Wo gehest du hin? BWV 166

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Wo gehest du hin?
BWV 166
Church cantata by J. S. Bach
Thomaskirche, Leipzig, 1885
Bible textJohn 16:5
Performed7 May 1724 (1724-05-07): Leipzig
VocalSATB soloists and choir
  • oboe
  • 2 violins
  • viola
  • continuo

Wo gehest du hin? ("Where are you heading?",[1] literally: "Where do you go?"), BWV 166, is a church cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach. He composed it in Leipzig for Cantate, the fourth Sunday after Easter, and first performed it on 7 May 1724.

History and words[edit]

Bach composed the cantata in his first year in Leipzig for the Fourth Sunday after Easter, called Cantate. The prescribed readings for the Sunday were from the Epistle of James, "Every good gift comes from the Father of lights" (James 1:17–21), and from the Gospel of John, Jesus announcing the Comforter in his Farewell Discourse (John 16:5–15).

We do not know the identity of the person who was writing Bach's librettos during his first year in Leipzig. The poet, whoever he or she was, begins by posing a question, a quotation from the gospel. The answer to the question is the theme of the cantata, which explores the direction in which life should go. The poet inserted as movement 3 the third stanza of Bartholomäus Ringwaldt's hymn "Herr Jesu Christ, ich weiß gar wohl" (1582)[2] and as the closing chorale the first stanza of Ämilie Juliane von Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt's "Wer weiß, wie nahe mir mein Ende" (1688).[3]

Scoring and structure[edit]

The cantata in six movements is scored for four vocal soloists (soprano, alto, tenor and bass), a four-part choir only for the closing chorale, oboe, two violins, viola and basso continuo. The cantus firmus of movement 3 is typically sung by the soprano of the choir.[4]

  1. Arioso (bass): Wo gehest du hin
  2. Aria (tenor): Ich will an den Himmel denken
  3. Chorale (soprano): Ich bitte dich, Herr Jesu Christ
  4. Recitative (bass): Gleichwie die Regenwasser bald verfließen
  5. Aria (alto): Man nehme sich in acht
  6. Chorale: Wer weiß, wie nahe mir mein Ende


The question "Where do you go?", comes from a particular context (John 16:5: "but now I am going to him who sent me. None of you asks me, 'Where are you going?'"). Bach gives the question on its own to the bass as the vox Christi addressing the listener directly.[4] This simple question is one of the shortest lyrics for a movement in a Bach cantata.[5]

The tenor aria survives in an incomplete form. It was first published completely in the Neue Bach-Ausgabe.[4] The soprano sings the cantus firmus of movement 3 on the melody of "Herr Jesu Christ, du höchstes Gut"[6] completely unadorned and is accompanied by the violins and viola in unison, "of great vigour and determination, urged on by steady continuo quavers".[5][7] The last aria, in great contrast, illustrates mostly the word "lacht" (laughs), although the text warns that a fall may come "wenn das Glück lacht" (when fortune winks).[1] The laughter is pictured in "the various oscillating semi-quaver figures in the strings" and in melismas on the word "lacht".[5] The final chorale on the melody of "Wer nur den lieben Gott läßt walten" [8] is set for four parts.[4]




  1. ^ a b Dellal, Pamela. "BWV 166 – Wo gehest du hin?". Emmanuel Music. Retrieved 7 September 2022.
  2. ^ "Herr Jesu Christ, ich weiß gar wohl / Text and Translation of Chorale". Bach Cantatas Website. 2010. Retrieved 27 April 2013.
  3. ^ "Wer weiß, wie nahe mir mein Ende? / Text and Translation of Chorale". Bach Cantatas Website. 2006. Retrieved 30 January 2012.
  4. ^ a b c d Dürr, Alfred (2006). Wo gehest du hin? BWV 166. The Cantatas of J. S. Bach: With Their Librettos in German-English Parallel Text. Translated by Richard D. P. Jones. Oxford University Press. pp. 315–317. ISBN 978-0-19-929776-4.
  5. ^ a b c Mincham, Julian (2010). "Chapter 53 BWV 166 Wo gehest du hin?". The Cantatas of Johann Sebastian Bach. Retrieved 7 September 2022.
  6. ^ "Chorale Melodies used in Bach's Vocal Works / Herr Jesu Christ, du höchstes Gut". Bach Cantatas Website. 2009. Retrieved 27 April 2013.
  7. ^ Leonard, James (2011). "Cantata No. 166, "Wo gehest du hin?" BWV 166". Allmusic. Retrieved 17 May 2011.
  8. ^ "Chorale Melodies used in Bach's Vocal Works / Wer nur den lieben Gott läßt walten". Bach Cantatas Website. 2009. Retrieved 30 January 2012.