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
  • trumpet
  • 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 for use in a Lutheran service. He composed this chorale cantata in Leipzig in 1724 for the Marian feast of the Visitation which is celebrated on 2 July. The cantata is based in text and music on Martin Luther's German Magnificat, "Meine Seele erhebt den Herren". It is the fifth chorale cantata from his chorale cantata cycle, written to provide Sundays and feast days of the liturgical year with cantatas based on a related Lutheran hymn.

The prescribed gospel reading for the feast day was from the Gospel of Luke, which narrates Mary's visit to Elizabeth, including her song of praise known as the Magnificat. In the format of the chorale cantata cycle, only beginning and end of the text were retained unchanged, while an unknown librettist paraphrased the other verses, with the exception of verse 54 which he also kept in Luther's wording. Bach structured the cantata in seven movements, setting the outer movements for choir, based on the psalm tone of the German Magnificat. He set the other movements for soloists as recitatives, arias and a duet. Bach used a Baroque instrumental ensemble of a trumpet reinforcing the chorale melody, two oboes, strings and continuo. The music expresses the different moods of the text, illustrating God's force and compassion.

Bach later set the fifth movement, a duet of alto and tenor on the biblical text with the cantus firmus played by trumpet and oboes, for organ as one of his Schübler Chorales.

History and words[edit]

In 1723, Bach was appointed as Thomaskantor (director of church music) in Leipzig. He was employed by the town of Leipzig to this position, which made him 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 most Sundays and on Feast days. 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 for these occasions, including Meine Seel erhebt den Herren.[2]

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.[3][4] Bach had composed a Latin Magnificat the previous year for Visitation.

The prescribed readings for the feast day were from the Book of Isaiah the prophecy of the Messiah (Isaiah 11:1–5), and from the Gospel of Luke the narration of Mary's visit to Elizabeth, which includes her canticle (song of praise), the Magnificat (Luke 1:39–56). The gospel is, as the Bach scholar Klaus Hofmann notes, a biblical episode that is often represented in art, and in music where it has become a traditional part of Vesper services.[2] At Bach's time, the German Magnificat was regularly sung in Leipzig in vespers in a four-part setting of the ninth psalm tone (tonus peregrinus) by Johann Hermann Schein.[5] Different from the other chorale cantatas of the cycle, the base for text and music is not a Lutheran chorale, but the German Magnificat. The text is Luther's translation of the biblical canticle to German as part of his translation of the Bible,[6] concluded by doxology, which is traditionally added to psalms and canticles in vespers.[7]

In the format of the chorale cantata cycle, an unknown librettist retained some parts of Luther's wording, while he paraphrased other passages for recitatives and arias. He used the original verses 46–48 for the first movement, verse 54 for the fifth movement, and the doxology for the seventh movement. He paraphrased verse 49 for the second movement, verses 50–51 for the third, verses 52–53 for the fourth and verse 55 for the sixth movement, the latter expanded by a reference to the birth of Jesus.[5][8]

The text of the first two verses with the music of the psalm tone

Bach's music is based on the traditional 9th psalm tone which was familiar to the Leipzig congregation. Bach first performed the cantata on 2 July 1724.[3][8] He performed it at least once more in the 1740s.[4]


Structure and scoring[edit]

Bach structured the cantata in seven movements. The first and last are set for choir, and are based on the chant melody. They frame recitatives, arias and a duet of the soloists. Bach scored the work for four vocal soloists (soprano (S), alto (A), tenor (T) and bass (B)), a four-part choir, and a Baroque instrumental ensemble: trumpet (Tr), two oboes (Ob), two violins (Vl), viola (Va), and basso continuo (Bc).[9][10] The trumpet is only used to highlight the cantus firmus and may have been a tromba da tirarsi, a slide trumpet. The duration of the piece has been stated as 23 minutes.[11]

In the following table of the movements, the scoring follows the Neue Bach-Ausgabe.[10] The keys and time signatures are taken from the book by Bach scholar Alfred Dürr, using the symbol for common time (4/4).[9] The instruments are shown separately for winds and strings, while the continuo, playing throughout, is not shown.

Movements of Meine Seel erhebt den Herren, BWV 10
No. Title Text Type Vocal Winds Strings Key Time
1 Meine Seel erhebt den Herren Luther Chorale SATB Tr 2Ob 2Vl Va G minor common time
2 Herr, der du stark und mächtig bist anon. Aria S 2Ob (unis.) 2Vl Va B-flat major common time
3 Des Höchsten Güt und Treu anon. Recitative T common time
4 Gewaltige stößt Gott vom Stuhl anon. Aria B F major common time
5 Er denket der Barmherzigkeit Luther duet, chorale A T Tr 2ob D minor 6/8
6 Was Gott den Vätern alter Zeiten anon. Recitative T 2Vl Va common time
76 Lob und Preis sei Gott dem Vater Luther Chorale SATB Tr 2Ob 2Vl Va G minor common time



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".[4][6] The chorus enters after 12 measures with "Meine Seel erhebt den Herren" (My soul magnifies the Lord).[1] The cantus firmus is in the soprano, doubled by a trumpet, whereas the lower voices add free polyphony on motifs from the introduction.[12] 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] Certain words, such as "freuet" (rejoice) and "selig preisen" (call me blessed) are adorned with melismas.[13] The movement is concluded by a vocal setting without cantus firmus embedded in the music of the introduction, framing the movement.[12]


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.[4] It is a da capo aria, expressing praise for God's works in the first section, while the more reticent middle section covers thankfulness for his help in times of distress. Hofmann notes that it is the first soprano aria in the chorale cantata cycle.[13]


