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Cantata BWV 130
Herr Gott, dich loben alle wir
Discussions - Part 4

Continue from Part 3

Discussions in the Week of October 1, 2017 (4th round)

William Hoffman wrote (September 30, 2017):
Michaelfest: Cantata 130, "Herr Gott, dich loben alle wir"

Among the special feast days in Bach’s Leipzig, was the Feast of Michael and All Angels (Michaelistag), September 29, a Lutheran special observance and the beginning of the city largest seasonal fair (Michaelis Messe), for the fall, beginning on the following Sunday. This leading commercial fair also was the time for the annual observance and possible visit of the Saxon elector and Prince, Augustus, to celebrate his birthday on October 7. Chorale Cantata BWV 130 "Herr Gott, dich loben alle wir" (Lord God, we all praise you; Leipzig, 1724) features the “Old (Psalm) 100” Jubilate Deo doxology early reformation (1554) concise setting of Paul Eber, found in the opening chorus and closing chorale (final two stanzas] with trumpets and drums (see below, “Chorale Sources, Text, Melody”). The two free da-capo arias are set in 2/2 dance style: bass gigue-style with trumpets and drums (no. 3), “The old dragon burns with envy,” and tenor with flute in gavotte-style (No. 5), “Grant, O Prince of cherubim.” The 12-stanza hymn (see below, “Notes on Text”) is quoted in the opening chorus and closing chorale (no. 6, Stanzas 11 and 12), and as paraphrases in aria no. 2 of Stanzas 2-4, alto recitative (no. 3) with Stanzas 4-6, soprano-tenor accompagnato (no. 4) with Stanzas 7-9, and aria (no. 5), stanza 10. The trumpets and drums are found in the opening chorus, the bass aria (no. 3), and the closing chorale. 1

Cantata No. 130 was premiered on Friday, 29 September 1724, at the early main service of the Nikolaikirche before the sermon (not extant) on the Epistle, Revelation (Offenbarung) 12:7-12 (Michael defeats dragon), probably by Superintendent Salomon Deyling. At the early afternoon vesper service at the Thomas Church, this work was repeated before the sermon (not extant), on the day’s Gospel, Matt. 18:1-11 (Who humbles himself shall be exalted), possibly by Pastor Christian Weise, who may have delivered a sermon on the chorale (see below, “Biblical Text Sources”). The Martin Luther 1545 text and the English translation in the King James Version of 1611 are found at BCW

An earlier Lutheran Vespers Service Order is found in Hieronymus Praetorius: Vespers for St. Michael's Day: 1. Antiphona Ad Vesperas: Veni, Sancte Spiritus;2. Antiphona Ad Psalmos: Dum Praeliaretur Michael; 3. Psalm 110: Dixit Dominus; 4. Psalm 113: Laudate Pueri Dominum; 5. Psalm 117: Laudate Dominum; 6. Gloria Patri; 7. Antiphona Ad Psalmos: Dum Praeliaretur Michael; 8. Lectio: Und Es Erhub Sich Ein Streit; 9. Hymnus (Alternatim) Christe Sanctorum; 10. Antiphona Ad Magnificat: Factum Est Silentium; 11. Magnificat Octavi Toni (Alternatim); 12. Antiphona Ad Magnificat: Factum Est Silentium 13. Salutation & Collecta; 14. Benedicamus; 15. Postludium Super Veni Creator Spiritus.

The Introit: Psalm 103, Benedic, anima mea (Bless the LORD, O my soul), includes verses 19-22: "The Lord hath prepared his throne in the heavens; and his kingdom ruleth over all. Bless the Lord, ye his angels, that excel in strength, that do his commandments, hearkening unto the voice of his word. Bless ye the Lord, all ye his hosts; ye ministers of his, that do his pleasure. Bless the Lord, all his works in all places of his dominion: bless the Lord, O my soul." Possible sources for polyphonic motets include Heinrich Isaac (1450-1517), Motet No. 10, "Benedic Anima mea Domino (1484, 4v,), and Claudin de Sermisy (1495-1562), "Bendic, anima mea" (1535, SATB, Gradualied chant, Benedicte Dominum omnes angelieus (between Epistle and Gospel), is found in the Liber usualis, on-line at Pages 1500-1599, scroll down to 1528/9.

Bach probably reperformed Cantata 130 between 1732-35 when he himself copied new string parts (violins and viola) for the bass aria, replacing the three trumpet parts. Bach scholars surmise that he lacked sufficiently skilled trumpeters, including noted virtuoso Gottfried Reicha, or that he simply wanted to soften the sound (details, see below, “Provenance, Score, Parts.”

Besides the opening chorus, the festive bass free da-capo aria with trumpets and drums (no. 3), “Der alte Drache brennt vor Neid,” is the best known movement in Cantata 130. With its lack of string accompaniment (only the basso continuo is present) the scoring is reminiscent of other, similar Bach bass arias with trumpets and continuo, all composed for festive occasions: 1714 Pentecost Sunday Cantata BWV 172, Erschallet, ihr Lieder, erklinget, ihr Saiten!” (Ring out, you songs, resound, you strings), da-capo (no. 3), “Heiligste Dreieinigkeit” (Most holy Trinity),; undated (early Weimar) New Year’s Cantata 143, “Lobe den Herrn, mine Seele” (Praise the Lord, my soul), arioso-like (no. 4, “Der Herr ist König ewiglich” (The Lord is king eternally, hunting horns),; and 1725 Pentecost Tuesday Cantata BWV 175, da capo (no. 6), “Öffnet euch, ihr beiden Ohren” (Open, both of you ears; two trumpets, no drums),

