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Cantata BWV 154
Mein liebster Jesus ist verloren
Discussions - Part 4

Continue from Part 3

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

William Hoffman wrote (January 14, 2016):
Epiphany Cantata 154: 'Mein Liebster Jesu ist verloren

Cantata 154, “Mein liebster Jesu ist verloren” (My dearest Jesus is lost) for the First Sunday after Epiphany is another unusual, unique Bach musical sermon with its intimate solo character and three progressive arias that may have been borrowed from earlier music (see below, ‘Cantata 154 Genesis’ and ‘Provenance’). Its unified symmetrical form involves three arias, two recitatives referring to the appointed biblical readings, two plain “Jesus Hymn” chorales and a central, sermon-quoting vox Christi arioso.1 It sets a standard for Bach’s Epiphany Time cantatas that observe (make known, show) the significance of Jesus as well as the darker side of this thematic time of transition and turning from celebrating Jesus’ incarnate birth to the impending time of his suffering and death. As Bach’s first cycle entered the first half of the church year dealing with the major events in the life of Jesus Christ explored, the Leipzig cantor sought out opportunities for challenging music and corresponding texts molded in new forms with special themes and teachings.

Cantata 154 was premiered on January 9, following the festive Cantata 65 for the Epiphany feast (Thursday January 6), at the early main service of the Nikolaikirche, before the sermon by Arch-Deacon Friedrich Wilhelm Schütz (1677-1739) on the day’s gospel, Luke 2:41-52, the 12-year old Jesus lost by his parents but found in the temple, observes Martin Petzoldt in Bach Commentary, Vol. 2, Advent to Trinityfest.2

Cantata 154 sets the pattern for mostly intimate solo cantatas for the four Sundays in Epiphany Time (see ‘Epiphany Time Solo Cantatas’ below). This solo cantata adds an internal plain chorale (no. 3) in the manner of four Christmas time mostly festive chorus cantatas (BWV 40, 64, 153, 65). The orchestra scoring has two prominent oboes d’amore, Bach’s favorite new instrument in Leipzig, with strings. The overall form on Cantata 154 remains typically symmetrical but with some unusual features (two chorales, arioso) that may have been deliberately designed by Bach to enhance the text which in all eight movements emphasizes the theme that Jesus is lost but later found.

Progressive-Style Arias

Cantata 154 is a sister work to Cantata 153 presented a week before for the Sunday after New Years. Both are intimate Sunday service solo works following festive music for New Years Day (Cantata 190) and the Epiphany Feast (Cantata 65). Both have progressive, dance-style arias, internal plain chorales and a vox Christi arioso for bass. In Cantata 154, it (no. 5) quotes the day’s Gospel, “Wisset ihr nicht, dass ich sein muss in dem, das meines Vaters ist ? (Luke 2:49) (Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business?).

Cantata 154 opens with a tenor aria lament in sarabande style in condensed da-capo (ABA) form with a brief, contrasting, raging middle section, “O Schwert, das durch die Seele dringt” (Oh sword that pierces through my soul), that is reminiscent of two Cycle 1 tenor arias. The first is the storm (no. 6), “Stürmt nur, stürmt, ihr Trübsalswetter” (Storm on, storm, you weather of affliction), in Cantata 153, Schau, lieber Gott, wie meine Feind” (Behold, dear God, how my enemies), composed a week before for the Sunday after New Years. Like Cantata 154, solo Cantata 153 features three progressive arias in similar closet-opera form with an additional internal chorale. To the usual string ensemble Bach adds pairs of oboes d’amore in two arias (no 4 alto in pastorale style and no. 7, alto-tenor duet with a contrasting, sprightly middle section in 3/8) and two oboes in both chorales.

The other tenor aria also is a “slow cousin to Peter’s aria of remorse at his denial (“Ach mein Sinn”) in the St. John Passion, but at a less frantic tempo, and yet another example of the fertile way Bach was able to put the highly-dotted heroic style of the French overture to expressive use,” says John Eliot Gardiner in his 2010 liner notes to the 2000 Bach Cantata Pilgrimage on Soli Deo Gloria recordings.3

Chorales, Appointed Readings

To complement the Gospel story of Jesus' Presentation in the Temple (Luke 2: 41-52), Bach set two 17th century pietist Jesus Hymns as plain chorales: Mvt. 3, Martin Jahn's text, "Jesu, meiner Seelen Wonne" (Jesus, delight of my Soul), and Mvt. 8, Christian Keymann's, "Meinen Jesum laß ich nicht." For Musical Context: Motets & Chorales for Epiphany Time, see BCW

Readings for the First Sunday after Epiphany: Epistle: Romans 12:1-6 (We are all one in Christ), Gospel: Luke 2:41-52 (Jesus in the temple), The German text is that of Luther’s translation published in 1545, the English is the Authorised (King James) Version 1611. Both texts are found at

The Introit Psalm for the 1st Sunday after Epiphany in Bach’s time was Psalm 121, Levavi oculos (I will life up me eyes, KJV), says Martin Petzoldt (Ibid.: 407). For a full text of Psalm 121, see It was set as a motet by Orlando di Lasso, Palestrina (, and Schütz. Bach’s Passions-Pasticcio, BWV 1088 (1743-48) includes the Bach bass arioso, “So heb ich denn mein Auge sehnlich auf” (I lift my longing eye to Heav'n above) beginning with the dictum of Psalm 121, Levavi oculos (I will life up my eyes). It is the first of series of 15 instructional Psalms called "A Song of degrees." It may be a radical parody of the alto arioso, ”O Schmerz,” from the St. Matthew Passion.

