Der Herr ist mein getreuer Hirt, BWV 112

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Der Herr ist mein getreuer Hirt
BWV 112
Chorale cantata by J. S. Bach
Champaigne shepherd.jpg
The Good Shepherd by Jean-Baptiste de Champaigne occasion = Second Sunday after Easter
Performed 8 April 1731 (1731-04-08) – Leipzig
Movements 5
Cantata text anonymous
Chorale "Der Herr ist mein getreuer Hirt
by Wolfgang Meuslin
Vocal SATB choir and solo
  • 2 horns
  • two oboes d'amore
  • 2 violins
  • viola
  • continuo

Der Herr ist mein getreuer Hirt (The Lord is my faithful Shepherd),[1] BWV 112,[a] is a cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach, a church cantata for the second Sunday after Easter. Bach composed the chorale cantata in Leipzig and first performed it on 8 April 1731. It is based on the hymn by Wolfgang Meuslin, a paraphrase of Psalm 23 written in 1530, sung to a melody by Nikolaus Decius.

History and words[edit]

Bach composed the cantata in Leipzig for the second Sunday after Easter, called Misericordias Domini. The prescribed readings for that Sunday were from the First Epistle of Peter (Christ as a model – 1 Peter 2:21–25), and from the Gospel of John, (the Good Shepherd – John 10:11–16).[2]

In his second year in Leipzig, Bach composed chorale cantatas between the first Sunday after Trinity of 1724 and Palm Sunday, but for Easter he returned to cantatas on more varied texts.[3] He later composed further chorale cantatas to complete his second annual cycle, and this cantata is one of them. The text consists of the unchanged words of a 1530 hymn by Wolfgang Meuslin, a paraphrase of Psalm 23,[4] sung to the melody of "Allein Gott in der Höh sei Ehr" by Nikolaus Decius (1522).[5][6] This hymn is different from the one with the same opening line by Cornelius Becker, sung to the same melody, which Bach had used in his other two cantatas for the same occasion, Du Hirte Israel, höre, BWV 104 and Ich bin ein guter Hirt, BWV 85.[7] Its topic, the Lord as the good shepherd, has traditionally been used for Jesus and is thus related to the Gospel.[2][3][6]

Bach first performed the cantata at the Nikolaikirche on 8 April 1731.[6]

Scoring and structure[edit]

The cantata in five movements is scored for four vocal soloists (soprano, alto, tenor and bass), a four-part choir, two horns, two oboes d'amore, two violins, viola and basso continuo.[8]

  1. Chorale: Der Herr ist mein getreuer Hirt
  2. Aria (alto): Zum reinen Wasser er mich weist
  3. Recitative (bass): Und ob ich wandelt im finstern Tal
  4. Duet (soprano, tenor): Du bereitest für mir einen Tisch
  5. Chorale: Gutes und die Barmherzigkeit


In the opening chorus, a chorale fantasia, the melody of the German Gloria "Allein Gott in der Höh sei Ehr" is embedded in an orchestral concerto. The movement opens with calls derived from the chorale tune played on the two horns, leading to a free concerto with the strings and oboes. The cantus firmus is sung by the soprano in long notes, while the lower voices engage in imitation.[2] John Eliot Gardiner compares the movement to the openings of the two former cantatas for the same occasion: "The presence of two horns ... reveals a much more regal portrait of the good shepherd than we have previously met."[7] Both Alfred Dürr and Klaus Hofmann assume that the music was not originally composed for this pastoral text, but previously, for the Gloria.[2][6] Bach had composed a different chorale fantasia on the same melody in Auf Christi Himmelfahrt allein, BWV 128, with similar instrumentation.[8]

The inner three movements quote the text of the hymn without change, but their music is not related to the hymn tune. The alto aria is accompanied by an obbligato oboe. It is structured in two similar parts,[2] and is in pastoral 6/8 time.[6] The steady flow of the oboe can be seen as depicting the "pure water" mentioned in the text, the steps in the continuo as "the steps made on this significant journey" "on the pathway of the righteousness of His commandments".[8]

The central movement begins as an arioso, accompanied by the continuo, illustrating the walk through the "valley of darkness". The second part is a dramatic recitative with strings, first expressing "Verfolgung, Leiden, Trübsal" (persecution, sorrow, trouble)[1] in a broken melodic line against sustained string chords, then "Thy rod and Thy staff comfort me", where the "first violins weave a comforting little melody".[7][8]

The following duet expresses enjoyment at God's table in a dance, a bourrée.[7]

The cantata closes with a four-part chorale, most instruments playing colla parte, while the horns play different parts because of their limited range.[2]

Selected recordings[edit]


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


  1. ^ a b Dellal, Pamela. "BWV 112 – Der Herr ist mein getreuer Hirt". Emmanuel Music. Retrieved 29 April 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f Dürr, Alfred (1981). Die Kantaten von Johann Sebastian Bach (in German) 1 (4 ed.). Deutscher Taschenbuchverlag. pp. 260–262. ISBN 3-423-04080-7. 
  3. ^ a b Wolff, Christoph. "The Cantatas of the Picander cycle and of the early 1730s" (PDF). pp. 22, 27. Retrieved 9 April 2013. 
  4. ^ "Der Herr ist mein getreuer Hirt / Text and Translation of Chorale". Retrieved 14 November 2012. 
  5. ^ "Chorale Melodies used in Bach's Vocal Works / Allein Gott in der Höh sei Her / The German Gloria (in excelsis Deo)". Retrieved 9 April 2013. 
  6. ^ a b c d e Hofmann, Klaus (2012). "Der Herr ist mein getreuer Hirt / The Lord is my Faithful Shepherd, BWV 112" (PDF). pp. 6–7. Retrieved 9 April 2013. 
  7. ^ a b c d Gardiner, John Eliot (2007). "Cantatas for the Second Sunday after Easter (Misericordias Domini) / Basilique St Willibrord, Echternach" (PDF). pp. 14–15. Retrieved 9 April 2013. 
  8. ^ a b c d Mincham, Julian (2010). "Chapter 54 BWV 112 Der Herr ist mein getreuer Hirt / The Lord is my true Shepherd". Retrieved 9 April 2013.