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Liebster Jesu, mein Verlangen, BWV 32

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Liebster Jesu, mein Verlangen
BWV 32
Thomaskirche, Leipzig 1885
OccasionFirst Sunday after Epiphany
Performed13 January 1726 (1726-01-13): Leipzig
Cantata text
"Weg, mein Herz, mit den Gedanken"
by Paul Gerhardt
  • soprano and bass solo
  • SATB choir
  • oboe
  • 2 violins
  • viola
  • continuo

Liebster Jesu, mein Verlangen (Dearest Jesus, my desire),[1] BWV 32,[a] is a church cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach. He composed the dialogue cantata (Concerto in Dialogo) in Leipzig for the first Sunday after Epiphany and first performed it on 13 January 1726 as part of his third cantata cycle.

Bach composed the cantata in his third year as Thomaskantor on a text which Georg Christian Lehms, a court poet in Darmstadt, had published already in 1711. Lehms derived from the prescribed gospel, the finding in the Temple, a dialogue. Instead of a parent missing a son, as in the gospel, an allegorical Soul (soprano) misses Jesus (bass). The motifs of the story, the loss and anxious search, are placed in a more general situation in which the listener can identify with the Soul. As Lehms did not provide a closing chorale, Bach chose the twelfth and final stanza of Paul Gerhardt's hymn "Weg, mein Herz, mit den Gedanken".

Bach structured the cantata in six movements, first alternating arias and recitative, then uniting the voices in recitative and aria, finally a chorale. The two soloists are supported by an intimate Baroque instrumental ensemble of oboe, strings and continuo. The oboe accompanies the soprano, a solo violin the bass, both play when the voices are united.

History and words[edit]

Bach composed the cantata in his third year as Thomaskantor (director of church music) in Leipzig for the First Sunday after Epiphany. The prescribed readings for the Sunday were taken from the Epistle to the Romans, speaking of the duties of a Christian (Romans 12:1–6), and from the Gospel of Luke, the finding in the Temple (Luke 2:41–52).[2] Bach composed a text written by Georg Christian Lehms, court poet in Darmstadt, who published it in 1711. Bach had set texts by Lehms already when he composed cantatas for the Weimar court from 1714 to 1717.[3] He had set a similar work by Lehms a few weeks earlier, Selig ist der Mann, BWV 57 for the second day of Christmas.

Lehms treated the Gospel to an allegorical dialogue of Jesus and the Soul.[3] In the Concerto in Dialogo (Concerto in dialogue),[4] Bach assigned the Soul to the soprano voice and gave the words of Jesus to the bass as the vox Christi, the voice of Christ, disregarding that the Jesus in the Gospel is still a boy.[5] Lehms imagines not a parent searching for a missing son, but more generally the Christian Soul "with whom we are expected to identify", as John Eliot Gardiner notes.[4] The Bach scholar Klaus Hofmann comments that the poet "takes up the general motifs of the story: the loss, the search for Jesus and his rediscovery, and places them in the context of the believer’s relationship with Jesus".[5] The dialogue also refers to medieval mysticism and to imagery of the Song of Songs.[5] Lehms did not provide a closing chorale; Bach added the twelfth and final stanza of Paul Gerhardt's hymn "Weg, mein Herz, mit den Gedanken" (1647).[3][6] It is sung to the melody of "Freu dich sehr, o meine Seele", which was codified by Louis Bourgeois when setting the Geneva Psalm 42 in his collection of Pseaumes octante trios de David (Geneva, 1551). Bourgeois seems to have been influenced by the secular song Ne l'oseray je dire contained in the Manuscrit de Bayeux published around 1510.[7]

Bach led the first performance of the cantata on 13 January 1726 as part of his third cantata cycle.[2]


Structure and scoring[edit]

Bach structured the cantata in six movements, four movements of alternating arias and recitatives, then the voices united in a duet and finally a closing chorale. He scored the intimate dialogue for soprano and bass soloist, a four-part choir only in the chorale, and a Baroque instrumental ensemble of oboe (Ob), two violins (Vl), viola (Va) and basso continuo.[8] The duration is given as 22 minutes.[9]

In the following table of the movements, the scoring follows the Neue Bach-Ausgabe.[8] The keys and time signatures are taken from the book on all cantatas by the Bach scholar Alfred Dürr, using the symbols for common time (4/4) and alla breve (2/2).[2] The continuo, playing throughout, is not shown.

