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Cantata BWV 167
Ihr Menschen, rühmet Gottes Liebe
Discussions - Part 4

Continue from Part 3

Discussions in the Week of July 5, 2015 (4th round)

William Hoffman wrote (July 7, 2015):
Cantatas 167 (John the Baptist), 'Nun lob mein Seel,' Tr. 5

The first of the 1723 Trinity Time Gospel paired miracle and related teachings fell on the Fifth and Sixth Sundays after Trinity, June 26 and July 4. About the same time in Bach’s creative first half decade in Leipzig that yielded three annual church cantata cycles, there occurred the observance of the first two fixed feast days of early Trinity Time: the Nativity of John the Baptist on Thursday, June 24, and the Visitation of Mary on Friday, July 2. Both the saint and the Marian feasts involved canticles of praise: John the Baptist with his father Zachariah’s praise and prophecy, Bendictus Dominum, “Gelobet see der Herr, der Gott Israel” (Praise be to the Lord, the God Israel, Luke 1:68-79), and Mary’s canticle, Magnificat anima mea, “Meine Seel erhebt den Herren” (My soul doth magnify the Lord, Luke 1:46-55).

Bach initially produced his first Leipzig solo Cantata BWV 167, "Ihr Menschen, rühmet Gottes Liebe" (You people, sing the praises of God's love), on the John Feast as an intimate, pleasing 15-minute miniature Weimar-style work in palindrome form for four voices (SATB).1 It set the stage eight days later for the celebratory two-part chorus Cantata BWV 147, “Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben” (Heart and mouth and deed and life), an expansion from Weimar with new accompagnato recitatives. Cantata 167 has an opening tenor aria and central SA duet (longest movement at 6 minutes) with oboe da caccia, rarely used in Weimar, flanking two recitatives ending in ariosi, and closing with an elaborated chorale chorus similar to the repeat chorale chorus closing both parts of Cantata 147, known as “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.”

The unusual form of solo Cantata 167, beginning with a non-biblical text aria and ending with a festive, elaborate chorale, may be explained by the tonal direction, Braatz points out in his commentary in the BCML Discussions Parts 1 (June 23, 2002, Cantata BWV 167 - Discussions Part 1). << “Eric Chafe, famous for his ‘katabasis – anabasis’ [these fancy Greek terms simply mean a going-downward or upward] theory which assigns meaning to Bach’s sequence of keys (key signatures) as he moves from mvt. to mvt. in a given cantata, has an interesting account for BWV 167 in his expensive book, “Tonal Allegory in the Vocal Music of J. S. Bach.” Here is the pertinent paragraph: “The pattern of descent/ascent need not emphasize only the negative side of the world. Cantata 167, “Ihr Menschen, rühmet Gottes Liebe,” for the feast of John the Baptist (1723), follows a downward curve from G major (opening aria) through E minor (rec. and arioso) to A minor, then back up to G major (rec. and chorale) to represent the coming of Christ as the fulfillment of God’s promise, the way having been prepared by John the Baptist, the last of the prophets. Even the first recitative presents this idea with a descent from E minor through A minor (“der sich in Gnaden zu uns wendet”) to D minor (“und seinen Sohn vom hohen Himmelsthron zum Welterlöser sendet”). The return to E minor mirrors the recounting of Jesus’ act of redemption: “hierauf kam Jesus selber an, die armen Menschenkinder und die verlor’nen Sünder [rec.] mit Gnad’ und Liebe zu erfreu’n und sie zum Himmelreich in wahrer Buss’ zu leiten [arioso].” The central A minor duet expresses simply the fulfillment of God’s promise on earth (“Was er in dem Paradies und vor so viel hundert Jahren denen Vätern schon verhiess, haben wir Gottlob! erfahren”), and the return ascent in the following recitative leads to a hymn of praise and thanks to God.”

