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Sie werden aus Saba alle kommen, BWV 65

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Sie werden aus Saba alle kommen
BWV 65
Church cantata by J. S. Bach
Luis Tristán de Escamilla 001.jpg
Occasion Epiphany
Performed 6 January 1724 (1724-01-06): Leipzig
Movements 7
Cantata text anonymous
Bible text 1 John 3:8
  • "Ein Kind geborn zu Bethlehem"

"Ich hab in Gottes Herz und Sinn"
by Paul Gerhardt

  • SATB choir
  • tenor and bass solo
  • 2 horns
  • 2 recorders
  • 2 oboes da caccia
  • 2 violins
  • viola
  • continuo

Sie werden aus Saba alle kommen (They will all come forth out of Sheba),[1] BWV 65,[a] is a church cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach. He composed it in 1724 in Leipzig for Epiphany and first performed it on 6 January 1724.

Bach wrote the cantata to conclude his first Christmas season as Thomaskantor in Leipzig which had been celebrated with five cantatas, four of them new compositions, the Magnificat and a new Sanctus. The text by an anonymous author, who possibly supplied texts of two of the Christmas cantatas as well, combines the prescribed readings for the feast day, the prophecy from the Book of Isaiah and the gospel of Matthew about the Wise Men from the East. The librettist begins with a quotation from the prophecy, comments it by a stanza of the early anonymous Christmas carol "Ein Kind geborn zu Bethlehem", says in a sequence of recitatives and arias that the prophecy was fulfilled in Bethlehem, concluding that the Christian should bring his heart as a gift. The cantata ends with a chorale, stanza 10 of Paul Gerhardt's hymn "Ich hab in Gottes Herz und Sinn".

Bach scored the cantata in seven movements festively, for two vocal soloists (tenor and bass), a four-part choir and a Baroque instrumental ensemble of two horns, two recorders, two oboes da caccia, strings and basso continuo. All recitatives are secco, but the full orchestra plays for the opening chorus, the last aria and the closing chorale.

History and words[edit]

Bach wrote the cantata in his first year as Thomaskantor (director of church music) in Leipzig to conclude his first Christmas season on the Feast of Epiphany. For the celebrations on three days of Christmas, New year's Day and the following Sunday, he had performed five cantatas, four of them new compositions, the Magnificat and a new Sanctus in D major:[2][3]

Sanctus in D major, BWV 238
Magnificat in E-flat major, BWV 243a

The prescribed readings for the feast day were taken from the Book of Isaiah, the heathen will convert (Isaiah 60:1–6), and from the Gospel of Matthew, the Wise Men from the East bringing gifts of gold, myrrh and frankincense to the newborn Jesus (Matthew 2:1–12). The unknown poet of the cantata text may be the same as for BWV 40 and BWV 64 for the Second and Third Day of Christmas,[2] a person "theologically competent and poetically skilfull", as the Bach scholar Klaus Hofmann writes.[4] The librettist begins with the final verse of the epistle reading, Isaiah's prophecy "all they from Sheba shall come: they shall bring gold and incense". The poet juxtaposes the prediction by a chorale, stanza 4 of the old anonymous Christmas carol "Ein Kind geborn zu Bethlehem (de)" ("Puer natus in Bethlehem", "A babe is born in Bethlehem", 1543),[5] which describes the arrival of the "Kön'ge aus Saba" (Kings from Sheba), related to the epistle. The first recitative proclaims that the gospel is the fulfillment of the prophecy and concludes that it is the Christian's duty to bring his heart as a gift to Jesus. This idea is the theme of the following aria. The second recitative equals the gifts of the contemporary Christian to those of the kings: Faith to the gold, Prayer to the incense, and Patience to the myrrh. The last aria expresses that the devoted Christian offers his heart as a present. The cantata ends with a chorale. The text is not extant, but it is assumed to be stanza 10 of Paul Gerhardt's hymn "Ich hab in Gottes Herz und Sinn".[2][6]

