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Cantata BWV 101
Nimm von uns Herr, du treuer Gott
Discussions - Part 4

Continue from Part 3

Discussions in the Week of August 3, 2014 (4th round)

William Hoffman wrote (August 4, 2014):
Cantata 101, “Nimm von uns Herr, du treuer Gott”: Intro.

One of Bach’s most memorable chorale Cantata BWV 101, “Nimm von uns Herr, du treuer Gott” (Take from us, Lord, you faithful God), for the 10th Sunday after Trinity, was premiered on August 13, 1724. Having connections to two Lutheran Catechism hymns on the Lord’s Prayer and the Ten Commandments, as well the Martin Moller 1584 hymn on the theme the “Word of God & Christian Church,” its features include a powerful opening chorale fantasia in archaic old motet style, three contemporary “sermonette” internal arias (two with chorale tropes) using dance styles, and a closing congregational affirmative four-part prayer. Because of conceptual connections to the Gospel of Christ’s prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem (Luke 19:41-48), it was referred to at all the services of Leipzig main churches for the main and vesper services on the 10th Sunday after Trinity.1

Beyond the emphasis on Luther’s Catechism teachings with the Lord’s Prayer chorale melody (“Vater unser im Himmelreich”), Cantata 101 also focuses on the 10th Sunday after Trinity Gospel narrative of the imminent destruction of Jerusalem (Luke 19:41-48), reminiscent of German town razed during the Thirty Years religious war (1619-49), observes John Eliot Gardner in his 2008 liner notes to his Bach 2000 Cantata Pilgrimage.2

<<Cantatas for the Tenth Sunday after Trinity, Braunschweig Cathedral. Just once in a while in the course of the Trinity season, with its almost unremitting emphasis on the things every good Lutheran should believe, from the Nicene Creed to the Ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, the Catechism and so on, comes a vivid shaft of New Testament history and narrative reference to the life of Christ. Here on the tenth Sunday after Trinity the Gospel (Luke 19:41-48) tells us how Jesus predicted the imminent destruction of Jerusalem, tying the event in the listener’s mind to his own Passion story. That link would have been strengthened in Bach’s day by the practice at the Vesper service on this Sunday of reading aloud Josephus’ account of the actual sacking of Jerusalem by the Roman emperor Titus in AD70, one that surely resonated in the minds of those whose families had witnessed the razing of numberless German towns during the Thirty Years War. So with his anonymous librettist choosing to open with a passage from the Old Testament narrative (Lamentations 1:12) for Bach’s first Leipzig cantata for this Sunday, BWV 46 Schauet doch und sehet, ob irgendein Schmerz sei (Behold and see / if any grief is like my grief) suddenly the separate eras of Jeremiah, Jesus and Josephus appear braced together, a sign of the potency of this particular story with its vivid, unsettling patterns of destruction and restoration, of God’s anger and Christ’s mercy.>>

Lutheran Church Year Readings for the Tenth Sunday after Trinity are: Epistle: 1 Corinthians 12:1-11 (Spiritual gifts are diverse; one spirit); Gospel: Luke 19:41-48 (Jesus weeps over Jerusalem); Thematic Patterns in Bach's Gospels, PART THREE: Paired Parable. Teachings & Miracles: *Trinity 9: Luke 16: 1-9 - Parable of the unjust steward, “There was a certain rich man, which had a steward; and the same was accused unto him that he had wasted his goods.” *Trinity 10: Luke 19: 41-48 ­ Teaching: Jesus weeps over destruction of Jerusalem, cleansing of Temple; “And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it.” German text Luther’s translation 1545; English text is the Authorised (King James) Version [KJV] 1611,

The Introit Psalm for the 10th Sunday after Trinity is Psalm 5, Verba mea airbus (Give ear to my words, O Lord (KJV), Psalm of David to Chief Musician upon Nehiloth); says Martin Petzlodt, which he describes as a “prayer for the Church,, against the false teacher, “BACH Kommentar, Vol. 1, Trinity Sundays.3 Cantata 101 was presented before the sermon on the Gospel (Luke 19:41-48) at the early main service at the Nikolaus Church, the Gospel sermon listed for the first time by superintendent Salomon Deyling (1677-1755), but not extant, says Petzoldt (Ibid.: 228). See Psalm 5 full text,

