Herr Jesu Christ, wahr' Mensch und Gott, BWV 127
|Herr Jesu Christ, wahr' Mensch und Gott|
|Chorale cantata by J. S. Bach|
|Performed||11 February 1725Leipzig:|
|Chorale||"Herr Jesu Christ, wahr' Mensch und Gott"
by Paul Eber
Herr Jesu Christ, wahr' Mensch und Gott (Lord Jesus Christ, true Man and God), BWV 127, is a church cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach. He composed the chorale cantata in Leipzig for the Sunday Estomihi, the Sunday before Lent, and first performed it on 11 February 1725. It is based on the hymn in eight stanzas by Paul Eber (1562).
History and words
Bach wrote the chorale cantata in his second year in Leipzig for Estomihi. The Sunday, also called Quinquagesima, is the last Sunday before Lent, when Leipzig observed tempus clausum and no cantatas were performed. In 1723, Bach had probably performed two cantatas in Leipzig on that Sunday, Du wahrer Gott und Davids Sohn, BWV 23, composed earlier in Köthen, and Jesus nahm zu sich die Zwölfe, BWV 22, both audition pieces to apply for the post of Thomaskantor in Leipzig.
The prescribed readings for the Sunday were taken from the First Epistle to the Corinthians, "praise of love" (1 Corinthians 13:1–13), and from the Gospel of Luke, healing the blind near Jericho (Luke 18:31–43). The Gospel also announces the Passion. The text is based on the funeral song in eight stanzas by Paul Eber (1562). The hymn suites the Gospel, stressing the Passion as well as the request of the blind man in the final line of the first stanza: "Du wollst mir Sünder gnädig sein" (Be merciful to me, a sinner). The song further sees Jesus' path to Jerusalem as a model for the believer's path to his end in salvation. An unknown librettist kept the first and the last stanza and paraphrased the inner stanzas in a sequence of recitatives and arias. Stanzas 2 and 3 were transformed to a recitative, stanza 4 to an aria, stanza 5 to a recitative, stanzas 6 and 7 to another aria.
Bach first performed the cantata on 11 February 1725. It is the second to last chorale cantata of his second annual cycle, the only later one being Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern, BWV 1, for the feast of Annunciation which was celebrated even if it fell in the time of Lent.
Scoring and structure
- Chorale: Herr Jesu Christ, wahr’ Mensch und Gott
- Recitative (tenor): Wenn alles sich zur letzten Zeit entsetzet
- Aria (soprano): Die Seele ruht in Jesu Händen
- Recitative and aria (bass): Wenn einstens die Posaunen schallen – Fürwahr, fürwahr, euch sage ich
- Chorale: Ach, Herr, vergib all unsre Schuld
The opening chorale is structured by an extended introduction and interludes. These parts play on a concertante a motif derived from the first line of the chorale, but also have a cantus firmus of the chorale "Christe, du Lamm Gottes", the Lutheran Agnus Dei, first played by the strings, later also by the oboes and recorders. It appears in a similar way to the chorale as the cantus firmus in the opening chorus of his later St Matthew Passion, "O Lamm Gottes, unschuldig". Its request "erbarm dich unser" (have mercy upon us) corresponds to the request of the blind man. A third chorale is quoted repeatedly in the continuo, "O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden". Christoph Wolff notes that on Good Friday of that year Bach would perform the second version of his St John Passion, replacing the opening and the closing movement of the first version by music based on chorales, "O Mensch, bewein dein Sünde groß" which would become the final movement of the first part of the St Matthew Passion, and again "Christe, du Lamm Gottes".
Bach chose a rare instrumentation for the first aria, the oboe plays a melody, supported by short chords in the recorders, in the middle section "Sterbeglocken" (funeral bells) are depicted by pizzicato string sounds. Movement 4 illustrates the Day of Judgement. On the text "Wenn einstens die Posaunen schallen" (When one day the trumpets ring out), the trumpet enters. The unusual movement combines an accompagnato recitative with an aria, contrasting the destruction of heaven and earth with the security of the believers, the latter given in text and tune from the chorale. John Eliot Gardiner describes it as a "grand, tableau-like evocation of the Last Judgement, replete with triple occurrences of a wild 6/8 section when all hell is let loose in true Monteverdian concitato ("excited") manner". He compares it to the "spectacular double chorus" from the St Matthew Passion "Sind Blitze, sind Donner in Wolken verschwunden".
The closing chorale is a four-part setting with attention to details of the text, such as movement in the lower voices on "auch unser Glaub stets wacker sei" (also may our faith be always brave) and colourful harmonies on the final line "bis wir einschlafen seliglich" (until we fall asleep contentedly).
BWV 127/1 (variant)
A reworked and transposed version of the cantata's opening movement opens the second part of the Passion pasticcio Wer ist der, so von Edom kömmt. This version of the cantata's opening movement is known as BWV 127/1 (variant), or BC D 10/1.
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- J.S. Bach: Cantatas BWV 127 & BWV 171, Wolfgang Gönnenwein, Süddeutscher Madrigalchor, South West German Chamber Orchestra, Herrad Wehrung, Georg Jelden, Jakob Stämpfli, Cantate 1961
- Die Bach Kantate Vol. 40, Helmuth Rilling, Gächinger Kantorei, Bach-Collegium Stuttgart, Arleen Augér, Lutz-Michael Harder, Wolfgang Schöne, Hänssler 1980
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- Mincham, Julian (2010). "Chapter 44 BWV 22 Jesu nahm zu sich die Zwölfe / Jesus took the twelve to Him.". jsbachcantatas.com. Retrieved 4 February 2013.
- "Herr Jesu Christ, wahr' Mensch und Gott / Examples from the Score / Mvt. 1 – The Chorale Melody and Text". bach-cantatas.com. 2004. Retrieved 15 February 2012.
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- Bach Digital Work 0155 at www
- Herr Jesu Christ, wahr' Mensch und Gott, BWV 127: Scores at the International Music Score Library Project
- Herr Jesu Christ, wahr' Mensch und Gott BWV 127; BC A 49 / Chorale cantata (Estomihi) Leipzig University
- Cantata BWV 127 Herr Jesu Christ, wahr' Mensch und Gott history, scoring, sources for text and music, translations to various languages, discography, discussion, bach-cantatas website
- BWV 127 Herr Jesu Christ, wahr' Mensch und Gott English translation, University of Vermont
- BWV 127 Herr Jesu Christ, wahr' Mensch und Gott text, scoring, University of Alberta