<<Cantata BWV 154 Chorales

To complement the Gospel story of Jesus' Presentation in the Temple (Luke 2: 41-52), Bach set two pietist Jesus Hymn chorales for this initial Cantata BWV 154 for the First Sunday after Epiphany. He used Stanza 2 of Martin Jahn's text, "Jesu, meiner Seelen Wonne" (Jesus, delight of my Soul) for the third movement four-part harmonization). Jahn's 1661 text is set to Johann Schop's 1642 melody, "Werde munter, mein Gemüthe" (Be alert, my soul), melody and text information, BCW It also was set to Johann Rist's text of the same title about the same time, better known as “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.” Chorale BWV 154/3, uses Stanza 2 of Jahn's 19-stanza text, “Jesu, mein Hort und Erretter” (Jesus, my refuge and deliverer), Bach’s uses and Francis Browne’s English translation, see BCW

As Doug Cowling recently pointed out, the Jahn text and Schop tune, found in BWV 154/3, are best known in Bach's elaborate chorale setting with instrumental interludes, now known at "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring," closing Part 1 (Jahn Stanza 6) and Part 2 (Jahn Stanza 16), Movements 6 and 10, respectively, in Cantata BWV 147, "Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben, for the Feast of the Visitation, July 2, 1723.

This is Bach's first setting of tune and text, inserted into Cantata BWV 147, originally composed in Weimar for Advent, and transformed with new chorale settings and recitatives for the Feast of the Visitation, July 2, 1723. Smonths later, Bach harmonized Stanza 2 of the same text and tune in Cantata BWV 154 for the First Sunday after Epiphany.

For the closing plain chorale setting (Mvt. 8), Bach used the closing Stanza 6 of Christian Keymann's, "Meinen Jesum laß ich nicht" (I shall not leave my Jesus since), that is “Jesum laß' ich nicht von mir” “I shall not let Jesus go from me” from For Bach’s uses and Francis Browne English translation, see BCW, set to the Andreas Hammerschmidt melody, "Meinen Jesum laß ich nicht." BCW melody and text information,, Both text and melody are dated 1658. The hymn first appeared in ‘Fest-, Buß- und Danklieder’ for 5 voices and 5 instruments (ad lib) and bc. This collection is dedicated to the Electress Magdalena Sibylla of Saxony and the printing was dated October 29, 1658 and published in Zittau where Keymann was the Rector. Keymann’s BCW Short Biography is found at

Christmas hymns are allowed through the Feast of the Purification of the Virgin Mary, on February 2, observes Günther Stiller in JSB and Liturgical Life in Leipzig.4 The hymn “Meinen Jesum lass ich nicht,” “which is the basis for Cantata BWV 124 for the First Sunday after Epiphany and besides is also used in Cantata BWV 154 for the same Sunday [1723], is found in the hymn schedules of both the Leipzig and Dresden hymnbooks for this Sunday.” The hymn books have a topical, "omnes tempore" collection of some 28 chorales under the heading "Jesus Hymns." These include Jesus hymns used by Bach in four cantatas for Epiphany (BWV 81, BWV 123, BWV 124, BWV 154): "Liebster Immanual, Herzog des Frommen," Meine Jesum lass ich nicht," Jesu, meiner Seelen wonne," and "Jesu, meine Freude," says Stiller (Ibid.: 249).

The Chorale Text: Meinen Jesum laß' ich nicht (1658) is listed in Bach’s hymnbook, Das Neu Leipziger Gesangbuch (NLGB) of 1682 as No. 346 under the omnes tempore category of “Death and Dying,” involving three original very long stanzas. The original text had an SATB setting with melody (Zahn 3449) of Andreas Hammerschmidt (1658), Hammerschmidt (1611/12-1675) BCW short biography, Bach also used the hymn in Cantata 70, 154, and 157, as outlined in Julian Mincham’s Cantata 155 commentary. In addition Bach set stanza 6 of the hymn to close the original 1727 version of the St. Matthew Passion, BWV 244/29 (244b) and composed a four-part setting, BWV 380.

The related pietist hymn “Ich lasse dich nicht” (I will not let thee go), Wolfgang Christoph Dreßler (1692) is found in the 1727 Cantata BWV 157 for a funeral and later for Purification, early motet BWV Anh 159, and paraphrased in the tenor aria (12b) of the 1744 version of the St. Mark Passion, where Peter says he will not deny Christ.

Epiphany Time Solo Cantatas

For Epiphany time in January 1724 as part of his first annual cantata service cycle, Bach turned almost exclusively to a special form not as well recognized as the opening chorus with biblical dictum: the solo cantata where the chorus sings only the usual closing four-part chorale. Some commentators have dismissed the solo cantata at certain times as Bach’s desire to give his chorus a break, similar to others who suggest that Bach parodied previous works with new text underlay to give himself a break. The answer is much more complex and positive, if the record is examined, including the motive, method and opportunity for such works.