Braatz also has a detailed explanation (Ibid.) of the term “das Horn des Heils”( the horn of salvation), Luke 1:69: Luke 1:69 He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of David” (KJV). Thomas Braatz wrote (June 25, 2002): BWV 167 Mvt. 1.

Cycle 1 Trinity 5 & 6 gaps

The missing, gospel-paired Fifth and Sixth Sundays after Trinity 1723 were one of the few gaps in Bach’s first two consecutive church year cantata cycles. While he filled all the gaps in his abbreviated chorale cantata (second) cycle from Trinity Time through the Easter season 1724-25, Bach took opportunities beginning at Trinity Time 1725 to fill the void particularly in early Trinity Time, emphasizing works of other composers, notably Georg Philipp Telemann and his cousin Johan Ludwig Bach. At the same time, Bach pursued his avowed calling of creating a “well-order church music to the glory of God.” He composed new works, particularly for the important feast days. He also addressed the biblical lectionary and preferred hymns of the day during the seasons of the de tempore first half of the church year on major events in Christ’s life as well as the Lutheran teachings and important themes of the second half, the omnes tempore Trinity Time.

Bach’s Leipzig performance calendar for the first seven weeks of Trinity Time in 1723, shows a gap for two weeks following the festival observances of John the Baptist and the Visitation of Mary, with no performances recorded for the Fifth and Sixth Sundays after Trinity, June 27 and July 4.

05/30 Trinity +1 BWV 75 Die Elenden sollen essen, daß sie satt werden
06/06 Trinity +2 BWV 76 Die Himmel erzählen die Ehre Gottes
06/13 Trinity +3 BWV 21 Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis
06/20 Trinity +4 BWV 185 185 Barmherziges Herze der ewigen Liebe, and BWV 24 Ein ungefärbt Gemüte
06/24 John Fest BWV 167 Die Menschen rühmet Gottes Liebe
06/27 Trinity +5 (no performance recorded)
07/02 Visit. Fest BWV 147 Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben
07/04 Trinity +6 (no performance recorded)
07/11 Trinity +7 BWV 186 Agre dich, O Seele, nicht

Various Bach scholars, after noting the two-part and double works for the first four Sundays after Trinity Sunday, suggest Bach had proved himself, particularly with the two 40-minutes Cantatas 75 and 76 composed before he came to Leipzig. He began tapering off with a Weimar repeat that entailed no new composition for the Third Sunday after Trinity but a 40-minute chorus Cantata 21 revived from Weimar, and only one new work, Cantata 24, lasting half as long, for the Fourth Sunday after Trinity.

While Bach never filled the 1723 Trinity 5-6 gap, it is possible that he may have reperformed Cantatas 167 and 147 on the succeeding Sundays in early Trinity Time that emphasize in the Gospels one of Jesus’ first miracles (Luke 5:1-11, filling the disciples’ boats with fish, and its associated, paired teaching (Matthew 5:25-26), agreeing with adversaries, that is a greater righteousness than the law and obedience. The music and text for the first, John’s feast day Cantata 167, "Ihr Menschen, rühmet Gottes Liebe" (You people, sing the praises of God's love), are very attractive, effective, and appropriate as well for the following Fifth Sunday after Trinity, and compatible with the coming Feast of the Visitation and Sixth Sunday after Trinity. Although some earlier Bach scholars have criticized the texts of the Weimar cantatas as being simplistic and unattractive, Bach overcame this in Cantatas 167 and 147 with texts that effectively address the Gospel with particularly and consistently appealing music.

Tradition and practice guided and enabled Bach both in Weimar, where he was required to perform a cantata every fourth Sunday, and Leipzig, where he was required to present a cantata on each Sunday and by tradition a new work for each feast day. Bach followed the rule in Leipzig by presenting works on the two feasts but there is no record of any performances on the two successive Trinity Sundays. Bach maintained the workload and it is possible, but never documented through surviving parts or with a surviving libretto book, that he may have repeated the two feast day cantatas, BWV 167, and 147, on the succeeding Trinity Sundays (+5 and +6).