Movements of Liebster Jesu, mein Verlangen, BWV 32
No. Title Text Type Vocal Winds Strings Key Time
1 Liebster Jesu, mein Verlangen Lehms Aria S Ob 2Vl Va E minor
2 Was ist's, daß du mich gesuchet Lehms Recitative B B minor common time
3 Hier, in meines Vaters Stätte Lehms Aria B Vl solo G major
4 Ach! heiliger und großer Gott Lehms Recitative S B 2Vl Va
5 Nun verschwinden alle Plagen Lehms Aria (Duet) S B Ob 2Vl Va D major
6 Mein Gott, öffne mir die Pforten Lehms Chorale SATB Ob 2Vl Va G major common time


The dialogue, set in arias and recitatives for a solo voice and in duets, shows that Bach was familiar with Italian contemporary opera.[10]


The dialogue is opened by the soprano as the Soul in an aria in E minor, marked lento, "Liebster Jesu, mein Verlangen" (Dearest Jesus, my desire),[1] The voice is complemented by an obbligato oboe,[10] described by John Eliot Gardiner as "a solo oboe as her accomplice in spinning the most ravishing cantilena in the manner of one of Bach’s concerto slow movements".[4] Julian Mincham distinguishes in the oboe line two different "ideas", in the first five measures a "sense of striving, effort and stretching upwards", then "garlands" of content in achieving a union, as the last lines of the text say "Ach! mein Hort, erfreue mich, laß dich höchst vergnügt umfangen" (Ah! My treasure, bring me joy, let me embrace You with greatest delight).[1][10]


The bass answers in a short recitative, "Was ists, daß du mich gesuchet?" (How is it, that you sought Me?), a paraphrase of Jesus saying in the gospel that he has to be in his Father's place.[1]


He expands the reasoning in a da capo aria in B minor, "Hier, in meines Vaters Stätte" (Here, in My Father's place).[1] embellished by a solo violin, which "encircles the voice with triplets and trills".[4] The words "betrübter Geist (troubled spirit)[1] appear whenever mentioned in "minor-mode colourings in the melody and harmony".[10]


In the following dialogue recitative, "Ach! heiliger und großer Gott" (Ah! Holy and great God),[1] the soul answers with a paraphrase of the opening line of Psalm 84, "Wie lieblich ist doch deine Wohnung" (How amiable is Thy dwelling),[1] which both Heinrich Schütz and Johannes Brahms set to music, Brahms as the central movement of Ein deutsches Requiem. Bach sets the text as an "evocative arioso with a pulsating string accompaniment".[4] The two voices never sing at the same time.[10]


A duet, "Nun verschwinden alle Plagen" (Now all trouble disappears),[1] finally unites both voices and also their "associated obbligato instruments (oboe and violin), so far heard only separately". Gardiner writes: "It is one of those duets … in which he seems to throw caution to the winds, rivalling the lieto fine conclusions to the operas of his day, but with far more skill, substance and even panache".[4]


A four-part setting of Paul Gerhardt's hymn, "Mein Gott, öffne mir die Pforten" (My God, open the gates),[1] "returns the cantata – also in terms of style – to the sphere of reverence appropriate for a church service".[5]


The entries are taken from the listing on the Bach Cantatas Website.[11] Instrumental groups playing period instruments in historically informed performances are marked green under the header Instr..