Bach began his Epiphany time with Cantata 154, “Mein liebster Jesu ist verloren” (My dearest Jesus is lost) for the First Sunday after Epiphany. His technique of composing solo cantatas originated in Weimar with seven intimate, some-times pietist-leaning works in contrast to the tradition of large-scale works for feast days as the primary duty of the capellmeister. Bach personally also was interested in the new forms of music that involved the challenges of opera, although he never composed any. Always opportunistic and intentional, Bach composed da-capo (ABA) arias, particularly for his solo cantatas to bring more substance to these so-called musical sermons. He also composed in dance-style, particularly the pastoral, outdoor genre that lent particularly itself to works dealing with shepherds in the Christmas and Easter seasons as well as personal Jesus themes that relate to Epiphany and some Trinity Time Sundays.

Further, Bach sought opportunities to explore challenging music for both vocal soloists as well as instrumentalists in a sort-of duet or dialogue form. Here Bach was particularly successful at “creating an arresting musical image of whatever is described in the text, whether it be a pictorial scene or a particular state of being,” observes Richard D. P. Jones in his recent study, The Creative Development of Johann Sebastian Bach, Vol. 2, 1717-1750.5 In particular, Bach was quite successful at 18 solo and Soul-Jesus dialogue cantatas and arias which were explored at the beginning of this BCW 4th Cycle of Cantata Discussions, Part 16, Year 2014,

While the first cycle of heterogeneous works composed in Leipzig 1723-24, including almost two dozen repeats or expansions from Weimar, is distinguished with 21 new cantatas having fine opening choruses, Bach’s composition of solo works is distinctive and appropriate. In addition to seven Weimar solo works (BWV 199, 54, 165, 165, 163, 155, 162; two were never repeated, BWV 152 and 132), Bach selectively composed 10 new solo cantatas for specific times of the year that might be considered part of mini-cycles: late Trinity Sundays (22-25) with BWV 89, 60, and 90; Turning Time-Epiphany (BWV 153, 154, 81, 83 (Purification), and Easter season (BWV 166, 86). Another pattern is that of nine straight solo cantatas (BWV 60 to 166), eight are for alto, tenor and bass, and only the middle cantata (BWV 155 for the 2nd Sunday after Epiphany) has a soprano singing the opening recitative and an aria. Why Bach did not use a soprano is puzzling since he already had composed and presented some fine festive chorus cantatas with soprano arias.

The most distinguished solo cantatas are the trio for Epiphany Time: Cantatas 154, “Mein liebster Jesu ist verloren” (My dearest Jesus is lost, 1st Sunday after Epiphany); repeat BWV 155, “Mein Gott, wie lang, ach lange?” (My God, how long, ah how long?, 2nd Sunday after Epiphany); and BWV 81, “Jesus schläft, was soll ich hoffen?” (Jesus sleeps, what should be my hope?). In addition, Bach before the Pre-Lenten (gesima) Sundays composed a solo Cantata 83, “Erfreute Zeit im neuen Bunde” (Joyful time in the new covenant), for the Purification Feast, for Wednesday, February 2, 1724).

Bach returned to solo cantatas with the first two Sundays of Epiphany 1726, beginning with Cantata BWV 32, “Liebster Jesu, mein Verlangen,” on January 13, using published texts of Georg Christian Lehms. However, Bach abruptly switched to performances of his cousin Johann Ludwig Bach for the remained of Epiphany and most of Easter season. Instead, he may have worked on the beginnings of the St. Matthew Passion and eventually took two years to compile most of his third cycle. At Epiphany time 1727, Bach may have considered texts of his student Christoph Birkmann, who later published a cycle of works including some set to Bach’s music.

Cantata 154 Movements, Scoring Incipits, Key, Meter:6

1. Aria in condensed da-capo [Tenor; Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo]: A. “Mein liebster Jesus ist verloren” (My dearest Jesus is lost); B. “O Schwert, das dudie Seele dringt” (Oh sword that pierces through my soul); b minor; ¾ sarabande style.
2. Recitative secco [Tenor, Continuo]: “Wo treff ich meinen Jesum an” (Where do I find my Jesus); f-sharp minor to A Major; 4/4.
3. Chorale [S, A, T, B; Oboe d'amore I/II e Violino I col Soprano, Violino II coll'Alto, Viola col Tenore, Continuo}: “Jesu, mein Hort und Erretter” (Jesus, my stronghold and deliverer); A Major; 4/4.
4. Aria [Alto; Oboe d'amore I/II, Violino I/II e Viola all' unisono, Cembalo]: “Jesu, lass dich finden” (Jesus, let me find you); A Major, 12/8 pastorae style.
5. Arioso vox Christi [Bass; Continuo]: “Wisset ihr nicht, dass ich sein muss in dem, das meines Vaters ist ? (Luke 2:49) (Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business?); f-sharp minor; 4/4.
6. Recitative secco [Tenor; Continuo]: “Dies ist die Stimme meines Freundes, / Gott Lob und Dank!” (This is the voice of my friend / praise and thanks to God!); D Major to f-sharp minor; 4/4.
7. Aria in three parts (B in 3/8) (Duetto) with dal segno introduction [Alto, Tenor; Oboe d'amore I e Violino I all' unisono, Oboe d'amore II e Violino II all' unisono, Viola, Continuo]: A. “Wohl mir, Jesus ist gefunden” (How happy I am, Jesus is found); B. “Der, den meine Seele liebt, / Zeigt sich mir zur frohen Stunden” (He whom my soul loves, / reveals himself to me in hours of joy); C. “Ich will dich, mein Jesu, nun nimmermehr lassen” (I want never again to abandon you, my Jesus); D Major; 4/4 (A,C); B. 3/8
8. Chorale [SATB; Oboe d'amore I/II e Violino I col Soprano, Violino II coll'Alto, Viola col Tenore, Continuo]: “Meinen Jesum lass ich nicht” (I do not leave my Jesus); D Major; 4/4.

For a full and enriching understanding of Bach's musical Epiphany sermon of loving duty, see Thomas Braatz Commentary and Aryeh Oron Background, Julian Mincham’s informative commentary of each movement is found at BCW,

Other fine commentaries are found in the liner notes to two recordings found in the BCW: John Eliot Gardiner’s 2010 liner notes to the 2000 Bach Cantata Pilgrimage on Soli Deo Gloria recordings (Ibid.) , and Klaus Hofmann’s 2001 liner notes to the Masaaki Suzuki BIS complete cantata recordings,[BIS-CD1221].pdf; Recording details, Hofmann offers two important observations: “The three arias represent the three stages in the story: losing, searching, finding.” The third aria, the rare canonical duet, may suggest the alto is Mary and the tenor is Joseph.

Cantata 154 Genesis7

<<It is quite possible that Cantata BWV 154 was based on previously composed materials from Weimar and possibly Koethen. The original solo proto cantata, like other surviving parts materials, has similar hallmarks of prior practice. Two of the three surviving aria movements show dance influence: The opening tenor dictum is in sarabande form, and the alto aria, No. 4, is based on a pastorale. The third movement four-part chorale, minus original text in the score, suggests that Bach may have substituted a new chorale stanza to replace the Weimar original. Although not designated as being in two parts, the chorale placement as the third movement could reflect a two-part division.

Lending credence to theory of preexisting materials is the fact that the opening movement in Bach's score has accompaniment only for strings and basso continuo, whereas the two chorales and the alto aria are score for tutti ensemble of strings and two oboes d'amore. Bach's opening movement should have included at least one oboe. The original opening movement, a soprano-bass vivace gavotte with oboe and strings, may have been parodied in Cantata BWV 32 for the same First Sunday after Epiphany in the third cycle of 1726, says Norman Carrell in Bach the Borrower [London: George Allen and Unwin, 1967].

Thus it is quite possible that Bach salvaged as many as three intimate arias composed in Weimar and adapted in Köthen for one of his now non-extant New Year's Day Cantatas. With this core lyric music in hand, as he did with many of the some 20 Weimar cantatas which he expanded in the first Leipzig cantata cycle, Bach easily completed Cantata BWV 154.

Bach composed two recitatives which can refer to the biblical readings for the appointed Sunday, two harmonized chorales appropriate for the season and this specific service, and added an arioso illuminating his Sunday's Gospel. It is taken from Luke 2: 41-52, Jesus at age 12 introduced in the temple at Passover, in conversation with the elders, being about his father's business (v. 49, #5 arioso). This Sunday may be referred to as the Epistle of Loving Duty.

The first three movement are all concise and may be considered a prelude to the actual cantata, which is one of Bach's most focused, engaging and consistently compelling musical sermons.>>

<< Epiphany Events

Jesus' presentation in the temple is the first revelatory event of the Epiphany time main services to show (make known, reveal) Jesus' significance. It follows in Luke's Gospel after Epiphany (adoration and naming) and Jesus' initial presentation in the temple (Feast of Purification; Simeon's canticle and Anna's thanks). One major Epiphany event that was missing from the main service in Bach's day was the Baptism of our Lord (Mat 3:17 et al). Instead it was an appointed reading for Vespers at the Feast of Epiphany, beginning Epiphany time.

Bach in his cantata texts makes passing reference to God's baptismal blessing over the "Beloved Son" in BWV 153/7 (Sunday after New Year, Mat. 3:17), BWV 151/2 (Third Day of Christmas, Mark. 1:9), and BWV 129/2 (Trinity Sunday, John 3:34), as well as Luke 9:29, the reference in the Transfiguration of Jesus to his shining clothes, found in the second tenor recitative in this week's Cantata BWV 154/6, just before God the father blesses his Son for the second time, ending the Epiphany period. Like the Baptism, the Transfiguration was not part of the appointed main service readings in Bach's time but has been restored in today's three-Gospel lectionaries.

The readings for the next two Sundays in the fixed Epiphany period deal with the wedding at Canaan, Jesus first miracle (John 2:1-11), and Jesus first public healing, of the leper (Mat. 8:1-13). They show Jesus emerging into the world: his baptism, struggle and calling, gathering of the disciples, and the teachings of the beatitudes, lessons, and parables.>>

Cantata for the 1st Sunday after Epiphany (Bach performance calendar):

1724-01-09 So - Cantata BWV 154 Mein liebster Jesus ist verloren (1st performance, Leipzig)
1725-01-07 So - Cantata BWV 124 Meinen Jesum laß ich nicht (1st performance, Leipzig)
1726-01-13 So - Cantata BWV 32 Liebster Jesu, mein Verlangen (1st performance, Leipzig)
1727-01-12 So – “Ich bin vertrübt, ach wenn ich dich” (dialogue text only, Christoph Birkmann)
1736-01-08 So 1.So.n.Epiph. - G.H. Stölzel: Siehe, Gott ist zu hoch in seiner Kraft [Not extant]
(1736-1737) - Cantata BWV 154 Mein liebster Jesus ist verloren (2nd performance, Leipzig)


In the distribution of the first cycle manuscripts between sons Friedemann and C.P.E, beginning with Advent Sunday, the First Sunday after Epiphany is the first documented date when C.P.E. received both the score and parts set. Throughout most of the cycle, they alternated taking score and parts for each successive service, and it was C.P.E.'s turn to receive the parts set. It is quite possible that C.P.E. inherited both the parts set and score since Mvt. 2, Mvt. 4, and Mvt. 8 are missing in the original score. This would have necessitated keeping the parts with the incomplete score in order to reconstruct the score, which Zelter later did.

