Es erhub sich ein Streit, BWV 19

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Es erhub sich ein Streit
BWV 19
Church cantata by J. S. Bach
GuidoReni MichaelDefeatsSatan.jpg
OccasionFeast of Saint Michael
Cantata textPicander
Choraleby Christoph Demantius
Performed29 September 1726 (1726-09-29): Leipzig
  • 3 trombe
  • timpani
  • 2 oboes
  • oboe da caccia
  • 2 oboes d'amore
  • 2 violins
  • viola
  • continuo

Es erhub sich ein Streit (There arose a war), BWV 19, is a church cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach. He composed it in Leipzig in 1726 for the Feast of Saint Michael and first performed it on 29 September 1726. It is the second of his three extant cantatas for this feast.

History and words[edit]

Bach took up his position in Leipzig in 1723. His first years in the city were particularly productive in terms of cantatas for the church calendar. As well as being a Christian festival, St. Michael's Day was important in the commercial life of Leipzig as it marked the start of one of the city's annual trade fairs.

The prescribed readings for the day were from the Book of Revelation, Michael fighting the dragon (Revelation 12:7–12), and from the Gospel of Matthew, heaven belongs to the children, the angels see the face of God (Matthew 18:1–11).[1] The text of the cantata was written by Christian Friedrich Henrici, better known as Picander.[2] By now a regular collaborator of the composer, Picander had provided the libretto for a previous St Michael's Day cantata. Picander includes as the closing chorale a stanza from a hymn by Christoph Demantius.

The chorale theme is Freu dich sehr, o meine Seele, which was codified by Louis Bourgeois when setting the Geneva Psalm 42 in his collection Pseaumes octante trios de David (Geneva, 1551). Bourgeois seems to have been influenced by the secular song "Ne l'oseray je dire" contained in the Manuscrit de Bayeux published around 1510.

Scoring and structure[edit]

The piece is scored for three vocal soloists (soprano, tenor, and bass), four-part choir, and a Baroque instrumental ensemble of three trumpets, timpani, two oboes, oboe da caccia, two oboes d'amore, two violins, viola, and basso continuo. Traditionally in Leipzig during Bach's time the Feast of St Michael celebrations used the largest orchestra available. All known complete Bach cantatas for this occasion include trumpet and timpani.[3]

It is in seven movements:

Movements of Es erhub sich ein Streit
No. Title Text Type Vocal Winds Strings Percussion Key Time
1 Es erhub sich ein Streit Chorus SATB 3 natural trumpets, 2 oboes 2 violins, viola, basso continuo Timpani C major 6/8
2 Gottlob! der Drache liegt Recitative Bass Basso continuo 4/4
3 Gott schickt uns Mahanaim zu Aria Soprano 2 oboe d'amoures Basso continuo G major 4/4
4 Was ist der schnöde Mensch, das Erdenkind? Recitative Tenor 2 violins, viola, basso continuo E minor 4/4
5 Bleibt, ihr Engel, bleibt bei mir! Aria Tenor 1 natural trumpet 2 violins, viola, basso continuo E minor 6/8
6 Laßt uns das Angesicht Recitative Soprano Basso continuo 4/4
7 Laß dein' Engel mit mir fahren Chorale SATB Three trumpets, two oboes 2 violins, viola, Basso continuo Timpani C major 3/4


As with other Bach cantatas written for the Feast of St. Michael, this work opens with an "imposing" chorus. The opening and closing section of this da capo movement focuses on a single line of text describing the battle against the forces of evil. The middle section sets the remaining five lines of the text. The movement includes no instrumental introduction, creating an "immediate dramatic effect".[4] Craig Smith suggests that the "vaulting high-energy fugue theme is the perfect illustration of the heroic struggle".[3]

The bass recitative in E minor describes the importance of the victory over Satan, but exudes a sombre mood, suggesting the continued difficulties of mankind.[4]

The third movement is a soprano aria with obbligato oboes, "an oasis of protective tranquillity" in the major mode. However, elements of the music disturb the peace conveyed by the text: the extended ritornello begins with an "odd three-bar phrasing", leading into a passage of constant momentum between the two oboes.[4]

The tenor recitative is again in the minor mode, this time to describe the fragility of man. This movement moves into a striking tenor aria, describing a personal response to the text. The aria is the longest movement of the cantata, representing a third of the total length of the work.[4] The trumpet plays the full chorale melody of "Herzlich lieb hab ich dich, o Herr", probably with the third stanza mentioning angels in mind,[3] over a siciliano rhythm in the strings and continuo.[4]

The penultimate movement is a brief secco soprano recitative that returns to the major mode to prepare the closing chorale. The chorale has the feel of a minuet, although there is some tension because of the changing phrase lengths employed by the melody.[4]


The text is a reworked version of a libretto which Picander published in 1725.

As with almost all Bach's cantatas, the music did not appear in print until the 19th century, although the cantata was revived several times in Hamburg by Bach's son Carl Philipp Emanuel.[5][page needed] It was first published in 1852 in the Bach-Gesellschaft Ausgabe (BGA), edited by Moritz Hauptmann



  1. ^ "Lutheran Church Year - Readings for the Feast of St Michael and All Angels (September 29th)". Retrieved 21 December 2014.
  2. ^ Sanford Terry, C.; Litti, D. (1917). "Bach's Cantata Libretti". Proceedings of the Royal Musical Association. 44 (1): 71–125. doi:10.1093/jrma/44.1.71. ISSN 0958-8442.
  3. ^ a b c "Emmanuel Music - Bach Cantata BWV 19 - Program Notes". Retrieved 21 December 2014.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Mincham, Julian. "The Cantatas of Johann Sebastian Bach - Chapter 25 BWV 19". Retrieved 21 December 2014.
  5. ^ Geck, Martin (2006). Johann Sebastian Bach : life and work (1st U.S. ed.). Harcourt. ISBN 9780151006489.


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