Cantata 130 movements, scoring, text, key, meter (German text and Francis Browne English translation, are:

1. Chorus concerto a tre, free-polyphony, introductory sinfonia (20 mm) dal segno, brief instrumental interludes [SATB; Tromba I-III, Timpani, Oboe I-III, Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo]: “Herr Gott, dich loben alle wir / Und sollen billig danken dir / Für dein Geschöpf der Engel schon, / Die um dich schwebn um deinen Thron.” (Lord God, we all praise you / and we shall rightly give you thanks / now for your creation of the angels / who hover around you, about your throne.); C Major; 4/4 (
2. Recitative secco, chorale text in italics [Alto, Continuo]: “Ihr heller Glanz und hohe Weisheit zeigt, / Wie Gott sich zu uns Menschen neigt,Der solche Helden, solche Waffen / Vor uns geschaffen. / Sie ruhen ihm zu Ehren nicht; / Ihr ganzer Fleiß ist nur dahin gericht’, / Dass sie, Herr Christe, um dich sein / Und um dein armes Häufelein: / Wie nötig ist doch diese Wacht / Bei Satans Grimm und Macht?” (Their dazzling brilliance and lofty wisdom show / how God bends down to us men, / since he has created such heroes, / such weapons for us. / They do not rest from honouring him / all their diligence is directed to this purpose, / that they, Lord Christ, are around you / and are around your poor little flock: / how necessary is this vigilance of theirs / against the rage and might of Satan?); F to G Major; 4/4.
3. Aria free da-capo, sectional ritornelli [Bass; Tromba I-III, Timpani (later version 1732-35 strings; see below, “Provenance, Score, Parts”), Continuo]: A. “Der alte Drache brennt vor Neid / Und dichtet stets auf neues Leid, / Dass er das kleine Häuflein trennet.” (The old dragon burns with envy / and constantly plots new suffering / so that he may divide the little flock.); B. “Er tilgte gern, was Gottes ist, / Bald braucht er List, / Weil er nicht Rast noch Ruhe kennet.” (He would willingly wipe out what is God’s, / soon he uses his cunning / since he knows neitherpeace nor rest.); C Major; 2/2 gigue style (
4. Recitative Accompagnato, mostly homophonic (Duet) [Soprano, Tenor; Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo]: “Wohl aber uns, dass Tag und Nacht / Die Schar der Engel wacht, / Des Satans Anschlag zu zerstören! / Ein Daniel, so unter Löwen sitzt, Erfährt, wie ihn die Hand des Engels schützt. / Wenn dort die Glut / In Babels Ofen keinen Schaden tut, / So lassen Gläubige ein Danklied hören, / So stellt sich in Gefahr / Noch itzt der Engel Hülfe dar.” (But how fortunate we are that day and night / the host of angels keeps watch / to destroy Satan's onslaught! / A Daniel, who sits among lions / finds out how the Angels' hand protects him. / When the heat there / in the furnace of Babel does no harm / those who believe let a song of thanks be heard, / so it happens now in danger / the angels help still appears.); e minor to G Major; 4/4.
5. Aria trio free da-capo, opening sinfonia (16 mm) dal segno [Tenor; Flauto traverso, Continuo]: Lass, o Fürst der Cherubinen, / Dieser Helden hohe Schar Immerdar / Deine Gläubigen bedienen” (Grant, O Prince of cherubim / that this exalted host of heroes / may always serve those who believe in you); B. Dass sie auf Elias Wagen / Sie zu dir gen Himmel tragen.” (that on Elijah's chariot / they may carry them to you in heaven.); G Major; 2/2 gavotte style (arr.
6. Chorale plain [SATB; Tromba I-III, Timpani, Oboe I e Violino I col Soprano, Oboe II e Violino II coll'Alto, Oboe III e Viola col Tenore, Continuo]: “Darum wir billig loben dich / Und danken dir, Gott, ewiglich, / Wie auch der lieben Engel Schar / Dich preisen heut und immerdar.” (Therefore we rightly praise you / and thank you, God, for ever / just as the dear host of angels also / praises you now and forever.) “Und bitten dich, wollst allezeit / Dieselben heißen sein bereit, / Zu schützen deine kleine Herd, / So hält dein göttlichs Wort in Wert.” (And we pray that you may be willing at all times / to order them to be prepared / to protect this little flock of yours / so that it holds in reverence your divine word.); C Major; 3/4 (

Cantata 130: Opening Chorus

The large-scale chorus with brass is the focus of Julian Mincham’s introductory notes to Cantata 130 ( <<A deceptively simple and direct paean of praise to the Lord, specifically for his creation of the angel community; what could be more straightforward? As usual, Bach delivers more than his congregation might have expected. It is decidedly simplistic to say that he seems at his best with music of celebration as testified by numerous choruses from the Mass in B minor, the Magnificat and various secular and religious cantatas. Bach was superb whatever the substance or occasion of his given texts. Nevertheless, there does seem something rather special about his large-scale choruses employing, in addition to the usual strings and woodwind, trumpets (or horns) and timpani.

The Archangel or Saint Michael was a significant figure both in biblical history and at Leipzig where this day coincided with one of the annual trade fairs. Sometimes portrayed as the dragon slayer, he was the leader of God′s army of angels, a figure who inspired fortitude and ensured the soul′s safe passage to the Throne of God. He thus symbolizes the victory of righteousness triumphing over evil and it is not surprising that the one partial, and three complete cantatas Bach composed for this day all boast commanding opening choruses (Cs 19, 149 and 50, all in vol 3). Further contextual comment may be found in vol 3, chapter 25, devoted to C 19.