Bach’s Experimenting, Seeking, Challenging

Bach’s constant shifting iEarly Trinity Time from long, two-part cantatas, to double works, from chorus to solo cantatas, suggests that he was experimenting with various forms while seeking appropriate texts acceptable to Leipzig civil authority, all the while challenging his musicians to higher standards – experiments, seeking and challenging that would continue until Bach ceased composing and presenting church year cantatas regularly about 1730.

These concerns for Bach are considered in Julian Mincham’s introduction to Cantata 167, “Chapter 7 BWV 167 Ihr Menschen, rühmet Gottes Liebe” (People, celebrate God′s love), 2 << Bach′s second month at Leipzig presents us with another set of the perennial problems and questions of the kind that beset Bach scholars. For each of the first four Sundays the congregations had enjoyed lengthy ′musical sermons′, either conceived in two parts or by coupling two cantatas together. Now they are presented with a short chamber piece consisting of a mere five movements, a chorale, a duet, an aria and two recitatives.

However, it is important to note that this cantata was written for a special Saint′s Day, a celebration which was additional to the normal Sunday services. Its chamber nature and the minimal use of the choir may very well be a direct consequence of this. Certainly the two later extant cantatas for this day C 7 (vol 2, chapter 4) and C 30 (vol 3, chapter 52) are much bigger works; both making considerable use of the chorus and the latter consisting of twelve movements. Is it possible that Bach initially underestimated the significance of this day in the Leipzig calendar?

It is tempting to suggest that he may have been primarily too ambitious in his expectations of what he and the performers could provide within a limited period. Although up until now much of his music had been composed before he arrived at Leipzig, it was still all new to, and had to be learnt by, his performers. But from now on Bach would be increasingly under pressure, admittedly self-administered, to compose music afresh. Was there feedback from his employers or congregations that they preferred shorter works? Was Bach refining his notions of the scale of the cantata and its place within the service, as a part of the process of establishing the more concise format that was to become the norm for the great chorale/fantasias of the second cycle?

Nevertheless, Bach continues with the large-scale bipartite cantatas for two additional Sundays before settling upon a more concise structure; C 147 contains ten movements and the following work, C 186, has eleven! But the next three only have six movements apiece and then comes C 199 where Bach makes a complete break with established practice by offering the first of his solo cantatas. It may be that this last innovation was itself too radical, or possibly too operatic for conservative Leipzig because the solo cantata did not become a relatively regular feature until the third and fourth cycles dating from 1726.

Perhaps the only reasonably secure conclusion that we can draw from all this is that Bach had not formed an exclusive view of the ′ideal cantata' shape. Indeed, his self-proclaimed desire to produce a canon of ′well regulated′ church music may well have referred principally to its quality rather than its structure. It seems that for a considerable period of time Bach continued to experiment with the different formal structures that cantatas might take.>>

Early Trinity Bach Performing Schedule

Bach’s Leipzig compositional record for the succeeding decade showed that he did compose two original works each for the two Trinity Sundays (+5, Cantatas 93 and 88, and +6, Cantatas 170 and 9). Meanwhile, at early Trinity Time 1725 and 1726, he often presented works of other composers for all available Trinity Time Sundays and the two feast days. For the post-Cycle 2 Trinity Time, Bach ceased composing virtually every week, his first break in two years at Leipzig. Initially, while he took a vacation to Cöthen, he chose simpler works possibly led by Georg Balthasar Schott, music director of the progressive Leipzig New Church:

06/03/25, Tr. 1 – Cantata 75a (nos. 2-7), “Was hilf des Purpurs Majestät” (partial repeat of Cantata 75)
06/10/25, Tr. 2 – Cantata 76a (Parts 2, nos. 6-14), “Gott, segne noch die treue Scharr” (Cantata 76II repeat)
06/17/25, Tr. 3 – “Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ” Agricola rext only), not by Bach
06/24/24, Tr. 4/John – Telemann, TVWV :596, “Gelobet sei der Herr, der Gott Israel”
07/01/25, Tr. 5, -- Telemann, TVWV 1:310, “Der Segen des Herrn machet reiche ohne Muhe”
070/02/25, Visit. – Mattheson “Meine Seele erhebt den Herren”
070/08/25, Tr. 6 – Telemann, TVWV 1:1600, Wer sich rachet, an dem wird such der Herr wider rachen”

During his third cycle, which began on Advent Sunday 1725, Bach again took a compositional break, from the second half of Epiphany Time to Trinity Sunday, this time substituting at least 15 works of cousin Johann Ludwig Bach all with Rudolstdadt cycle cantata texts and mostly in two parts. Beginning at early Trinity Time, Bach transitioned to full-time composing by alternating his treatment with existing works set to Rudolstadt texts until about the 11th Sunday after Trinity when he began using other published texts or new ones of student Christoph Birkmann.

06/23/26, Trinity 1 – BWV 39, “Brich dem Hungrigen dein Brot”
06/24/26, John – JLB 17, Siehe ich will meinen Engel senden”
06/30/26 – Tr. 2, Rudolstadt “Und der Herr Zabaoth wird allen Volkern”
0702/26 – Visit., JLB-13, Der Herr wird ein neues im Lande erschaffen”
07/07/26 – Tr. 3, Rudolstadt “Wo sich aber der Gottlose bekehret”
07/14/26 -- Tr. 4, Rudolstadt, JLB-? (lost), “Ich tue Barmherziges aussendes”
07/21/26, -- Tr. 5, BWV 88, Siege, ich will Fischer aussende”
07/28/26, -- Tr. 6, JLB-7, Ich will meinen Geist in euchgeben, and BWV 170, Vergnügte Ruh (Lehms)

Zachariah’s Benediction & Prophecy

Turning to the 1723 Trinity Time initial feast days, much has been observed and composed about the importance of Mary’s canticle, the Magnificat, with her faith in God, and its application in the three Marian feasts, Christmas Day, and the attending vespers. Less has been celebrated regarding Zachariah’s benediction and prophecy, based upon the last verse (13) of Psalm 41, Beatus qui intelligit (Blessed is he who considereth the poor): “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, from everlasting, and to everlasting, Amen and Amen” (KJV).

The Gospel for the Feast of John the Baptist is Luke 1: 57-80, the birth (Nativity) and circumcisions of John the Baptist (1:57-67) and the Prophecy of (his father) Zechariah (1:58-79). On the eight day of John's birth he is circumcised and named by his father, the priest Zachariah (Luke 1:59). The related Old Testament Epistle is from the prophet Isaiah 40: 1-5, Prepare the way. Biblical readings in Luther's German and the English King James Version (KJV) are found at BCW,

Coincidentally the Feast of John the Baptist occurs at the summer solstice, June 24, which is the mirror image of Christmas, and the Nativity of John’s first cousin, Jesus. The underlying theme of full light at the longest day is found in gospel of the Evangelist John 1:6-9 (KJV): "There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world."

The Feast of John the Baptist is the “pivot to the sacrament of Baptism, which then becomes the beginning of a catechism sequence” comprise “chorales on the Nicene Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments, and the Communion [Justification], respectively,” involving the Trinity Time “basic doctrines of faith,” says Eric Chafe in “The Hermeneutic Matrix” in Analyzing Bach Cantatas.3 Trinity Time “canters on questions of doctrine and faith in a varied mix, a significant number of the gospel readings featuring parables and miracles that invite metaphoric interpretations of the world,” he observes (Ibid.: 12). This last half of the church season “explores the human condition, its weaknesses, wavering sinfulness and morality, emphasizing these qualities so as to demonstrate the need for both fear of God’s judgment and trust in His mercy.”

