Erhalt uns, Herr, bei deinem Wort, BWV 126

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Erhalt uns, Herr, bei deinem Wort
BWV 126
Chorale cantata by J. S. Bach
Martin Luther by Cranach-restoration.tif
Martin Luther, author of the hymn, in 1533 by Lucas Cranach the Elder
Occasion Sexagesimae
Performed 4 February 1725 (1725-02-04): Leipzig
Movements 6
Cantata text anonymous
Chorale "Erhalt uns, Herr, bei deinem Wort"
by Martin Luther
  • SATB choir
  • solo: alto, tenor and bass
  • trumpet
  • 2 oboes
  • 2 violins
  • viola
  • continuo

Erhalt uns, Herr, bei deinem Wort (Sustain us, Lord with your word),[1] BWV 126,[a] is a church cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach. He wrote the chorale cantata in 1725 in Leipzig for the Sunday Sexagesimae, the second Sunday before Lent, and first performed it on 4 February 1725. It is based on the hymn "Erhalt uns, Herr, bei deinem Wort" by Martin Luther and Justus Jonas.

History and words[edit]

Bach wrote the chorale cantata in his second year in Leipzig for Sexagesimae and first performed it on 4 February 1725. This means that it was performed only two days after the cantata Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin, BWV 125, for the Purification of Mary on 2 February.[2] The prescribed readings for the Sunday were taken from the Second Epistle to the Corinthians, "God's power is mighty in the week" (2 Corinthians 11:19–12:9), and from the Gospel of Luke, the parable of the Sower (Luke 8:4–15). The cantata is mainly based on the hymn "Erhalt uns, Herr, bei deinem Wort" by Martin Luther,[3] but also on other hymn stanzas, which frequently appeared together in hymnals of Bach's time; three stanzas of Luther's chorale, are followed by two stanzas of Justus Jonas, Luther's German version of Da pacem Domine (Give peace, Lord, 1531), and a stanza of Johann Walter paraphrasing 1 Timothy 2:2 (1566).[4]

The result are seven stanzas:

  1. Erhalt uns, Herr, bei deinem Wort
  2. Beweis dein Macht, Herr Jesu Christ
  3. Gott Heilger Geist, du Tröster wert
  4. Ihr' Anschläg, Herr, zunichte mach
  5. So werden sie erkennen doch
  6. Verleih uns Frieden gnädiglich
  7. Gib unserm Fürsten und aller Obrigkeit

The unknown poet of the cantata text kept stanzas 1, 3, 6 and 7 unchanged, expanding 3 by recitative, and reworded 2, 4 and 5 for the respective movements of the cantata. The topic of both, the hymn and the gospel, is obviously God's word, but instead of relating more closely to the parable, the poet concentrates on a general request to God: keep his people faithful to his word, protect them from enemies and provide peace.[4]

Scoring and structure[edit]

The cantata i six movemets is scored for alto, tenor, and bass soloists, a four-part choir, trumpet, two oboes, two violins, viola and basso continuo.[4]

  1. Chorus: Erhalt uns, Herr, bei deinem Wort
  2. Aria (tenor): Sende deine Macht von oben
  3. Recitative and chorale (alto, tenor): Der Menschen Gunst und Macht wird wenig nützenGott Heiliger Geist, du Tröster wert
  4. Aria (bass): Stürze zu Boden, schwülstige Stolze!
  5. Recitative (tenor): So wird dein Wort und Wahrheit offenbar
  6. Chorale: Verleih uns Frieden gnädiglich


A characteristic feature of the opening chorus is a four-note trumpet signal, which is derived from the beginning of the chorale melody, as if to repeat the words "Erhalt uns, Herr" (Uphold us, Lord) again and again.[5] The motif consists of the three notes of the A minor chord in the sequence A C A E, with the higher notes on the stressed syllables, the highest one on "Herr". The cantus firmus of the chorale[3] is sung by the soprano, the other voices sing in imitation, embedded in an independent concerto of the orchestra.[4]

The first aria is a prayer, intensified by two oboes. In the middle section the words "erfreuen" (delight) and "zerstreuen" (scatter) are illustrated by fast runs in the tenor. The second aria, movement 4, is dramatic, especially in the restless continuo. John Eliot Gardiner quotes W. G. Whittaker: Bach’s "righteous indignation at the enemies of his faith was never expressed more fiercely than in this aria".[5] Movement 3 presents the recitative in the alternating voices alto and tenor, but the ornamented chorale as a duet. The chorale melody switches also, given to the voice which enters, whereas the other one continues its recitative by accompanying material. Movement 6 combines the two stanzas from different chorales in a four-part setting.[4]

Selected recordings[edit]


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


  1. ^ Dellal, Pamela. "BWV 126 – Erhalt uns, Herr, bei deinem Wort". Emmanuel Music. Retrieved 2 February 2015. 
  2. ^ Mincham, Julian (2010). "Chapter 39 BWV 126 Erhalt uns, Herr, bei deinem Wort". Retrieved 19 February 2011. 
  3. ^ a b "XXXIII.: Erhalt uns, Herr, bei deinem Wort. Lord, keep us in Thy Word and Work. - Martin Luther, The Hymns of Martin Luther 1884". 2011. Retrieved 20 February 2011. 
  4. ^ a b c d e Dürr, Alfred (1981). Die Kantaten von Johann Sebastian Bach (in German). 1 (4 ed.). Deutscher Taschenbuchverlag. pp. 213–215. ISBN 3-423-04080-7. 
  5. ^ a b Gardiner, John Eliot (2009). "Cantatas for Sexagesima / Southwell Minster" (PDF). p. 8. Retrieved 30 January 2011.