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Cantata BWV 104
Du Hirte Israel, höre
Discussions - Part 4

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Discussions in the Week of April 10, 2016 (4th round)

William Hoffman wrote (April 9, 2016):
Cantata 104, “Du Hirte Israel, höre,” Intro & Misericordias

Cantata 104, “Du Hirte Israel, höre” (You Shepherd of Israel, listen, Psalm 80:1), for Misericordias Domini (2nd Sunday after Easter), in Bach’s first Leipzig cycle is quite a contrast to its predecessor, BWV 67, “Halt im Gedächtnis Jesum Christ,” (Keep in memory Jesus Christ), for Quasimodogeniti, with its contrasts of hope and joy with doubt and perplexity, reflecting the mood of the apostles when Christ appeared to them after his resurrection. The Gospel for Misericordias Domini, John 10:12-16, “I am the Good Shepherd,” triggered in Bach three successive Good Shepherd affirmative pastoral cantatas in different forms.

While Bach had started the Sundays after Easter with a new form of internal plain chorale and a dramatic scena, he returned to the traditional symmetrical form, lasting 20 minutes, of opening chorus and closing plain chorale with pairs of alternating aria and recitative. Circumstances enabled Bach to reuse pastoral material from Cöthen in two-dance style movements, the opening pastorale-gigue and the free da-capo bass aria (no. 5), “Beglückte Herde, Jesu Schafe” (Happy flock, Jesus' sheep) in siciliana 12/8 style. To these he composed a tenor recitative and aria and a bass aria, limiting the solos to male voices appropriate as shepherds. Cantata 104 closes (no. 6) with a plain chorale setting of Cornelius Becker’s 1598 versification of Psalm 23, “Der Herr ist mein getreuer Hirt / dem ich mich ganz vertraue” (The Lord is my faithful shepherd / to whom I entrust myself completely), set to the Nicolaus Decius’ 1539 melody “Allein Gott in der Höh’ sei Ehr’” (To God alone on high be glory), the German Gloria in excelsis Deo.1

Cantata 104 was premiered on April 23, 1724, at the early main service of the Nikolai church before the sermon on the gospel by Superintendent Salomon Deyling (1677-1755), says Martin Petzoldt in Bach Commentary, Vol. 2, Advent to Trinityfest.2

The readings for the Second Sunday after Easter (Misericordias Domini) are the Gospel of John 10:12-16, “I am the Good Shepherd,” and the Epistle Lesson, I Peter 2:21-25, the biblical illusions to sheep led astray, as well as the Collect, the deliverance from peril. The German text of Luther’s 1545 and the English Authorised (King James) Version 1611 is found at The Introit Psalm for Misericordias Domini is Psalm 23, Dominus regit me (The Lord is my shepherd), says Petzoldt (Ibid.: 787). The full text (KJV) is found on line at

Misericordias means the "Goodness (literally "tender mercies") of the Lord." It comes from the incipit of Psalm 89, “I will sing of the mercies of the Lord.” This Sunday is also called "Good Shepherd Sunday."
It is so called from the incipit of the Introit "Misericordia Domini plena est terra . . ." ("The land is filled with the mercy of the Lord") from Psalm 33.

Bach also used this German Gloria in excelsis Deo melody in two other Misericordias Domini cantata settings: soprano canto aria, same text, 1725 solo Cantata BWV 85, “Ich bin ein gutter Hirt” (I am the Good Shepherd), to a text of Christiane Mariane von Ziegler, and 1731 pure-hymn chorale Cantata BWV 112, “Der Herr ist mein getreuer Hirt / Hält mich in seiner Hute” (The Lord is my faithful shepherd / he holds me in his protection,” a different, 1530 five-stanza metrical paraphrase setting of Psalm 23 of Wolfgang Meusel. This text, not the Becker setting, is found at BCW (Francis Browne English translation). Text and melody information, as well as Bach’s usages, are found at BCW [The three Bach settings (BWV 104/6, 85/3, and 112 are explained below.]