Bach first performed the cantata for Epiphany on 6 January 1724.[3] In his Christmas Oratorio of 1734, Bach dedicated Part VI, Herr, wenn die stolzen Feinde schnauben, to the topic and the occasion and first performed it on 6 January 1735.[7]

Scoring and structure[edit]

Bach structured the cantata in seven movements. The opening chorus is followed by an ancient chorale, then the male soloists sing a sequence of recitative and aria each. The work is completed by a closing chorale. Bach scored the cantata for two vocal soloists (tenor (T) and bass (B)), a four-part choir and a festive Baroque instrumental ensemble of two horns (Co), two recorders (Fl), two oboes da caccia (Oc), two violins (Vl), viola (Va), and basso continuo.[4][8] Bach employed a pair of horns before in his Christmas cantata Darzu ist erschienen der Sohn Gottes, BWV 40, and later in his cantata for Christmas 1724, Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ, BWV 91, and later in Part IV of his Christmas Oratorio.[2] He wrote the title as "J. J. Festo Epiphan: Concerto. à 2 Core du Chasse. 2 Hautb: da Caccia. / due Fiauti 2 Violini è Viola con 4 Voci", which means: Jesus help. Feast of the Epiphany: concerto for 2 hunting horns. 2 oboes da caccia / two recorders 2 violins and viola with 4 voices.[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 symbol for common time (4/4).[2] The continuo, playing throughout, is not shown.

Movements of Sie werden aus Saba alle kommen, BWV 65
No. Title Text Type Vocal Winds Strings Key Time
1 Sie werden aus Saba alle kommen Isaiah Chorus SATB 2Co 2Fl 2Oc 2Vl Va C major 12/8
2 Die Kön'ge aus Saba kamen dar anon. Chorale SATB 3Tr Ti 2Ob 2Vl Va A minor 3/4
3 Was dort Jesaias vorhergesehn anon. Recitative B common time
4 Gold aus Ophir ist zu schlecht anon. Aria B 2Oc E minor common time
5 Verschmähe nicht, du, meiner Seele Licht anon. Recitative T common time
6 Nimm mich dir zu eigen hin anon. Aria T 2Co 2Fl 2Oc 2Vl Va C major 3/8
7 Ei nun, mein Gott, so fall ich dir Gerhardt Chorale SATB 2Co 2Fl 2Oc 2Vl Va A minor common time


Bach uses scoring and especially instrumentation to illustrate the contrast of poverty and abundance. While all recitatives are secco, and the strings are silent for the first aria which is supported only by the oboes da caccia in low register, a festive orchestra with three kinds of wind instruments and strings accompanies not only, as usual, the opening chorus and the closing chorale, but also the penultimate movement, a tenor aria expressing how the believer gives his heart as a present. Hofmann notes that Bach "combines high art with the folk style".[4]


The opening chorus, "Sie werden aus Saba alle kommen" (They will all come forth out of Sheba),[1] depicts, that "alle" (all), not just the three Magi, gather and move to adore. Horn signals call first and prevail throughout the movement. Canonical and imitation developments illustrate the growing of a crowd.[9][10] The central section is an extended choral fugue, framed by two sections with the voices embedded in a repeat of the instrumental introduction.[11][12] John Eliot Gardiner remarked in connection with his Bach Cantata Pilgrimage that the instrumentation resembles Near Eastern music, the recorders representing "the high pitches often associated with oriental music and the oboes da caccia (in tenor register) to evoke the shawm-like double-reed instruments (salamiya and zurna) of the Near East".[13]


First print of "Puer natus in BethlehemEin Kind geborn zu Bethlehem", published by Lucas Lossius (de) in Nürnberg in 1553

The same idea is rendered in a stanza from an archaic Christmas carol, "Die Kön'ge aus Saba kamen dar" (The kings came out of Sheba),[1] telling of the three Kings from Sheba as mentioned by Isaiah. Its melody,[14] in triple time, is set for four parts.[2]


