Mein liebster Jesus ist verloren, BWV 154

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Mein liebster Jesus ist verloren
BWV 154
Thomaskirche, Leipzig
OccasionFirst Sunday after Epiphany
Performed9 January 1724 (1724-01-09): Leipzig
Cantata text
Bible textLuke 2:49
  • solo: alto, tenor and bass
  • SATB choir
  • 2 oboes d'amore
  • 2 violins
  • viola
  • continuo

Mein liebster Jesus ist verloren (My dearest Jesus is lost),[1] BWV 154,[a] is a church cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach. He composed it for the first Sunday after Epiphany and first performed it in Leipzig on 9 January 1724.

History and words[edit]

Bach performed the cantata in 1724, his first year in Leipzig on the First Sunday after Epiphany. The musicologist Alfred Dürr assumes that it was written already in Weimar,[2] whereas John Eliot Gardiner shares this view only for movements 1, 4 and 7.[3] 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). The unknown poet takes the parents' search for the lost Jesus as the starting point to depict the general situation of man who lost Jesus. Movements 1 and 2 lament this loss. Movement 3 is a chorale, stanza 2 of "Jesu, meiner Seelen Wonne" by Martin Janus (or Jahn),[4] asking Jesus to return. Movement 4 asks the same question in a personal aria. The answer is given by the bass, the vox Christi (voice of Christ), in the words of the Gospel "Wisset ihr nicht, daß ich sein muß in dem, das meines Vaters ist?" (Do you not know that I must be in that which is My Father's? Luke 2:49). The joy of the finding is expressed paraphrasing from the Song of Songs "The voice of my beloved! Behold, he comes, leaping on the mountains, skipping on the hills"(Song of Solomon 2:8). The cantata ends with stanza 6 of Christian Keymann's chorale "Meinen Jesum laß ich nicht".[2][5]

Bach performed the cantata first year on 9 January 1724.[2]

Scoring and structure[edit]

Similar to the Weimar cantatas, the work is scored for alto, tenor and bass soloists, a four-part choir for the chorales only, two oboes d'amore, two violins, viola, and basso continuo. The cantata is structured in eighth movements.[2]

  1. Aria (tenor, strings): Mein liebster Jesus ist verloren
  2. Recitative (tenor): Wo treff ich meinen Jesum an
  3. Chorale: Jesu, mein Hort und Erretter
  4. Aria (alto, oboi d'amore, strings, no continuo): Jesu, laß dich finden
  5. Arioso (bass): Wisset ihr nicht, daß ich sein muß
  6. Recitative (tenor): Dies ist die Stimme meines Freundes
  7. Aria (alto, tenor, oboi d'amore, strings): Wohl mir, Jesus ist gefunden
  8. Chorale: Meinen Jesum laß ich nicht


In the three arias Bach sets extreme affekts to music: desperate lament, intense longing and blissful joy. The first aria is based on an ostinato continuo, comparable to the opening of Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen, BWV 12. First the violin, then the tenor perform an expressive melody and repeat it several times. The contrasting middle section is underlined by tremolos in the strings in daring harmonies. John Eliot Gardiner remarked in connection with his Bach Cantata Pilgrimage, that on the words "O Donnerwort in meinen Ohren" (O thunderous word in my ears),[1] "it contains a graphic evocation of ear drumming".[3] The second aria is accompanied by the two oboes d'amore and the violins and viola in unison, without continuo. Similar to the soprano aria Aus Liebe will mein Heiland sterben in Bach's St Matthew Passion, the lack of foundation portrays fragility and innocence. The joy of the finding is expressed in a duet of alto and tenor in homophonic vocal lines of parallel thirds and sixths. It is in three parts, the third not a da capo of the first, but an affirmative conclusion in a faster 3/8 time.

Movement 3 is a four-part setting of Johann Schop's tune of "Werde munter, mein Gemüte" (1642), which became famous as part of Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben, BWV 147, and was also used in movement 40 of the St. Matthew Passion. The closing chorale is a four-part setting of a 1658 tune by Andreas Hammerschmidt.[2]



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


  1. ^ a b Dellal, Pamela. "BWV 154 – Mein liebster Jesus ist verloren". Emmanuel Music. Retrieved 10 January 2015.
  2. ^ a b c d e Dürr, Alfred (1981). Die Kantaten von Johann Sebastian Bach (in German). 1 (4 ed.). Deutscher Taschenbuchverlag. pp. 174–176. ISBN 3-423-04080-7.
  3. ^ a b Gardiner, John Eliot (2010). "Cantatas for the First Sunday after Epiphany / Hauptkirche St. Jacobi, Hamburg" (PDF). pp. 13–14. Retrieved 8 January 2013.
  4. ^ "Jesu, meiner Seelen Wonne / Text and Translation of Chorale". 2009. Retrieved 7 January 2013.
  5. ^ "Meinen Jesum laß' ich nicht / Text and Translation of Chorale". 2005. Retrieved 7 January 2013.