The Cantata Text is based on Martin Moller’s seven-stanza, six-line text in the original published source, Meditationes Sanctorum Patrum (Görlitz, 1584) (EKG 119). Cantata 101, “Nimm von uns, Herr, du treuer Gott” uses the unaltered stanzas for Mvts. 1, 3, 5, 7); and paraphrases with chorale text insertions from an anonymous librettist(s) (Mvts. 2, 4, 6 Bach set in dance styles) [possible Christian Friedrich Henrici (Picander) text, according to A. Schweitzer II:375f].4 It is possible that Picander assisted the second group of chorale cantata librettists in July 1724, beginning with the 10th Sunday after Trinity, since libretti textual studies have shown commonalities5 involving previous, parodied Cycle 1 sacred cantatas BWV 66, 134, and 184 (Easter 2 and 3, and Pentecost 3 of 1724) for which Picander was Bach’s leading parodist. In addition, the integration of chorale lines and pietistic-type paraphrased sentiment was another attribute of Picander. The chorale cantata cycle 2 texts thought to have been composed by group two are BWV 9, 101, 113 and 180 (Trinity +6, 10, 11, 20), as well as Cycle 1 cantatas BWV 190 (New Years 1724) ad BWV 75 (Feast of Epiphany 1724), with possible connections to Bach’s St. Thomas Pastor Christian Weiss Sr.
The Chorale Melody, “Vater unser im Himmelreich” (Lord’s Prayer versification), is attributed to an anonymous composer of the Wittenberg group and also to Martin Luther. It first appeared in Valentin Schumann’s Gesangbuch Geistliche lieder auffs new gebessert (Leipzig, 1539), see BCW Chorale Melody (Zahn 2561), EKG 241, BCW melody source information at Bach uses the melody in all the movements of Cantata 101 except for the tenor menuett-style aria (Mvt. 2) paraphrasing the second stanza of Moller’s text. Bach’s multiple use of the hymn melody is discussed at “Musical Context: Motets & Chorales for 10th Sunday after Trinity,” at BCW

The form of the movements of Cantata 101 is Chiastic (cross-like), mirror (palindrome) with Mvt. 4: aria central. Bach appears to have chosen the text pattern and music type for each movement, the total running about 25 minutes: the traditional opening chorale fantasia (Mvt. 1) and closing plain chorale (Mvt. 7) with tutti orchestra use unaltered first and last stanzas of the Moller hymn text; Mvt. 2 is an aria paraphrase of Stanza 2; and Mvts. 3-6 include unaltered lines from the central stanzas and alternately paraphrase the content of chorale and recitative: Mvt. 1: Chorus fantasia, (Chorale) | Mvt. 2: Aria | Mvt. 3: chorale & Recitative | Mvt. 4: Aria | Mvt. 5: Chorale & Recitative | Mvt. 6: Aria (Duet) | Mvt. 7: Chorale.

