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Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin, BWV 125

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Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin
BWV 125
Chorale cantata by J. S. Bach
Aert de Gelder - Het loflied van Simeon.jpg
Simeon's Song of Praise by Aert de Gelder, around 1700–1710
Occasion Purification
Performed 2 February 1725 (1725-02-02): Leipzig
Movements 6
Cantata text anonymous
Chorale "Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin"
by Martin Luther
  • SATB choir
  • solo: alto, tenor and bass
  • horn
  • flauto traverso
  • oboe
  • oboe d'amore
  • 2 violins
  • viola
  • continuo

Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin (With peace and joy I depart),[1] BWV 125,[a] is a church cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach. He composed the chorale cantata in Leipzig in 1725 for the Feast of the purification of Mary and first performed it on 2 February 1725. The text is based on the hymn "Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin" in four stanzas by Martin Luther, published in 1524. The gospel for the feast day, the presentation of Jesus at the Temple, includes Simeon's canticle Nunc dimittis, which Luther paraphrased in his hymn.

An unknown librettist retained the first and the last of Luther's four stanzas. He paraphrased the second stanza in an aria, then juxtaposed it, quoting it completely, by recitative, and derived two more movements from the third stanza. Bach structured the cantata in six movements, framing four movements for soloists by a chorale fantasia and a closing chorale. He scored it for three vocal soloists, a four-part choir, and a Baroque instrumental ensemble of a horn to support the chorale tune, flauto traverso, oboe, oboe d'amore, strings and basso continuo. The opening chorus, a chorale fantasia on the hymn tune in Phrygian mode has been compared to the opening movement of Bach's St Matthew Passion: "death, sleep, a journey of departure, peace and consolation are some of the intertwined themes and images."[2]

History and words[edit]

Bach wrote the chorale cantata in his second year as Thomaskantor in Leipzig for the Feast of Purification, as part of his second annual cantata cycle, planned to consist of chorale cantatas.[3] The prescribed readings for the feast day, which is always celebrated on 2 February,[4] were from the book of Malachi, "the Lord will come to his temple" (Malachi 3:1–4), and from the Gospel of Luke, the purification of Mary and the presentation of Jesus at the Temple, including Simeon's canticle Nunc dimittis (Luke 2:22–32).[3]

Luther's hymn in four stanzas is a paraphrase of this canticle, "With peace and joy I depart in God's will".[5] Luther phrased each verse of the canticle in one stanza. An unknown librettist kept the first and the last stanza and paraphrased the inner stanzas in four movements. Movement 2 takes Luther's second stanza as a starting point and relates Simeon's view as an example on how to look at death. Movement 3 comments the complete text of Luther's second stanza in recitative. The allusion to "light for the heathen" from the Gospel and the hymn is seen related to "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved" (Mark 16:16). Movements 4 and 5 are derived from the third stanza, 4 relates to Paul's teaching about God's grace, "Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God" (Romans 3:25), thus declaring the Lutheran teaching of justification "by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone" even more clearly than Luther's song.[3]

Bach led the first performance of the cantata on 2 February 1725. He performed it at least one more time after 1735.[3]

Structure and scoring[edit]

Bach structured the cantata in six movements, framing by a chorale fantasia and a closing chorale a sequence of alternating arias and recitatives, in movement 3 using a chorale stanza in contrast to the recitative. He scored it for three vocal soloists (alto (A), tenor (T) and bass (B)), a four-part choir, and a Baroque instrumental ensemble horn to support the chorale tune sung by the soprano in the outer movements, flauto traverso (Ft), oboe (Ob), oboe d'amore (Oa), two violins (Vl), viola (Va), and basso continuo (Bc).[3][6] The title page of the original parts reads: "Festo Purificat: Mari[ae] / Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin etc. / â / 4 Voc: / Travers: / Hautbois d' Amour / 2 Violini / Viola / con / Continuo / di / Sign: / JS. Bach".[7]

In the following table of the movements, the scoring follows the Neue Bach-Ausgabe.[6] The keys and time signatures are taken from Alfred Dürr, using the symbol for common time (4/4).[8] The instruments are shown separately for winds and strings, while the continuo, playing throughout, is not shown.