Easter Season Shepherd Cantatas

Bach’s two cantatas for Misercordias Domini, BWV 104, “Du Hirte Israel, höre” (You shepherd of Israel, listen; Ps. 80:2), April 23, 1724, and BWV 85, “Ich bin ein guter Hirt” (I am the good shepherd, John 10:11), April 15, 1725, use a similar paraphrase of setting of Psalm 23, with the same incipit and BAR form, by Cornelius Becker (1598) to the same melody, “Allein Gott in der Höh sei Her.” The first verse is set as a plain chorale closing (No. 6) Cantata 104, and as a soprano aria (No. 3) in Cantata 85.

The Decius melody “Allein Gott in der Höh sei Her,” is set to his 1525 and Luther’s text in Bach’s plain chorale, BWV 260 in BAR form, 4 stanzas, 7 lines. It is part of Luther’s authorized Deutsche Messe as set in chorales by Bach: “Kyrie, Gott Vater in Ewigkeit,” BWV 371; Wir glauben all an einem Gott. BWV 437; Sanctus (Heilig), BWV 325; and “O Lamm Gottes unschudig, BWV 401, as well as the Dona nobis pacem (BWV 232).

Motet & Chorales for Misericordias: Introit, “Misericordia Domini” (LU 816); Motets, “Alleluja Serrexit,” “Surrexit Pastor Bonus”; Hymn de Tempore, “Christ Lag in Todesbanden”; Pulpit Hymn, “Christ ist Erstanden”; Hymns for Chancel, Communion & Closing, “Der Herr is mein getreuer Hirt.

The three appropriate Shepherd Cantatas with pastoral music Bach composed for Misericordias Domini are BWV 104, “Du Hirte Israel, höre" (You Shepherd of Israel, Give Ear), composed in 1724 with an opening pastorale-gigue chorus and a siciliana bass aria; Cantata BWV 85, “Ich bin ein gutter Hirt” (I am a Good Shepherd), composed in 1725, with a pastorale tenor aria; and Chorale Cantata BWV 112, “Der Herr ist mein getreuer Hirt,” with a pastorale alto aria and a bouree soprano-tenor duet, probably begun in 1725 with the opening chorale fantasia and completed in 1731. Cantatas BWV 104 and 85 have the same cycle 1 form with the opening biblical dictum and internal chorale setting, and presumably the same librettist, possibly Christian Weise Sr.

Cantata 104 was the first of five sacred “Shepherd Cantatas” with pastoral music Bach for two Easter season services: three for the Second Sunday after Easter (Misericordias), BWV 104, 85, and 112) and two for Pentecost Tuesday (Pentecost Festival Third Day), BWV 184 and 175. Two works (BWV 104 and 184) are parodies using borrowed materials from previous compositions. The Cantata 104 opening chorus in pastorale-gigue style ¾ (9/8) and probably the free da-capo bass aria (no. 5), “Beglückte Herde, Jesu Schafe” (Happy flock, Jesus' sheep) in siciliana 12/8 style, originated at St. Paul’s University Church for a Leipzig University doctorate promotions secular cantata, BWV Anh. 15, "Siehe der Hüter Israel" (See, the Herdsman of Israel, original music lost), presented on April 27, 1723, before Bach officially took up his position as Leipzig Music Director. Cantata 184, “Erwünschtes Freudenlicht” (Longed-for light of joy), is based on a celebratory serenade composed in Cöthen.

While the music and original text of shepherd’s secular Cantata BWV Anh. 15 do not survive, research dates it to Bach’s first days in Leipzig when he was commissioned to compose it for a University ceremony, NBA KB I/11.1 (Cantata for 2nd Sunday after Easter, Reinmar Emans, 1989), and listed in Alfred Dürr, “The Cantatas of J. S. Bach”. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2005: 772).Others speculate that the two surviving dance-style movements may have originated in Cöthen and that it may have begin with an opening sinfonia, identified possibly as BWV 1045.