The first recitative, "Was dort Jesaias vorhergesehn, das ist zu Bethlehem geschehn." (What Isaiah prophesied there has happened in Bethlehem.),[1] applies the situation to the individual Christian, who has nothing to offer as a gift but his heart, explained in an arioso ending.[2] The musicologist Julian Mincham notes unexpected harmonies when the stable of Bethlehem is mentioned, as if to illustrate the "lowliness of that birthplace".[11]


The first aria, "Gold aus Ophir ist zu schlecht" (Gold from Ophir is too meager),[1] is accompanied by the oboes da caccia, whose low register together with the bass voice conveys the humility expressed in the words. The instruments keep repeating the first motif, reminding of the initial idea that gold is not good enough.[2]


The tenor recitative, "Verschmähe nicht, du, meiner Seele Licht, mein Herz" (Do not scorn, o You the light of my soul, my heart),[1] begins with a plea, expressed in a downward line over a ninth.[11] It ends on the notion "des größten Reichtums Überfluß mir dermaleinst im Himmel werden" (the abundance of the greatest wealth must some day be mine in Heaven).[1]


To show the abundance, the dance-like aria, "Nimm mich dir zu eigen hin" (Take me to Yourself as Your own),[1] is accompanied by all the wind instruments, playing concertante and together. Instead of a conventional da capo aria, Bach creates a bar form by repeating the text of the second idea on new musical material.[2] A long ritornello of 32 measures "contains an almost unprecedented variety of instrumental colouring", as Mincham writes.[11]


The closing chorale, "Ei nun, mein Gott, so fall ich dir getrost in deine Hände." (Ah! now, then, my God, I fall confidently into Your hands.),[2] is sung on the melody of "Was mein Gott will, das g’scheh allzeit",[15] which Bach used frequently later, as the base for his chorale cantata BWV 111 and movement 25 of his St Matthew Passion.[2][13]

Selected recordings[edit]

The listing is taken from the selection on the Bach-Cantatas website.[16] Choirs and orchestras are roughly marked as large by red background; performances with one voice per part (OVPP) and instrumental groups playing period instruments in historically informed performances are highlighted green.

Recordings of Sie werden aus Saba alle kommen, BWV 65
Title Conductor / Choir / Orchestra Soloists Label Year Choir type Instr.
Bach Made in Germany Vol. 1 – Cantatas I Ramin, GüntherGünther Ramin
Fidelio 1952 (1952) Boys Symphony
Les Grandes Cantates de J. S. Bach Vol. 5 Werner, FritzFritz Werner
Heinrich-Schütz-Chor Heilbronn
Pforzheim Chamber Orchestra
Erato 1952 (1952) Chamber
J. S. Bach: Cantata BWV 65 Couraud, MarcelMarcel Couraud
Stuttgarter Bach-Chor
Badische Staatskapelle
Philips 1950s?
J. S. Bach: Cantatas BWV 46 & BWV 65 Kahlhöfer, HelmutHelmut Kahlhöfer
Kantorei Barmen-Gemarke (de)
Barmen Chamber Orchestra
Cantate 1960 (1960) Chamber
Bach Cantatas Vol. 1 – Advent and Christmas Richter, KarlKarl Richter
Münchener Bach-Chor
Münchener Bach-Orchester
Archiv Produktion 1967 (1967) Bach Bach
J. S. Bach: Das Kantatenwerk • Complete Cantatas • Les Cantates, Folge / Vol. 4 Harnoncourt, NikolausNikolaus Harnoncourt
Tölzer Knabenchor
Concentus Musicus Wien
Teldec 1977 (1977) Boys Period
Die Bach Kantate Vol. 21 Rilling, HelmuthHelmuth Rilling
Gächinger Kantorei
Bach-Collegium Stuttgart
Hänssler 1979 (1979)
J. S. Bach: Complete Cantatas Vol. 8 Koopman, TonTon Koopman
Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra & Choir
Antoine Marchand 1998 (1998) Period
Bach Cantatas Vol. 18: Weimar/Leipzig/Hamburg / For Christmas Day & for Epiphany / For the 1st Sunday after Epiphany Gardiner, John EliotJohn Eliot Gardiner
Monteverdi Choir
English Baroque Soloists
Soli Deo Gloria 2000 (2000) Period
Bach Edition Vol. 19 – Cantatas Vol. 10 Leusink, Pieter JanPieter Jan Leusink
Holland Boys Choir
Netherlands Bach Collegium
Brilliant Classics 2000 (2000) Boys Period
J. S. Bach: Cantatas Vol. 21 – Cantatas from Leipzig 1724 - BWV 65, 81, 83, 190 Suzuki, MasaakiMasaaki Suzuki
Bach Collegium Japan
BIS 2002 (2002) Period
J. S. Bach: Cantatas for the Complete Liturgical Year Vol. 4 Kuijken, SigiswaldSigiswald Kuijken
La Petite Bande
Accent 2006 (2006) OVPP Period


