O ewiges Feuer, o Ursprung der Liebe, BWV 34a

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O ewiges Feuer, o Ursprung der Liebe (O eternal fire, o source of love), BWV 34a,[a] is an incomplete secular[citation needed] cantata composed by Johann Sebastian Bach, of which only the complete libretto and some parts (movements 2, 3 and 6) have survived.

History and text[edit]

The cantata was composed in Leipzig most likely in 1725 or 1726[1] as a wedding commission, and performed shortly after its composition. As the choral numbers are lost, it is unknown whether any chorale theme had been used by Bach as inspiration for the writing.

The texts are anonymous or drawn from the scriptures;[2][3] specifically, movements 3 and 4 set to music text from Psalm 128 (Psalms 128:4–6), whereas the text of the final chorale is drawn from the biblical Book of Numbers (Numbers 6:24–26).

Scoring and structure[edit]

The piece is scored for four vocal soloists (soprano, alto, tenor, bass) and four-part choir, two oboes, two flauti traversi, timpani (tamburi), three trumpets (trombe) in D, two violins, viola, and basso continuo.[4]

The cantata has seven movements, divided in two parts (four movements performed before the sermon, and the remaining three afterwards):

Part 1
  1. Coro: O ewiges Feuer, o Ursprung der Liebe
  2. Recitative (bass): Wie, dass der Liebe hohe Kraft
  3. Aria (for tenor) and Recitative (for alto): Siehe, also wird gesegnet der Mann, der den Herren fürchtet
  4. Coro: Friede über Israel
Part 2
  1. Aria (alto): Wohl euch, ihr auserwählten Schafe
  2. Recitative (soprano): Das ist vor dich, o ehrenwürdger Mann
  3. Coro: Gib, höchster Gott, auch hier dem Worte Kraft


The opening chorus draws on imagery of eternal fire, represented in the strings. This is followed by a short secco bass recitative ending on an imperfect B minor cadence. The third movement exists only in reconstructed forms; it likely opened with strings and continuo. Its structure oddly alternates between aria and recitative episodes. The chorus appeals for peace.[5]

The second part opens with an alto aria that also appears in BWV 34. It includes an accompaniment of flute and muted violin in octaves. A brief secco soprano recitative leads into the closing chorus for which only soprano and bass parts are extant. As a result, it is unclear what role the other voices would play in the movement.[5]



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


  1. ^ Richard Stokes. J.S. Bach – The Complete Cantatas in German-English Translation, Long Barn Books/Scarecrow Press, 2000, ISBN 0-8108-3933-4
  2. ^ Christoph Wolff (Eds.): Die Welt der Bach-Kantaten, Metzler/Bärenreiter, Stuttgart und Kassel, 3 Bände Sonderausgabe 2006 ISBN 3-476-02127-0
  3. ^ C. S. Terry and D. Litti, Bach's Cantata Libretti, Journal of the Royal Musical Association 1917 44(1):71–125; doi:10.1093/jrma/44.1.71
  4. ^ University of Alberta
  5. ^ a b Julian Mincham


External links[edit]