Höchsterwünschtes Freudenfest, BWV 194

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Höchsterwünschtes Freudenfest (Most highly desired festival of joy), BWV 194, is a church cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach. He composed it in Leipzig for dedication of the church and organ Störmthal on 2 November 1723. Bach performed it again in Leipzig for Trinity Sunday, first on 4 June 1724.

The organ at Störmthal

History and text[edit]

The first known performance of the cantata was at Störmthal, a village near Leipzig. The church there had been rebuilt, and a new organ been built on a commission by Statz Friedrich von Fullen. The organ was an early work by Zacharias Hildebrandt. Von Fullen requested Bach for an approval of the instrument. Bach was satisfied and composed this cantata for the dedication servivce for the church and the organ on 2 November 1723.[1]

The cantata text was written by an anonymous poet. who included as movement 6, ending Part I, the stanzas 6 and 7 of Johann Heermann's hymn "Treuer Gott, ich muß dir klagen", and as the closing chorale, movement 12, the stanzas 9 and 10 of Paul Gerhardt's "Wach auf, mein Herz, und singe".[2]

John Eliot Gardiner and other scholars speculate that Bach based the cantata on a lost work BWV 194a, probably composed at Köthen, for which only some instrumental parts survive.

Bach led the first performance in the dedication service.[1] The 12-movement version performed at Störmthal was shortened for revivals at Leipzig, now for the occasion of Trinity Sunday, first on 4 June 1724, and again in 1726 and 1731. The prescribed readings for Trinity Sunday were Romans 11:33–36, and John 3:1–15, the meeting of Jesus and Nicodemus.[2]

The organ is notable as one of few instruments still in mostly the condition of Bach's time.[1] A restorer in 1934 remarked that it was tuned about a whole tone lower than 440, which may account for the unusualy high vocal ranges. The organ part prepared for the Leipzig revival is notated a minor third lower than the other instruments.

Scoring and structure[edit]

The cantata is scored for three vocal soloists (soprano, tenor, and bass), a four-part choir, three oboes, bassoon, two violins, viola, and basso continuo.[3]

The work has twelve movements in two parts:

Part 1
  1. Chorus: Höchsterwünschtes Freudenfest
  2. Recitative (bass): Unendlich großer Gott, ach wende dich
  3. Aria (bass): Was des Höchsten Glanz erfüllt
  4. Recitative (soprano): Wie könnte dir, du höchstes Angesicht
  5. Aria (soprano): Hilf, Gott, dass es uns gelingt
  6. Chorale: Heilger Geist ins Himmels Throne
Part 2
  1. Recitative (tenor): Ihr Heiligen, erfreuet euch
  2. Aria (tenor): Des Höchsten Gegenwart allein
  3. Duet recitative (bass and soprano): Kann wohl ein Mensch zu Gott im Himmel steigen
  4. Duet aria (bass and soprano): O wie wohl ist uns geschehn
  5. Recitative (bass): Wohlan demnach, du heilige Gemeine
  6. Chorale: Sprich Ja zu meinen Taten


Part 1 opens with a chorus similar in style to a French overture with a fugal central section. After a secco recitative, the bass sings an aria over oboe and strings. A modulating soprano recitative prepares a soprano aria in the style of a gavotte. A four-part harmonization of the chorale ends the first part.[4]

Part 2 begins with a secco tenor recitative preparing a minor-mode tenor da capo aria characterized by its extensive use of dotted rhythms. A dialogue recitative leads into a bass and soprano duet aria with oboes and continuo. After a declamatory bass recitative, the work ends with another chorale setting.[4]


The recordings are provided by Aryeh Oron on the Bach-Cantatas website.[2]

Recordings of Höchsterwünschtes Freudenfest, BWV 194
Title Conductor / Choir / Orchestra Soloists Label Year
Die Bach Kantate Vol. 65 Rilling, HelmuthHelmuth Rilling
Gächinger Kantorei
Bach-Collegium Stuttgart
Hänssler 1977 (1977)
J. S. Bach: Das Kantatenwerk · Complete Cantatas · Les Cantates, Folge / Vol. 44 - BWV 192, 194-195 Harnoncourt, NikolausNikolaus Harnoncourt
Tölzer Knabenchor
Concentus Musicus Wien
Teldec 1997 (1997)
J. S. Bach: Complete Cantatas Vol. 9 Koopman, TonTon Koopman
Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra & Choir
Erato 1998 (1998)
Bach Edition Vol. 15 – Cantatas Vol. 8 Leusink, Pieter JanPieter Jan Leusink
Holland Boys Choir
Netherlands Bach Collegium
Brilliant Classics 2000 (2000)
Bach Cantatas Vol. 27: Blythburgh/Kirkwell / For Whit Tuesday / For Trinity Sunday Gardiner, John EliotJohn Eliot Gardiner
Monteverdi Choir
English Baroque Soloists
Soli Deo Gloria 2000 (2000)
J.S. Bach: Cantatas Vol. 16 - Cantatas from Leipzig 1723 - BWV 119, 194 Suzuki, MasaakiMasaaki Suzuki
Bach Collegium Japan
BIS 2000 (2000)


  1. ^ a b c "Recording sessions at the / Hildebrandt organ of Störmthal, Germany (1723)". gothic-catalog.com. Retrieved 24 April 2015. 
  2. ^ a b c "Cantata BWV 194 Höchsterwünschtes Freudenfest". Bach Cantatas. Retrieved 14 December 2012. 
  3. ^ "BWV 194". University of Alberta. Retrieved 5 June 2013. 
  4. ^ a b Mincham, Julian. "Chapter 61 BWV 194". jsbachcantatas. Retrieved 5 June 2013.