Movements of Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin, BWV 125
No. Title Text Type Vocal Winds Strings Key Time
1 Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin Luther Chorale fantasia SATB Co Ft Ob 2Vl Va E minor 12/8
2 Ich will auch mit gebrochnen Augen anon. Aria A Ft Oa B minor 3/4
  • O Wunder, daß ein Herz
  • Das macht Christus, wahr' Gottes Sohn
  • anon.
  • Luther
Recitative e chorale B 2Vl Va common time
4 Ein unbegreiflich Licht anon. Aria (Duetto) T B 2Vl G major common time
5 O unerschöpfter Schatz der Güte anon. Recitative A common time
6 Er ist das Heil und selig Licht Luther Chorale SATB Co Ft Ob 2Vl Va E minor common time



The first stanza of the chorale in the hymnal Babstsches Gesangbuch of 1545, with an illustration of the Presentation at the temple

The opening chorus, "Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin in Gottes Willen" (With peace and joy I depart in God's will),[1] begins with a concertante ritornello, in which the flute and the oboe play opposed to the strings. A motif in triplets rises a fifth, related to the first interval of the chorale tune.[9][4] The soprano sings the cantus firmus in Phrygian mode in long notes.[10] The lower voices participate in the instrumental motifs for lines 1, 2, 3 and 5, but lines 4 and 6 are treated differently. In accordance to the text, "sanft und stille" (calm and quiet) and "der Tod ist mein Schlaf worden" (death has become my sleep), they are performed softly (piano), in homophony, chromatic, and modulating to distant keys.[3] The musicologist Julian Mincham relates the opening movement to that of Bach's later St Matthew Passion. It is similar in its motifs in triplets, density of counterpoint, and is in the same key of E minor, shared by the Crucifixus of his Mass in B minor which he derived from the 1714 Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen, BWV 12 (Weeping, lamenting, worrying, fearing). Mincham concludes: "death, sleep, a journey of departure, peace and consolation are some of the intertwined themes and images. Bach is always at his most creative and imaginative when dealing with such complexities".[2]


The alto aria, "Ich will auch mit gebrochnen Augen" (Even with broken eyes,),[1] is richly ornamented and accompanied by the flute and oboe d'amore, on a calm foundation of repeated notes in the continuo, marked "legato".[3] The phrase "gebrochene Augen" (broken eyes) is pictured by a broken vocal line, flute and oboe d'amore play dotted rhythm to the "almost trembling declamation" of the voice.[10]


In the bass recitative "Das macht Christus, wahr’ Gottes Sohn" (Christ, God’s true son, does this)[1] with chorale, "Herr, du siehst statt guter Werke" (Lord, you see, instead of good works),[1] the chorale tune is unadorned but for the last line, "im Tod und auch im Sterben" (in death and also in dying), where the music is extended by two measures and coloured in chromatic and rich ornamentation. The elements recitative and chorale are distinguished, the free text rendered as recitative, the chorale as arioso, but unified by a motif in the strings, called "Freudenmotiv" by Alfred Dürr, which "always indicates an underlying mood of happiness".[4]


The duet of tenor and bass, "Ein unbegreiflich Licht erfüllt den ganzen Kreis der Erden" (An unfathomable light fills the entire orb of the earth),[1] is focused on the light mentioned by Simeon, expressed in a joyful mood. .[1] The Bach scholar Klaus Hofmann notes: "The playful character is shown by the extended, circling coloratura on the word "Kreis" ("circle" or "orb"), and the baroque sound effect of statement and response unfolds to the words "Es schallet kräftig fort und fort" (Powerfully there rings out time after time.)"[4]