Cantata 101 movements/stanzas, scoring, initial text; key, and meter are:6

(Stanza 1) Chorus two-part fugue with ritronelli; fantasia dal segno (mm. 6-31), (SATB; C.f. Corno (Zink) col Soprano, Trombone I coll'Alto, Trombone II col Tenore, Trombone III col Basso, C.f. Flauto traverso, Oboe I/II, Taille, Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo; Fugue 1, “Nimm von uns Herr, du treuer Gott, / Die schwere Straf und große Not, / Die wir mit Sünden ohne Zahl / Verdienet haben allzumal.” (Take from us, Lord, you faithful God, / the heavy punishment and great distress / which for our countless sins we / deserve to have all too often.”; Fugue 2, (Behüt für Krieg und teurer Zeit” (Protect us from war and costly times), ritornello, Für Seuchen, Feur und großem Leid!” (from plague, fire and great misfortune!), dal segno; d minor; 2/2.
2. (Stanza 2, paraphrase) Aria two-part with ritornelli, dal segno (mm. 2-15), (Tenor; Violino solo, Continuo): A. “Handle nicht nach deinen Rechten” (Do not deal according to your justice); B. Höchster, höre unser Flehen,” (Most high God, hear our entreaty); dal segno; g minor; ¾ menuett style.
3. (Stanza 3 complete) Chorale and Recitative; dal segno (mm 2-8) (Soprano, Continuo); a tempo 3/4, “Ach! Herr Gott, durch die Treue dein” (Ah Lord God, through your faithfulness); recitative 4/4, “Wird unser Land in Frieden und Ruhe sein.” (will our land be in peace and quiet.) . . . . ; chorale a tempo andante, “Mit [3/4] Trost und Rettung uns er [4/4]schein! (with consolation and deliverance appear to us!); recitative 4/4, “Du kannst dem feindlichen Zerstören / Durch deine Macht und Hilfe wehren.” (From destruction by our enemies you can / protect us through your might and help.); chorale ¾, “Beweis an uns deine große Gnad / Und straf uns nicht auf frischer Tat,”(Show to us your great mercy / and do not punish us in the very act); recitative 4/4, “Wenn unsre Füsse wanken wollten” (if our feet are about to falter); chorale a tempo ¾, “Wohn uns mit deiner Güte bei” (Stay with us with your kindness); recitative 4/4, “Und gib, daß wir / Nur nach dem Guten streben,” (and grant that we / may strive only after what is good,) . . . . ; chorale a tempo ¾,Dein Zorn und Grimm fern von uns sei.” your anger and rage may be far from us); d minor; ¾-4/4.
4. Aria (Stanza 4, line 1) vivace 2/2(Bass; Oboe I/II, Taille, Continuo): chorale C.f., “Warum willst du so zornig sein?” (Why do you want to get so angry about this ?); adagio recit., Es schlagen deines Eifers Flammen / Schon über unserm Haupt zusammen.” (The flames of your passion / already close over our heads.); chorale melody instr.), “Ach, stelle doch die Strafen ein” (Ah, put an end to punishments); adagio vivace, “Fleisch Geduld!” (weak flesh!); “Und trag aus väterlicher Huld / Mit unserm schwachen Fleisch Geduld!” (and moved by a father's grace / bear patiently with our weak flesh!); dal segno; a minor, 2/2 gavotte style.
5. Chorale (Stanza 5 complete) and Recitative (Tenor, Continuo), same text format as Mvt. 3, no ritornelli dal segno, 4/4 both chorale & recit.): “Die Sünd hat uns verderbet sehr.” (Sin has done great harm to us); recitative, “So müssen auch die Frömmsten sagen” (Even the most devout must admit this) . . . .; chorale, “Der Teufel plagt uns noch viel mehr.” (the devil troubles us more and more.); recitative, “Ja, dieser böse Geist, / Der schon von Anbeginn ein Mörder heißt (John 8:44)” (Yes, this evil spirit, / who already from the beginning was known as a murderer) . . . . “Und als ein Löwe zu verschlingen. 1 Peter 5:8” (and as a lion to devour us); chorale, “Die Welt, auch unser Fleisch und Blut / Uns allezeit verführen tut.”(The world also causes our own flesh and blood / to be led astray all the time.); recitative, “Wir treffen hier auf dieser schmalen Bahn / Sehr viel Hindernis im Guten an.” (Here on this narrow path we meet with / so many obstacles to what is good.); chorale, “Solch Elend kennst du, Herr, allein:” (You, Lord, alone know such misery); recitative, “Hilf, Helfer, hilf uns Schwachen, / Du kannst uns stärker machen!” (Help, helper, help us who are weak, / you can make us stronger!); chorale, “Ach, laß uns dir befohlen sein.” (Ah let us be entrusted to you); d minor, 4/4.
6. Aria (Stanza 6, paraphrase, free da-capo in canon, dal segno (mm. 2-12) (Soprano, Alto; Flauto traverso, Oboe da caccia, Continuo): “Gedenk an Jesu bittern Tod! / Nimm, Vater, deines Sohnes Schmerzen” (Think of Jesus' bitter death! / Take, Father, the sorrows of your son); d minor, 12/8 siciliano.
7. (Stanza 7) Chorale (SATB; Flauto traverso in octava e Corno e Oboe I e Violino I col Soprano, Oboe II e Trombone I e Violino II coll'Alto, Taille e Trombone II e Viola col Tenore, Trombone III col Basso, Continuo): “Leit uns mit deiner rechten Hand” (Guide us with your right hand); d minor, 4/4.

