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Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme, BWV 140

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Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme
BWV 140
Chorale cantata by J. S. Bach
Bassoon-Sinfonia-Autograph-BWV140.jpg
The first page of the bassoon part in Bach's hand from the archives of the Thomaskirche, one of few surviving instrumental parts written by him
Known as Sleepers Wake
Occasion 27th Sunday after Trinity
Performed 25 November 1731 (1731-11-25): Leipzig
Movements 7
Cantata text anonymous
Chorale "Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme
by Philipp Nicolai
Vocal
  • SATB choir
  • soprano, tenor and bass solo
Instrumental
  • horn
  • 2 oboes
  • taille
  • bassoon
  • violino piccolo
  • 2 violins
  • viola
  • continuo

Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme (Awake, calls the voice to us),[1] BWV 140,[a] also known as Sleepers Wake, is a church cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach, regarded as one of his most mature and popular sacred cantatas. He composed the chorale cantata in Leipzig for the 27th Sunday after Trinity and first performed it on 25 November 1731.

Bach composed this cantata to complete his second annual cycle of chorale cantatas, begun in 1724. The cantata is based on the hymn in three stanzas "Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme" (1599) by Philipp Nicolai, which covers the prescribed reading for the Sunday, the parable of the Ten Virgins. The text and tune of the hymn appears unchanged in movements 1, 4 and 7. An unknown author supplied poetry for the inner movements as sequences of recitative and duet, based on the love poetry of the Song of Songs. Bach structured the cantata in seven movements, setting the first stanza as a chorale fantasia, the second (movement 4) in the style of a chorale prelude, and the third as a four-part chorale. He set the new texts as dramatic recitatives and love-duets, similar to contemporary opera. Bach scored the work for three vocal soloists (soprano, tenor, bass), a four-part choir and a Baroque instrumental ensemble of horn (to enforce the soprano), two oboes, taille, violino piccolo, strings and basso continuo including bassoon.

Bach used movement 4 of the cantata as the basis for the first of his Schübler Chorales, BWV 645. Bach scholar Alfred Dürr notes that the cantata is an expression of Christian mysticism in art, while William G. Whittaker calls it "a cantata without weakness, without a dull bar, technically, emotionally and spiritually of the highest order".[2]

History and text[edit]

Bach composed the cantata in Leipzig for the 27th Sunday after Trinity. This Sunday occurs only when Easter is early.[3] The prescribed readings for the Sunday were from the First Epistle to the Thessalonians, be prepared for the day of the Lord (1 Thessalonians 5:1–11), and from the Gospel of Matthew, the parable of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25:1–13).[4]

Bach composed this cantata to complete his second annual cycle of cantatas of 1724/25, a cycle planned to be of chorale cantatas.[3][5] It is based on Philipp Nicolai's Lutheran hymn in three stanzas, "Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme", which is based on the Gospel.[3] The text of the three stanzas appears unchanged and with the melody in movements 1, 4 and 7, while an unknown author supplied poetry for movements 2 and 3, 5 and 6, both a sequence of recitative and duet.[6] He refers to the love poetry of the Song of Songs, showing Jesus as the bridegroom of the Soul.[5] According to the Bach scholar Christoph Wolff, the text was already available when Bach composed his cycle of chorale cantatas.[7]

Bach performed the cantata only once, in Leipzig's main church Nikolaikirche on 25 November 1731.[5] According to Wolff, Bach performed it only this one time, although the 27th Sunday after Trinity occurred one more time during his tenure in Leipzig, in 1742.[3] He used movement 4 of the cantata as the base for the first of his Schübler Chorales, BWV 645.[7]

As the text and its eschatological themes are also associated with the season of Advent, the cantata is commonly performed during that season.

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 and the central movement, set as two chorale fantasias and a four-part closing chorale, which frame two sequences of recitative and aria. Bach scored the work for three vocal soloists (soprano (S), tenor (T), bass (B)), a four-part choir and a Baroque instrumental ensemble of horn (Co), two oboes (Ob), taille (Ot), violino piccolo (Vp), two violins (Vl), viola (Va), and basso continuo including bassoon.[4][8] The heading of the original parts reads: "Dominica 27. post Trinit. / Wachet auf, rufft uns die Stime / â / 4. Voc. / 1. Violino picolo. / 2. Hautbois. / Taille. / Basson. / 2 Violini. / Viola. / e / Continuo. / di Signore / J.S.Bach."[9] The duration is given as 31 minutes.[4]

In the following table of the movements, the scoring follows the Neue Bach-Ausgabe.[8] The keys and time signatures are taken from the book on all cantatas by the Bach scholar Alfred Dürr, using the symbol for common time (4/4).[4] The continuo, playing throughout, is not shown.