  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 65 – Sie werden aus Saba alle kommen". Emmanuel Music. Retrieved 29 December 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k 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. 172–176. ISBN 0-19-929776-2. 
  3. ^ a b Wolff, Christoph (2003). "On the first cycle of Bach's cantatas for the Leipzig Liturgy (1723–1724)" (PDF). Bach-Cantatas. pp. 12–13. Retrieved 5 January 2016. 
  4. ^ a b c Hofmann, Klaus (2002). "Sie werden aus Saba alle kommen, BWV 65 / (All they from Sheba shall come)" (PDF). Bach-Cantatas. p. 6. Retrieved 5 January 2016. 
  5. ^ "Ein Kind geborn zu Bethlehem / Text and Translation of Chorale". Bach-Cantatas. 2006. Retrieved 27 December 2010. 
  6. ^ "Ich hab in Gottes Herz und Sinn / Text and Translation of Chorale". Bach-Cantatas. 2006. Retrieved 27 December 2010. 
  7. ^ Bossuyt, Ignace (2004). "Johann Sebastian Bach, Christmas Oratorio (BWV 248)". Leuven University Press. p. 156. 
  8. ^ a b Bischof, Walter F. "BWV 165 Sie werden aus Saba alle kommen". University of Alberta. Retrieved 5 January 2016. 
  9. ^ a b "The Use of Horns in BWV 65 "Sie werden aus Saba alle kommen"" (PDF). NBA. 2010. Retrieved 27 December 2010. 
  10. ^ Robins, Brian (2010). "Cantata No. 65, "Sie werden aus Saba alle kommen," BWV 65". Allmusic. Retrieved 28 December 2010. 
  11. ^ a b c d Mincham, Julian (2010). "Chapter 35 BWV 65 Sie werden aus Saba alle kommen / All from Sheba shall come.". Retrieved 5 January 2016. 
  12. ^ Dürr, Alfred (1981). Die Kantaten von Johann Sebastian Bach (in German). 1 (4 ed.). Deutscher Taschenbuchverlag. pp. 167–169. ISBN 3-423-04080-7. 
  13. ^ a b Gardiner, John Eliot (2010). "Cantatas for Epiphany / Nikolaikirche, Leipzig" (PDF). Bach-Cantatas. p. 5. Retrieved 28 December 2010. 
  14. ^ "Chorale Melodies used in Bach's Vocal Works / Ein Kind geborn zu Bethlehem (Puer natus in Bethlehem)". Bach-Cantatas. 2006. Retrieved 29 June 2011. 
  15. ^ "Chorale Melodies used in Bach's Vocal Works / Was mein Gott will, das g'scheh allzeit". Bach-Cantatas. 2009. Retrieved 28 December 2010. 
  16. ^ Oron, Aryeh. "Cantata BWV 65 Sie werden aus Saba alle kommen". Bach-Cantatas. Retrieved 5 January 2016.