Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ, BWV 91

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Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ
BWV 91
by J. S. Bach
Martin Luther by Cranach-restoration.jpg
Martin Luther, author of the hymn, in 1533 by Lucas Cranach the Elder
Performed25 December 1724 (1724-12-25): Leipzig
Cantata textanonymous
Chorale"Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ"
by Martin Luther
VocalSATB choir and solo
  • 2 horns
  • timpani
  • 3 oboes
  • 2 violins
  • viola
  • continuo

Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ (Praise be to You, Jesus Christ),[1] BWV 91,[a] is a church cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach. He wrote the Christmas cantata in Leipzig in 1724 for Christmas Day and first performed it on 25 December 1724. The chorale cantata is based on the hymn "Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ" (1524) by Martin Luther.

History and words[edit]

The chorale cantata from Bach's second annual cycle is based on the main chorale for Christmas Day, "Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ" (1524) by Martin Luther. The beginning summarizes Christmas in two lines: "Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ, daß du Mensch geboren bist" (Praise be to You, Jesus Christ, since You were born a man).[1] All stanzajs end with the acclamation Kyrieleis. The cantata was Bach's first composed for Christmas Day in Leipzig; in his first year in Leipzig 1723 he had chosen to perform again Christen, ätzet diesen Tag, BWV 63, written before in Weimar.[2]

The prescribed readings for the feast day were from the Epistle of Titus, "God's mercy appeared" (Titus 2:11–14) or from Isaiah, "Unto us a child is born" (Isaiah 9:2–7), and from the Gospel of Luke, the Nativity, Annunciation to the shepherds and the angels' song (Luke 2:1–14). The unknown poet of the cantata text kept the first and the last stanza, expanded verse 2 by recitatives, transformed stanzas 3 and 4 to movement 3, an aria, stanza 5 to a recitative, and stanza 6 again to an aria.[3]

Bach performed the cantata again four more times on 25 December, in 1731, in 1732 or 1733, and twice in the 1740s, even after his Christmas Oratorio had been first performed in 1734, which also uses two stanzas of Luther's chorale.

Scoring and structure[edit]

The cantata in six movements is festively scored for soprano, alto, tenor, and bass, a four-part choir, two horns, timpani, three oboes, two violins, viola and basso continuo.[3] He would later use the pair of horns in Part IV of his Christmas Oratorio.

  1. Chorale: Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ
  2. Recitative (and chorale, soprano): Der Glanz der höchsten Herrlichkeit
  3. Aria (tenor): Gott, dem der Erden Kreis zu klein
  4. Recitative (bass): O Christenheit! Wohlan
  5. Aria (soprano, alto): Die Armut, so Gott auf sich nimmt
  6. Chorale: Das hat er alles uns getan


The opening chorus makes use of four choirs: the voices, the horns, the oboes and the strings. The material from the ritornellos is present also in interludes between the five lines and as accompaniment for the vocal parts. The choral melody is sung by the soprano. The lower voices are set in imitation for the first and the last line, in chords for the second and fourth line, and in a combination in the central line "Von einer Jungfrau, das ist wahr" (from a virgin, this is true).[1]

In movement 2, the recitative is contrasted with chorale phrases, which are accompanied by a repetition of the first line of the chorale in double tempo. The tenor aria is accompanied by three oboes, whereas the strings illuminate the following recitative. The last aria is a duet, contrasting "Armut" (poverty) and "Überfluss" (abundance), "Menschlich Wesen" (human being), rendered in chromatic upward lines, and "Engelsherrlichkeiten" (angelic splendours),[1] shown in coloraturas and triadic melodies.

At times the horns have independent parts in the closing chorale and embellish especially the final Kyrieleis.[3][4]



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


  1. ^ a b c d Dellal, Pamela. "BWV 91 – Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ". Emmanuel Music. Retrieved 20 December 2014.
  2. ^ Mincham, Julian (2010). "Chapter 28 BWV 91 Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ / We praise you, Jesus Christ". Retrieved 12 December 2010.
  3. ^ a b c Dürr, Alfred (1981). Die Kantaten von Johann Sebastian Bach (in German). 1 (4 ed.). Deutscher Taschenbuchverlag. pp. 109–111. ISBN 3-423-04080-7.
  4. ^ Gardiner, John Eliot (2010). "Christmas Day St / Bartholomew's, New York" (PDF). p. 1. Retrieved 12 December 2010.