Herr Jesu Christ, wahr' Mensch und Gott, BWV 127

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Herr Jesu Christ, wahr' Mensch und Gott
BWV 127
Chorale cantata by J. S. Bach
Pasquale catti.jpg
S. Gerome and the trumpet of the last Judgement, oil painting by Pasquale Catti
Chorale"Herr Jesu Christ, wahr Mensch und Gott"
Performed11 February 1725 (1725-02-11): Leipzig
  • trumpet
  • 2 recorders
  • 2 oboes
  • 2 violins
  • viola
  • continuo

Herr Jesu Christ, wahr' Mensch und Gott (Lord Jesus Christ, true Man and God),[1] BWV 127, is a cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach for use in a Lutheran service. He composed the chorale cantata in 1725 in Leipzig for the Sunday Estomihi, the Sunday before Lent. It is based on Paul Eber's 1582 hymn in eight stanzas "Herr Jesu Christ, wahr Mensch und Gott". Bach first performed it on 11 February 1725.

History and words[edit]

Bach held the position of Thomaskantor (director of church music) in Leipzig from 1723. During his first year, beginning with the first Sunday after Trinity, he wrote a cycle of cantatas for the occasions of the liturgical year. In his second year he composed a second annual cycle of cantatas, which was planned to consist exclusively of chorale cantatas, each based on one Lutheran hymn.[2]

Bach composed the chorale cantata Herr Jesu Christ, wahr' Mensch und Gott for Estomihi (Quinquagesima), the last Sunday before Lent, when Leipzig observed tempus clausum and no cantatas were performed.[2][3] In 1723, Bach had probably performed two cantatas in Leipzig on that Sunday, Du wahrer Gott und Davids Sohn, BWV 23, composed earlier in Köthen, and Jesus nahm zu sich die Zwölfe, BWV 22, both audition pieces to apply for the post of Thomaskantor in Leipzig.[4]

The prescribed readings for the Sunday were taken from the First Epistle to the Corinthians, "praise of love" (1 Corinthians 13:1–13), and from the Gospel of Luke, healing the blind near Jericho (Luke 18:31–43). The Gospel also announces the Passion.[2] The text is based on the funeral song "Herr Jesu Christ, wahr Mensch und Gott" in eight stanzas by Paul Eber (1562).[5] The hymn suites the Gospel, stressing the Passion as well as the request of the blind man in the final line of the first stanza: "Du wollst mir Sünder gnädig sein" (Be merciful to me, a sinner).[1] The song further sees Jesus' path to Jerusalem as a model for the believer's path to his end in salvation. An unknown librettist kept the first and the last stanza and paraphrased the inner stanzas in a sequence of recitatives and arias. Stanzas 2 and 3 were transformed to a recitative, stanza 4 to an aria, stanza 5 to a recitative, stanzas 6 and 7 to another aria.

Bach first performed the cantata on 11 February 1725.[2] It is the second to last chorale cantata of his second annual cycle, the only later one being Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern, BWV 1, for the feast of Annunciation which was celebrated even if it fell in the time of Lent.[6]

Scoring and structure[edit]

The cantata in five movements is richly scored for three vocal soloists (soprano, tenor and bass), a four-part choir, trumpet, two recorders, two oboes, two violins, viola and basso continuo.[2][3][7]

  1. Chorale: Herr Jesu Christ, wahr’ Mensch und Gott
  2. Recitative (tenor): Wenn alles sich zur letzten Zeit entsetzet
  3. Aria (soprano): Die Seele ruht in Jesu Händen
  4. Recitative and aria (bass): Wenn einstens die Posaunen schallen – Fürwahr, fürwahr, euch sage ich
  5. Chorale: Ach, Herr, vergib all unsre Schuld


The opening chorale is structured by an extended introduction and interludes. These parts play on a concertante a motif derived from the first line of the chorale,[6][8] but also have a cantus firmus of the chorale "Christe, du Lamm Gottes", the Lutheran Agnus Dei,[9] first played by the strings, later also by the oboes and recorders. It appears in a similar way to the chorale as the cantus firmus in the opening chorus of his later St Matthew Passion, "O Lamm Gottes, unschuldig". Its request "erbarm dich unser" (have mercy upon us)[1] corresponds to the request of the blind man.[2] A third chorale is quoted repeatedly in the continuo, "O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden".[3] Christoph Wolff notes that on Good Friday of that year Bach would perform the second version of his St John Passion, replacing the opening and the closing movement of the first version by music based on chorales, "O Mensch, bewein dein Sünde groß" which would become the final movement of the first part of the St Matthew Passion, and again "Christe, du Lamm Gottes".[3]

