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Schmücke dich, o liebe Seele, BWV 180

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Schmücke dich, o liebe Seele
BWV 180
Chorale cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach
Thomaskirche, Leipzig
Occasion20th Sunday after Trinity
Chorale"Schmücke dich, o liebe Seele"
by Johann Franck
Performed22 October 1724 (1724-10-22): Leipzig
VocalSATB choir and soloists
  • 2 recorders
  • flauto traverso
  • 2 oboes
  • oboe da caccia
  • 2 violins
  • viola
  • violoncello piccolo
  • organ
  • continuo

Johann Sebastian Bach composed the church cantata Schmücke dich, o liebe Seele (Adorn yourself, O dear soul),[1] BWV 180, in Leipzig for the 20th Sunday after Trinity and first performed it on 22 October 1724.

The chorale cantata is based upon Johann Franck's hymn "Schmücke dich, o liebe Seele", with a melody by Johann Crüger, a hymn for the Eucharist. It matches the Sunday's prescribed reading, the Parable of the Great Banquet from the Gospel of Matthew. The first and last stanza are used unchanged in both text and tune: the former is treated as a chorale fantasia, the latter as a four-part closing chorale. An unknown librettist paraphrased the inner stanzas as recitatives and arias, quoting one stanza of the hymn within a recitative. Bach scored the cantata for four vocal soloists, a four-part choir, and a Baroque instrumental ensemble of different flutes and oboes, strings and continuo. All movements are set in the major mode, in keeping with the festive text, and several movements resemble dances.

History and words[edit]

Bach wrote the cantata in his second year in Leipzig as part of his second annual cycle of chorale cantatas[2] for the 20th Sunday after Trinity.[3] The prescribed readings for the Sunday were from the Epistle to the Ephesians—"walk circumspectly, ... filled with the Spirit"—(Ephesians 5:15–21), and from the Gospel of Matthew, the Parable of the Great Banquet (Matthew 22:1–14). The German term used in the Luther's Bible translation is Hochzeitsmahl, literally "wedding meal".

The cantata text is based on the Eucharistic hymn in nine stanzas "Schmücke dich, o liebe Seele" (1649), with a text by Johann Franck and a melody by Johann Crüger,[4][5] thus connecting the "great banquet" from the gospel to the Abendmahl (Eucharist).[3] The hymn is sung during a service in preparation for the holy communion, and imagines a bride getting ready for her wedding. An unknown author kept the text of the first, middle and last stanzas (1, 4, and 9), and paraphrased the other stanzas to arias and recitatives: stanzas 2 and 7 to arias; stanzas 3, 5–6 and 8 to recitatives. He stayed close to the original and did not seek closer relation to the readings than given by the general context.[3]

Bach composed the cantata subsequent to his chorale prelude of the same name, BWV 654, part of his Great Eighteen Chorale Preludes.[5] He led the first performance of the cantata on 22 October 1724.[3]


Structure and scoring[edit]

Bach structured the cantata in seven movements. The text and tune of the hymn are kept in the outer choral movements, a chorale fantasia and a four-part closing chorale, which frame a sequence of recitatives and arias, one recitative with a chorale cantus firmus. Bach scored the work for four vocal soloists (soprano, alto, tenor, bass), a four-part choir and a Baroque instrumental ensemble of two recorders (Fl), flauto traverso (Ft), two oboes (Ob), two violins (Vl), viola (Va), violoncello piccolo (Vp) and basso continuo.[6] The title page of the autograph score reads: "CONCERTO. / Dominica 20 post Trinit: / Schmücke dich o liebe Seele etc. / a 4 Voci / Traversiere / 2 Flauti. / 2 Hautbois / 2 Violini / Viola. / Continuo / di / Signore / Joh:Seb:Bach."[7]

In the following table of the movements, the scoring follows the Neue Bach-Ausgabe.[6] The keys and time signatures are taken from Alfred Dürr, using the symbol for common time (4/4).[3] The continuo, playing throughout, is not shown.