As to why the movements were missing and their texts altered, Thomas Braatz in Provenance summarizes the findings in the NBA KB I/5 (Marianne Helms, 1976): <<The original set of parts went to CPE Bach. These parts were subsequently acquired by Zelter (the composer) who then put them in the repository of the Berliner Singakademie. In 1854 this set of parts was acquired by the Berlin State Library (Deutsche Staatsbibliothek Berlin). The autograph score, which must have existed when CPE Bach received the parts, had several mvts. missing, when Zelter received the cantata. Zelter then used the parts to reconstruct the score for mvts. 2, 4, and 8, and filled in the missing text for mvt. 3. The title on top of pg. 1 in Bach’s hand is: “J J Concerto. Domica 1. post Epiphan. di Joh Seb:Bach. ao 1724.”

1st Performance: January 9, 1724. The autograph score referred to above is based on yet another, earlier original score (lost) [Alberto Basso in his article on this cantata --in the Oxford Composer Companion: J. S. Bach8—must be referring to this one instead.] The NBA editors cannot exclude the possibility of a date of composition and performance prior to 1724 (possibly during the Weimar Period.) They have allowed for three possibilities:

1) The harpsichord part (the only part using paper with a watermark from the Weimar Period) might indicate that it was later included in the new (1724) version/composition of the cantata. The autograph corrections in the part might indicate that Bach modified it in order to include it in the 1724 composition.
2) The aria mvts. (1?), 4, and 7 had been composed earlier and received a new text for the 1724 performance. Although the original text was the same in all sources, mvts. 4 and 7 give evidence of considerable variations in the text. The chorale (mvt. 3) seems to have undergone changes in the text as well, since the note values in the measures with the fermata indicate changes made necessary by text lines containing different numbers of syllables.
3) The cantata is a completely new composition without any previous version having ever existed. Bach used a leftover sheet with the Weimar Period watermark because a blank sheet was still included in the materials to be used for BWV 155, the cantata to be performed on the Sunday directly following this one: (Jan. 16, 1724 in Leipzig.) A later performance (again based on watermark analysis) took place on either Jan. 8, 1736 or the following year on Jan. 13, 1737.>>

Text: The librettist is unknown.

Mvt. 1: lines 3& 4 “O Schwert, das durch die Seele dringt, o Donnerwort in meinen Ohren” are related to the beginning of the chorale by Johann Rist (1642): “O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort, o Schwert, das durch die Seele bohrt” used by Bach in BWV 20 and BWV 60. cf. Luke 2, 35: “auch durch deine Seele wird ein Schwert dringen“ Simeon’s words to Mary.
Mvt. 3: This is the 2nd vs. of the chorale, “Jesu, meiner Seelen Wonne” by Martin Jahn, 1661, which in turn has the same melody as “Werde munter, mein Gemüthe” composed by Johann Schop, 1642, which is the same melody as “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” used in two mvts. of BWV 147.
Mvt. 5: Luke 2,49: “Wißt ihr nicht, daß ich sein muß in dem, was meines Vaters ist?“
Mvt. 6: Song of Solomon 2,8: “Da ist die Stimme meines Freundes!“
Mvt. 8: This is the 6th vs. of the chorale, “Meinen Jesum laß ich nicht” by Christian Keymann (1658). The melody is by Andreas Hammerschmidt (1658).

“The text is remarkably close to a poem in verses by Johann Neunhertz (1653-1737), who provided the libretti for Johann Schelle’s cantatas (the latter was the Thomaskantor before Johann Kuhnau (J. S. Bach’s immediate predecessor in this position),” says Petzoldt (Ibid.: 412, translation Thomas Braatz). In Neunhertz’s “Tröstliche Andachten” [Comforting Devotions] (Hirschberg, 1729) [this is a later edition of his book], there is a chorale text consisting of 10 verses for the 1st Sunday after Epiphany to be sung using the melody for “Liebster Jesu, wir sind hier”. There you will find that the beginning lines of Neunhertz’s verses for verse 1 and 7 remind one of text in movements 1 and 4:

(1) LIebester JESU, hab ich dich (7) Laß dich finden / mein gewinn /
Durch die Sunde ganz verloren? Höchster Schatz vor allen Schätzen

“Taken as a whole the text [of the Bach cantata] is closely tied to the question of the loss of Jesus and thus connected to the Gospel reading for that Sunday as well as also certain passages of the Song of Solomon. Indirectly inherent in this reference is an Evangelical Marian motif, specifically the defense of the innocence of the Mother Maria (cf. also movement 3: Jesus as the strong trampler of snakes). This is made clear by the fact that she can lose Jesus. Also clearly recognizable is the influence of the Simeon pericope (4:43-45, 60). The use of two chorale verses may have been caused by the need to spare the voices from being used too much (there should not be any grand choral movements after the Christmas Feast Days until and including Epiphany [does this possibly mean ‘Epiphany Season’? until after all the Sundays after Epiphany have reached their conclusion?]”