Cantata 104 Movements, Scoring, Incipits, Key, Meter.3

1. Chorus two fugues [SATB; Oboe d'amore I/II, Taille, Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo]: A. “Du Hirte Israel, höre der du Joseph hütest wie der Schafe” (You Shepherd of Israel, listen, you who watch over Joseph like sheep); B. “erscheine, der du sitzest über Cherubim” (Appear, you who are seated above the cherubim); G Major; ¾ (9/8) pastorale-gigue style.
2. Recitative secco with arioso [Tenor, Continuo]: recit., “Der höchste Hirte sorgt vor mich” (The highest Shepherd takes care of me); arioso, “Gott ist getreu” (God is faithful); e minor to b minor; 4/4.
3. Aria free da capo [Tenor; Oboe d'amore I/II, Continuo): A. “Verbirgt mein Hirte sich zu lange, . . . / Mein schwacher Schritt eilt dennoch fort” (If my Shepherd stays hidden too long . . . / My weak steps still hurry forward); B. “Mein Mund schreit nach dir” (my mouth cries to you); b minor; 4/4.
4. Recitative secco [Bass; Oboe I/II, Taille, Continuo]: “Ja, dieses Wort ist meiner Seelen Speise” (Yes, this word is the food of my soul); D Major; 4/4.
5. Aria free da-capo [Bass; Oboe d'amore I e Violino I all' unisono, Violino II, Viola, Continuo]: A. “Beglückte Herde, Jesu Schafe, / Die Welt ist euch ein Himmelreich” (Happy flock, Jesus' sheep / The world is for you a heavenly kingdom.); B. “Hier schmeckt ihr Jesu Güte schon” (Here you already taste the goodness of Jesus); D Major; 12/8 siciliana style.
6. Chorale plain [SATB; Oboe d'amore I e Violino I col Soprano, Oboe d'amore II e Violino II coll'Alto, Taille e Viola col Tenore, Continuo]: “Der Herr ist mein getreuer Hirt / dem ich mich ganz vertraue”
(The Lord is my faithful shepherd / to whom I entrust myself completely); A Major; 4/4.
The Becker stanza 1 text setting of Psalm 23 and Francis Browne English translation are:
Der Herr ist mein getreuer Hirt,
The Lord is my faithful shepherd
Dem ich mich ganz vertraue,
in whom I have complete trust,
Zur Weid er mich, sein Schäflein, führt
he leads me, his little sheep, to the pasture
Auf schöner grünen Aue,
in a beautiful green meadow
Zum frischen Wasser leit er mich
he leads me to fresh water
Mein Seel zu laben kräftiglich
to give powerful refreshment to my soul
Durch selig Wort der Gnaden.
through the blessed word of his grace.

The Becker 1602 text Stanzas 2 and 3, to the melody “Es ist gewißlich an der Zeit” (It is certainly time), is: 2) Er führet mich auf rechter Bahn von seines Namens wegen; obgleich viel Trübsal geht heran auf finstern Todesstegen, so grauet mir doch nicht dafür, mein treuer Hirt ist stets bei mir, sein Steck’n und Stab mich trösten. 3) Ein Tisch zum Trost er mir bereit, sollt’s auch die Feind‘ verdrießen, schenkt mir voll ein, lässt Öl der Freud sich auf mein Haupt ergießen; sein Güte und Barmherzigkeit werden mir folgen allezeit, in seinem Haus ich bleibe. [

Good Shepherd Cantatas

Cantata BWV 85, “Ich bin ein gutter Hirt” (I am the Good Shepherd), David Jones in the recent BCW Discussion cites John Eliot Gardiner recording notes: "Bach approaches the same pastoral field by a different route in 1725. Cantata BWV 85, “Ich bin ein guter Hirt,” is the third of three cantatas on 12 consecutive feast days (the others are BWV 6 and 42) that form a coherent sequence, each a fresh response to the increasing anxiety of the disciples, then and now, at life in the world without Jesus’ physical presence. All three feature Johannine themes in contemporary texts, possibly by a single author, compiled the year before and intended by Bach for his first Leipzig <Jahrgang> of 1723/4. This had to be put on hold, perhaps as a result of the colossal effort which went into the completion of the <St John Passion> for Good Friday 1724, obliging him to turn to pre-existing material for some of the cantatas in that post-Resurrection season.”