Chorus/fantasia. This is the third of three consecutive cantatas (Cs 99, 8 and 130) setting the chorale fantasias in major keys, the only time that this occurs in the cycle. Thereafter, until the end of the church year (C 116) Bach more or less alternates major and minor, the exception being Cs 115 and 139 performed in consecutive weeks. Nevertheless it is worth noting that this, the sixteenth of the cycle, is only the fifth to have the fantasia set in the major. But it is the most lavishly scored chorus so far and certainly the most extrovertly festive in character. The addition of instruments not usually called for in the weekly services is a sure sign that the event for which it is written is both celebratory and significant this, Christmas Day and New Year being the most obvious examples. Its three trumpets and drums, augmented by oboes, bassoons and the usual strings and continuo are reminiscent of the opening chorus of the Christmas Oratorio or the Cum Sancto Spiritu from the Bm Mass. This is an uplifting of voice and soul to praise the Lord and His angels.

Gardiner commentary

The bravura bass aria with trumpets and drums is graphically described in John Eliot Gardiner’s 2006 liner notes to his Bach Cantata Pilgrimage 2000 recording.2 <<BWV 130 Herr Gott, dich loben alle wir, from Bach's second Leipzig cycle, is based squarely on one of the set hymns for the day, Paul Eber's paraphrase of Melanchthon's Dicimus gratias tibi (1539), and opens with a song of praise and gratitude to God for creating the angelic host. Using instrumental forces identical to those in BWV 50, Bach begins by presenting a tableau of the angels on parade: these are celestial military manoeuvres, some of them even danced, rather than the battle itself. That is reserved for the centrepiece of the cantata, a C major bass aria scored exceptionally for three trumpets, drums and continuo. The battle is presented not as a past event, but as an ongoing danger from `the ancient dragon [who] burns with envy and constantly devises new pain' intended to break up Christ's `little flock'. Though there is brilliance aplenty in the steely glint of Michael's sword (fifty-eight consecutive semiquavers for the principal trumpet to negotiate - twice!), this is not an episode in a Blitzkrieg. Bach is more concerned to evoke two superpowers squaring up to one another, the one vigilant and poised to protect the `kleine Häuflein' [little flock] against assault (cue the tremulant throbbing of all three trumpets in linked quavers), the other wily and deceitful (one wonders whether the kettledrums and continuo are perhaps intended to be on the dragon's side?). The secure protection God offers the believer through His guardian angels is portrayed in a soothing duet for soprano and tenor with reference to past successes - Daniel in the lions' den and the three men in the fiery furnace. Gratitude for the services the angels provide is now expressed as a gavotte, with an aria for tenor and virtuosic flute [no. 4] symbolising perhaps the fleetness of angelic transport `on Elijah's chariot'. Human and angelic praise are combined in the final chorale, with God's elect borne aloft by the angelic trumpets. >>
© John Eliot Gardiner 2006

Reformation Chorale Sources

The Reformation chorale sources, including the Revelation text source, Paul Eber’s text, and the Loys Bourgeois melody, as well as a description of the Cantata 130 movements and recording production notes, are found in Klaus Hofmann’s 2006 liner notes for the Masaaki Suzuki recording.3 << Bach’s cantata Herr Gott, dich loben alle wir was composed for Michaelmas 1724. This feast day was celebrated each year on 29th September to honour the Archangel Michael and all the angels. At its centre is the reading from Revelation, chapter 12, verses 7-12, with the visionary description of the battle between divine and demonic forces, in which Michael and his angels vanquish the ‘great dragon..., that old serpent called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world’. The hymn owhich the cantata is based was the Michaelmas hymn in the Protestant tradition. Its text is an adaptation by the Wittenberg scholar Paul Eber (1511- 1569) of Latin verses by Philipp Melanchthon (1497- 1560), a close associate of Martin Luther’s; the melody comes from Loys Bourgeois (c. 1510 - after 1560), a well-known composer of hymn tunes who belonged to the circle of the Geneva reformer Johannes Calvin. It focuses on the praise of God and our gratitude that He has created the angels as heroic protectors of the Christians against ‘Satans Grimm und Macht’ (‘Satan’s anger and strength’), as guardians and helpers in our danger. The link to the biblical text is established rather indirectly in the aria ‘Der alte Drache brennt vor Neid’ (‘The old dragon is consumed with envy’ ).

The opening chorus is a grandiose, festive piece. As the texts suggests, it is an expression of praise and thanks, also inspired by the image of the angels hovering around God’s throne and by traditional conceptions of the heavenly choir singing in praise of God. The sound image gains breadth from the contrast between three separate instrumental groups, in the antiphonal tradition of the seventeenth century: strings, a trio of oboes and an ensemble of trumpets and timpani, each with its own thematic material. The strings are characterized by bustling semiquavers – perhaps an illustration of the angels around the throne; the oboes play one degree more slowly, in quavers, and often contribute echo motifs to the other two sound groups; and the trumpets and timpani – symbols of dominance in Bach’s time and thus essential in a piece honouring the heavenly ruler – crown the sound image with signal-like triad figures supported by drumbeats. As so often in the opening choruses of the choral cantata year, the four lines of the hymn appear as a broadly de-claimed cantus firmus from the soprano. The other three choral lines – alto, tenor and bass – form a motivically independent group that illustrates the words ‘loben’ (‘praise’ ), ‘danken’ (‘thank’ ) and ‘schweben’ (‘hover’) with rich coloraturas.

