Wer sich selbst erhöhet, der soll erniedriget werden, BWV 47

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Wer sich selbst erhöhet, der soll erniedriget werden
BWV 47
Church cantata by J. S. Bach
Thomaskirche, Leipzig
Occasion17th Sunday after Trinity
Cantata text
Bible textEphesians 4
Performed13 October 1726 (1726-10-13): Leipzig
  • 2 oboes
  • 2 violins
  • viola
  • organ
  • continuo

Johann Sebastian Bach composed the church cantata Wer sich selbst erhöhet, der soll erniedriget werden (Whoever exalts himself, will be abased[1] / KJV: For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased), BWV 47, in Leipzig for the 17th Sunday after Trinity and first performed it on 13 October 1726.

History and words[edit]

Bach wrote the cantata in his fourth year in Leipzig for the 17th Sunday after Trinity.[2] It is regarded as part of his third annual cycle of cantatas. The prescribed readings for the Sunday were from the Epistle to the Ephesians, the admonition to keep the unity of the Spirit (Ephesians 4:1–6), and from the Gospel of Luke, healing a man with dropsy on the Sabbath (Luke 14:1–11). The poet Johann Friedrich Helbig (1680–1722) was a court poet at the ducal court of Saxe-Eisenach from 1718. He published an annual cycle of cantatas in 1720, Aufmunterung der Andacht (Encouragement of Devotion), which included this cantata.[3] It is the only cantata text of Helbig which Bach composed.[4] It is not known whether he knew the publishing or rather a composition of Georg Philipp Telemann, who composed several of Helbig's texts in Eisenach. The poet takes the final line from the Gospel as a starting point in the first movement and then concentrates on the warning of pride, leading to a prayer for humility.[2] The closing chorale is the eleventh and final stanza of the hymn "Warum betrübst du dich, mein Herz",[5] which Bach had used in 1723 in his cantata Warum betrübst du dich, mein Herz, BWV 138.

Bach first performed the cantata on 13 October 1726.[2]

Scoring and structure[edit]

The cantata in five movements is scored for two vocal soloists (soprano and bass), a four-part choir, and a Baroque instrumental ensemble of two oboes, two violins, viola, organ obbligato and basso continuo.[2]

Movements of Wer sich selbst erhöhet, der soll erniedriget werden, BWV 47
No. Title Type Vocal Winds Strings Organ Key Time
1 Wer sich selbst erhöhet, der soll erniedriget werden Chorus SATB 2Ob 2Vl, Va, Bc G minor cut time
2 Wer ein wahrer Christ will heißen Aria Soprano Bc Org (obbligato) D minor 6/8
3 Der Mensch ist Kot, Stank, Asch und Erde Recitative Bass 2Vl, Va, Bc common time
4 Jesu, beuge doch mein Herze Aria Bass 1Ob 1Vl, Bc Eb major common time
5 Der zeitlichen Ehrn will ich gern entbehrn Chorale SATB 2Ob (col Soprano) 1Vl (col Soprano),
1Vl (coll'Alto),
Va (col Tenore),
C minor common time


The opening chorus is the most elaborate of the five movements. Bach used for the long ritornello music from his organ prelude in C minor, BWV 546, transposed to G minor.[4] The oboes play a motif, rising in sequences, which becomes a vocal theme of a fugue, illustrating the haughty self-exaltation in the first half of the Gospel text. A countersubject moves in the opposite direction to illustrate the self-humiliation. The fugue is concluded by a homophonic "summary". The sequence of fugue and summary is repeated.[2] Finally, the complete ritornello is repeated like a da capo, but with the voices additionally embedded, stating the complete text once more in homophony.[4][6]

The soprano aria was originally accompanied by an obbligato organ, as was, three weeks later, the aria Ich geh und suche mit Verlangen, BWV 49. In a later performance of the cantata, Bach assigned the obbligato part to a violin. The da capo aria depicts humility in the first section, pride in the middle section, in rough rhythm both in the voice as in the obbligato, whereas the continuo plays the theme from the first section to unify the movement.[2] John Eliot Gardiner describes the "harsh, stubborn broken chords" as illustrating arrogance.[4] The only recitative, accompanied by the strings, is the central movement.[6] Gardiner observes that Bach's "autograph score shows, for example, how he sharpened the rhythm of the word "Teufelsbrut" (devil's brood) to make its impact more abrupt and brutal."[4] The second aria is in three parts, but without a vocal da capo. Oboe and violin are equal partners to the bass voice in a prayer for humility.[2] The closing chorale[7] is set for four parts in utmost humility.[2]



  1. ^ Dellal, Pamela. "BWV 47 – Wer sich selbst erhöhet, der soll erniedriget werden". Emmanuel Music. Retrieved 6 October 2014.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h 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. 564–568. ISBN 9780198167075.
  3. ^ "Johann Friedrich Helbig (Librettist)". Bach Cantatas Website. 2003. Retrieved 10 October 2011.
  4. ^ a b c d e Gardiner, John Eliot (2009). Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) / Cantatas Nos 47, 96, 114, 116, 148 & 169 (Media notes). Soli Deo Gloria (at Hyperion Records website). Retrieved 11 November 2018.
  5. ^ "Warum betrübst du dich, mein Herz / Text and Translation of Chorale". Bach Cantatas Website. 2006. Retrieved 10 October 2011.
  6. ^ a b Mincham, Julian (2010). "Chapter 27 BWV 47 Wer sich selbst erhöhet,der soll erniedriget werden. / Whomsoever exalts himself shall be humbled". jsbachcantatas.com. Retrieved 10 October 2011.
  7. ^ "Chorale Melodies used in Bach's Vocal Works / Warum betrübst du dich, mein Herz". Bach Cantatas Website. 2005. Retrieved 11 October 2011.