Meine Seel erhebt den Herren, BWV 10

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Meine Seel erhebt den Herren
BWV 10
Chorale cantata by J. S. Bach
Heimsuchung, Unionskirche.jpg
Occasion Visitation
Performed 2 July 1724 (1724-07-02): Leipzig
Movements 7
Cantata text anonymous
Chorale "Meine Seele erhebt den Herren" (German Magnificat)
by Martin Luther
Vocal SATB choir and solo
  • flauto traverso
  • 2 oboes
  • 2 violins
  • viola
  • continuo

Meine Seel erhebt den Herren (My soul magnifies the Lord),[1] BWV 10,[a] is a cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach. He composed the chorale cantata in Leipzig for the feast of the Visitation and first performed it on 2 July 1724. It is the fifth chorale cantata from his second annual cycle, of chorale cantatas, based on Luther's German Magnificat.

History and words[edit]

In 1723, Bach was appointed as Thomaskantor (director of church music) in Leipzig, where he was responsible for the music at four churches and for the training and education of boys singing in the Thomanerchor. He took office in the middle of the liturgical year, on the first Sunday after Trinity. In Leipzig, cantata music was expected on Sundays and on Feast days, except during tempus clausum (the silent period) of Advent and Lent. In his first twelve months in office, Bach decided to compose new works for almost all of these liturgical events, known as his first cantata cycle. The year after, he continued that effort, composing chorale cantatas based on Lutheran hymns, including Meine Seel erhebt den Herren, for these occasions.

Bach composed the cantata for the Marian feast "Mariae Heimsuchung" (Visitation) in Leipzig as the fifth cantata of his second annual cycle of chorale cantatas.[2][3] Bach had composed a Latin Magnificat the year before for Visitation.

The prescribed readings for the feast day were Isaiah 11:1–5, the prophecy of the Messiah from the Book of Isaiah, and from the Gospel of Luke, Luke 1:39–56, Mary's visit to Elizabeth, including her song of praise, the Magnificat. At Bach's time, the German Magnificat was regularly sung in Leipzig in Vesper services in a four-part setting of the ninth psalm tone (tonus peregrinus) by Johann Hermann Schein.[2] Different from the other chorale cantatas of the cycle, the base for text and music is not a Lutheran chorale, but the German Magnificat.[4] The text is based on the Magnificat and the doxology, which is traditionally added to psalms and canticles in vespers. The music is based on the 9th psalm tone. The unknown poet kept some verses unchanged, 46–48 for movement 1, 54 for movement 5, and the doxology for movement 7. He paraphrased verse 49 in movement 2, 50–51 for movement 3, 52–53 for movement 4, and 55 for movement 6, expanded by a reference to the birth of the Saviour.[2]

Bach first performed the cantata on 2 July 1724.[2] He performed it at least once more in the 1740s.[3]

Scoring and structure[edit]

The cantata in seven movements is scored for four vocal soloists (soprano, alto, tenor and bass), a four-part choir, trumpet, two oboes, two violins, viola, and basso continuo. The trumpet is only used to highlight the cantus firmus and may have been a tromba da tirarsi, a slide trumpet.[2]

  1. Chorale: Meine Seel erhebt den Herren
  2. Aria (soprano): Herr, der du stark und mächtig bist
  3. Recitative (tenor): Des Höchsten Güt und Treu
  4. Aria (bass): Gewaltige stößt Gott vom Stuhl
  5. Duet and Chorale (alto, tenor): Er denket der Barmherzigkeit
  6. Recitative (tenor): Was Gott den Vätern alter Zeiten
  7. Chorale: Lob und Preis sei Gott dem Vater


Bach begins the opening chorus with an instrumental introduction that is unrelated to the psalm tone, a trio of the violins and the continuo, the violins doubled by the oboes, the viola filling the harmony. The main motif of the chorale fantasia, marked vivace, stands for joy and is set in upward "rhythmical propulsion".[3][4] The chorus enters after 12 measures with the cantus firmus in the soprano, doubled by a trumpet, whereas the lower voices add free polyphony on motifs from the introduction.[2] Bach treats the second verse similarly, but with the cantus firmus in the alto, because the text "Denn er hat seine elende Magd angesehen" speaks of the "lowly handmaid".[1][4] The movement is concluded by a vocal setting without cantus firmus embedded in the music of the introduction, framing the movement.[2]

The soprano aria "Herr, der du stark und mächtig bist" (Lord, you who are strong and mighty)[1] is a concerto of the voice and the oboes, accompanied by the strings.[3] The recitative "Des Höchsten Güt und Treu" (The goodness and love of the Highest)[1] ends on an arioso, leading to the following aria "Gewaltige stößt Gott vom Stuhl" (The mighty God casts from their thrones)[1] for bass and continuo. In movement 5 "Er denket der Barmherzigkeit" (He remembers his mercy)[1] the text returns to the original German Magnificat, and the music to the psalm tone, played by oboes and trumpets as the cantus firmus, while alto and tenor sing in imitation. Bach later transcribed this movement for organ as one of the Schübler Chorales, BWV 648. The recitative "Was Gott den Vätern alter Zeiten" (What God, in times past, to our forefathers),[1] referring to God's promise, begins secco. Starting with the added words "Sein Same mußte sich so sehr wie Sand am Meer und Stern am Firmament ausbreiten, der Heiland ward geboren" (His seed must be scattered as plentifully as sand on the shore and as stars in the firmament, the Savior was born),[1] the strings stress the importance of the promise kept. In the final movement, the two verses of the doxology are set on the psalm tone for four parts, with all instruments playing colla parte.[2]



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


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Dellal, Pamela. "BWV 10 – "Meine Seel erhebt den Herren"". Emmanuel Music. Retrieved 30 August 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Dürr, Alfred (1981). Die Kantaten von Johann Sebastian Bach (in German). 1 (4 ed.). Deutscher Taschenbuchverlag. pp. 554–357. ISBN 3-423-04080-7. 
  3. ^ a b c d Gardiner, John Eliot (2004). "Cantatas for the Second Sunday after Trinity / Basilique Saint-Denis, Paris" (PDF). pp. 2–4. Retrieved 27 June 2011. 
  4. ^ a b c Mincham, Julian (2010). "Chapter 6 BWV 10 Meine Seel erhebt den Herren". Retrieved 27 June 2011.