The bass aria ‘Der alte Drache brennt vor Neid’ (‘The old dragon is consumed with envy’), which is accompanied only by trumpets, timpani and continuo, is a display piece the like of which Bach’s Leipzig congregation would most certainly never have heard. The trumpets play as if in combat with the ‘old dragon’; the triad melody of the first line of the hymn alludes to a then well-known military signal, and alongside the vocal bass with its thoroughly heroic cast, the first trumpet shines forth with highly virtuoso coloraturas.

The recitative duet ‘Wohl aber uns’ (‘But it is good for us’) forms a clear contrast, with its mild, harmonious sonorities for soprano and tenor. The text contains Old Testament references, examples of the angels’ role as protectors, that would have been much more obvious to biblically knowledgeable listeners in Bach’s time than to his admirers today: Daniel in the lions’ den and the deliverance from the fiery furnace (from Daniel, chapters 6 and 3) – both examples of miraculous escapes from God’s enemies and certain death.

The text of the tenor aria ‘Lass, o Fürst der Cherubinen’ (‘Permit, o prince of the cherubim’) is a prayer; the music is accompanied by a solo flute, and has surprising lightness and a certain fashionable elegance. It is a stylized gavotte, which will have reminded the connoisseurs among Bach’s Leipzig audience that the Thomaskantor had until recently been Hofkapellmeister [in Köthen]. The allusion in the text to ‘Elias Wagen’ (‘Elijah’s chariot’) refers to the biblical account in 2 Kings, chapter 2, according to which the prophet Elijah escapes death and is taken to heaven in a chariot of fire.

In the final chorale, the melody of which is now heard in 3/4-time, the choir and instrument combine once more in praise and prayer. Each line of the hymn is crowned by a festive flourish from the trumpets and timpani.
© Klaus Hofmann 2006

<<Production Notes: Herr Gott, dich loben alle wir, BWV 130. The materials for this work are scattered around a surprisingly large number of libraries and private collections. Bach’s own manuscript of the full score is in the Schmiedel collection in Nuremberg and the original parts, including fragments, are scattered in fourteen collections in the UK, Germany, Belgium, Austria, Switzerland and the United States [see below, “Provenance”]. It was thus impossible for us to gather all the materials in preparation for this performance, but the details of these materials are contained in the editor’s report (I/30) in the New Bach Edition written by Marianne Helms. One of the performance problems involved in this work concerns the continuo part for the fifth movement. The transposed continuo part for organ is divided into three fragments (a, b and c); b and c are housed in collections in Frankfurt and in Chur, Switzerland. Fragment b consists of movements 3 and 4, while movement 5 is indicated as ‘tacet’. Furthermore, the continuo part (untransposed) housed in the Bach Museum at Eisenach bears the marking (probably in Bach’s own hand) ‘pizzicato’. There is thus a strong possibility that the organ was not used at all in this aria and that it was performed pizzicato by the stringed instrument(s) in the continuo section. After the struggle with the ‘aged dragon’ in the third movement has ended, the aria conveys a wonderfully light feeling that suggests effortlessly flying up with Elijah into the heavens.
© Masaaki Suzuki 2006

Cantata 130 Associations

Various associations in Cantata 130 are explored in Peter Smaill’s BCML Discussion (, including the Lutheran origins of its chorale and later use as the popular “Old Hundredth,” the demands on the trumpet players, connections to the opening chorus of Wagner’s Die Meistersinger Overture, and the overtone of a Protestant festival. <<From the Sunday following St Michael's Day in Leipzig, the city was en fête with the annual St Michael's Fair; and thus the celebration of the Saint's Day, one of the few venerated in Lutheranism, would have had added festal meaning. For 1724, Bach drew on the chorale [see below, “Chorale Sources, Text, Melody”] associated with the great protestant reformer, Phillip Melanchthon, (the words paraphrased by Paul Eber), set to the tune by the French Protestant Louis Bourgeois. It is a melody beloved of the English-speaking world and is known as the "Old Hundredth "; indeed, the same tune was specially set for the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953 by Vaughan Williams.

This instantly accessible Cantata is perhaps surprisingly rarely performed given these associations. In the main I suspect the problem is the usual one of securing three fine trumpeters to undertake the demanding parts set by Bach. The trumpet has scarcely sounded in Jahrgang II to date and the requirement for three suggests to that Bach may have had funds from the Council or the Thomaskirche to import an extra player(s) of the right standard rather than depend on the "Stadtpfeifer", the usual choice at this time being the virtuoso Gottfried Reiche and Johann Cornelius Gentzmer (see below, “Provenance”).

The introductory Chorus (Mvt. 1) is powerfully constructed. The punctuation of a triple beat figure in the continuo, timpani-enforced, interjects and emphasises rising and extending orchestral lines, the trumpets intensifying in the interchange of rising and falling themes the battle between St Michael and the Devil. The power of this ritornello arises from the interplay of the triple pulse of the continuo and timpani with the trumpet lines. IMO there is a structural parallel with the Overture to "Meistersingers." In that most Bachian of fellow Leipziger Richard Wagner's opera, though the rhythms of the overture differs from BWV 130/1 (Mvt. 1), the structure is similar — a repeated introductory phrase in co/timpani with an ever rising and lengthening trumpet chorus, reverting again and again to the base rhythm. Wagner, who based his melody on Wagenseil's 'master tones", first published in 1697, is setting the scene for St John's Day celebrations; Bach, for St Michael's Day.