Cantata BWV112 (BCW Discussion), “Der Herr ist meine getreue Hirt.” Possible Genesis: Bach Compositional Process scholar Robert L. Marshall believes that the opening chorale fantasia (Mvt. 1) of Cantata BWV 112 may have been composed earlier, possible for the 1725 service, since it is a fair or clean copy. Gerhard Herz (Bach Sources, 28, 67) agrees. Robert Marshall surmises (Compositional Process 27f) that Bach could have proceeded during Lent with its composition, since the opening movement (Mvt. 1) uses, unaltered, the first verse of the chorale, but laid it aside when the subsequent paraphrased verses were not forthcoming. Misericordia Sunday (‘the mercy of the Lord’), for which Bach’s Cantata 112 was composed (April 8, 1731), is the second Sunday after Easter. The day is traditionally associated with an allegorical image: Jesus as the good shepherd. That is the subject of the Gospel passage for the day in question (John 10:12–16); the Epistle alludes to it too (1 Peter 2:21–25), and so does the beginning of Psalm 23: ‘The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want’. Bach’s cantata follows suit: its text is an adaptation of Psalm 23 in the form of a five-verse hymn from around 1530 that is still sung in the Evangelical Lutheran Church church today

Bach’s performance calendar in Leipzig for the 2nd Sunday after Easter:
1724-04-23 So - Cantata BWV 104 Du Hirte Israel, höre (1st performance, Leipzig)
1725-04-15 So - Cantata BWV 85 Ich bin ein guter Hirt (1st performance, Leipzig)
1726-05-05 So - J.L. Bach: Cantata Und ich will ihnen einen Hirten (And I will set up one shepherd over them, Hesekiel 34:23, JLB-12 (1st performance, Leipzig)
1729-05-01 So - Picander text only, P32/5=?BWV 358, Franck chorale "Jesu meine Freude" (S.1)
1731-04-08 So - Cantata BWV 112 Der Herr ist mein getreuer Hirt (1st performance, Leipzig)
1736-04-15 So Misericordias Dom. - G.H. Stölzel: Er wird seine Herde weiden, Mus. A 15:163

Misericordias Domini (Second Sunday After Easter), Chorale usages:
1724: 104/6, Becker “Der Herr ist meine getreue Hirt/dem ich” (S.1, plain chorale).
1725: 112/1, chorale fantasia Meusel “Der Herr ist meine getreue Hirt/halt mir” (S.1), finished in 1731
1725: 85/3, Becker “Der Herr ist” (S.1, canto aria); 6. Homberg “Ist Gott mein Schild” (S.4)
1726: JLB-12, Und ich will ihnen eninen Hirten erwecken; No. 8, ?chorale (no information available)
1729: P32/5=?BWV 358, Franck “Jesu meine Freude” (S.1)
1731: CC112, Meusel “Der Herr ist meine getreue Hirt” (S.1-6; S. 6 [no. 5] plain chorale)

Misericordias Domini Chorales

The three Easter Chorales Bach used in his Cantatas for Misericordias Domini are described in details in: Bach’s Chorals. Part I:4
<< 1. Der Herr ist mein getreuer Hirt, dem ich; Becker, 3 stanzas. The melody is Nicolaus Decius’ (or Hovesch) “Allein Gott in der Höh’ sei Ehr’,” first published, with Decius’ rendering of the “Gloria in excelsis,” in Valentin Schumann’s Geistliche Lieder auffs new gebessert und gemehrt (Leipzig, 1539). The melody was formed by putting together phrases 3-4, 7-8, 11 of the Gloria paschalis.” Its association with Becker’s Hymn (infra) is very general.

The melody occurs also in Cantatas 104/6, 112/1, and 128/1 [Ascension 1725]. There is a harmonisation of it in the Choralgesänge, No. 12 (BWV 260). Bach’s version shows slight variations of the original. For the second and third notes following the middle double bar there is early (1545) authority. For his version of the final phrase of the tune in the concluding Choral of Cantata 112 there appears to be no variation. Organ Works, N. xvi. 39, 40*, 41; xvii. 56, 60, 66; xviii. 4, 5, 7, 11.

Cornelius Becker’s “Der Herr ist mein getreuer Hirt / dem ich mich ganz vertraue” (The Lord is my faithful shepherd / to whom I entrust myself completely), is a poetic translation of Psalm 23 which appeared first in Seth Calvisius’ Harmonia Cantionum ecclesiasticarum (Leipzig, 1598), and thence in Becker’s Der Psalter Dauids Gesangweis (Leipzig, 1602).