Luther’s Catechism and Gospel Lesson

Bach’s powerful Cantata 102 uses hymn references to Luther’s Lord’s Prayer and the Ten Commandments, says Gardiner (Ibid. FN2) <<The antithesis between God’s anger and mercy resurfaces in Bach’s two later cantatas for this Sunday, yet without direct reference to the Gospel account of Jesus weeping over the fate of Jerusalem. For his second Leipzig offering, BWV 101 Nimm von uns Herr, du treuer Gott, Bach and his librettist managed to squeeze in a single passing reference to the city (No. 2), but for the rest it is based squarely on the primary hymn for this Sunday, one by Martin Moller (still conceptually related to the Gospel) written during a time of plague in 1584 and sung to the melody of Luther’s German version of the Lord’s Prayer. The relentlessness of Luther’s ‘Vater unser’, and the way the chorale is a strong audible presence in all but one of the movements of this cantata, including the recitatives, is matched in the opening movement by Bach’s use of yet another of Luther’s hymns as the thematic basis for his chorale fantasia, one associated in the congregation’s mind with the Ten Commandments (‘Dies sind die heil’gen zehn Gebot’). Clearly, the wages of sin, the overwhelming power of retribution visited upon those tempted to stray from the Lord’s path, prompted Bach to subject his first listeners to a twin-barrelled doctrinal salvo and to compose what Robert Levin described to me as ‘the most crushing work of Bach’s career’.

It starts out ruminatively with an independent bass line supporting a trio of oboes exchanging the ‘Ten Commandments’ theme with the upper strings. But before long we are given sharply accentuated dissonances over a dominant pedal, the first in a succession of hammer blows which convey the ‘schwere Straf und große Not’ (‘grave punishment and great distress’) of the text. They contribute to the unsettling mood of this extraordinary tone poem, at once so archaic sounding in the doubling of the voice parts by old-fashioned cornett and trombones, as though Bach were intent on reconnecting to Luther’s time, and yet modern in the way, for example, that the wrenching harmonies only begin to make sense as passing events in contrapuntal terms at a specific tempo, or Bach’s use of a seven-part orchestral texture which he then expands to eleven real parts. Another strange, persistent feature is the three-note ‘sighing’ figure tossed between the instruments, appoggiaturas that resolve normally but are approached from above and below by a variety of initial preparatory intervals which appear to grow wider and wider. Does it stand for the inescapability of punishment, the fate that we, with countless sins, ‘have truly merited’ (indeed, ‘allzumal’ comes in for vehement reiterated protestations by the three lower voices)? Over the final tonic pedal Bach engineers a disturbing intensification of harmony and vocal expression for the words ‘für Seuchen, Feur und großem Leid’ (‘contagion, fire and grievous pain’). It is in a movement such as this that you sense Bach working his chosen motifs as hard as he possibly can, a trait we associate more with Beethoven and Brahms... but guess whom they got it from!

Of the arias, the most arresting is the bass ‘fury’ aria (No.4) with three oboes (three angry ducks transformed into a latter-day saxophone trio), three prescribed tempi (vivace – andante – adagio) and a single moment midway, enough to strike horror in the listener when Bach makes an abrupt Mahlerian swerve from E minor to C minor on the word ‘Warum’ [willst du so zornig sein?]. Not even Henry Purcell, with his penchant for a calculated spotlit dissonance, was capable of matching this when setting the same words in his anthem ‘Lord, how long wilt Thou be angry?’. Bach’s single chorale-free aria (No.2) is strongly disjunctive, the tenor expressing fear of judgement under the law, a concertante flute countering with glimmers of hope for grace and pardon. The flute’s eloquence is still more apparent ithe soprano/alto duet (No.6), with its imploring gestures in siciliano rhythm acting in counterpoint to the chorale tune first assigned to and then exchanged with the oboe da caccia. Was it this (particularly) affecting combination of obbligato instruments and its association with the Saviour’s love and compassion shown to the sinner at the moment of ‘Jesus’ bitter death’ which planted the seed in Bach’s mind for ‘Aus Liebe’, the great soprano aria from the St Matthew Passion? In the two recitatives (Nos 3 and 5) Bach allots extensively embellished versions of the chorale tune to his individual singers, who then interrupt their own lines with ‘tropes’ of inserted commentary from relevant biblical passages… © John Eliot Gardiner 2008, From a journal written in the course of the Bach Cantata Pilgrimage 2000.