That is not to say that Wagner necessarily knew BWV 130 and indeed this seems unlikely since, as Teri Noel Towe has pointed out, the parts for this work were dispersed unlike most of Jahrgang II [see below, “Provenance”). What is more likely is that this interplay creates the impression of pomp and grandeur associated with contest and triumph, and is a more general baroque device, brilliantly adapted by Bach.

The purpose of Bach and his librettist, IMO, is only in part to celebrate the legendary saint using the stirring texts derived from the Book of Revelation. Much more likely, the overtone is of a Protestant festival, indicated by the choice of words associated with Melanchthon and especially the lines of the final Chorale, with its exhilarating trumpet run to high C and stress in the words on fidelity to Scripture: "Und bitten dich, wollst allezeit / Dieselben heissen sein bereit, / Zu Schützen deine kleine Herd, / So hält dein Göttlichs Wort in Wert" / ("and we pray that You would at all times / Call then to be ready / To protect your little flock / That holds Your divine Word as worthy.")

Bach creates separate instrumental groupings to highlight the antiphonal nature of the conflict described in BWV 130/1 (Mvt. 1), just as he had for the civic Cantata BWV 71 sixteen years previously. In both works (cf. BWV 130/2) he uses the effect of frequent intervals of a second, i.e. adjacent tones, in trumpets. He must, too, have had for St Michael's Day an exceptional Bass able to hold out against the three archangelic trumpets in BWV 130/3 (Mvt. 3). If the idea was to showcase the high levels of instrumental attainment to visitors to Leipzig at Michaelmas, then the flute obbligato in the highly-contrasting Tenor aria, BWV 130/5 (Mvt. 5), would have left no doubt as to the range of skills at Bach's disposal.>>

Notes on Text, Music

Chorale Sources, Text, Melody

The author of "Herr Gott, dich loben alle wir" chorale text is Paul Eber (1511-1569) and the first appearance of this is from 1554. It is Eber's paraphrase/translation of Lutheran reformer Philipp Melanchthon's (1497-1560) 11-stanza, 4-lines Latin verse Dicimus grates tibi (Lord God, to thee we all give praise) which first appeared in 1539. "Herr Gott, dich loben alle wir" is listed in the Neu Leipziger Gesangbuch (NLGB) as No. 160 under music for the Feast of Michael and All Angels (Zahn melody 368), in the J. H. Schein setting in F Major for SATB 1627. The Hymn of the Day, NLGB 160, "Herr Gott, dich loben alle wir," was "generally accepted as the hymn of the day for the Festival of St. Michael" "in all the Leipzig and Dresden hymn schedules," says Günther Stiller.4

The Melody to "Herr Gott, dich loben alle wir" (anonymous Geneva Psalter 1551, Psalm 134, Ecce nunc, Behold now, bless the Lord), is discussed at BCW, The chorale melody is used as the Christian Doxology, "Praise God, from whom all blessings flow." In this form the melody is often referred to as the "Old 100th (Psalm 100, Jubilate Deo, Be joyful to the Lord). In Cantata BWV 130, the melody is found in the opening chorale fantasia in the soprano (4/4, C Major), set to Stanza 1, and in the closing plain chorale (Mvt. 6), set to the final two stanzas, S. 11 and 12 (3/4, C Major): "Darum wir billig loben dich" (Therefore we freely praise you) and "Und bitten dich, wollst allezeit/ Dieselben heißen sein hereit" (And we ask that it may always be your will / to command them [the angels] to be ready).

Bach also set the melody as plain chorales in D Major, BWV 326, 4/4 in B-flat Major, and BWV 327, ¾ in D Major set to the associated text, "Für deinen Thron tret ich hiermit" (Before your throne I appear herewith), The Bodo von Hodenberg 1646 15 stanza text also is associated with the Louis Bourgeoise 1543 melody (Zahn 394) as the hymn "Wenn wir in höchsten Nöten sein" (When we are in utmost need). Ludwig Erk's C. F. Peters edition of Bach chorales (1850) lists a spurious plain-chorale setting of "Herr Gott, dich loben alle wir," BWV Anh. 31, with two obligation trumpets in D Major (B. F. Richter No. 130, ?AII/4 Breitkopf). The composer, using a variant melody in quarter notes, is unknown.

St. Michael Chorales, Chants

In Gottfried Vopelius' Neu Leipziger Gesangbuch (NLGB) of 1685, music for the Feast of Michael and All Angels lists the following music (No. 160, "Herr Gott, dich loben alle wir,” is discussed above):

Communion Hymn, No. 158, "Dicimus grates tibi" (Thanks unto Thee), Philipp Melanchthon's Latin setting of the 11-stanza hymn paraphrase of Revelation 12-7-12, the angels' defeat of satanic forces in heaven and the voice of victory.

Communion Hymn, No. 159, "Laßt uns von Hertzen" (Let us from hearts), Melanchthon's vernacular German translation of "Dicimus grates tibi" in 11 stanzas, set to the old German melody, Zahn 966, NLGB SATB setting, composer unknown. Bach did not set this chorale and no text could be found.

Pulpit Hymn, No. 161, "Es stehn für/vor Gottes Throne" I stand before God's throne); Ludwig Humbold 1594, 7 stanzas, Zahn melody 4298, Johannes a Burgk 1594 (Muhlhausen), SATB setting, composer unknown. Bach plain chorale setting in g minor, BWV 309. It is listed in the Orgelbüchlien for the Michael and All Angels Festival (OB 58) but not set. An organ chorale prelude may be by Bach, BWV deest, Emans NBA/KB IV/10: 65, three-part harmony with pedal, 37 measures in A minor/Major.

Communion Hymn, No. 162, "Fürst und Herr der starcken Helden" M Johann Frentzel (7 stanzas, SSATB; Tobias Michel, Zahn melody 8805 (1652). Bach did not set this chorale and no text could be found.

Psalm Responsorium chant, No. 163, Te sanctum Dominum, "Thee, O holy Lord, all angels praise in the heavens, saying: Thou art worthy of praise and honour, O Lord" (anonymous, Notre Dame School, 1200, Gregorian chant). Pre-Communion chant, No. 164, Praefaction, Dominos vobiscum (The Lord be with you). Benediction (Blessing) chant, No. 165, Benedicamus Domino/Deo dicamus gratias.

Biblical Text Sources

The biblical basis of the Michaelistag festival is the Epistle, Revelation 12:7-12, especially two verses, verse 7, "Es erhub sich ein Streit im Himmel" (There was a war in heaven), and verse 10b, "Nun ist das Heil und die Kraft” (Now is come salvation, and strength, embedded in historical, musical settings (see bellow, “Historical Background” and “Michaelfest Lutheran Music, Texts”). Throughout the chorale cantata cycle, Bach engaged competent librettists with learned theological backgrounds. He also may have relied on his Thomas Pastor Christian Weise for a series of sermons accompanying the cantatas, says Alfred Dürr.5 This Leipzig tradition began in 1690 when predecessor cantor Johann Schelle composed chorale concertos (cantata forerunner), to accompany an annual cycle of sermons by Johann Benedict Carpzov.6 In Bach’s 1724-25 incomplete chorale cantata cycle, as many as four writers could have participated in the libretti writing, including one in Cantata 130 who began with Cantata BWV 33, “Allein zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ,” for the 13th Sunday after Trinity, 3 September 1724, and provided many of the poetic texts of chorale internal stanza paraphrases through the feast of Purification, 2 February 1725, including the five Christmas festival services.7

An outline of the biblical sources and the movements of Cantata 130 are found in Dürr’s monograph (Ibid.: 696f):

(no. 1) “Praise of God and gratitude fHis creation of the angels”; (no. 2) a description of their character”; (no. 3)

“the old dragon, from whom the angels protect us”; (no. 4) “the protection afford by the angels is supported by biblical examples” (Daniel); (no. 5) a prayer for angels’ protection; and (no. 6) praise and thanksgiving. The bass aria has the connection to the day’s Epistle (Rev 12:7-12), the battle between the angels and the dragon, says Dürr, specifically the wiles of the dragon. The duet accompagnato (no. 4) cites the Book of Daniel (6:23) where the angels save Daniel from lions and also the men in the “burning in the fiery furnace” (Daniel 3:1ff). The succeeding tenor aria is a prayer for angelic protection as they did Elijah (cf 2 Kings 2:11), an image also found in the concluding chorale of Cantata 19.

The Cantata 130 movements’ textual overview is found in Melvin Unger’s Handbook to Bach’s Sacred Cantata Texts.8

They are: (no. 1) Angels: “Praise to God for angels around God’s throne”; (2) “Angels’ mission: to encircle Christ and his children” (no. 3) “Dragon tirelessly seeks to devour God’s children”; (no. 4) “Angels guard us like they did Daniel & his friends”; (5) “Prayer: May Angels protect us; take us up like Elijah”; (no. 6) Praising God with angels; prayer that they protect us.”

Historical Background

The use of trumpets and drums occurred in the other three Michaelmas cantatas Bach composed for this feast day: 1726, chorus Cantata BWV 19, "Es erhub sich ein Streit" (There was a war); 1728, chorus Cantata BWV 149, "Man singet mit Freuden vom Sieg" (Songs are sung with joy of victory, Picander text), and 1723-30, eight-voice motet, BWV 50, "Nun ist das Heil und die Kraft" (Now is salvation and strength). These cantatas “show how powerfully Bach was stirred by the associations of this feast day,” says W. Gillies Whittaker.9 He describes the Michaelmas cantatas as follows: Cantata 19 “contains the notable struggle between the Archangel and the dragon, No. 149 opens with a mighty choral number, No. 50 is the magnificent, isolated eight-part chorus. Nos. 19 and 149 contain arias in which angel-motives figure largely.”

There is no record of Bach performance but possible 1723 or 1725 of the apocryphal chorus Cantata BWV 219/TVWV 1:1328, Siehe, es hat uberwunden der Lowe (Behold, the lion has triumphed (Hamburg, 1723, Neumeister text), Georg Philipp Telemann (recording, Other works appropriate for the Michael Festival that Sebastian Bach possibly could have presented include: chorus Cantata BWV 148, Bringet dem Herrn seines Names” (Bring to the Lord honor of His Name), Trinity 17 9/19/1723 (Picander text source), possible repeat for Mchaelfest 1723; solo soprano Cantata BWV 51, “Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen! (Shout for joy to God in every land!), per ogni tempo (for any time) and the 15th Sunday after Trinity (c.1730); Johann Christoph Bach cantata "Es erhub sich ein Streit" (There was a war; as early as 1723); Gottfried Heinrich Stölzel Cantata No. 61, "Wer ist, wie der Herr unser Gott, der sich so hoch gestetzet hat?" (Who is like unto the Lord our God, who dwelleth on high), 1735 [(Schmolck String Cycle, not extant], Psalm 113:5 Laudate pueri (Praise ye the Lord, Roman vespers); and Stölzel, Cantata No. 61, no incipit (Schmolck Names of Christ Cycle, as early as 1736).

With the end of the summer approaching in his first year of service in 1723, Bach, required to present cantatas during the main Sunday and festivals, faced a major test: composing music for the most popular civic event, the Feast of Michael and All Angels, during the six-month Trinity Time, on Wednesday, September 29 (source, One tradition required particularly festive music to inaugurate the opening of the annual St. Michael Fall Trade Fair (Messe), near the equinox, when esteemed visitors and local dignitaries gathered for the main morning service at the main church of St. Nicholaus, followed by vespers in the afternoon.

Following another tradition of St. Michael's fairs traced back to the 12th century, the flourishing cosmopolitan trade center had endowed its largest church with extensive pew boxes for the community's leading citizens and guests at gala special services. These involved such major events during Bach's tenure as thanksgiving services for the Saxon Court, sacred observances of Reformation milestones such as the 200th anniversary of the Augsburg Confession in 1730, and municipal activities such as the annual installation of the new governing Leipzig Town Council on a Monday in late August following St. Bartholomew's Day.

The particularly festive music for the Feast of St Michael and All Angels also entailed important traditions. Beginning with Martin Luther's Reformation in 1519, he and his followers created special hymn music for the main and vesper services. The festival lesson is based on the Epistle narrative and victory song (Revelation, 12:7-12) of the defeat of Satan and his evil forces by the warrior-leader Archangel Michael, their casting out from heaven, and the triumph of human salvation.

Michaelfest Lutheran Music, Texts

The Reformation's leading theologian, Philipp Melanchthon, in 1539 set 11 hymn verses in Latin as a paraphrase of the original Latin text of the Epistle, Dicimus grates tibi (Lord God, to thee we all give praise), using the associated chant melody, followed by his own 11-verse German vernacular paraphrase, "Laßt uns von Hertzen" (Let us from hearts), to an old German melody. Ironically, Melanchthon, who had abhorred the Roman Catholic practice of the veneration of saints and relics, eventually advocated and instituted liturgical observances of the Marian Feasts and saints John the Baptist and the Archangel Michael. Subsequently, in 1554, Paul Eber composed a 12-verse setting of Melanchthon's Latin hymn, "Herr Gott, dich loben alle wir" (Lord God, we all Thank you).

Interestingly, while this and other associated St. Michael's Day Reformation chorales were sung, the most important music at the service and vespers until Bach's time were the German baroque vocal concerto settings of Luther's vernacular German translation of the Epistle narrative, Revelation Chapter 12: (7) "Es erhub sich ein Streit im Himmel" (There was a war in heaven) and the song, (10b) "Nun ist das Heil und die Kraft und das Reich unsers Gottes geworden" (Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God). In particular were motet-style multi-voice works of Heinrich Schütz, Tobias Zeutschner, Matthias Weckmann, Hieronymus and Michael Praetorius, Michael Altenberg, Andreas Hammerschmidt and, most notably, Johann Christoph Bach, Sebastian's second cousin and most significant ancestor. In addition, Sebastian's son Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach composed two Michael's Day Epistle cantatas, one in association with his brother Emmanuel using the latter's music and music from Sebastian's Magnificat, BWV 243.

The impetus for all of Sebastian’s Michaelfest music was steeped in German musical tradition that used biblical texts set as motets or vocal concerti and imaginative poetic paraphrase through Lutheran hymns. Following cousin Johann Christoph's musical lead, Sebastian Bach's synthesis of Michaelfest original poetry produced four cantatas, BWV 130, 19, 149, and 50. Subsequently, sons Johann Christoph Friedrich and Carl Philipp Emanuel would produce more Michaelfest music in the late 18th century gallant style, with texts of Bükeburg poet Johann Gottfried Herder in 1770.

The Feast of Michael and All-Angels became the Lutheran Reformation core expression of religious freedom as found in the Revelation motets and poetic chorales. Poetically from Renaissance theologian Philipp Melanchthin 1539 to Enlightened poet Johann Gottfried Herder in 1770, musically from Heinrich Schütz and the Praetorius brothers on the cusp of the Baroque era to the final three generations of the Bach Family. The latter contributed sacred concertos/cantatas for Michaelmas with Sebastian influenced by the monumental work of his cousin Johann Christoph (1642-1703) and the compositions of his second-youngest son, Johann Christoph Friedrich (1732-95), who in turn was influenced by his father. Further, J.C.F and his older brother Carl Philipp Emanuel (1714-88) produced a pasticcio that reflects Enlightenment stylistic transition and interpretation of the meaning of the angelic heavenly victory of the sacrificial Blood of the Lamb.

Provenance, Score, Parts

In the 1750 distribution of the Cycle 2 chorale cantatas, Friedemann apparently kept both the autography score and original manuscript parts set of Cantata 130. Friedemann apparently also retained the four parts his father copied for a reperformance 1732-35, Bach Compendium A 179b. Interestingly, in 1724 “Friedemann, not quite 14 years of age, appears here (Cantata 130 parts) for the first time as a copyist of his father’s cantata manuscripts,” says Gerhard Herz.10 Friedemann also apparently retained the parts sets and doublets of five other chorale cantatas (BWV 80, 113, 115, 135, and 180) in the cycle (not extant), rather than giving them to Anna Magdalena, while the 44 he gave her she donated to the Thomas School and are still housed there. Meanwhile, a pasticcio score of Cantata 130 was compiled in the second half of the 18th century in Berlin, with a spurious closing chorale, BWV Anh, 31 (see,_dich_loben_alle_wir,_BWV_Anh.31_(Bach,_Johann_Sebastian), Eventually, 11 extant parts of Cantata 130 were found in the 1836 estate of collector H. G. Nägeli, from which they were distributed to various private owners.11 Here are the various original sources:12

+Autograph Score (Original Version, Bach Compendium BC A 179a [1724] Facsimile): D B N Mus. Depos. 1 (privately owned),; Provenance: J. S. Bach - W. F. Bach - ? - Auction Berlin 1827(?) - C. P. H. Pistor - F. D. E. Rudorff (born Pistor)/A. F. Rudorff - E. F. K. Rudorff - W. Bargiel - C. Bargiel - K. Schmiedel - Erbengemeinschaft Schmiedel (since 1976 as Dauerleihgabe in BB (now Berlin, Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Musikabteilung).