Trinity 5-6 Paired Sunday Gospel Miracle/Teaching

The teachings of the Gospel for the Trinity Time Sundays are described in the BCW, Douglas Cowling Thematic Patterns in Bach’s Gospels: Trinity, PART TWO: Paired Miracles & Teachings4

* Trinity 5: Luke 5: 1-11, Miracle: draught of fishes, [3] “And he entered into one of the ships, which was Simon's, and prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land. And he sat down, and taught the people out of the ship.” [10] And so was also James, and John, the sons of Zebedee, which were partners with Simon. And Jesus said unto Simon (Peter), Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men (Mk. 1:17 [Mat. 4:19b] Come ye after [Follow] me and I will make you [to become] fishers of men). John 1:43b (no Miracle): “Follow me.” Old Testament illusion: Jeremiah 16:16a: “Behold, I will send for many fishers, saith the Lord, and they (the children of Israel) shall fish them. [11] And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed him.

* Trinity 6: Matthew 5: 20-26 Teaching: Agree with your adversary [23] “Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.”

Thus, the first miracle Jesus performs for his potential disciples (followers), the draft of the fishes, validates Jesus authenticity as a prophet and leads to Jesus teaching the people from the ship. The teaching emphasized in the Gospel pair (Matthew 5:20-26) is of a greater righteousness than the law and obedience. Jesus suggests that the source of killing, even between brothers, is anger, and that reconciliation is needed and then the offer of a gift before the altar; that one should: [25] “Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison.” This might be seen as an expression of the doctrine of non-violence.

Trinity 5 Cantatas, Chorales

Cantatas for the Fifth Sunday after Trinity and related chorales involve three works Bach’s 1724 chorale Cantata BWV 93, “Wer nur den lieben Gott lässt walten” (who only the loving God allows to govern) second performance 1732-33, and his 1726 solo Cantata BWV 88, “Siehe, ich will viel Fischer aussenden” (Behold, I will send many fishers forth, Rudolstadt text), and the Telemann, TVWV 1:310, “Der Segen des Herrn machet reiche ohne Muhe” (1725). All three use settings of Georg Neumark's popular 1657 consolatory hymn (NLGB 303, Cross & Persecution). For further details, see BCW, “Musical Context of Bach Cantatas, Motets& Chorales for 5th Sunday after Trinity,”

Cantatas for Feast of Nativity of St John the Baptist [all dates June 24]

The record shows that for the Feast of John the Baptist in Leipzig, Bach produced three distinct cantatas: his first solo work of Cycle 1, BWV 167, that focuses on the day’s Gospel (Luke 1:68-79); a chorale cantata paraphrase setting of Luther's Catechism Baptismal hymn, BWV 7, about Jesus’ baptism by John in the river Jordan (Matthew 3:13-17); and the 1737 two-part celebration of joyous progressive music in one of his last cantatas, BWV 30, on the meaning of Baptism, as the Christian initiation, and the resulting salvation of the believer. In addition, during Bach's Leipzig tenure, cantatas of Georg Philipp Telemann (TVWV 1:596), cousin Johann Ludwig Bach (JLB-17), and two of Gottfried Heinrich Stöezel (No. 45) were performed, and possibly an anonymous setting once attributed to Bach, Cantata BWV 220, "Lobt ihn mit Herz und Munde" (Praise him with heart and mouth).