2. Der Herr ist mein getreuer Hirt, halt mir; Meuslin, 5 stanzas (mel. Allein Gott in der Hoh). A Choral Cantata (BWV112), on Wolfgang Meusel’s (Musculus) version of Psalm 23, “Der Herr ist mein getreuer Hirt / Hält mich in seiner Hute” (The Lord is my faithful shepherd / he holds me in his protection,” first published in the Augsburg Gesangbuch of 1530 or 1531, and again in the edition of 1533. Meusel was born at Dieuze, in Lorraine, in 1497. In 1512 he entered the Benedictine monastery at Lixheim, near Saarburg. He embraced Lutheranism, and in 1537 became chief pastor of the Cathedral Church of Augsburg. In 1549 he settled at Bern as Professor of Theology, and died there in 1563. The melody of the opening and concluding movements of Cantata 112 is Nicolaus Decius’ “Allein Gott in der Hoh’ sei Ehr’ ” (see Cantata 85), to which Meusel’s Hymn generally was sung.

3. Ist Gott mein Schutz und treuer Hirt (mel. Ist Gott mein Schild und Helfersmann (S.4, 7 stanzas, 85/6 E2).
The melody of the concluding Choral (BWV 85/6), “Ist Gott mein Schild und Helfersmann,” was published, with Homburg’s Hymn (infra), in Hundert ahnmuthig- und sonderbahr geistlicher Arien (Dresden, 1694), a collection from which few melodies have passed into common use. The melody has been attributed incorrectly to Bach. He has not used it elsewhere and material is not available to enable the originality of his variations of the tune to be tested. The words of the concluding Choral are the fourth stanza of Ernst Christoph Homburg’s “Ist Gott mein Schild und Helfersmann,” or “Gott ist mein Schild und Helfersmann,” first published, with a different melody, in Part I of Homburg’s Geistlicher Lieder (Naumburg, 1659 [1658]).>>

Pastoral Cantata Comments

Pastoral images were pervasive in the spiritual experience of Bach’s 18th century, observes John Eliot Gardiner in his 2002 liner notes to the 2000 Bach Cantata Pilgrimage on Soli Deo Gloria recordings.5
<< Basilique St Willibrord, Echternach. Hard on the heels of Bach’s magnificent cantatas for Low Sunday [Quasimodogeniti] came three pastoral cantatas (BWV 104, 85, and 112) all inspired by the twenty-third Psalm. I feared a certain monotony of mood and Affekt. How wrong this proved! One should have guessed that Bach was capable of more than a single pastoral idiom, and as so often there is an enthralling quality to his inventive and sensitive responses to the same seminal Gospel ideas present in these three cantatas. It is worth remembering that in a predominantly agrarian society like eighteenth-century Saxony there was a much closer linking of the seasons to the preoccupations of Christianity than there is today, as well as an unselfconscious transfer of rural imagery to contemplative religious texts. So there would have been nothing quaint or folksy even to Bach’s townish audience in hearing pastoral music as a metaphor for their own Lutheran community watched over by Jesus as the good shepherd, a world away from the contemporaneous French vogue for bergeries and urban aristocrats, like second-home owners today, indulging in an idealised, wholly unrealistic image of rural life – one thinks of Marie Antoinette and her perfumed sheep.

