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Erwünschtes Freudenlicht, BWV 184

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Erwünschtes Freudenlicht
BWV 184
Thomaskirche, Leipzig
OccasionThird day of Pentecost
Performed30 May 1724 (1724-05-30): Leipzig

Erwünschtes Freudenlicht (Desired light of joy), BWV 184, is a cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach for the Lutheran church service. He composed it in Leipzig for the third day of Pentecost (Whit Tuesday) and first performed it on 30 May 1724. It was probably based on an earlier secular cantata (BWV 184a). This work, mostly lost, was composed in Köthen as a duet cantata for soprano and bass with several dance movements.

Bach structured the Pentecost cantata in six movements and scored it for three solo voices, a four-part choir and Baroque instrumental ensemble of two flutes, strings and continuo. Unusually for Bach's church cantatas, the work is not concluded by a chorale: a setting of the final stanza of the hymn "O Herre Gott, dein göttlichs Wort" by Anarg zu Wildenfels is instead in the penultimate position, followed by a chorus. The dance influence from the secular model is reflected in the passepied-like second movement, the minuet of the fourth, and the gavotte of the last.

History and text[edit]

Bach composed this cantata for Pentecost Tuesday, the third day of Pentecost.[1][2] It was likely based on an earlier secular cantata for New Year's Day composed in Köthen (BWV 184a).[1][3] The musicologist Szymon Paczkowski suggests two other possible occasions for the secular model: the birthday of Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Coethen on 10 December 1720,[4] and the wedding of the prince and Friderica Henrietta on 11 December 1721.[5]

The Bach scholar Alfred Dürr points out many similarities to Erhöhtes Fleisch und Blut, BWV 173: both were adapted from secular models, both written for Pentecost in Bach's first year in Leipzig, and both revived in 1731.[1] While the model for the other cantata survived (the congratulatory cantata Durchlauchtster Leopold, BWV 173a), the model for Erwünschtes Freudenlicht is mostly lost, with only a few instrumental parts extant.[1] It was a duet cantata, with several dance movements.[6]

The prescribed readings for the feast day were from the Acts of the Apostles, the Holy Spirit in Samaria (Acts 8:14–17), and from the Gospel of John, the Good Shepherd (John 10:1–10).[7] The poet who adapted a text to the existing music is unknown.[2] He possibly kept the wording of the beginning of the opening recitative, continuing to describe Jesus as the shepherd of his "blissful flock".[1] The librettist included as the penultimate movement of the cantata the final (eighth) stanza of the hymn "O Herre Gott, dein göttlichs Wort" by Anarg zu Wildenfels.[1]

Bach first performed Erwünschtes Freudenlicht in Leipzig on 30 May 1724, as a rough adaption of BWV 184a.[1] He performed it there again on 3 June 1727 and 15 May 1731.[2]


Scoring and structure[edit]

Bach scored the work for three vocal soloists (soprano (S), alto (A) and tenor (T)), a four-part choir, and a Baroque instrumental ensemble: two transverse flutes (Ft), two violins (Vl), viola (Va), and basso continuo.[8][9] The duration of the piece has been stated as 25 minutes.[7]

Bach structured the cantata in six movements. A chorale movement, which ends most of his cantatas originally conceived for church use, is here penultimate movement, followed by the only chorus. The first movements are for the soloists: recitatives, a duet and an aria. In the following table of the movements, the scoring follows the Neue Bach-Ausgabe.[9] The keys and time signatures are taken from the book by Bach scholar Alfred Dürr, using the symbols for common time (4/4) and alla breve (2/2).[8] The instruments are shown according to type (winds and strings), while the continuo, playing throughout, is not shown.

Movements of Erwünschtes Freudenlicht
No. Title Text Type Vocal Winds Strings Key Time
1 Erwünschtes Freudenlicht anon. Recitative T 2Ft G major common time
2 Gesegnete Christen, glückselige Herde anon. Duet aria S A 2Ft 2Vl Va G major 3/8
3 So freuet euch, ihr auserwählten Seelen anon. Recitative T common time
4 Glück und Segen sind bereit anon. Aria T Vl solo B minor 3/4
5 Herr, ich hoff je, du werdest die von Wildenfels Chorale SATB 2Ft 2Vl Va D major common time
6 Guter Hirte, Trost der Deinen anon. Chorus SATB 2Ft 2Vl Va G major cut time