+Parts set BC A 179a, copyists Christian Gottlob Meißner, Friedemann, Anon. Cantata 130, original version, Bach Compendium BC A 179a (1724), 17 original parts, 6 lost; Provenance: J. S. Bach - ?Friedemann - H. G. Nägeli (9 parts); dispersed to various private owners (unavailable); description,*%2Cscore&q=%2BobjectType%3A%22work%22+%2Bcategory%3A%22BachDigital_class_00000006%5C%3A0001%22+%2Bcategory%3A%22BachDigital_class_00000005%5C%3A0001%22+%2Bwork01%3A%22BWV+130%22+%2Bwork02%3A%22Herr+Gott%2C%22&mask=search_form_work.xed&version=4.5&start=0&fl=id&rows=1&XSL.Style=browse&origrows=25.

+ Substitute Parts, BC A 179b, second version, 1732-35 reperformance; 4 string parts in Bach’s hand (also unavailable, private ownership): A-Wgm A 92 [Violine II, Ergänzung] [Original source]; CH-CObodmer Ms.11625 [Viola, Ergänzung] [Original source]; Unbekannter Privatbesitz BWV 130 (2), Faszikel 2 [Original source] ; Unbekannter Privatbesitz BWV 130 (4) [Violine I, Ergänzung] [Original source],; sold Southeby’s, May 2017 (; Parts Provenance: J. S. Bach - ?Friedemann - ? - K. E. Henrici, Berlin (Kat. 1910) - Gilhofer & Ranschburg, Wien (Kat. 1913); dispersed to various private owners (unavailable); existence found through auction 1974/76 Franz Schalk family.


1 Cantata 130 BCW Details & Discography, Score Vocal & Piano,; Score BGA, References: BGA: XXVI (Cantatas 121-130, Alfred Dörffel, 1878), NBA KB I/30 (Michaelistag, Marianne Helms, 1974: 11), Bach Compendium BC: A 179, Zwang: K 89.
2 Gardiner Cantata 130 notes, BCW; BCW Recording details,
3 Hoffman/Suzuki Cantata 130 notes, BCW; BCW Recording details,
4 Günther Stiller in JSB and Liturgical Life in Leipzig (St. Louis MO: Concordia Publishing, 1984: 247). For the four line (AABB), 12 stanza hymn Eber text and Francis Browne’s English translation, see BCW Melanchthon's setting of Dicimus grates tibi is found in the NLGB as No. 158 (Zahn melody 974) in the J. H. Schein setting for SATB, No. 158 (text and Matt Carver English translation, Hymnoglypt; music,
5 A tradition of annual chorale and emblematic sermons after the cantata “musical sermon,” is described in Alfred Dürr, The Cantatas of J. S. Bach, trans. Richard D. P. Jones (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005: 27-30).
6 See Markus Rathey, “The Chorale Cantata in Leipzig: The Collaboration between Schelle and Carpzov in 1689-1690 and Bach's Chorale Cantata Cycle,” in Bach, Vol. 43, No. 2 (2012, Berea OH: Riemenschneider Bach Institute:46-62),
7 See Harald Streck, “Die Verskunst in den poetischen Texten zu den Kantaten J. S. Bachs” (Hamburg: Verlag der Musikalienhandlung, 1971, dissertation), cited in Artur Hirsch,”Johann Sebastian Bach’s Cantatas in Chronological Order,” in Bach, Vol. 11 (July 1980, Berea OH: Journal of the Riemenschneider Bach Institute: 19, 24-25).
8 Melvin Unger, Ha. . .: An Interlinear Translation with Reference Guide to Biblical Quotations and Illusions (Lanham MD: Scarecrow Press, 1996: 451ff).
9 W. Gillies Whittaker, The Cantatas of Johann Sebastian Bach (London: Oxford University Press, 1959: II: 455).
10 Gerhard Herz, “The New Chronology of Bach’s Vocal Music,” in Cantata No. 140, Norton Critical Scores, ed. Gerhard Herz (New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 1972: 25, Footnote 14).
11 Details of the parts and their provenance are found in Claude Role’s BCW Commentary, (Parties Sêparêes), source: Bach Compendium BC A 179.
12 Provenance sources discussed in Gerhard Herz, “Original Performing Parts of Bach’s Cantatas,” in Bach Sources in America (Bach-Quellen in Amerika), bilingual (Kassel Bärenreiter, 1984: 111, 113f).


To Come: Michaelistag Cantata 149, Bach Family Michaelistag cantatas, Milton’s Paradise Lost and angels, Revelation and Christology.


Cantata BWV 130: Herr Gott, dich loben alle wir for Feast of St Michael and All Angels (1724)
Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements
Discussions: 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
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Last update: Monday, November 20, 2017 06:41