Hymn Genesis, Old & New Style Movements

The genesis and importance of Martin Moller’s 1584 hymn, Bach’s uses of the stanzas, and the old and new styles of the movements are discussed in Klaus Hofmann’s 2006 liner notes to Masaaki Suzuki BIS Cantata Recordings.7 <<“Nimm von uns, Herr, du treuer Gott” (Take from us, O faithful God, BWV 101). Bach’s cantata Nimm von uns, Herr, du treuer Gott was written for the tenth Sunday after Trinity in 1724,which that year fell on 13th August. On this Sunday the Church has long remembered the destruction of Jerusalem in the year 70 AD, which is interpreted as God’s judgement on the people of Israel. The reading for the day is Jesus’ lament about Jerusalem and the prophecy of its destruction according to Luke 19, 41-48. In Leipzig it was traditional to sing the hymn Nimm von uns, Herr, du treuer Gott (Take from us, O faithful God ) on that day – a hymn that was written in 1584 during an outbreak of the plague and beseeches God to rescind his punishment (as which the plague was interpreted), to protect against all dangers and to grant mercy, comfort and salvation. The text, by Martin Moller (1547-1606), active as a cantor and church minister in Silesia and Saxony) is based on an older Latin poem (Aufer immensam, aufer iram, Wittenberg 1541), whilst the melody can be traced back via Martin Luther’s Vater unser im Himmelreich (The Lord’s Prayer, 1539) into the fourteenth century. On this occasion, Bach’s librettist has integrated as many lines as he could from the original poem. An exception is the second movement, the text of which contains no quotations at all. In the two recitatives, all the lines of the paraphrased verse are included, skilfully intermingled with newly written verse. At times the librettist also alludes to the gospel reading, for instance with the last lines of the second movement, ‘dass wir nicht durch sündlich Tun wie Jerusalem vergehen’ (‘So that through our sinful deeds we shall not pass away like Jerusalem!’) or the term ‘feindlichen Zerstören’ (‘hostile destruction’) in the third movement.

The opening movement is intentionally archaic in tone. This applies in general terms to its sonority, which acquires its special colour from the old-fashioned reinforcement of the choral parts with a quartet of cornet and three trombones. Above all, however, it applies to the compositional technique, which is clearly oriented around the strict counterpoint of old motet writing. Thus the vocal part, in isolation, resembles at first glance an old-style cantus firmus motet. The hymn melody is in the soprano, presented line by line in long note values, and each of these sections is preceded by a fugato on the line of text involved. An unusual role is played by the orchestra of three oboes, strings and continuo. To a large extent it is independent of the vocal lines but, nonetheless, it is written in a more ‘vocal’ style and is based on its own thematic material. Special importance is attached to the idea the begins with ‘knocking’ repeated notes, heard at the beginning of the movement from the first violin and then repeatedly throughout the movement, and also to the three-note ‘sigh’ motif that appears towards the end of the instrumental introduction and carries on to accompany the entire first line from the choir. It is this motif in particular that lends the movement its character of profound mourning and imploring lamentation.

The remaining movements admittedly belong very much to Bach’s own time. In the tenor aria ‘Handle nicht nach deinen Rechten’ (‘Do not act according to your laws’) a demanding vocal line is coupled with a highly virtuosic instrumental part for the transverse flute – then a novelty among orchestral instruments – for which, in 1724 at least, Bach must have been able to call on the services of an extraordinarily talented performer. (This was not the case when the cantata was performed again a few years later; Bach then transferred this part to the violin.) In the following soprano recitative, with its mixture of original lines of text and newly composed verse, Bach follows the changes in text level precisely: the chorale lines appear as ariosi with the freely adapted chorale melody, accompanied by ostinato motifs from the continuo, whilst the newly written sections are set in the then fashionable secco recitative style. The bass aria ‘Warum willst du so zornig sein’ (‘Why do you want to be so angry?’), exquisitely scored with three oboes, is an unusual piece in other respects as well. The typical baroque ‘unity of emotion’ is broken by the change of emotional spheres, made evident by the change of tempo (vivace – andante, adagio). Alongside the expression of the most violent rage we find humble,

beseeching gestures. Moreover, there is a clear reference to the chorale: in the first line of the aria (which is derived from the original poem) Bach quotes the chorale melody, which later appears in its entirety from the wind instruments. In his treatment of the text in the tenor recitative ‘Die sünd hat uns verderbet sehr’ (‘Sin has done us great harm’) Bach follows the same procedure as in the soprano recitative, except that the chorale melody now appears unaltered, in its original form. The duet for soprano and alto ‘Gedenk an Jesu bittern Tod’ (‘Remember Jesus’ bitter death’), a quintet in siciliano rhythm, is an expressive, meditative and unusually concentrated piece in which everything develops from the first three-and-a-half bars with the chorale quotation from the oboe da caccia and its attendant counterpoint from the flute. After so much lofty art, the final strophe of the chorale sounds like a modest prayer in a beautiful, simple four-part setting.>>


1 Cantata 101, Details & Discography,
2 Gardiner Cantata 101 notes,[sdg147_gb].pdf; BCWV Recording details,
3 Petzoldt, Martin. Bach Kommentar: Die geistlichen Kantaten des 1. Bis 27. Trinitas-Sontagges, Vol. 1; Theologisch Musikwissenschaftlicke Kommentierung der Geistlichen Vokalwerke Johann Sebastan Bachs, Internationale Bachakademie Stuttgart (Kassel: Bärenreiter, 2004: Trinity +10 commentary, 215-17; Cantata 101 text 224-229, commentary 228-236).
4 Cantata 101 libretto, see Francis Browne English text and “Notes on the text,” BCW, The original Moller text was written during a time of plague, as a paraphrase of the Latin poem 'Aufer immensam, Deus, aufer iram' (Take away, God, take away your boundless anger, 1541). Hymn text and Francis Browne English translation and Latin source translation are found at BCW; Moller (1547-1606) BCW Short Biography,
5 Streck, Harald: “Die Verskunst in poetischen Texten zu den Kantaten J. S. Bachs.” diss. (1971), 214p; described in Arthur Hirsch’s “Johann Sebastian Bach’s Cantatas in Chronological Order,” AUTHOR’S NOTES: 19 (BACH, Journal of the Riemenschneider Bach Institute 11 [July 1980]: 18-35).
6 Scoring: Soloists: Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bass; 4-part Chorus; Orchestra: transverse flute, 2 oboes, taille, 2 violins, viola, continuo, which includes horn, 3 trombones & strings. Score Vocal & Piano [1.74 MB],; Score BGA [3.03 MB], References BGA: XXIII (Curch catata 101-10; Wilhelm Rust, 1876), NBA: KB I/19 (Cantata for Trinity +10; Robert L. Marshall 1989), Bach Compendium BC A 118; Zwang: K 83. Provenance: autograph score and copies for performances 1750-1800; parts, repeat performances and alternate instruments to transverse flute (violin, oboe); Thomas Braatz BCW 2002,
7 Klaus Hofmann notes,[BIS-SACD1481].pdf; BCW Recording details,

To Come, Part 2: Trinity +10 Motets & Chorales, Notes on the Text, Bach’s Trinity +10 Performance Calendar, Cantata 101 Provenance; Recording notes.

Aryeh Orton wrote (August 4, 2014):
Cantata BWV 101 - Revised & updated Discography

The discography pages of the Chorale Cantata BWV 101 “Nimm von uns Herr, du treuer Gott” for the 10th Sunday after Trinity on the BCW has been revised and updated.
The cantata is scored for soprano, alto, tenor & bass soloists; 4-part Chorus; and orchestra of transverse flute, 2 oboes, taille, 2 violins, viola, continuo, which includes horn, 3 trombones & strings. See:
Complete Recordings (12):
Recordings of Individual Movements (4):
The revised discography includes many listening/watching options to recordings directly from the discography pages, just below the recording details.

I believe this is the most comprehensive discography of this chorale cantata. If you are aware of a recording of BWV 101 missing from these pages, or want to correct/add details of a recording already presented on the BCW, please do not hesitate to inform me.

William Hoffman wrote (August 6, 2014):
Cantata 101: Part 2, Chorale Topics

Bach’s chorale Cantata BWV 101, “Nimm von uns Herr, du treuer Gott” (Take from us, Lord, you faithful God), embraces several major topics involving chorale, including compositional technique, hybrid use of text, chiastic or palindrome from of the movement stanza settings, “Notes on the text” including a fascinating early Reformer history, the use of motets, Trinity +10 Chorales and Performance Calendar with Recording Notes, the related hymn An Wasserflüssen Babylon, and Cantata 101 Provenance.

Julian Mincham introductory Commentary.1 Two aspects of Bach's preoccupation with experimentation at this stage of his career are to be found in this grave and imposing work. The first is the ‘hybrid’ method of dealing with long tracts of text by combinations of recitative, arioso, ritornelli and/or chorale phrases (movements 3 and 5). The second is the almost relentless plundering of the chorale melody, explicitly made use of in all movements but the second. Additionally, Bach gives us an opening fantasia like no other in the cycle.

