Herr Jesu Christ, wahr' Mensch und Gott, BWV 127

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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 Ash Wednesday, and first performed it on 11 February 1725. The text is based on the chorale 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.[1] 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.[2]

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.[1] 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.[1]

Scoring and structure

The cantata is scored for three soloists, soprano, tenor and bass, a four-part choir, trumpet, two recorders, two oboes, two violins, viola and basso continuo.[1]

1. Chorale: Herr Jesu Christ, wahr’ Mensch und Gott
2. Recitativo (tenor): Wenn alles sich zur letzten Zeit entsetzet
3. Aria (soprano): Die Seele ruht in Jesu Händen
4. Recitativo e aria (bass): Wenn einstens die Posaunen schallenFürwahr, fürwahr, euch sage ich
5. Chorale: Ach, Herr, vergib all unsre Schuld

Music

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", first played by the strings, later also by the oboes and recorders. It is the same chorale as the cantus firmus in Bach's later St Matthew Passion. It's request "erbarm dich unser" (have mercy upon us) corresponds to the request of the blind man. 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 the term "Sterbeglocken" (funeral bells) is 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, which contrasts the destruction of heaven and earth with the security of the believers, given in text and tune from the chorale. The closing chorale is a four-part setting with attention to details of the text, such as movement 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.).[1]

References

  1. ^ a b c d e Dürr, Alfred (1971). Die Kantaten von Johann Sebastian Bach (in German). 1. Bärenreiter-Verlag. OCLC 523584. 
  2. ^ David Vernier. "Jesu, Deine Passion - Bach: Cantatas Bwv 22, 23, 127 & 159 / Herreweghe, Mields, White, Et Al". arkivmusic.com. Retrieved 1 March 2011. 

Sources

The first source is the score.

General sources are found for the Bach cantatas. Several databases provide additional information on each single cantata: