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Cantata BWV 121
Christum wir sollen loben schon
Discussions - Part 4

Continue from Part 3

Discussions in the Week of December 14, 2014 (4th round)

William Hoffman wrote (December 18, 2014):
Cantata BWV 121,'Christum wir sollen loben schon': Intro.


Bach’s third consecutive chorale cantata setting of another popular Martin Luther early (1523) chorale (four lines, six or seven verses), BWV 121, “Christum wir sollen loben schon” (We should now praise Christ), for the 2nd Day of Christmas, follows the same basic plan of a six-movement symmetrical work running 20 minutes with opening chorale fantasia and closing congregational plain chorale (text unaltered) and internal stanza paraphrases for two da-capo arias (tenor and bass) and two recitatives (alto and soprano).1 The major difference in these works of December 1724 is that Bach now created a musical sermon in two textual, thematic parts with a stile “misto” mixed musical style that would become popular in the Dresden court later in the decade. What is most remarkable is that Bach created entirely new works in this cycle, using varied textual material with Marian overtones in Cantata 121 and musical ingredients of the first order, and all done within a tight timeframe of seven new cantatas and a Sanctus within 12 days.

While there is little relationship between the day’s Gospel (Luke 2:15-20) of the adoration of the shepherds at the manager and the cantata text, there is a clear pattern in which the first three movements (chorus, aria, recitative) focus on the wonder of the Incarnation or Birth of God’s Son while the final three movements (aria, recitative and chorale) deal with the response of mankind approaching the crib in adoration, worshiping the Christ-child. Meanwhile, the opening festive chorus is cast as a rare, archaic motet with brass supporting the four-part harmony in ancient mode while the bass aria introducing the second part, accompanied by strings, provides the omen of John the Baptist leaping in his mother’s womb, in lively, syncopated rhythms, and dynamic contrasts, that “give the music the taste of the approaching style galant” (also popular in Dresden), says David Humphreys in Oxford Composer Companions: JSB.2

While Bach has some time during the three Sundays of Advent to create the cantatas for the three-day Christmas festival (Sunday to Tuesday, December 25-27), John Eliot Gardiner in his new musical biography of Bach 3 is intrigued by Bach at the workbench in late 1724 using preliminary drafts and sketches with some false starts and “efforts to get back on course.” Bach is able in Cantatas 91 and 133, as well as the new Sanctus, BWV 232iii, to conceive and carry-out challenging intentions. In Cantata 91, “clearly he has given careful thought to the secession of movements from the outset and the cyclical structure of the work.” In Cantata 133 for the 3rd Day of Christmas, he finds an existing melody in a sketch for the Sanctus in the score of the opening of Cantata 135 for the Third Sunday in Trinity (June 1724). “Whatever went on in his mind n terms of pre-composition or was first jotted down in sketches, Bach’s working scores show us how concentrated and economical he was when actually composting,” says Gardiner (Ibid.: 211).

Cantata 121 Commentary:

As for Cantata 121 for the 2nd Day of Christmas, various BCW commentators have found Bach’s ability to fashion an old style motet into a chorale fantasia with effective use of Luther’s text, all the while employing intriguing tonal allegory, to be simply amazing.

Various facets of Bach’s Cantata 121 are discussed in the summary commentary of Thomas Braatz (May 15, 2003), involving writing of Alfred Dürr (chorale background and movement analysis), Albert Schweitzer (the bass aria (leaping of the John the Baptist child in Elisabeth’s womb at the greeting of Mary, Luke 1:44) and the Eric Chafe overview and extended commentary on tonal allegory. Schweitzer suggests that the material in the bass aria was borrowed but the NBA KB I/3.1 does not accept this.

The passage of Elizabeth’s greeting to her cousin Mary, who also is pregnant, is a paraphrase of Luther’s German translation of Stanza 5 of the Sedulius Latin Christmas hymn, “A solis ortus cardine” (“John recognised and leapt for joy when he was shut in his mother’s womb,” Browne’s BCW Sedulius translation, The anonymous Cantata 121 librettist’s paraphrase opening the bass aria (Mvt. 4) is: “Johannis freudenvolles Springen / Erkannte dich, mein Jesu, schon” (John's joyful leap / already recognised you, my Jesus”, Browne BCW translation,

The same passage also is paraphrased at great length in the alto recitative of Cantata 147a, “Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben,” to a text of Salomo Franck, first presented on the 4th Sunday in Advent in 1716 (December 20): “Er wird bewegt, er hüpft und springet, / Indem Elisabeth das Wunderwerk ausspricht” (he is moved, he leaps and jumps / while Elizabeth declares the miracle, Browne BCW translation,

Bach’s rare use of old motet style in his cantatas is discussed in Peter Bloemendaal commentary (May 19, 2003):

“BWV 121, an impression” (Cantata 121, BCML Discussions, Part 1, “Bach used the motet style only sparsely in his cantatas. He had done so in 1707 (BWV 4) and 1714 (BWV 182), not returning to it until June 1724 [in the chorale cantata cycle at Trinity Time] with BWV 2, “Ach Gott, vom Himmel sieh darein”. That same year he would again turn to it in October with BWV 38, “Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir” and once more with the Christmas cantata we are discussing right now. Why Bach returned to the motet style in 1724 and for the first movement of cantata BWV 121 in particular, we can only guess at. Prof. Daniel R. Melamed, in the Oxford Composer Companion, tells us that the motet proper was particularly associated with Thuringia where the Bach family lived and worked. Johann Sebastian’s ancestors had written quite a few of them and he himself had composed at least two at the time. German-language motets were still in regular use in smaller towns, especially in the Christmas season. Melamed mentions that in six of his church cantatas Bach applied motet style exclusively for the oldest chorale melodies, suggesting that the style held strong historical associations for him.

“Thus the motet style fitted the occasion as well as the old Lutheran hymn with an even older origin. There is no doubt in my mind, that in applying the motet style Bach’s thoughts must have gone back to his father’s first cousins Johann Christoph and Johann Michael Bach, the latter being the father of his deceased wife Maria Barbara, who had both been distinguished and prolific motet composers. Reflecting on a year gone by, thinking of loved ones lost, isn’t that what we all do in moments of contemplation, when the end of the year is drawing near? Bach, going on for forty, may have been too absorbed by his duties to get into a real midlife crisis. Yet, looking back, memories sad and happy would have crossed his mind. Orphaned at the age of ten, he had already lost a brother and a sister. Two more brothers he had buried not long ago. He had stood at the graves of his wife Maria Barbara and three of their seven children. And then, he had experienced several disappointments in his professional career, even being held in detention for four weeks before his dismissal from the Weimar court. In these dark winter days, when the nights are longest and hearts can be heavy, the reference to Christ as the sun, the light of the world, in the first movement of the cantata is sure to have warmed Bach’s heart.”

“Bach’s choice of the archaic chorale,” is explained in PeSmaill commentary (December 3, 2006, BCML Cantata 121 Discussions, Part 2,<< BWV 121 is one of a small group of Cantatas where a Chorale is treated in motet-like style, the others being BWV 2, BWV 4, BWV 14, BWV 28, BWV 38, BWV 80 and BWV 182. Thus it has been analysed by Melamed in "J S Bach and the German Motet", as well as being a specific subject for Chafe in "Analysing Bach's Cantatas". So it is a work of particular interest to the scholars.

Bach's choice of this archaic chorale, for whatever reason, has the result that the burghers of Leipzig enjoyed a profound contrast of style, both within BWV 121, but also in contrast to the preceding BWV 91. "Christum wir sollen loben schon", because of the powerful modal opening and close. This aspect of BWV 121 has a mystical aspect (indeed "Geheimnis" is a key word), heightened by Bach's decision in both the opening Chorus and closing Chorale to close a Dorian melody in the Phyrgian mode.

This Chorale (which inexplicably does not appear to be in Reimenschneider even though it is one of the most interesting of all the settings) thus closes on a chord of F sharp major- all the sharps. Likewise the Chorale Prelude BWV 696, which is an early work, concludes in a surprising E major chord despite an opening key signature with no accidentals. The Prelude also displays the word painting of descending all the parts entirely to the bass clef, akin to the bass-driven descent techniques in several Christmas works by Bach, illustrating the descent of the Saviour followed by the raising of Man to a final major key and/or ascending final figuration.

The choice in the Chorale may be also to end on the chord of F sharp major so as to exhibit the maximum number of possible sharps of any key signature, as Thomas Braatz points out, emphatically prefiguring the Cross. In the case of this Cantata, Dürr agrees that the opening motet's choral polyphony is derived from the first chorale line. >>

Chorale Cantata BWV 121, “Christum wir sollen loben schon” (We should now praise Christ), was first performed on the 2nd Day of Christmas, Monday, December 26, 1724, as the early main service of the Thomas Church, before the sermon on the Gospel, Luke 2-15-20 (The adoration of the shepherds at the manger), by Archdicon Urban Gottfried Sieber (1669-1741), says Martin Petzoldt in BACH Commentary, Vol. 2, Advent to Trinity Sunday.4 Cantata 121 was repeated about 1725-30. 2nd performance: 1725-1730 - Leipzig (According to the NBA KB I/3.1 p. 64, Cantata BWV 121 had a 2nd performance between Dec. 26, 1725 and Dec. 26, 1730. This is based upon a soprano part [C 1] which can not be dated anymore precisely than the time span given)

Readings for the 2nd Day of Christmas are: Epistle: Titus. 3:4-7 (God’s mercy has appeared in Christ), Gospel, Luke 2:15-20 (The adoration of the shepherds at the manger); complete text, Martin Luther, English translation Authorised (King James) Version [KJV] 1611; for complete texts, see BCW Readings for the 2nd Day of Christmas,

The Introit Psalm for the 2nd Day of Christmas is Psalm 98, Cantate Domino canticum novum (O sing unto the Lord a new song), says Petzoldt (Ibid.: 139). There are motet settings of Psalm 95 by Monteverdi (, Hans Leo Hassler (, Heinrich Schütz (SWV 463,,_SWV_463_(Heinrich_Schütz), and Buxtehude ( Bach may have presented some of these motets, found in his motet collection, the Bodenschatz und Florilegium Portense.5

Cantata 121 Text: Martin Luther (Mvts. 1, 6 unaltered); Anonymous librettist (Mvts. 2-5, paraphrase), Francis Browne English translation, BCW Luther (1483-1546) BCW Short Biography, At the beginning of Christmas 1724 through the Lenten season, Group 3 lyricist took over, producing 10 libretti, says Harald Streck, 1971 dissertation.

Chorale Text: “Christum wir sollen loben schon,” Author: Martin Luther (1524), 8 verses, 4 lines, based on the Latin hymn “A solis ortus cardine” by Caelius Sedulius (died c. 454); Francis Browne English translation BCW, Luther translated “A solis ortus cardine” as “soweit die liebe Sonne leucht't” (as far as the dear sun gives light). Bach’s hymnbook, Das Neu Leipziger Gesangbuch,6 lists “A solis ortus cardine” as No. 14 in the Christmas section in eight verses with the J. H. Schein SATB setting using Zahn melody 297c. Luther’s adaptation in Bach’s `Leipzig was used as a Vespers hymn on the 2nd day of Christmas “and was also assigned as the hymn of the day for the Sunday after Christmas,” says Günther Stiller in JSB and Liturgical Life in Leipzig.7

Chorale Melody, “Christum wir sollen loben schon,” composer is anonymous (1524), Zahn melody 297c, EKG: (None). Luther simultaneously adapted his melody from one or more of the Latin hymn melodies associated with “A solis ortus cardine” to make it suitable for his German verse. The chorale text and melody first appeared in print in Erfurt “Enchiridion” in 1524. BCW Details,

<<Choral Cantata 121, on Luther’s Christmas Hymn, “Christum wir sollen loben schon,” is a full and close translation of Coelius Sedulius’ [5th century AD] Christmas Hymn, “A solis ortus cardine,” first published, with the melody, in Johann Walther’s Geystliche gesangk Buchleyn (Wittenberg, 1524) and the Enchiridion Oder eyn Handbuchlein (Erfurt, 1524).8 The melody is an adjustment of that of the Latin Hymn, and in its simplified form may be attributed to Walther. The original Plainsong is printed above from Psalmen und geystliche Lieder, die man zu Strassburg, und auch die man inn anderen Kirchen pflegt zu singen (Strassburg, 1537). Bach has not used the tune elsewhere in the Cantatas, Oratorios, or Motetts. In the Organ Works,>> it is a chorale prelude in the Orgelbüchlein No. 14 (1713/15), and a chorale prelude BWV 696 (Kirnberger Collection), 1700/1717, where it is one of seven Advent and Christmas fughettas.

Organ chorale Prelude BWV 696, “Christum wir sollen loben schon,” has an alternate title: “Was fürchtst du Feind, Herodes, sehr” Fughetta. It “refers to Luther’s adaptation of the second part of the same Latin hymn [“A solis ortus cardine”], beginning ‘Hostis Heordes impie’,” says Peter Williams in The Organ Music of JSB.9 The first stanza reads: 10

Was fürchtst du, Feind Herodes, sehr,
daß uns geborn kommt Christ der Herr?
Er sucht kein sterblich Königreich,
der zu uns bringt sein Himmelreich.
The English translation is:
Why are you so afraid, for Herod?
That Christ the Lord comes born to us?
He seeks no mortal Kingdom,
He who brings his own Heaven to us (Willians: Ibid.: 258).

“Was fürchtst du, Feind Herodes, sehr” and its Latin original, “Hostis Heordes impie,” are works for Epiphany and listed as such in the NLGB (Footnote 5 below), Nos. 49 (Hosti) and No. 50 (Was fürchtst du). While Bach did not set either, they will be part of the BCML Discussion for the week of January 4, 2015 with Cantata 123 for Epiphany. The original “A solis ortus cardine,” is “divided into sections for different liturgical occasions: the first seven strophes were used for Christmas, the next four (beginning `Hostis Herodes impie') for Epiphany, and the following four (beginning `Katerva matrum personat') for the Feast of the Holy Innocents,” says Kim Patrick Clow (BCML Cantata 121 Discussions Part 3, “Hostis Heordes” “was extracted from a much larger acrostic hymn on the whole life of Christ,” says Luther’s Works: Liturgy and Hymns. 11 “It deals with the traditional themes of the Epiphany: the Magi, the Baptism of Jesus, and the Wedding Feast of Cana.” Both “A solis ortus cardine” and “Hostis Heordes impie” share a closing Doxology (Christum, wir sollen loben schon, Stanza 8, Browne translation, BCW

Praise, honour and thanks be said to you, Christ,
|who were born from the pure virgin,
with the Father and the Holy Spirit
from now until eternity!

Cantata 121, Movements, Scoring, Text, Key, Meter: 12

1. Motet Chorus (Stanza 1 unaltered) with chorale fugue [SATB; Cornetto e Oboe d'amore e Violino I col Soprano, Trombone I e Violino II coll'Alto, Trombone II e Viola col Tenore, Trombone III col Basso, Continuo): “Christum wir sollen loben schon” (We should now praise Christ); e minor to f-sharp minor phyrigian, 2/2.
2. Aria da-capo (Stanza 2 paraphrased) [Tenor; Oboe d'amore, Continuo]: A. “O du von Gott erhöhte Kreatur, / Begreife nicht, nein, nein, bewundre nur” (O you creature who are exalted by God, / don't try to understand, no, no, just be content to wonder); B. “Wie groß ist doch der Schöpfer aller Dinge”; How great is the creator of everything”; b minor; ¾.
3. Recitative secco (Stanzas 3-4 paraphrased) [Alto; Continuo]: “Der Gnade unermeßlich's Wesen / Hat sich den Himmel nicht / Zur Wohnstatt auserlesen” (The being whose grace is immeasurable / has not chosen the heavens / for his dwelling place); D Major to C Major; 4/4.
4. Aria da-capo ((Stanza 5 paraphrased) [Bass; Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo]: Johannis freudenvolles Springen / Erkannte dich, mein Jesu, schon” (John's joyful leap / already recognised you, my Jesus.); B. “Nun da ein Glaubensarm dich hält, / So will mein Herze von der Welt” (Since now the arm of one who believes holds you, / my heart wants to flee from this world); C Major; 4/4.
5. Recitative secco (Stanzas 6-7 paraphrased) [Soprano; Continuo]; “Doch wie erblickt es dich in deiner Krippe?” (But how does my heart gaze on you in your crib?); G Major to b minor; 4/4.
6. Chorale four-part (Stanza 8 unaltered) [SATB; Cornetto e Oboe d'amore e Violino I col Soprano, Trombone I e Violino II coll'Alto, Trombone II e Viola col Tenore, Trombone III, Continuo): “Lob, Ehr und Dank sei dir gesagt” (Let praise, honour and thanks be said to you); e minor to f-sharp minor phryigian; 4/4.

Old & New Elements Blended

Cantata 121 bends old and new elements of motet style, mixed mode, and enharmonic progressions in the opening fantasia, says John Elliot Gardiner in his 2005 liner notes to the 2000 Bach Cantata Pilgrimage on Soli Deo Gloria recordings.13 <<BWV 121, “Christum wir sollen loben schon,” one of the oldest-feeling of all Bach’s cantatas. Luther himself appropriated and translated this fifth-century Latin hymn, ‘A solis ortu cardine’. Bach sets its opening verse in motet style, the voices doubled by old-fashioned cornetto and three trombones, as well as the usual oboes and strings. There is something mystical about this modal tune, not least in the way it seems to start in the Dorian and end in the Phrygian (or, in the language of diatonic harmony, on the dominant of the dominant). To me it calls to mind images of those angular, earnest faces one so often finds in fifteenth-century Flemish paintings depicting shepherds at the manger-stall. Perhaps more than in any other cantata you sense a primitive root, an early Christian origin for this Marian text (Mary the ‘spotless maid’ with ‘pure body as temple of His honour’). The archaic feel of the opening chorus seems perfectly attuned to the incomprehensible mystery of the Incarnation. Unequivocally modern, however, is the startling enharmonic progression – a symbolic ‘transformation’ in fact – at the end of the alto recitative (No.3) describing the miracle of the virgin birth. This is the tonal pivot of the entire cantata and, appropriately, it occurs on the word ‘kehren’ (to turn or reverse direction): with ‘wundervoller Art’ (Bach’s play on words is his cue for a ‘wondrous’ tritonal shift) God ‘descends’ and takes on human form, symbolically represented by the last-minute swerve to C major. It is the perfect preparation for the bass aria (No.4), with its bold Italianate string writing and diatonic solidity, describing how John the Baptist ‘leapt for joy in the womb when he recognised Jesus’. Bach’s overall design for his cantata is to mirror the change from darkness to light and to show how the moment when Christians celebrate the coming of God’s light into the world coincides with the turning of the sun at the winter solstice. Beyond that his purpose is to emphasise the benefit of the Incarnation for mankind – again, the supreme goal is to join the angelic choir (cue for a brilliant audition which hoists the soprano up to a top B in the penultimate recitative). Any composer other than Bach would have been tempted to set the final chorale in some glittering stratospheric tessitura, but by returning to the cantata’s opening tonality (E major with its ambiguous and inconclusive modal twist to F sharp) and by retaining the burnished timbre of the cornetto and trombones to intensify the choral sound, Bach finds other, subtler ways of achieving a luminous conclusion. After all, it is the believer’s hopes – not the certainty – of eternity that are being evoked here. © John Eliot Gardiner 2005; From a journal written in the course of the Bach Cantata Pilgrimage

Cantata 121: Gospel Allusions & Instrumental Writing

Allusions to the gospel text in the poetic paraphrases, a vocal emphasis in the opening motet, the instrumental character of the tenor aria (Mvt. 2), and the lively string writing in the bass aria (Mvt. 4) with its focus on the John the Baptist leaping in his mother’s womb are found in Klaus Hofmann 2006 liner notes to the Masaaki Suzuki BIS cantata recordings.14 Bach’s cantata Christum wir sollen loben schon was written for the second day of Christmas in 1724. Luther’s hymn (based on the Latin hymn A solis ortus cardine by Caelius Sedulius, c. 430) with its attendant melody (Erfurt 1524) may also have been popular in Leipzig at Christmas. It does not have an especially close connection with the gospel reading for the day (Luke 2,15-20), which tells of the shepherds at the manger, although the shepherds are mentioned at one point. Bach’s librettist made isolated allusions to the gospel text, for instance at the end of the fourth movement with the words ‘so will mein Herze von der Welt zu deiner Krippen brünstig dringen’ (‘My heart wishes to hasten onward from this world to your manger’) and the beginning of the fifth: ‘Doch wie erblickt es dich in deiner Krippen?’ (‘But how does it [my heart] regard you in your manger?).

On hearing the first bars of this work, many a listener at the first performance must have been struck by the impression that, for once, it was not a cantata but a motet. Indeed, Bach composed the opening chorus entirely in the style of a motet. He adds cornet and trombones, reinforced by the other orchestral instruments – an oboe d’amore, violins and viola – as well as the vocal parts; only the continuo is to a large extent independent. Once again the cantus firmus is in long note values in the soprano, and the melody is presented line by line, interrupted by lengthy anticipations of it ithe three lower parts. What gives the movement its special imprint – and ultimately characterizes it as a contemporary work (in Bach’s terms) with a requirement for wide-ranging thematic and motivic connections – is the counterpoint to the first line of the chorale. Initially in the continuo, this moves first to the tenor, then the alto, and then again the continuo; in fact, it runs through the entire ‘motet’.

As if to counterbalance such a display of vocal writing, the tenor aria ‘O du von Gott erhöhte Kreatur’ (‘O creature exalted by God’) is very instrumental in character: the voice competes with the oboe d’amore – even, at the beginning of each line, at the expense of natural text declamation. At the end of the alto recitative ‘Der Gnade unermesslichs Wesen’ (‘The immeasurable being of grace’) we find a peculiarity that will delight connoisseurs: in a surprising modulation in the penultimate bar, a diminished seventh chord is enharmonically reinterpreted so that the music reflects the mystery of which the text speaks: ‘Gott wählet sich den reinen Leib zu einem Tempel seiner Ehren, um zu den Menschen sich mit wundervoller Art zu kehren’ (‘God chooses the pure body as a temple in his honour, so he can come to humankind in his wonderful way’). The bass aria ‘Johannis freudenvolles Springen’ (‘John’s joyful leaping’) is a particularly infectious piece. The lively string writing, with a prominent part for the first violin, must have been inspired by the text. It is an allusion to the episode mentioned in Luke 1, 39-55: Mary visits the pregnant Elisabeth, the future mother of John the Baptist. When Mary greets her, the child in the womb leaps; she is filled with the Holy Spirit and recognizes Mary as the future mother of the Messiah.

The end of the soprano recitative ‘Doch wie erblickt es dich in deiner Krippen’ (‘But how does it regard you in your manger?’) uses a joyful melodic figure to announce a ‘jauchzend Lob- und Danklied’ (‘joyful song of praise and thanks’) – and Bach immediately keeps his promise. The final choral is an exquisite harmonization of the modal melody and, as if reflecting upon the word ‘Ewigkeit’ (‘evermore’), the final note is long held and festively supported by the lower parts. © Klaus Hofmann 2006