Cantatas 155 and 81 [“Jesu schläft, was soll ich hoffen? (Jesus sleeps, what should be my hope?), 4th Sunday after Epiphany, January 30, 1724] “have certain points in common: the librettist of both is probably the same, Christian Weiss Senr.; each is based upon incidents in the life of Christ narrated in the specified Gospels: in the first [Cantata 155] the disappearance of the child and His being found in the temple discussing with the doctors (St. Luke ii. 41-52), in the second Christ’s quelling of the tempest (St. Matt. viii. 23-27),” says W. Gillies Whittaker in Cantatas of JSB.9 “In both, sayings of Christ are set in arioso style for bass and continuo, and indeed there is a similarity of ideas in the two numbers.”


1 Cantata 154, Details and revised and updated discography, BCW Score Vocal & Piano [1.54 MB],, Score BGA [1.89 MB], References BGA XXXII (Church Cantatas `51-160, Ernst Naumann 1886), NBA: I/5 (Epiphany, Marianne Helms, 1976), Bach Compendium BC A 29 (an early Weimar version possible before 1717), Zwang K 58. Sources: (1, 2) incomplete score (dated "ao 1724”; completed Zelter, DS P.130, CPEB, Berlin Sing); (2) parts set DS St. 70, CPEB, Berlin Sing.); score copy AmB 44,5. Literature: Breitkopf Catalog 1761, Neumann Cantata Handbuch ("1724 original but supposedly traced back to a Weimar cantata"), Robertson 49-51, Daw 102f, Young 49f, Dürr 183-5.
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: 412).
3 Gardiner’s notes,; Recording details,
4 Stiller, Johann Sebastian Bach and Liturgical Life in Leipzig, ed. Robin A. Leaver (St. Louis MO, Concordia Publishing, 1985: 237f).
5 Jones, The Creative Development of Johann Sebastian Bach, Volume II: 1717-1750. “Music to Delight the Spirit” (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013: 130).
6 Cantata 154 text, Francis Browne English translation, BCW
7 Source: Cantata 154 BCML Discussions Part 3 (November 8, 2009)
8 Oxford Composer Companions: J. S. Bach, ed. Boyd, Malcolm (Oxford University Press: New York, 1999: 292).
9 Whittaker, The Cantatas of Johann Sebastian Bach (London: Oxford University, 1958: I392f)


To Come: Chorales and Motets for the Epiphany Feast and Epiphany Time

Peter Smaill wrote (January 14, 2016):
[To William Hoffman] My off- beat offering is an experiment which relates to the Chorale setting in BWV 154 (and famously in BWV 147) . Try googling ( or use any search engine) the word " gemuete" ( or" gemuthe" or, best of all, use the umlaut if you have it. This word is in the in incipit of " Werde munter, Mein Gemuete" by Johann Schop.

In all three cases this word- search I think returns settings by J S Bach, and not by other composers or poets or theologians, though it is not unique to Bach. " gemuete" seems specially to relate as a word to him in terms of frequency, and although still in use in German ( the derivative ("gemütlichkeit" ) is more common by far) it seems to have peaked as a spiritual term in the Lutheran baroque.

Here it has been translated for us as " soul". But that is " Seele". " Gemuete" is almost untranslatable to English"; " spiritual inclination" perhaps captures its elusive quality.

Delighted if a few could try this experiment and contribute from superior knowledge of German, poetics and Lutheranism..... But have we here a word especial ( though not unique) in Bach's libretto texts?

Julian Mincham wrote (January 14, 2016):
[To Peter Smaill] That is very interesting. Would the word relate in meaning to gemütlich which has suggestion of warmth and geniality?

Peter Smaill wrote (January 14, 2016):
Gemuete" "Gemuetlichkeit"

[To Julian Mincham] My 1929 Langenscheidt dictionary indicates that the words are cognate; warm-heartedness is not the direct translation of either, but is is a concept related to both. Neither is easy to translate. "Gemuet" is given as " feeling, soul, heart". "Gemuetlich" is " comfortable, cosy"....that definition is prefaced with "als echt deutsches Wort nur annaehernd ueberfetzbar", - being a unique German word whose deconstruction can only be approached. Hence "Gemuetichkeit".

Here is the line-up of uses of this (nowadays) somewhat obscure expression "Gemuete" in Bach from the University of Alberta search facility:

2 Drum schmecke doch ein glaeubiges Gemuete

BWV 17
5 Doch was gibt mein Gemuete

BWV 24
Title Ein ungefaerbt Gemuete (BWV 24)
1 Ein ungefaerbt Gemuete

BWV 28
5 Und preisens im voraus mit dankbarm Gemuete

BWV 38
3 Drum o geaengstigtes Gemuete

BWV 51
3 Auch ein dankbares Gemuete

BWV 75
9 Ein christliches Gemuete:

BWV 77
1 ganzem Gemuete und deinen Naechsten als dich selbst
2 Als wenn er das Gemuete

BWV 79
2 Unser dankbares Gemuete

BWV 88
2 Sein vatertreu Gemuete

BWV 89
2 Verwirft doch dein feindseliges Gemuete

BWV 93
5 Mit glaeubigem Gemuete

BWV 117
1 Dem Gott der mein Gemuete

BWV 120
2 Sein erbarmendes Gemuete

BWV 125
5 Und jedes glaeubige Gemuete

BWV 133
3 Es kennet sein erbarmendes Gemuete

BWV 134
1 Wie freuet sich ein glaeubiges Gemuete
6 Es schauet und schmecket ein jedes Gemuete

BWV 135
3 Troeste mir Jesu mein Gemuete

BWV 147
2 Jedoch dein Mund und dein verstockt Gemuete

BWV 163
5 Dass mein Herz und mein Gemuete

Summary 40 occurrences in 34 texts

Paul Farseth wrote (January 14, 2016):
[To Peter Smaill] To add a few more bits of amateur analysis of "Gemuete"...