+BWV 167, "Ihr Menschen, rühmet Gottes Liebe" (You people, sing the praises of God's love, 1723);
+BWV 7, "Christ, unser Herr, zum Jordan kam" (Christ our Lord came to the Jordan, 1724);
+TVWV 1:596, G.P. Telemann Cantata "Gelobet sei der Herr, der Gott Israel" (1725);
+JLB 17, Johann Ludwig Bach Cantata "Siehe ich will meinen Engel senden" (See, I will send my angel, 1726);
+P-46 (Picander cantata cycle original text), "Gelobet sei der Herr, der Gott Israel" (1728);
+Stöezel 45, "Es ist in keinem andern Heil, ist auch kein ander Name" (Rec. 4:12, Neither is their salvation in any other, for there is none other name) (1736) (Schmolck String Cycle, lost)
+ Stöezel 45, no incipit (Schmolck Names of Christ Cycle, as early as 1737)
+BWV 30, "Freue dich, erlöste Schar" (Rejoice, redeemed host; 1738, possible repeat no later than 1742)
=30a, Angenehmes Wiederau, freue dich in deinen Auen! (homage, 1737)
+?BWV 220, "Lobt ihn mit Herz und Munden" Unknown composer (not known if performed by J.S. Bach)

There are three other Bach cantatas with distinct connections to the Feast of John the Baptist: Cantata BWV 132, "Bereitet die Wege, bereitet die Bahn!" (Prepare the ways, prepare the path!) for the Fourth Sunday in Advent in Weimar; pure hymn Chorale Cantata 129, "Gelobet sei der Herr,/ Mein Gott, mein Licht, mein Leben" (Praised be the Lord,/ my God, my light, my life), for Trinity Sunday 1726; and pure hymn Chorale Cantata 137, "Lobe den Herren, den mächtigen König der Ehren" (Praise the Lord, the mighty king of honour), for the 12th Sunday after Trinity, August 19, 1725.

Bach composed blessing chorale settings most appropriate for the Feast of John the Baptist: Chorale Cantata BWV 129, "Gelobet sei der Herr" with at least three reperformances after 1732 and twice in the 1740s; and plain chorale settings, about 1730, of Luther's Catechism hymn, "Gott sei gelobet und gebenedeiet" (May God be praised and blest), BWV 322-23, and Johann Franck's versatile, popular hymn in the plain chorale BWV 358. "Jesu, meine Freude" (Jesus, my joy), sometimes known by the alternate title, "Selig ist die selig" (Blessed are the blessed).

Like Cantata BWV 129, Cantata BWV 137 was not composed as part of the chorale cantata (second) cycle but as an afterthought that may have served multiple purposes. Its Old Testament celebratory images of God the Father are not particularly appropriate for a Sunday in middle Trinity Time and may have been performed for the annual Installation of the Leipzig Town Council.

John the Baptist Chorales

Besides the appointed hymns for the Feast of John the Baptist, Bach in his musical presentations for the festive days occurring during Trinity Time in Leipzig used related chorales, especially those involving Zechariah's Benediction, "Gelobet sei der Herr, der Gott Israel," Psalms, the Word of God, and the Catechism theme of Justification, as well as hymns sung in other Saxon congregations. The Hymn of the Day was Luther's "Christ, unser Herr, zum Jordan kam," set as Bach's Chorale Cantata BWV 7, observes Günther Stiller in <JSB and Liturgical Life in Leipzig (St. Louis MO: Concordia Publishing, 1984: 247). Also in all Leipzig and Dresden hymn schedules was "Nun lob, mein Seel, den Herren" (Now praise the Lord, my soul), which is discussed below closing Cantata BWV 167, sung also in Weißenfels. Another hymn was Olearius' "Tröstet meine Lieben" (Comfort ye, my people), in Cantata BWV 30.

Other, related chorales Bach sanctioned include: "Von Gott will ich nicht laßen" (I shall not abandon God), Telemann TVWV 1:596/3; "Durch Adams Fall ist ganz verderbt/ Menschlich Natur und Wesen" (Through Adam's fall is wholly corrupted/ Man's nature and character), Telemann TVWV 1:596/6; "Jesu, meine Freude" (Jesus my joy), Picander Cantata text P-46; "Gelobet sei der Herr,/ Mein Gott, mein Licht,mein Leben" (Praised be the Lord,/ my God, my light, my life), Chorale Cantata BEWV 129; Luther's "Gott sei gelobet und gebenedeiet" (May God be praised and blest), plain Chorales BWV 322-23; and the versatile Communion chorale melody, "Freu dich sehr, o meine Seele" (Rejoice greatly, o my soul). For details of “Musical Context of Bach Cantatas, Motets & Chorales for Feast of John the Baptist, see BCW