The recitative "Des Höchsten Güt und Treu" (The goodness and love of the Highest)[1] ends on an arioso.[12] The thought that God "also uses force with His arm" is expressed with emphasis, and the final "will be scattered like straw by His hand" is an extended coloratura.[13]


The following aria "Gewaltige stößt Gott vom Stuhl" (The mighty God casts from their thrones)[1] is set for bass and continuo.[12] A descending bass line in the continuo over two octaves illustrates the fall, which the voice also suggests in descending phrases. The second aspect of the text, the exaltation of the humble is shown by rising figures, and the final emptiness ("bloß und leer", bare and empty) by pauses.[13]


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 trumpet as the cantus firmus, while alto and tenor sing in imitation. Hofmann interprets the bass line of "emphatic downward semitone intervals" as "sighs of divine mercy".[13] The voices often sing in parallel thirds and sixths, as they do also in the corresponding movement from Bach's Latin Magnificat, the duet Et misericordia (And your compassion), in both cases expressing mildness and compassion.[13] Bach later transcribed this movement for organ as one of the Schübler Chorales, BWV 648.[12]


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 added strings emphasize the importance of the promise kept.[12] Hofmann describes the string music as "lively, shimmering chords".[14]


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.[12] All wind instruments and violin I support the soprano[10] The setting is mostly mostly in homophony, but turns to polyphony for the final "von Ewigkeit zu Ewigkeit" (for ever and ever).[7]

Selected recordings[edit]

The selection is taken from the listing on the Bach-Cantatas website.[15] Instrumental groups playing period instruments in historically informed performances are highlighted green under the header "Instr.".

Recordings of Meine Seel erhebt den Herren, BWV 10
Title Conductor / Choir / Orchestra Soloists Label Year Instr.
J. S. Bach: Cantatas BWV 10, BWV 47; Sanctus BWV 241 Steinitz, PaulPaul Steinitz
London Bach Society
English Chamber Orchestra
Oryx 1965 (1965)
Les Grandes Cantates de J. S. Bach Vol. 1 Werner, FritzFritz Werner
Heinrich-Schütz-Chor Heilbronn
Pforzheim Chamber Orchestra
Erato 1965 (1965) Chamber
J. S. Bach: Cantata BWV 10, Magnificat BWV 243 Münchinger, KarlKarl Münchinger
Wiener Akademiechor
Stuttgarter Kammerorchester
Decca 1968 (1968) Chamber
J. S. Bach: Das Kantatenwerk • Complete Cantatas • Les Cantates, Folge / Vol. 1 Leonhardt, GustavGustav Leonhardt
Choir of King's College
Teldec 1971 (1971) Period
Bach Cantatas Vol. 3 – Ascension Day, Whitsun, Trinity Richter, KarlKarl Richter
Münchener Bach-Chor
Münchener Bach-Orchester
Archiv Produktion 1975 (1975)
Bach Made in Germany Vol. 4 – Cantatas II Rotzsch, Hans-JoachimHans-Joachim Rotzsch
Neues Bachisches Collegium Musicum
Eterna 1978 (1978)
Die Bach Kantate Vol. 17 Rilling, HelmuthHelmuth Rilling
Gächinger Kantorei
Bach-Collegium Stuttgart
Hänssler 1979 (1979)
J.S. Bach: Cantata BWV 10 – Magnificat BWV 243 Gielen, MichaelMichael Gielen
SWR Sinfonieorchester Baden-Baden
SWF 1991 (1991)
J. S. Bach: Complete Cantatas Vol. 11 Koopman, TonTon Koopman
Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra & Choir
Antoine Marchand 1999 (1999) Period
J. S. Bach: Magnificat BWV in E flat major 243a – Cantata BWV 10 Büchner, RolandRoland Büchner
Regensburger Domspatzen
Musica Florea
Pure Classics 2000 (2000) Period
Bach Edition Vol. 20 – Cantatas Vol. 11 Leusink, Pieter JanPieter Jan Leusink
Holland Boys Choir
Netherlands Bach Collegium
Brilliant Classics 2000 (2000) Period
Bach Cantatas Vol. 2: Paris/Zürich / For the 2nd Sunday after Trinity / For the 3rd Sunday after Trinity Gardiner, John EliotJohn Eliot Gardiner
Monteverdi Choir
English Baroque Soloists
Soli Deo Gloria 2000 (2000) Period
J. S. Bach: Cantatas Vol. 23 (Cantatas from Leipzig 1725) Suzuki, MasaakiMasaaki Suzuki
Bach Collegium Japan
BIS 2002 (2002) Period
J. S. Bach: Cantatas for the Complete Liturgical Year Vol. 7 Kuijken, SigiswaldSigiswald Kuijken
La Petite Bande
Accent 2007 (2007) Period


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


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Dellal 2012.
  2. ^ a b Hofmann 2003, p. 6.
  3. ^ a b Dürr & Jones 2006, p. 32.
  4. ^ a b c d Gardiner 2004.
  5. ^ a b Dürr & Jones 2006, p. 678.
  6. ^ a b Mincham 2010.
  7. ^ a b Hofmann 2003, p. 8.
  8. ^ a b Bach digital 2017.
  9. ^ a b Dürr & Jones 2006, p. 676–678.
  10. ^ a b c Bischof 2010.
  11. ^ Dürr & Jones 2006, p. 676.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g Dürr & Jones 2006, p. 679.
  13. ^ a b c d e f Hofmann 2003, p. 7.
  14. ^ Hofmann 2003, pp. 7–8.
  15. ^ Oron 2014.




Online sources

External links[edit]