BWV 104 Du Hirte Israel, höre, from Bach’s first Leipzig cycle, displays the clearest of aspiring, upward tonal designs (known as anabasis) moving from G major (the opening chorus), through B minor (tenor recitative and aria) and D major (bass recitative and aria) to A major (a chorale paraphrase of Psalm 23) as the faithful are led towards the ‘meadow of heaven’ by Christ the shepherd. It opens with the first verse of Psalm 80 set as a gentle choral dance. The overall mood is benign, suffused with a tender lyricism, and if it doesn’t ‘ache’ quite in the way that Rameau’s pastoral dances pull on your heartstrings, it evokes the image of pastoral care and comfort to a tee. This is no banal or literal idyll of a shepherd with his flock trotting obediently behind him. The emphasis is placed firmly on the allegorical purpose: an appeal to Jesus by the community of believers to ‘shine forth’ and ‘give ear’. Quite early on, after the voices have peeled off in pairs, Bach provides a clever musical parallel between the unruly sheep and wayward believers, both hesitant and prone to scatter. Seeing how closely the baroque oboe is associated with shepherds’ music and how Bach (like Telemann in this regard) relishes the special sonority of three of them in tandem, it is strange to discover that they were added to the string parts only as an afterthought. In fact this opening chorus may have been ‘parodied’ from a lost university graduation cantata, ‘Siehe, der Hüter Israel’ (BWV Anh.I15). It is quite a challenge to pace and balance this subtle chorus. Giving a gentle, unhurried gigue-like lilt to the 9/8 triplet quavers is perhaps the key, and then digging out the fugal entries so that an overlapping voice in a higher register does not mask each new entry.

The first of two arias is for tenor with a pair of oboes d’amore, evoking the image of a lost soul in search of the ‘hidden’ shepherd. There is a strange chromatic passage midway suggesting the fear and disorientation of the solitary pilgrim lost in the wilderness. Finer still is the bass aria ‘Beglückte Herde’ (No.5), describing how the shepherd gathers

The cantata’s most inspired movement is the ensuing tenor aria in E flat, ‘Seht, was die Liebe tut’, again a pre-echo of the St Matthew Passion and the sublime alto aria ‘Sehet, Jesus hat die Hand’ in the same key which epitomises the pastoral love emanating from the cross, Jesus’ outstretched arms offering a haven to the sinner and gathering in the faithful like ‘lost chicks’. With its rich, flowing melody and gently rocking rhythm the cantata aria presents a complementary image of sheep safely penned and folded, watched over by the good shepherd who, when hanging on the cross, ‘shed... his precious blood for them’, the first four syllables ‘nailed’ with a single repeated note by the singer. These thematic links to the St Matthew Passion are too close to be accidental: its music, though not completed in time for Good Friday, was never far from Bach’s thoughts in the run-up to Easter 1725, his original plan being to insert it as the central jewel in his second Jahrgang of cantatas, so as to complement and balance the St John Passion of the previous year.>>

Biblical Shepherd Theme Explored

The biblical Shepherd theme for Misericodias Domini is explored in Cantata 104, “Du Hirte Israel, höre (Give ear, O shepherd of Israel),” in Klaus Hofmann liner notes to the Masaaki Suzuki BIS 2002 recording.6 <<The second Sunday after Easter has long been known by the name of ‘Misericordias Domini’. These are the Latin opening words of the introitus that is sung at the beginning of the main church service, and mean ‘The good things of the Lord’. The good things of the Lord, in a special sense, are also the subject of the two Bible readings for that Sunday: the Epistle lesson (1 Peter 2, 21-25) and gospel reading (John 10, 12-14) speak with the imagery of a parable about Jesus as the good shepherd, and about the faithful as the sheep entrusted to him. Today the cantata text (its author’s identity is unknown) is no longer easy to understand; for the opening of the cantata, it takes a text from the Old testament, from the beginning of Psalm 80: ‘Du Hirte Israel[s], höre, der du Joseph hütest wie der Schafe, erscheine, der du sitzest über Cherubim’ (‘Give ear, O shepherd of Israel, thou that leadest Joseph like a flock; thou that dwellest between the cherubims, shine forth.’). It is a festive, beseeching call upon as the shepherd who watches over his people – in the psalm the people of Israel, and in the cantata (now conceived in New Testament terms) all the believers who make up God’s people. The message of the following tenor recitative (second movement) is filled with certainty and confidence: it opens with the words ‘Der höchste Hirte sorgt für [vor] mich’ (‘The highest shepherd looks after me’), and at the end, as though in conclusion, there is the Bible quotation ‘Gott ist getreu’ (‘God is faithful’; 1 Corinthians 10, 13). The tenor aria (third movement) deals with the situation of the faithful man who has, as it were, lost sight of the shepherd: he seeks him, calls out and shouts to him, and finds comfort and salvation in the word of God. The following bass recitative (fourth movement) makes an immediate allusion to this: ‘Ja, dieses Wort ist meiner Seelen Speise’ (‘Yes, this word is the food of my soul’). God’s word is ‘Labsal’ (‘refreshment’) and ‘des Himmels Vorschmack’ (‘a foretaste of heaven’). This idea is developed further in the bass aria (fifth movement): for a Christian, the ‘Welt’ (‘world’), earthly life, is to some degree already ‘ein Himmelreich’ (‘a paradise’), because he can already now experience ‘Jesu Güte’ (‘the good things of Jesus’) and, thus encouraged, can hope for the time after his death. The concluding chorale strophe, based on Psalm 23 (‘Der Herr ist mein Hirte, mir wird nichts mangeln’ [‘The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want’]) by Cornelius Becker (1598), once again professes trust in God and follows this up with the idea that God’s ‘Wort der Gnaden’ (‘the blessed word of grace’) provides true nourishment and refreshment of the soul.