Bach chose a rare instrumentation for the first aria, the oboe plays a melody, supported by short chords in the recorders, in the middle section Sterbeglocken (funeral bells) are depicted by pizzicato string sounds. Movement 4 illustrates the Day of Judgement. On the text "Wenn einstens die Posaunen schallen" (When one day the trumpets ring out),[1] the trumpet enters. The unusual movement combines an accompagnato recitative with an aria, contrasting the destruction of heaven and earth with the security of the believers, the latter given in text and tune from the chorale. John Eliot Gardiner describes it as a "grand, tableau-like evocation of the Last Judgement, replete with triple occurrences of a wild 6/8 section when all hell is let loose in true Monteverdian concitato ("excited") manner".[9] He compares it to the "spectacular double chorus" from the St Matthew Passion, Sind Blitze, sind Donner in Wolken verschwunden.[9]

The closing chorale is a four-part setting with attention to details of the text, such as movement in the lower voices on "auch unser Glaub stets wacker sei" (also may our faith be always brave)[1] and colourful harmonies on the final line "bis wir einschlafen seliglich" (until we fall asleep contentedly).[1][2]

BWV 127/1 (variant)[edit]

A reworked and transposed version of the cantata's opening movement opens the second part of the Passion pasticcio Wer ist der, so von Edom kömmt. This version of the cantata's opening movement is known as BWV 127/1 (variant), or BC D 10/1.[10]


The selection is taken from the listing on the Bach-Cantatas website.[11]



  1. ^ a b c d e f Dellal, Pamela. "BWV 127 – Herr Jesu Christ, wahr' Mensch und Gott". Emmanuel Music. Retrieved 11 February 2015.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Dürr, Alfred (2006). Erhalt uns, Herr, bei deinem Wort, BWV 126. The Cantatas of J. S. Bach: With Their Librettos in German-English Parallel Text. Translated by Richard D. P. Jones. Oxford University Press. pp. 32, 247–250. ISBN 978-0-19-929776-4.
  3. ^ a b c d Wolff, Christoph (1999). The Leipzig church cantatas: the chorale cantata cycle (II: 1724–1725) (PDF). Bach Cantatas Website. p. 4. Retrieved 14 February 2012.
  4. ^ Vernier, David. "Jesu, Deine Passion – Bach: Cantatas Bwv 22, 23, 127 & 159 / Herreweghe, Mields, White, Et Al". arkivmusic.com. Retrieved 1 March 2011.
  5. ^ "Christ, wahr Mensch und Gott / Text and Translation of Chorale". Bach Cantatas Website. 2007. Retrieved 17 February 2012.
  6. ^ a b Mincham, Julian (2010). "Chapter 44 BWV 22 Jesu nahm zu sich die Zwölfe / Jesus took the twelve to Him". jsbachcantatas.com. Retrieved 4 February 2013.
  7. ^ Bischof, Walter F. (2010). "BWV 127 Herr Jesu Christ, wahr' Mensch und Gott". University of Alberta. Retrieved 25 February 2017.
  8. ^ "Herr Jesu Christ, wahr' Mensch und Gott / Examples from the Score / Mvt. 1 – The Chorale Melody and Text". Bach Cantatas Website. 2004. Retrieved 15 February 2012.
  9. ^ a b c Gardiner, John Eliot (2006). Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) / Cantatas Nos 1, 22, 23, 54, 127, 159 & 182 (Media notes). Soli Deo Gloria (at Hyperion Records website). Retrieved 1 March 2019.
  10. ^ Bach Digital Work 00155 at www.bachdigital.de
  11. ^ Oron, Aryeh (2016). "Cantata BWV 127 Herr Jesu Christ, wahr' Mensch und Gott". Bach Cantatas Website. Retrieved 25 February 2017.