Movements of Schmücke dich, o liebe Seele, BWV 180
No. Title Text Type Vocal Winds Strings Key Time
1 Schmücke dich, o liebe Seele Franck Chorale fantasia SATB 2Fl 2Ob 2Vl Va F major 12/8
2 Ermuntre dich, dein Heiland klopft anon. Aria T Ft C major common time
3 Wie teuer sind des heilgen Mahles Gaben! – Ach, wie hungert mein Gemüte anon. Recitative and chorale S Vp common time
4 Mein Herz fühlt in sich Furcht und Freude anon. Recitative A 2Fl common time
5 Lebens Sonne, Licht der Sinnen anon. Aria S 2Fl 2Ob 2Vl Va common time
6 Herr, laß an mir dein treues Lieben anon. Recitative B common time
7 Jesu, wahres Brot des Lebens Franck Chorale SATB 2Ob Ot 2Vl Va F major common time


The Eucharistic hymn, with a tune that alternates in an intriguing way between phrases of two and three measures, appears in three movements, the opening chorale fantasia, within a recitative and as the closing four-part chorale.[8] Compared to the early cantata for the same occasion, Ach! ich sehe, itzt, da ich zur Hochzeit gehe, BWV 162, Bach stresses the invitation of God and the joy of the banquet, rather than the possibility of man's failing to respond to the invitation. Alfred Dürr compares the opening chorus and both arias to dances: movement 1 to a gigue, movement 2 to a bourrée, and movement 5 to a polonaise. All movements are set in the major mode.[8] The inner movements are distinguished by their obbligato instruments. The musicologist Julian Mincham notes the work’s "gentle, pastoral quality of great delicacy and refinement, ... charm, grace and a suggestion of fragility”.[8]


The opening chorus, "Schmücke dich, du liebe Seele" (Adorn yourself, beloved soul).[9] is an orchestral concerto with the vocal parts embedded, the soprano singing the cantus firmus of the tune by Johann Crüger.[10] The movement shares the “gentle"[8] key of F major with three other works from the cycle of chorale cantatas: the first, O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort, BWV 20, a French overture on the themes such as eternity and confusion; Herr Christ, der einge Gottessohn, BWV 96, a pastorale composed two weeks earlier; and later the last one, Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern, BWV 1, a tone poem using the image of the morning star. The four movements contrast in character, but have in common that they express "an elusive personal connection".[8] John Eliot Gardiner, who conducted the Bach Cantata Pilgrimage in 2000, sees the "relaxed 12/8 processional movement" as "perfectly tailored to the idea of the soul dressing itself up in all its wedding finery".[11] Mincham observes subtle aspects of conveying the message, such as the use of minor mode indicating, the development of the ritornello motif from notes of the first line of the chorale tune, and the significance for not only an individual soul but “for all humanity" by entries of the lower voices in ever-changing sequence.[8]


A transverse flute accompanies the tenor voice in the aria "Ermuntre dich: dein Heiland klopft" (Be lively now, your Savior knocks).[1] The knocking is expressed in repeated notes.[11] Throughout the movement, a motif identified by Albert Schweitzer as a joy motif pictures an "almost breathless expression of personal euphoria".[8] The demanding flute part was probably composed for the excellent flute player for whom Bach first wrote a few weeks earlier in Was frag ich nach der Welt, BWV 94, and then in other cantatas during the fall of 1724.[11]


A violoncello piccolo complements the soprano in a recitative, which begins as a secco recitative, "Wie teuer sind des heiligen Mahles Gaben" (How dear are the gifts of the holy meal),[1] and leads to the fourth stanza of the chorale, "Ach, wie hungert mein Gemüte" (Ah, how my spirit hungers),[1] sung in a moderately adorned version of the tune.[11] Bach uses recitative to introduce the chorale by evoking the "gift of communion",[8] while the chorale stanza expresses the longing for this gift, mentioning thirst and hunger. The melody sounds sometimes like a new melody, expressing that a personal longing. The violoncello piccolo in continuous motion "envelops the soprano's voice in a quasi womb-like blanketing of divine reassurance",as Mincham phrases it.[8]


Two recorders reflect the text of the alto recitative, "Mein Herz fühlt in sich Furcht und Freude" (My heart feels within itself fear and joy).[1] which develops to an arioso, with the recorders first playing just long chords, and then gradually adding motion.[11] Bach expresses joy ("Freude'’) in an extended melisma on the word.[8]


The full orchestra supports the soprano in the second aria, "Lebens Sonne, Licht der Sinnen" (Sun of life, light of the senses).[1] Mincham describes the da capo aria as "joyously ebullient". The short middle section of the aria touches minor keys. A melisma on alles (everything) stresses that God means all to the "redeemed sinner".[8]


The last recitative, "Herr, laß an mir dein treues Lieben" (Lord, let Your faithful love for me),[1] is secco, but closes as an arioso on the words "und deiner Liebe stets gedenken" (and considers your love constantly).[1] It is a prayer to God to both love the petitioner and evoke a "reciprocal affection."[8]


The closing chorale, "Jesu, wahres Brot des Lebens" (Jesus, true bread of life),[1] is set for four parts.[3][8]


The entries for the table are taken from the selection on Bach Cantatas Website.[12] Groups with one voice per part (OVPP) and ensembles playing period instruments in historically informed performance are marked by green background.