The cantata text was plainly a source of inspiration for Bach. Since ancient times ‘The shepherd and his world’ has remained a frequently encountered artistic theme, and it was a popular topic for music of the baroque period. In music, just like in poetry and painting, the world of the shepherd was transfigured and depicted as an Arcadian idyll; composers employed very specific stylistic means to portray it in music. At the mention of ‘a shepherd’s life’, they thought of the sound of shawms, and tended to use flutes or oboes as, so to speak, sonic requisites. A popular technical device was the pedal point – long-held notes in the bass – as an allusion to the bagpipes, a typical shepherd’s instrument with a drone reed that produces a constant bass note. Such pastoral idylls were by preference written in 6/8-time or a similar triple metre; they were performed at a moderate, flowing tempo, with a rocking motion, dance-like elegance and effusive grace.

All of this can be found in Bach’s cantata for 23rd April 1724. The pastoral elements become immediately apparent in the introductory chorus: the orchestra acquires its special sonority from the use of three oboes. The bass line is determined in the first eight bars (and indeed later) by lengthy pedal points. And the metre is 3/4, with the crotchets divided into triplets – creating the effect of 9/8-time. All of this, however, is merely a backdrop for the real action. With the entry of the singers the movement gains a sort of archaic, festive quality: with words from the Old Testament God is called upon and beseeched to listen and to appear. Bach begins with the full choir; clearly, indeed imperiously, he emphasizes the supplicants’ request: ‘Höre – erscheine!’ (‘Give ear… shine forth’). Groups of voices detach themselves from the choral mass, and for a moment it all fans out. Then a fugue begins on the words: ‘der du Joseph hütest wie der Schafe’ (‘thou that leadest Joseph like a flock’) – with a long, wonderfully broad coloratura on ‘Schafe’ (‘flock’) – and, as if from the background, as a counterpoint to the theme, we hear the call ‘Erscheine’ (‘shine forth’), gradually swelling up and making its presence felt ever more insistently within the varied vocal and instrumental texture. This procedure is repeated: once again there is an appeal, like at the beginning; once again there is a fugue, admittedly one that is varied and also intensified by the massed entries on the word ‘Höre'! ('Give ear!’). This must have resounded for a long time in the ears of the people of Leipzig!

The tenor aria ‘Verbirgt mein Hirte sich zu lange’ (‘If my shepherd hides from me too long’) pays tribute to the pastoral theme by means of its scoring for two oboi d’amore. It also delights the listener with all sorts of flexible interpretations of the text – for instance with long notes on the word ‘lange’ (‘long’) or with harmonic irritations on‘allzu bange’ (‘too frightening’). The bass aria ‘Beglückte Herde, Jesu Schafe (‘O fortunate herd of Jesus’ sheep’) is a pastorale straight out of the book, in 12/8-time and once again with a theme based on a pedal point. In the middle section Bach works with musical images, and his setting of the words ‘sanften Todesschlafe’ (‘a gentle sleep of death’) is indeed unique.