The main theme is that of prayer, in this case a desperate plea for God to remove the punishments for our sinning and ravaging of the earth which have resulted in war, plague, pestilence and fire. The notion of destruction is bolstered, in this case, by references to the Gospel of the day (St Luke 19) in which Jesus is portrayed as both prophesying the destruction of Jerusalem and lamenting its devastation (Boyd p 316). Thus are the complimentary notions brought together----the world leads us astray to sin and abominations but do not punish us to the point of destruction----rather escort and protect us and ultimately, grant us Your mercy.

Boyd (p 318)2 points out the chiastic (symmetrical) structure, a chorus, aria and recit/chorale leading to a central aria after which a recit/chorale, aria (duet) and chorale complete the work. Such a layout indicates a particular significance for the fourth movement, a bass aria that encapsulates the message of the day whilst acting as the structural keystone of the entire work,” says Mincham: 4. Aria dal segno (mm.2-8) (Chorale Stanza 4, line 1) vivace 2/2(Bass; Oboe I/II, Taille, Continuo): chorale C.f., “Warum willst du so zornig sein?” (Why do you want to get so angry about this ?); adagio recit., “Es schlagen deines Eifers Flammen / Schon über unserm Haupt zusammen.” (The flames of your passion / already close over our heads; a minor, 2/2 gavotte style.

“This austere and grave chorale fantasia is almost unique among Bach’s works,” says Leaver (Ibid.: 316). The closest to it is the motet, O Jesu Christ, meins Lebens Licht BWV 118.” The second mvt., tenor menuett-style, says Leaver, has the “dialectic of [Luther’s] law and grace set up” that “continues throughout the remainder of the cantata.”

Bach’s compositional use of the chorale is particularly significant in chorale Cantata BWV 101, says Richard D. P. Jones.3 Here, “Bach went as step further, combining the traditional chorale-motet style in the vocal texture with independent instrumental music in his ‘modern’ descriptive vein” (Ibid.: 148). “It is often that Bach juxtaposed operatic and ecclesiastical styles [Ibid.: 151f] as dramatically as he did” in the gavotte-style bass furioso rage aria with chorale (Mvt. 4) and the chorale-recitative settings (Mvts. 3 and 5). In the soprano-alto duet (Mvt. 6) “sacred and secular styles are not merely juxtaposed but combined” (Ibid.: 216).

Biblical sources in Cantata 101 are cited in Wikipedia,,_Herr,_du_treuer_Gott,_BWV_101. <<The cantata text is only generally related to the readings, unlike Schauet doch und sehet, ob irgend ein Schmerz sei, BWV 46, a year before, dealing with the lament of Jerusalem in text from Lamentations [1:12]. But the poet hinted at the destruction of Jerusalem by "Daß wir nicht durch sündlich Tun wie Jerusalem vergehen!" (so that, through sinful acts, we might not be destroyed like Jerusalem!) in movement 2, says Alfred Dürr.4 2. (Stanza 2, paraphrase) Aria two-part with ritornelli, dal segno (mm. 2-15), (Tenor; Violino solo, Continuo): A. “Handle nicht nach deinen Rechten” (Do not deal according to your justice); B. Höchster, höre unser Flehen,” (Most high God, hear our entreaty); dal segno; g minor; ¾ menuett style. Other chorale paraphrase biblical references Dürr cites (Ibid.: 483) are John 8:44 in Mvt. 5, tenor chorale and recitative, the devil, “who already from the beginning was known as a murderer,” and in the same movement, 1 Peter 5:8, the devil again “and as a lion to devour us.”

Chorale Topics & Usages

Motets & Chorales for 10th Sunday after Trinity


Cantata BWV 101: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

Recordings & Discussions of Cantatas: Main Page | Cantatas BWV 1-50 | Cantatas BWV 51-100 | Cantatas BWV 101-150 | Cantatas BWV 151-200 | Cantatas BWV 201-224 | Cantatas BWV Anh | Order of Discussion
Discussions of General Topics: Cantatas & Other Vocal Works | Performance Practice | Radio, Concerts, Festivals, Recordings


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Last update: Sunday, May 28, 2017 05:17