My 1958 revision of Cassel's German/English dictionary gives the following possibilities for "Gemuete":

and figuratively,

The root word is "Mut" (masculine), meaning:

courage (i.e. "heart"), pluck,
state of mind,

This is preceded by the prefix "ge", which is used (1) to form the past participle of some verbs (e.g. "getan" from "tun"), (2) to form collective nouns from substantives, often with a modification of the vowel (e.g. "Gebrueder"), and (3) to make verbal nouns denoting continuation or repetition of an action (i.e. "Geheul" or "Gerede".

So you get "Gemuete" to mean a sort of "completely worked out" or ongoing inner spirit or disposition of heartiness.

That might suggest that "Gemuetlichkeit" derived in the dim past from some notion of that which promotes a stable sense of encouragement or heartiness, a friendly environment in which one feels safe and at home.

WilHoffman wrote (January 14, 2016):
Epiphany Feast and Time chorales

During Epiphany Time in Leipzig, Bach focused his chorale settings on “Jesus Hymns” and omnes tempore thematic chorales in his setting of cantatas for this otherwise de tempore first half of the church year on major events in the presence of Jesus Christ on earth. Christmas chorales were performed from Christmas to the Feast of Purification (February 2). One of three municipal annual fairs, the least known, for winter, was observed during Epiphany Time, beginning with Feast of Epiphany (January 6), the others being Spring starting at Jubilate (Second Sunday after Easter), and Fall, staring on the Feast of Michael and All Angels (September 28). The mix or overlapping of chorales during the entire period from Christmas to Purification is best demonstrated in Martin Luther’s two settings of the large, Christological 5th century Latin Hymn, A solis ortus cardine (From the point where then sun rises): “Christum wir sollen loben schon” (We should now praise Christ) for Christmas and “Was fürchst du Fiend Herodes, sehr” (Herod, why dreadest thou a foe?) for Epiphany.

<<Epiphany Time Focus [source: For Musical Context: Motets & Chorales for Epiphany Time, see BCW]. The some three to five Sundays in Epiphany focus on Jesus at the beginning of his ministry: after the presentation in the temple, the wedding at Canan, the first miracles, Jesus’ Baptism, and the selection of the disciples. For these, Bach in his cantatas utilized texts and melodies from the omnes tempore theme Sundays, particularly Jesus Hymns, as well as chorales specifically for Epiphany time and even a Passion chorale (“Meinen Jesus, laß ich nicht von mir") and a wedding chorale (In allen meinen Taten), based on the biblical readings for those specific Sundays as listed in various Leipzig and Dresden hymnbooks.

The Neu Leipziger Geesangbuch of 1682 (NLGB) lists popular omnes tempore Trinity Time chorales for Epiphany Time Sundays while Bach used most of them in Trinity Time cantatas (the first listed is the prescribed hymn of the day (de tempore), the remainder are sermon or communion hymns):

1st Sunday after Epiphany [Epiphany 1], “Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ,” “Dies sind die heilige zehn Gebot,” and “Herr Christ, der einge Gottes Sohn”;
2nd Sunday after Epiphany [Epiphany 2], “Herr Christ, der einge Gottes Sohn,” “Wie schon leuchtet der Morgenstern,” and “Am dritten tag ein Hochzeit war” (NLBG 400, Last Days, not set by Bach);
3rd Sunday after Epiphany [Epiphany 3], “Allein zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ,” “Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ,” and Vater under im Himmelreich”;
4th Sunday after Epiphany [Epiphany 4], “Wenn wir in Höchsten Nöten sein,” “Wär Gott der Herr nicht bei uns hält,” “Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir,”and ”Es ist das Heil unskommen Her;
5th Sunday after Epiphany [Epiphany 5], “Ach Gott vom Himel siehe darein,” “Es spricht der Unweisen Mund wohl,” and “Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ”;
6th Sunday after Epiphany [Epiphany 6], “Herr Christ, der einge Gottes Sohn.”

The four key Epiphany Time (considered omnes tempore) “Jesus” chorales are found in the newer hymnbooks under various themes, after the de tempore chorales (Advent to Trinity Sunday), says Stiller (Ibid.: 249). The hymns with cantata settings are: "Liebster Immanuel, Herzog des Frommen" (Gotha hymnal 1715) chorale Cantata BWV 123, Feast of Epiphany 1725; "Jesu, meine Freude" (NLGB 301, “Cross, Persecution”), Cantata BWV 81, 4th Sunday after Epiphany 1724, melody of closing plain chorale; “Meinen Jesus, laß ich nicht" (NLGB 346, ”Death& Dying”), chorale Cantata BWV 124, 1st Sunday after Epiphany 1525, and Cantata 154, “Mein liebster Jesu ist verloren” (Gotha hymnal 1715), 1st Sunday after Epiphany 1724, closing plain chorale, BWV 154/8; and, lastly, "Jesu, meiner Seelen Wonne" (Werde munter, mein Gemüte); NLGB 208, Catechism Morning Song) 154/3 plain chorale. Two of these sacred songs were used as plain chorales in the St. Matthew Passion: “Meinen Jesus, laß ich nicht von mir" closed Part 1 of the original 1727 version when Jesus is arrested, and (BWV 244b=29a), and “Werde munter, mein Gemüte” (BWV244/40), S. 5, “Bin ich gleich von dir gewichen” (If I have ever abandoned you), after Peter’s third denial.>>