Recordings of Schmücke dich, o liebe Seele, BWV 180
Title Conductor / Choir / Orchestra Soloists Label Year Choir type Instr.
Radio Recording - Archiv-Nr: U0-09167 Max Thurn
Members of Hamburger Rundfunkorchester
NDR 1962 (1962)
Les Grandes Cantates de J.S. Bach Vol. 23 Fritz Werner
Heinrich-Schütz-Chor Heilbronn
Württembergisches Kammerorchester Heilbronn
Erato 1970 (1970)
Bach Cantatas Vol. 5 – Sundays after Trinity II Karl Richter
Münchener Bach-Chor
Münchener Bach-Orchester
Archiv Produktion 1978 (1978)
Die Bach Kantate Vol. 54 Helmuth Rilling
Gächinger Kantorei
Bach-Collegium Stuttgart
Hänssler 1979 (1979)
J. S. Bach: Das Kantatenwerk • Complete Cantatas • Les Cantates, Folge / Vol. 42 - BWV 180–184 Gustav Leonhardt
Knabenchor Hannover
Teldec 1988 (1988) Period
J. S. Bach: Cantatas with Violoncelle Piccolo (Vol. 1) Christophe Coin
Das Leipziger Concerto Vocale
Ensemble Baroque de Limoges
Auvidis Astrée 1993 (1993) Period
J. S. Bach: Complete Cantatas Vol. 10 Ton Koopman
Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra & Choir
Antoine Marchand 1998 (1998) Period
Bach Edition Vol. 19 – Cantatas Vol. 10 Pieter Jan Leusink
Holland Boys Choir
Netherlands Bach Collegium
Brilliant Classics 2000 (2000) Period
Bach Cantatas Vol. 11: Genova/Greenwich / For the 20th Sunday after Trinity / For the 21st Sunday after Trinity John Eliot Gardiner
Monteverdi Choir
English Baroque Soloists
Soli Deo Gloria 2000 (2000) Period
J. S. Bach: Cantatas Vol. 26 – Cantatas from Leipzig 1724 Masaaki Suzuki
Bach Collegium Japan
BIS 2003 (2003) Period
J. S. Bach: Cantatas for the Complete Liturgical Year Vol. 1: "Ich will den Kreuzstab gerne tragen" - Cantatas BWV 98 · 180 · 56 · 55 Sigiswald Kuijken
La Petite Bande
Accent 2004 (2004) OVPP Period


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Dellal, Pamela. "BWV 180 – Schmücke dich, o liebe Seele". Emmanuel Music. Retrieved 15 April 2014.
  2. ^ Wolff, Christoph (1991). The transition between the second and the third yearly cycle of Bach's Leipzig cantatas (1725) (PDF). Bach Cantatas Website. p. 2. Retrieved 21 June 2011.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Dürr, Alfred (1981). Die Kantaten von Johann Sebastian Bach (in German). Vol. 1 (4 ed.). Deutscher Taschenbuchverlag. pp. 484–486. ISBN 3-423-04080-7.
  4. ^ "Schmücke dich, o liebe Seele / Text and Translation of Chorale". Bach Cantatas Website. 2005. Retrieved 31 October 2011.
  5. ^ a b Leahy, Ann (16 October 2011). J. S. Bach's "Leipzig" Chorale Preludes: Music, Text, Theology. Scarecrow Press 2011. pp. 59−69. ISBN 9780810881815. Retrieved 8 October 2011.
  6. ^ a b Bischof, Walter F. "BWV 180 Schmücke dich, o liebe Seele". University of Alberta. Retrieved 14 October 2015.
  7. ^ Grob, Jochen (2014). "BWV 180 / BC A 149" (in German). Retrieved 15 October 2015.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Mincham, Julian (2010). "Chapter 21 BWV 180 Schmücke dich, o liebe Seele". Retrieved 14 October 2015.
  9. ^ Hofmann, Klaus (2004). "Schmücke dich, o liebe Seele / Ahdorn yourself, beloved soul" (PDF). Bach Cantatas Website. p. 5−6. Retrieved 22 October 2015.
  10. ^ "Chorale Melodies used in Bach's Vocal Works / Schmücke dich, o liebe Seele". Bach Cantatas Website. 2006. Retrieved 1 November 2011.
  11. ^ a b c d e Gardiner, John Eliot (2006). Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) / Cantatas Nos 38, 49, 98, 109, 162, 180 & 188 (Media notes). Soli Deo Gloria (at Hyperion Records website). Retrieved 13 October 2018.
  12. ^ Oron, Aryeh. "Cantata BWV 180 Schmücke dich, o liebe Seele". Bach Cantatas Website. Retrieved 14 October 2015.