Bach’s Leipzig performance calendar for the 2nd Sunday of Christmas

1723-12-26 So - Cantata BWV 40 Dazu ist erschienen der Sohn Gottes (1st performance, Leipzig)
1724-12-26 Di - Cantata BWV 121 Christum wir sollen loben schon (1st performance, Leipzig)
1725-12-26 Mi - Cantata BWV 57 Selig ist der Mann (1st performance, Leipzig)
1726-12-26 Do – no record
1727-12-26 Fr – no record
1728-12-26 So - Picander 6, “Kehret wieder, kommt zurücke”: Chorale “Ach lieben Christen” (?BWV 256)
1734-12-26 So - Weihnachts-Oratorium BWV 248/2 Und es waren Hirten in derselben Gegend (1st performance, Leipzig)
1735-12-26 Mo - G.H. Stölzel: Wie teuer ist deine Güte, Gott, Mus. A 15:44 + Er wird dich mit seinen Fittichen decken, Mus. A 15:45 (String Plaing cycle)
1736-12-26 Mi - or later, unknown cantata, from Names of Christ cycle.
(1725-1730) - Cantata BWV 121 Christum wir sollen loben schon (2nd performance, Leipzig)
(1746-1750) - Cantata BWV 40 Dazu ist erschienen der Sohn Gottes (2nd performance, Leipzig)


1 Cantata 121, BCW Details & Discography,
2 Humphreys: OCC: JSB (Oxford University Press, New York, 1999: 101).
3 Gardiner, John Eliot. BACH: Music in the Castle of Heaven (Alfred A, Knopf: New York, 2013: 325, 211f).
4 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: 2nd Day of Christmas Commentary, 139-143; Cantata 121 Sedulus Latin text & Luther translation, Cantata 121 text 156-159; Cantata 121 Commentary; 158-169).
5 BACH'S MOTET COLLECTION: Otto Riemer, "Erhard Bodenschatz und sein Florilegium Portense" Schünigen: Kaminsky,1927; ML 410 B67R4.
6 NLGB, BACH'S HYMN BOOK: Jürgen Grimm, "Das neu [?] Leipziger Gesangbuch des Gottfried Vopelius (Leipzig 1682),"Berlin: Merseburger, 1969. ML 3168 G75.
7 Stiller, JSB and Liturgical Life in Leipzig, English Ed. with extensive footnotes (Concordia Publishing: St. Louis Mo. 1984: 234f).
8 Source: Charles Sanford Terry, Johann Sebastian Bach, Bach’s Chorals, vol. 2 The Hymns and Hymn Melodies of the Cantatas and Motetts, 1917, On-Line Library of Liberty,, see Cantata CXXI.
9 Williams, Bach Organ Music, 2nd ed. (Cambridge Univ. Press 2003: 258).
10 Source: Footnote 1, BCW Chorale Melodies used in Bach's Vocal Works, Christum wir sollen loben schon,
11 Luther’s Works: Liturgy and Hymns, Vol. 53 (Fortress Press, Philadelphia PA, 1965: 302).
Scoring, Soloists: Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bass; 4-part Chorus; Orchestra: horn, oboes d’amore, 3 trombones, 2 violins, viola, continuo (with organ). Score Vocal & Piano [1.78 MB],, Score BGA [1.76 MB], References, BGA XXVI (Cantata 121-30, Alfred Dörffel, 1878), NBA: I/3.1 2nd Day of Christmas, 2001), Bach Compendium BC: A 13, Zwang K 102. Provenance,
13 Gardiner notes,[sdg113_gb].pdf; BCW Recording details,
14 Hofmann liner notes,[BIS-SACD1481].pdf, BCW Recording details.

Aryeh Oron wrote (December 18, 2014):
Cantata BWV 121 - Revised & updated Discography

The discography pages of the Chorale Cantata BWV 121 “Christum wir sollen loben schont” for the 2nd Day of Christmas on the BCW have been revised and updated.
The cantata is scored for soprano, alto, tenor & bass soloists; 4-part chorus; and orchestra of horn, oboe d’amore, 3 trombones, 2 violins, viola & continuo (with organ). See:
Complete Recordings (11):
Recordings of Individual Movements (5):
The revised discography includes many listening/watching options to recordings directly from the discography pages, just below the recording details.

I have also added to the movement pages of this cantata an option to move back and forth between the movements and to each movement page the relevant portion of the BGA score. See:

I also put at the BCW Home Page:
2 audios 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 chorale cantata. If you are aware of a recording of BWV 91 missing from these pages, or want to correct/add details of recording already presented on the BCW, please do not hesitate to inform me.

You can also read on the BCW William Hoffman's detailed introduction to this week's discussion of the cantata in the BCML (4th round):


Cantata BWV 121: 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 05:29