Movements of Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme, BWV 140
No. Title Text Type Vocal Winds Strings Key Time
1 Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme Nicolai Chorale fantasia SATB Co 2Ob Ot Vp 2Vl Va E-flat major 3/4
2 Er kommt anon. Recitative T C minor common time
3 Wann kommst du, mein Heil? anon. Aria S B Vp C minor 6/8
4 Zion hört die Wächter singen Nicolai Chorale T 2Vl Va (unis.) E-flat major common time
5 So geh herein zu mir anon Recitative B Vp 2Vl Va common time
6 Mein Freund ist mein! anon. Aria S B Ob B-flat major common time
7 Gloria sei dir gesungen Nicolai Chorale SATB Co 2Ob Ot Vp 2Vl Va E-flat major common time

Music[edit]

1[edit]

The first movement, "Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme" ("Awake", we are called by the voice [of the watchmen]),[4] is a chorale fantasia based on the first verse of the chorale, a common feature of Bach's earlier chorale cantatas.[10] The cantus firmus is sung by the soprano. The orchestra plays independent material mainly based on two motifs: a dotted rhythm and an ascending scale "with syncopated accent shifts". The lower voices add in unusually free polyphonic music images such as the frequent calls "wach auf!" (wake up!) and "wo, wo?" (where, where?),[5] and long melismas in a fugato on "Halleluja".[10]

conductor John Eliot Gardiner at work in rehearsal, looking to the left
John Eliot Gardiner, who conducted the Bach Cantata Pilgrimage, in 2007

John Eliot Gardiner, who conducted the Bach Cantata Pilgrimage in 2000, notes two instrumental choirs, the strings and the double-reeds (two oboes, taille and bassoon), playing in the style of a French overture double-dotted motifs in triple rhythm. He writes:

From this a rising syncopated figure emerges, taken up later on by the altos as they lead off with their funky 'alleluia' figure and adopted by all the other singers. If anyone in the posh world of classical music ever doubted that JS Bach could also be considered the father of jazz, here is the proof.[2]

2[edit]

"Er kommt" (He comes),[4] is a recitative for tenor as a narrator[10] who calls the "Töchter Zions" (daughters of Zion).[5]

3[edit]

In the following duet, "Wann kommst du, mein Heil?" (When are You coming, my Salvation?),[4] with obbligato violino piccolo, the soprano represents the Soul and the bass is the vox Christi (voice of Jesus). In a slow siciliano, the obbligato violino piccolo illustrates "the flickering of lamps 'lit with burning oil'" in arabesques.[2] Gardiner comments: "A rich tradition of similarly sensual musical allegories, including fine examples by Bach's own cousin, Johann Christoph, stands behind this ravishing number."[2]

4[edit]

The hymn in the first publication, 1599
The third stanza as the closing chorale

The fourth movement, "Zion hört die Wächter singen" (Zion hears the watchmen singing),[4] is based on the second verse of the chorale. It is written in the style of a chorale prelude, with the phrases of the chorale, sung as a cantus firmus by the tenors (or by the tenor soloist), entering intermittently against a famously lyrical melody played in unison by the violins (without the violino piccolo) and the viola, accompanied by the basso continuo. Bach later transcribed this movement for organ (BWV 645), and it was subsequently published along with five other transcriptions Bach made of his cantata movements as the Schübler Chorales.[4]

5[edit]

The fifth movement, "So geh herein zu mir" (Then come in to me),[4] is a recitative for bass, accompanied by the strings. It pictures the unity of the bridegroom and the "chosen bride".[4]

6[edit]

The sixth movement, "Mein Freund ist mein!" (My Friend is mine!),[1] is another duet for soprano and bass with obbligato oboe. This duet, like the third movement, is a love duet between the soprano Soul and the bass Jesus.[11] Gardiner notes that Bach uses the means of "contemporary operatic love-duets in his use of chains of suspensions and parallel thirds and sixths".[2] Dürr describes it as giving "expression to the joy of the united pair", showing a "relaxed mood" in "artistic intensity".[4]

7[edit]

The closing chorale, "Gloria sei dir gesungen" (Let Gloria be sung to You),[1] is a four-part setting of the third verse of the hymn. The high pitch of the melody is doubled by a violino piccolo an octave higher, representing the bliss of the "heavenly Jerusalem".[4]

Evaluation[edit]

The Bach scholar Klaus Hofmann sees the cantata as one of the composer's "most beautiful, most mature and, at the same time, most popular sacred cantatas".[5] Dürr notes that the cantata, especially the duets in a unity of "earthly happiness in love and heavenly bliss", are an expression of Christian mysticism in art.[4] William G. Whittaker calls it "a cantata without weakness, without a dull bar, technically, emotionally and spiritually of the highest order".[2]

Selected recordings[edit]

The listing is taken from the selection on the Bach-Cantatas website.[12] Choirs and orchestras are roughly marked as large by red background; instrumental groups playing period instruments in historically informed performances are highlighted green under the header Instr..