Christmas/Epiphany Hymns

The Leipzig NLGB and Wagner Hymnal of 1697 list “Auf das Fest der Heiligen Drei Könige”[For the Feast Day of the Holy 3 Kings]. The hymns included are: “Hostis Herodes impie”; “Was fürchst du Feind Herodes sehr” [a translation from the Latin by Martin Luther]; “Als Jesus geboren war zu Herodes Zeiten [Michael Weiss - this has 11 verses].” The NLGB also lists (p.292) “Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ” and other Christmas songs (und andere Weih.-Lieder) that can be sung through the Purification Feast (February 2). During Epiphany Time, Bach focused on so-called pietist “Jesus Hymns,” particularly in the Schmelli Gesangbuch, BWV 439-508 of 1736, using 18 of 25, the remainder being free-standing plain chorales, BWV 252-438.

Bach set any one the three preferred hymns relating to Herod for the Epiphany Feast (Am Tage der Weisen aus Morgenland, NLGB): Luther’s “Was fürchst du Fiend Herodes, sehr” (Zahn 297), is the alternative hymn, Luther’s c.1524 “Christum wir sollen loben schon” (We should now praise Christ), a vesper hymn for the 2nd Day of Christmas in Leipzig (Stiller, Ibid.: 222).

Bach set “Christum wir sollen loben schon” as a chorale cantata, BWV 121 for the Second day of Christmas 1724 (BCML Discussions, Part 4, “The passage of Elizabeth’s greeting to her cousin Mary (Luke 1:44), who also is pregnant, is a paraphrase of Luther’s German translation of Stanza 5 of the Sedulius 5th century Latin Christmas hymn, A solis ortus cardine, Zahn 297c (“John recognised and leapt for joy when he was shut in his mother’s womb” The Latin text, Luther’s translation, and Francis Browne’s English translation of both are found at BCW

Bach also set Luther’s hymn (anonymous melody, 1524), as an Orgelbüchlein chorale prelude, No. 14, BWV 611. The alternative title and a shared concluding doxology, “Was fürchst du Fiend Herodes, sehr” (Herod, why dreadest thou a foe?) is Luther’s adaptation of the second part of the same Latin hymn, beginning “Hostis Herodes impie.” The first line Bach set as a “Kirnberger Chorale,” BWV 696. A solis ortus cardine is a “much longer acrostic hymn on the whole of Christ,” says “Liturgy and Hymns,” Vol. 53, Luther’s Works, ed. Ulrich S. Leupold (Philadelphia PA: Fortress Press, 1965: 302). “”It dealt with the traditional themes of the Epiphany: the Magi, the Baptism of Jesus and the wedding feast of Cana. Luther’s five-stanza hymn, “Was fürchst du Fiend Herodes, sehr,” was published in 1543.

The first three stanzas for Christmas Nativity of A solis ortus cardine are part of Erhardt Bodenschatz’s anthology collection, Florilegium selectissimorum Hymnorium published in 1594, and a smaller version of "Florilegium Portense" motet collection. These hymns were performed on high feast days at the beginning of services in Leipzig’s St. Thomas and St. Nikolai, directed by Bach. This setting is sung by the Tomanerchor Leipzig, directed by Georg Christoph Biller, on Rondeau recording of Christmas time Cantatas 63, 110, and 190. The recording track is available on Amazon, MP-3, at, BCW Recording details,

Willi Riha wrote (January 15, 2016):
[To Peter Smaill] May I point out that although "Gemütlichkeit" and "Gemüte" are obviously etymologically related, their meanings are not closely related. "Gemüte", as I understand it, is an old-fashioned word, which is not used very much these days. My mother tongue is German, but in the last 30 years I have had very little opportunity to speak German (even though I still exchange e-mails, I write in German with a couple of friends).

In all the quotations cited below, I would translate "Gemüte" with "disposition" or "attitude" - I believe it is appropriate in most cases. But it still does not sound quite right, e.g. "feindselig Gemüte" -> "hostile disposition" or "gläubiges Gemüte" -> "devout disposition", "erbarmendes Gemüte" -> "sympathetic attitude".

"Gemütlichkeit" is notoriously difficult to render in any language, and should not be translated at all, just like "weltanschauung" or "meerschaumpfeife"

Aryeh Oron wrote (January 16, 2016):
Cantata BWV 154 - Revised & updated Discography

The discography pages of Cantata BWV 154 "Mein liebster Jesus ist verloren" (My dearest Jesus is lost:) for the 1st Sunday after Epiphany on the BCW have been revised and updated.
The cantata is scored for alto, tenor & bass soloists; 4-part chorus; and orchestra of 2 oboes d'amore, 2 oboes, 2 violins, viola & continuo. See:
Complete Recordings (13):
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 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 154 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 recent discussion of the cantata in the BCML (4th round):


Cantata BWV 154: 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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