Recordings of Liebster Jesu, mein Verlangen, BWV 32
Title Conductor / Choir / Orchestra Soloists Label Year Instr.
J. S. Bach: Cantatas No. 140, No. 32 Hermann Scherchen
Wiener Akademie Kammerchor
Orchestra of the Vienna State Opera
Westminster / Archipel 1952 (1952)
Les Grandes Cantates de J. S. Bach Vol. 13 Fritz Werner
Heinrich-Schütz-Chor Heilbronn
Pforzheim Chamber Orchestra
Erato 1963 (1963)
J. S. Bach: Cantatas BWV 32 & BWV 39 Wolfgang Gönnenwein
Süddeutscher Madrigalchor
Consortium Musicum
EMI 1965 (1965)
Bach: 13 Sacred Cantatas & 13 Sinfonias Helmut Winschermann
Deutsche Bachsolisten and choir
Philips 1970 (1970)
J. S. Bach: Das Kantatenwerk • Complete Cantatas • Les Cantates, Folge / Vol. 9 – BWV 31–34 Gustav Leonhardt
Knabenchor Hannover
Teldec 1974 (1974) Period
Die Bach Kantate Vol. 22 Helmuth Rilling
Gächinger Kantorei
Bach-Collegium Stuttgart
Hänssler 1981 (1981)
Bach Cantatas Vol. 18: Weimar/Leipzig/Hamburg / For Christmas Day & for Epiphany / For the 1st Sunday after Epiphany John Eliot Gardiner
Monteverdi Choir
English Baroque Soloists
Soli Deo Gloria 2000 (2000) Period
Bach Edition Vol. 18 – Cantatas Vol. 9 Pieter Jan Leusink
Holland Boys Choir
Netherlands Bach Collegium
Brilliant Classics 2000 (2000) Period
J. S. Bach: Complete Cantatas Vol. 17 Ton Koopman
Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra & Choir
Antoine Marchand 2002 (2002) Period
J. S. Bach: Cantatas Vol. 42 – BWV 13, 16, 32, 72 Masaaki Suzuki
Bach Collegium Japan
BIS 2008 (2008) Period
J. S. Bach Kantaten Bernhard Forck [de]
Members of Berliner Philharmoniker
IPPNW-Concerts 2004 (2004)
J. S. Bach: Dialog-Cantatas – BWV 32, 57, 58 Alfredo Bernardini
Kirchheimer BachConsort
cpo 2016 (2016) Period


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


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Dellal, Pamela. "BWV 32 – Liebster Jesu, mein Verlangen". Emmanuel Music. Retrieved 10 January 2015.
  2. ^ a b c Dürr, Alfred (1981). Die Kantaten von Johann Sebastian Bach (in German). 1 (4 ed.). Deutscher Taschenbuchverlag. pp. 176–178. ISBN 3-423-04080-7.
  3. ^ a b c Wolff, Christoph (2002). Bach's Third Yearly Cycle of Cantatas from Leipzig (1725–1727), II (PDF). Bach Cantatas Website. p. 7. Retrieved 8 January 2013.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Gardiner, John Eliot (2010). Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) / Cantatas Nos 32, 63, 65, 123, 124 & 154 (Media notes). Soli Deo Gloria (at Hyperion Records website). Retrieved 31 December 2018.
  5. ^ a b c d Hofmann, Klaus (2008). "Liebster Jesu, mein Verlangen, BWV 32 / Dearest Jesus, my desire" (PDF). Bach Cantatas Website. p. 4. Retrieved 8 January 2013.
  6. ^ "Weg, mein Herz, mit den Gedanken / Text and Translation of Chorale". Bach Cantatas Website. 2009. Retrieved 7 January 2013.
  7. ^ "Chorale Melodies used in Bach's Vocal Works / Freu dich sehr, o meine Seele". Bach Cantatas Website. 2011. Retrieved 7 January 2013.
  8. ^ a b Bischof, Walter F. "BWV 32 Liebster Jesu, mein Verlangen". University of Alberta. Retrieved 14 October 2015.
  9. ^ Leonard, James. "Johann Sebastian Bach / Cantata No. 32, "Liebster Jesu, mein Verlangen," BWV 32 (BC A31)". Allmusic. Retrieved 2 January 2016.
  10. ^ a b c d e Mincham, Julian (2010). "Chapter 11 BWV 32 Liebster Jesu, mein Verlangen". Retrieved 8 January 2013.
  11. ^ Oron, Aryeh. "Cantata BWV 32 Liebster Jesu, mein Verlangen". Bach Cantatas Website. Retrieved 2 January 2016.


External links[edit]