Recordings of Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme, BWV 140
Title Conductor / Choir / Orchestra Soloists Label Year Choir type Instr.
Les Grandes Cantates de J.S. Bach Vol. 4 Werner, FritzFritz Werner
Heinrich-Schütz-Chor Heilbronn
Pforzheim Chamber Orchestra
Erato 1959 (1959) Chamber
Bach Made in Germany Vol. 2 – Cantatas IV Thomas, KurtKurt Thomas
Thomanerchor
Gewandhausorchester
Eterna 1960 (1960) Boys Symphony
J. S. Bach: Cantata No. 140, Cantata No. 57 Ristenpart, KarlKarl Ristenpart
Chorus of the Conservatory of Sarrebruck
Chamber Orchestra of the Saar
Accord 1962 (1962) Chamber Chamber
J. S. Bach: Cantatas BWV 140 & BWV 148 Gönnenwein, WolfgangWolfgang Gönnenwein
Süddeutscher Madrigalchor
Consortium Musicum
EMI 1967 (1967) Symphony
Les Grandes Cantates de J.S. Bach Vol. 24 Werner, FritzFritz Werner
Heinrich-Schütz-Chor Heilbronn
Pforzheim Chamber Orchestra
Erato 1970 (1970) Chamber
Die Bach Kantate Vol. 6 Rilling, HelmuthHelmuth Rilling
Gächinger Kantorei
Württembergisches Kammerorchester Heilbronn
Hänssler 1984 (1984) Chamber
J. S. Bach: Das Kantatenwerk • Complete Cantatas • Les Cantates, Folge / Vol. 35 – BWV 140, 143–146 Harnoncourt, NikolausNikolaus Harnoncourt
Tölzer Knabenchor
Concentus Musicus Wien
Teldec 1984 (1984) Boys Period
J. S. Bach: Cantatas BWV 140 & BWV 51 Rifkin, JoshuaJoshua Rifkin
The Bach Ensemble
L'Oiseau-Lyre 1986 (1986) OVPP Period
J. S. Bach: Cantatas (27th Sunday after Trinity) Gardiner, John EliotJohn Eliot Gardiner
Monteverdi Choir
English Baroque Soloists
Archiv Produktion 1990 (1990) Period
J. Ch. F. Bach / J. S. Bach: Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme Hennig, HeinzHeinz Hennig
Knabenchor Hannover
Barockorchester L'Arco
Thorofon 1995 (1995) OVPP Period
Bach Edition Vol. 15 – Cantatas Vol. 8 Leusink, Pieter JanPieter Jan Leusink
Holland Boys Choir
Netherlands Bach Collegium
Brilliant Classics 2000 (2000) Boys Period
J. S. Bach: Complete Cantatas Vol. 21 Koopman, TonTon Koopman
Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra & Choir
Antoine Marchand 2003 (2003) Period
Bach: Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern – Cantata BWV 1, 48, 78 & 140 Beringer, Karl-Friedrich Karl-Friedrich Beringer
Windsbacher Knabenchor
Deutsche Kammer-Virtuosen Berlin
Sony Music 2011 (2011) Boys Chamber
J. S. Bach: Cantatas Vol. 52 – Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme, Cantatas · 29 · 112 · 140 Suzuki, MasaakiMasaaki Suzuki
Bach Collegium Japan
BIS 2011 (2011) Period

Media[edit]

The following recordings of movements 1 to 7 of Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme were performed by the MIT Chamber Chorus.

ROYAL PHILHARMONIC: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IIOH2sCW13U

Notes[edit]

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

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Dellal, Pamela. "BWV 140 – Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme". Emmanuel Music. Retrieved 3 November 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f Gardiner, John Eliot (2010). "Cantatas for the Twentythird Sunday after Trinity / Winchester Cathedral" (PDF). Bach-Cantatas website. pp. 13–14. Retrieved 1 November 2011. 
  3. ^ a b c d Wolff, Christoph (2000). Johann Sebastian Bach: The Learned Musician. W. W. Norton & Company. p. 280. ISBN 0-393-04825-X. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Dürr, Alfred; Jones, Richard D. P. (2006). The Cantatas of J. S. Bach: With Their Librettos in German-English Parallel Text. Oxford University Press. pp. 648–653. ISBN 0-19-929776-2. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f Hofmann, Klaus (2012). "Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme / Wake up, the voice calls to us, BWV 140" (PDF). Bach-Cantatas website. p. 5. Retrieved 5 December 2013. 
  6. ^ Dürr, Alfred (1981). Die Kantaten von Johann Sebastian Bach (in German). 1 (4 ed.). Deutscher Taschenbuchverlag. pp. 531–535. ISBN 3-423-04080-7. 
  7. ^ a b Wolff, Christoph. "The late church cantatas from Leipzig, I" (PDF). Bach-Cantatas website. pp. 21–24. Retrieved 5 December 2013. 
  8. ^ a b Bischof, Walter F. "BWV 140 Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme". University of Alberta. Retrieved 18 November 2015. 
  9. ^ Grob, Jochen (2014). "BWV 140 / BC A 166" (in German). s-line.de. Retrieved 15 December 2015. 
  10. ^ a b c Mincham, Julian (2010). "Chapter 55 BWV 140 Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme / Awake! The Watchman's voice commands us.". jsbachcantatas.com. Retrieved 5 December 2013. 
  11. ^ Grout, Donald; Palisca, Claude (200). Norton Anthology of Western Music: Volume 1 – Ancient to Baroque. W. W. Norton & Company. p. 547. ISBN 0-393-97690-4. 
  12. ^ Oron, Aryeh. "Cantata BWV 140 Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme". Bach-Cantatas website. Retrieved 18 November 2015. 

Sources[edit]