The final chorale, as so often, generalizes the meaning of the cantata text. The song melody to which the strophe is sung is a well-known melody from 1523 by the Reformation theologian Nikolaus Decius for ‘Allein Gott in der Höh sei Ehr’ (‘Praise to the Holiest in the Height’), based on an old church ‘Gloria’. © Klaus Hofmann 2001 >>


The original score of Cantata 104 is lost, probably by Friedemann after the 1750 estate division, while Emmanuel inherited the parts, which survive.


1 Cantata 104 BCW Details, Score Vocal & Piano [1.65 MB],, Score BGA [2.20 MB],, BGA XXIII (Cantatas 101-110, Wilhelm Rust, 1876 ), NBA KB I/11.1, Misericordias, Reinmar Emans, 1989), Bach Compendium BC A 65, Zwang K 67.
2 Petzoldt, Bach Kommentar: Theologisch Musikwissenschaftlicke Kommentierung der Geistlichen Vokalwerke Johann Sebastan Bachs; Vol. 2, Die Geistlichen Kantaten vom 1. Advent bis zum Trinitatisfest; Internationale Bachakademie Stuttgart (Kassel: Bärenreiter, 2007).
3 Cantata 104 German text and Francis Browne English translation,
4 Terry, “The Hymns and Hymn Melodies of the Cantatas and Motetts,” by Charles Sanford Terry (Cambridge University Press, 1915-1921). 3 vols. Vol. 2. The on-line source is (scroll down to LXXXV
5 Gardiner notes, BCW].pdf, BCW Recordings details
6 Hofmann notes, BCW].pdf, Recording details,

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (April 10, 2016):
[To William Hoffman] Thanks again for excellent introductory notes to the cantatas for this week.

"While the music and original text of shepherd’s secular Cantata BWV Anh. 15 do not survive, research dates it to Bach’s first days in Leipzig when he was commissioned to compose it for a University ceremony, NBA KB I/11.1 (Cantata for 2nd Sunday after Easter, Reinmar Emans, 1989), and listed in Alfred Dürr, “The Cantatas of J. S.Bach”. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2005: 772). Others speculate that the two surviving dance-style movements may have originated in Cöthen and that it may have begin with an opening sinfonia, identified possibly as BWV 1045."

I don't think BWV 1045 could be a candidate because 1045 has been dated between 1742 and 1746. based on the paper used and Bach's handwriting. Those dates were brought up in discussions about 1045 *see Thomas Braatz's contribution*. Scholars also have questioned if BWV 1045 is really a Bach composition (i.e. all of the piece is by another composer and copied out), or a Bach arrangement of another composer's piece.

But regardless of all of that, 1045 is a wonderful piece of music, and one of my personal favorites.

I'm curious what are the two other surviving movements (dance style) you mentioned?

William Hoffman wrote (April 11, 2016):
Kim Patrick Clow wrote:
< I'm curious what are the two other surviving movements (dance style) you mentioned? >
“Circumstances enabled Bach to reuse pastoral material from Cöthen in two-dance style movements, the opening pastorale-gigue [3/4-9/8] and the free da-capo bass aria (no. 5), “Beglückte Herde, Jesu Schafe” (Happy flock, Jesus' sheep) in siciliana 12/8 style.”

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (April 11, 2016):
[To William Hoffman] Ah! Thank you for that.

Aryeh Oron wrote (April 15, 2016):
Cantata BWV 104 - Revised & updated Discography

The discography pages of Cantata BWV 104 "Du Hirte Israel, höre" (You Shepherd of Israel, listen) for Misericordias Domini [2nd Sunday after Easter] on the BCW have been revised and updated.
The cantata is scored for tenor & bass soloists; 4-part chorus; and orchestra of 2 oboes d'amore, taille (tenor oboe), 2 violins, viola & continuo. See:
Complete Recordings (26):
Recordings of Individual Movements (8):
The revised discography includes many listening/watching options to recordings directly from the discography pages, just below the recording details.

I also put at the BCW Home Page:
2 audios and 2 videos of the cantata. A short description below the audio/video image is linked to the full details at the discography pages.

I believe this is the most comprehensive discography of this cantata. If you are aware of a recording of BWV 104 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.

You can also read on the BCW the current discussion of the cantata in the BCML (4th round):



Cantata BWV 104: 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: Monday, September 11, 2017 15:26