The opening recitative, "Erwünschtes Freudenlicht" (Desired light of joy),[1] is accompagnato, sung by the tenor and accompanied by two flutes. It was possibly not changed from the original cantata for New Year's Day. The "desired light" is illustrated by a rising motif in the flutes which is repeated throughout the movement. Dürr interprets the figure as the flames mentioned in the Pentecost narration.[1] The movement concludes with an arioso section.[10]


The duet aria is written for soprano and alto voice: "Gesegnete Christen, glückselige Herde, kommt, stellt euch bei Jesu mit Dankbarkeit ein!" (Blessed Christians, enraptured flock, come, dwell with Jesus with thankfulness!).[11] It is a da capo aria in triple time with long ritornello episodes.[1] The musicologist Julian Mincham describes it as "retaining a little more of the spirit of the rustic dance".[10] The Bach scholar Klaus Hofmann called it a passepied.[6] The movement was probably already a pastorale in the secular model, and suits the image of the Good Shepherd and his flock.[1] John Eliot Gardiner, who conducted the Bach Cantata Pilgrimage in 2000, believes that the music was actually danced to in the secular version heard in Köthen.[12]


The third movement is a secco tenor recitative: "So freuet euch, ihr auserwählten Seelen!" (So rejoice, you chosen souls!).[1][11] It also closes as an arioso, ending the movement in D major rather than the C major in which it began.[10]


The fourth movement is a tenor aria: "Glück und Segen sind bereit, die geweihte Schar zu krönen" (Happiness and blessing are prepared to crown the consecrated flock).[11] Paczkowski notes that the movement's text deals with the second coming of Christ, using the symbolism of Shepherd and King, common in the Near East.[5] It is formally a trio sonata for voice, solo violin and continuo, in adapted ternary form.[3][10] It is in B minor, the only movement not in a major key.[10] Gardiner describes it as a minuet.[12]


The penultimate movement is a four-part setting of a chorale stanza:[10] "Herr, ich hoff je, du werdest die in keiner Not verlassen" (Lord, I hope that you will not leave in any distress).[13] This is unusual for Bach, as typically his church cantatas place the chorale as the final movement.[10]


The closing chorus, "Guter Hirte, Trost der Deinen, laß uns nur dein heilig Wort!" (Good Shepherd, solace of Your followers, leave us Your holy Word alone!),[11] is a gavotte, basically a duet of soprano and bass, expanded by the choir in the refrains.[12] Bach reused the music of this movement to conclude Laßt uns sorgen, laßt uns wachen, BWV 213, composed for the birthday of Crown Prince Friedrich Christian of Saxony on 5 September 1733.[14]



  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Dürr & Jones 2006, p. 367.
  2. ^ a b c "Cantata BWV 184 Erwünschtes Freudenlicht". Bach Cantatas Website. Retrieved 14 December 2012.
  3. ^ a b Leonhardt, James. "Johann Sebastian Bach / Cantata No. 184, "Erwünschtes Freudenlicht," BWV 184 (BC A88)". Allmusic. Retrieved 4 June 2013.
  4. ^ Paczkowski 2017, p. 137.
  5. ^ a b Paczkowski 2017, p. 162.
  6. ^ a b Hofmann, Klaus (2001). "Erwünschtes Freudenlicht (Awaited light of joy), BWV 184" (PDF). Bach Cantatas Website. pp. 9–10.
  7. ^ a b Dürr & Jones 2006, p. 364.
  8. ^ a b Dürr & Jones 2006, pp. 364–366.
  9. ^ a b "BWV 184 Erwünschtes Freudenlicht". University of Alberta. Retrieved 4 June 2013.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g Mincham, Julian. "Chapter 60 BWV 184 Erwünschtes Freudenlicht / The long desired light of joy". The Cantatas of Johann Sebastian Bach. Retrieved 4 June 2013.
  11. ^ a b c d Dellal, Pamela. "BWV 184 – Erwünschtes Freudenlicht". Emmanuel Music. Retrieved 24 May 2017.
  12. ^ a b c Gardiner, John Eliot (2008). Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) / Cantatas Nos 129, 165, 175, 176, 184 & 194 (Media notes). Soli Deo Gloria (at Hyperion Records website). Retrieved 8 June 2019.
  13. ^ Dürr & Jones 2006, p. 366.
  14. ^ Paczkowski 2017, p. 138.


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