The alto expresses in recitative "O unerschöpfter Schatz der Güte" (O uncreated hoard of goodness).[1] Mincham notes that an "unexpected chord" illuminates the phrase "ein Stuhl der Gnaden" (a throne of clemency).[2]


The closing chorale, "Er ist das Heil und selig Licht" (He is the salvation and the blessed light),[1] is a four-part setting of the hymn tune.[3] The horn, the flute (an octave higher), the oboe and the first violin all reinforce the soprano part, the second violin the alto, and the viola the tenor.[6]

Selected recordings[edit]

The selection is taken from the listing on the Bach-Cantatas website.[11] Choirs and orchestras are roughly marked as large by red background; instrumental groups playing period instruments in historically informed performances are highlighted green under the header Instr..

Recordings of Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin, BWV 125
Title Conductor / Choir / Orchestra Soloists Label Year Choir type Instr.
J. S. Bach: Das Kantatenwerk • Complete Cantatas • Les Cantates, Folge / Vol. 7 Harnoncourt, NikolausNikolaus Harnoncourt
Tölzer Knabenchor
Concentus Musicus Wien
Teldec 1982 (1982) Boys Period
Die Bach Kantate Vol. 25 Rilling, HelmuthHelmuth Rilling
Figuralchor der Gedächtniskirche Stuttgart
Bach-Collegium Stuttgart
Hänssler 1984 (1984)
J. S. Bach: "Mit Fried und Freud" Herreweghe, PhilippePhilippe Herreweghe
Collegium Vocale Gent
Harmonia Mundi France 1998 (1998) Period
Bach Edition Vol. 14 – Cantatas Vol. 7 Leusink, Pieter JanPieter Jan Leusink
Holland Boys Choir
Netherlands Bach Collegium
Brilliant Classics 2000 (2000) Boys Period
J. S. Bach: Cantatas for the Feast of Purification of Mary Gardiner, John EliotJohn Eliot Gardiner
Monteverdi Choir
English Baroque Soloists
Archiv Produktion 2000 (2000) Period
J. S. Bach: Complete Cantatas Vol. 14 Koopman, TonTon Koopman
Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra & Choir
Antoine Marchand 2001 (2001) Period
J. S. Bach: Cantatas Vol. 32 – BWV 111, 123, 124, 125 Suzuki, MasaakiMasaaki Suzuki
Bach Collegium Japan
BIS 2005 (2005) 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, Pamela. "BWV 125 – Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin". Emmanuel Music. Retrieved 4 January 2016. 
  2. ^ a b c Mincham, Julian (2010). "Chapter 38 BWV 125, Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin / I depart in peace and joy.". Retrieved 2 February 2012. 
  3. ^ 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. 539–542. ISBN 3-423-04080-7. 
  4. ^ a b c d Hofmann, Klaus (2006). "Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin / In peace and joy I shall depart, BWV 125" (PDF). p. 8. Retrieved 26 January 2012. 
  5. ^ "Mit Fried und Freud / Text and Translation of Chorale". 2008. Retrieved 26 January 2012. 
  6. ^ a b c Bischof, Walter F. "BWV 125 Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin". University of Alberta. Retrieved 4 January 2016. 
  7. ^ Grob, Jochen (2014). "BWV 125 / BC A 168" (in German). Retrieved 4 January 2016. 
  8. ^ Dürr, Alfred; Jones, Richard D. P. (2006). The Cantatas of J. S. Bach: With Their Librettos in German-English Parallel Text. Oxford University Press. pp. 657–661. ISBN 0-19-929776-2. 
  9. ^ "Chorale Melodies used in Bach's Vocal Works / Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin". 2006. Retrieved 26 January 2012. 
  10. ^ a b Wolff, Christoph. "Conclusion of the second yearly cycle (1724–25) of the Leipzig church cantatas" (PDF). p. 3. Retrieved 2 February 2012. 
  11. ^ Oron, Aryeh. "Cantata BWV 125 Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin". Bach-Cantatas. Retrieved 2 February 2016.