Laßt uns sorgen, laßt uns wachen, BWV 213

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Friedrich Christian, for whose birthday the cantata was written

Laßt uns sorgen, laßt uns wachen (Let us take care, let us watch over),[1] BWV 213,[a] is a secular cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach. Bach composed it in Leipzig on a text by Picander and first performed it on 5 September 1733. It is also known as Die Wahl des Herkules (The choice of Hercules) and Hercules am Scheidewege (Hercules at the crossroads).

History and text[edit]

The work was a dramma per musica describing the story of "Hercules at the Crossroads". Bach composed the piece for the 11th birthday of Crown Prince Friedrich Christian of Saxony. It was first performed in Leipzig on 5 September 1733 at Zimmermann's coffeehouse (the locale celebrated in the Coffee Cantata).[2][3]

The text was written by Picander.[2]

Bach used the aria "Schlafe, mein Liebster" in a revised form in Part II of his Christmas Oratorio. A duet of the cantata and the duet "Et in unum Dominum" from his Mass in B minor share a common lost base.

Scoring and structure[edit]

The cantata has four vocal soloists: Lust (soprano), Hercules (alto), Virtue (tenor), and Mercury (bass). It is also scored for a four-part choir, two horns, oboe d'amore, two oboes, two violins, two violas (or viola and bassoon), and basso continuo.[2][4]

The cantata has 13 movements:

  1. Chorus: Laßt uns sorgen, lasst uns wachen
  2. Recitative (alto): Und wo? Wo ist die rechte Bahn
  3. Aria (soprano): Schlafe, mein Liebster, und pflege der Ruh
  4. Duet recitative (soprano, tenor): Auf! folge meiner Bahn
  5. Aria (alto): Treues Echo dieser Orten
  6. Recitative (tenor): Mein hoffnungsvoller Held
  7. Aria (tenor): Auf meinen Flügeln sollst du schweben
  8. Recitative (tenor): Die weiche Wollust locket zwar
  9. Aria (alto): Ich will dich nicht hören
  10. Duet recitative (alto, tenor): Geliebte Tugend, du allein
  11. Duet aria (alto, tenor): Ich bin deine, du bist meine
  12. Recitative (bass): Schaut, Götter, dieses ist ein Bild
  13. Chorus: Lust der Volker, Lust der Deinen


The opening movement presents a choir of deities giving homage to the young Hercules, with "lullaby-like" chordal instrumental accompaniment. In the first recitative, Hercules establishes the "crossroads" at which he finds himself: a choice between the right path and following his desires. Lust responds with a lullaby-like aria to lure Hercules. The duet recitative "encapsulates the age-old good angel/bad angel, good cop/bad cop dichotomy", leading into an aria in which Hercules is "vacillating between them".[3] The aria adopts the "echo" form prominent in early Italian opera: another alto voice engages in imitative exchanges with Hercules and with the instrumental lines.[5] Virtue proceeds with a secco recitative and "ebullient" aria entreating Hercules to follow the right path that he might "soar on his wings like an eagle to the stars". Virtue concludes with another secco recitative warning Hercules not to succumb to Lust's temptations. Hercules sings a da capo aria expressing his conviction to follow Virtue's advice. The accompanying instrumental lines represent the "writhing of serpents ... being torn apart" by his choice. He then sings a duet recitative with Virtue: "metaphorically she 'weds' herself to him and they end together with a vow of unity". This moves into a long duet aria "with all the quiet tranquility of a love song but, perhaps, one that commits minds and emotions rather than bodies". The character of Mercury appears for the first time in the penultimate movement, accompanied by a "haze of God-like mysticism" created by the strings. The closing chorus is combined with a bass arioso in which Mercury addresses the Crown Prince directly. The movement is stylistically a gavotte with a balanced structure contrasting orchestra and chorus with the bass solo.[3]



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


  1. ^ Dellal, Pamela. "BWV 213 – "Laßt uns sorgen, laßt uns wachen"". Emmanuel Music. Retrieved 1 September 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c "Cantata BWV 213 Laßt uns sorgen, laßt uns wachen". Bach Cantatas. Retrieved 14 December 2012. 
  3. ^ a b c Mincham, Julian. "Chapter 94 BWV 213". jsbachcantatas. Retrieved 7 June 2013. 
  4. ^ "BWV 213". University of Alberta. Retrieved 7 June 2013. 
  5. ^ "Cantata No. 213". Allmusic. Retrieved 7 June 2013. 

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