Gut / Text and Translation of Chorale". Bach Cantatas Website. 200. Retrieved 29 August 2011. 
  5. ^ "Chorale Melodies used in Bach's Vocal Works / Herr Jesu Christ, du höchstes Gut". Bach Cantatas Website. 2005. Retrieved 29 August 2011. 
  6. ^ Mincham, Julian (2010). "Chapter 12 BWV 113 Herr Jesu Christ, du höchstes Gut". jsbachcantatas.com. Retrieved 29 August 2011.