First Solo (John the Baptist) Cantata 167

Cantata BWV 167, "Ihr Menschen, rühmet Gottes Liebe" (You people, sing the praises of God's love) is Bach's first solo cantata in his Leipzig cycle, presented on Thursday, June 24, 1723 The text of Bach's first cantata for the Feast of John the Baptist focuses on the Gospel lesson of John’s Nativity and Zechariah's Song of Praise, "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel" (Luke 1:68-75) and the Prophecy that John shall prepare the way of the Messiah. For the German text and Francis Browne English cantata text translation, see BCW,

Summary of Cantata 167 movements, including scoring, text, key and meter:5

No. 1. Cantata BWV 167 opens with the proclamatory free da-capo tenor aria with strings in 12/8 pastorale (siciliano) style, G Major, addressing the congregation, "Ihr Menschen" (You people), imploring them to join the Prophet Zechariah's song of praise, repeating Zechariah's reference (Luke 1:69) to the "Horn des Heils" (Horn of Salvation), through the Prophecy of John preparing the way of the Messiah. The full German text (Luke 1:68-79) is found on-line at The King James Version (KJV) is found on-line at
No. 2, the alto recitative in e minor 4/4 repeats the Song of Praise (Luke 1:68), "Gelobet sei der Herr Gott Israel" (Praised be the Lord God of Israel) then that "Erst stellte sich Johannes ein/ Und mußte Weg und Bahn/ Dem Heiland zubereiten" (First John appeared/ and had to make ready/ the way and path for the saviour). It closes with the beautiful arioso: Jesus himself came “Mit Gnad und Liebe zu erfreun / Und sie zum Himmelreich in wahrer Buß zu leiten” (with his grace and love / and to lead them to the kingdom of heaven in true repentance.).
No. 3, the central soprano-alto da-capo canonical duet with obbligato oboe da accia, “Gottes Wort, das trüget nicht" (God's word does not deceive), beginning and ending in a minor ¾ time, becomes a song of joy in the da-capo middle section in C Major passage shifting between ¾ and 4/4/ time: Was er in dem Paradies / . . . Denen Vätern schon verhieß, / Haben wir gottlob erfahren.” (What in Paradise / . . . he promised to our fathers / we -- God be praised -- have experienced.). “Here Bach made use of a distinction, common since the late Middle Ages, between tempus imperfectum (duple time) and tempus perfectum (triple time), the latter being sometimes used a symbol for the Trinity,” says Gerhard Schumacher in his liner notes to the Nikolaus Harnoncourt recording.6 “The symbolism in connection with John the Baptist and his prophecy and the baptism of Jesus is unmistakable.”
No. 4, the bass recitative in C and G Major, 4/4, paraphrases Zechariah's initial response to naming his son, "Ein stummer Zacharias preist/ Mit lauter Stimme Gott vor seine Wundertat, / Die er dem Volk erzeiget hat (Zacharias, who was speechless, praises/ God with loud voice for the miracle/ which he has produced for his people), and closes with an arioso phrase of the closing chorale melody: “Und stimmet ihm ein Loblied an!”(and begin to sing to him a song of praise!).
No. 5, In the closing plain chorale, G Major, ¾ time, the congregation joins in the fifth and final stanza of the general Communion Hymn of Praise, "Nun Lob mein Seel, den Herren") in G Major, chorale with orchestral interludes (similar to BWV 147/6,10, "Jesu joy of man's desiring," presented eight days later on the Feast of the Visitation, Friday, July 2, 1723. The added text is a trinitarian plea.

This “is the true high point of the work. Here all participants are united for the first time: strings, supported by oboe, choir (with trumpet doubling the chorale melody in the soprano), and continuo,” says Alfred Dürr in the Cantatas of JSB.7 The instruments surround and accompany the chorale texture with their own thematic material, which in the chorale passages is skillfully combined with the prescribed melody, with the result that the work is crowned with an unexpected radiance.”

Cantata 167: ‘Modulatory Arc”

The form of Cantata 167 is describes as a “modulatory arc” in John Eliot Gardiner’s 2004 liner notes to the 2000 Bach Cantata Pilgrimage on Soli Deo Gloria recordings.8 <<Bach composed BWV 167 “Ihr Menschen, rühmet Gottes Liebe” shortly after assuming his post in Leipzig in the summer of 1723. To illustrate the way prepared by John for Christ’s entry into the world (so fulfilling God’s ancient pledge) Bach inscribes a modulatory arc through the five movements of this cantata, curling downwards from G major via E minor to A minor, then up again to G. There is no opening chorus; instead, Bach begins with an aria for tenor and strings, a spacious 12/8 movement with an intriguingly varied phrase-pattern, a meticulous dynamic scheme and an almost Weberian leaping passage to describe ‘das Horn des Heils’. The alto recitative which follows concludes with an arioso section of winning tenderness and wistfulness over an arpeggiated cello continuo, to describe the repentant sinner’s journey to paradise (anticipating Schumann’s oratorio Das Paradies und die Peri by 120 years). The centrepiece of the cantata is an extended soprano/alto duet with oboe da caccia. The lyrical oboe melody gets pared down to the singers’

three-note phrase (‘Gottes Wort’) and its four-note answer (‘das trüget nicht’) in thirds and sixths – euphonious and pithy, and typical of Bach’s consummate skill in unifying instrumental and vocal material. The fast middle section is constructed as an eight-bar canon for the two voices with lavish roulades, passing almost imperceptibly into 3/4 at the words ‘haben wir Gottlob erfahren’, a delicious shift of stress and metre. The final Loblied, ‘Sei Lob und Preis mit Ehren’, uses the same technique of sparkling piacevole string and oboe writing over a walking bass to contrast with the chorale, one that Bach used four months earlier to conclude his Leipzig test piece, BWV 22, and was to use again a few days later for the First Sunday after Trinity in BWV 75, with the burnished open tones of a clarino etching the hymn tune. © John Eliot Gardiner 2004 from a journal written in the course of the Bach Cantata Pilgrimage

Cantata 167: Musical Limits

It is possible that Bach, faced with musical limits after several extended works, deliberately reduced the forces for Cantata 167, suggests Tadashi Isoyama 1998 liner notes to the Misaaki Suzuki BIS complete sacred cantata recordings.9 <<BWV 167: “Ihr Menschen, rühmet Gottes Liebe” (Ye people, glorify God's love). The feast of St. John the Baptist (24th June) is popularly the day on which the summer solstice, which divides the seasons, is celebrated: it is the mirror-image of Christmas. ln Leipzig in Bach's time, this day was celebrated in a service with a cantata, but having to produce another work for as soon as four days after BWV 24 was performed must have been problematic for Bach. The chorus appears only in the closing chorale and this may correspond with the limits of the choir at that time: the obbligato instrumentation for winds is also restricted to the oboe da caccia.

The libretto (author unknown) is based on the Gospel for the day, and explains that the 'way' prepared by St. John is also the 'way to life' that Christians walk; this path is given to us through the love and tender mercy of God. The cantata praises that God, and looks forwarto the 'salvation' that is to come.

The cantata begins with a pastoral aria in G major for tenor Lyrics praising God's love and mercy are set above a siciliano rhythm, evoking an image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd. The importance lies with Jesus, not John. The relationship between these two individuals is properly explained by the alto in the recitative that follows (No. 2).

No. 3, a soprano and alto d\et (Andante, A minor) is the musical centre of the cantata. Both voices join to sing of 'God's word does not deceive', and are in canon on the phrase 'For what he promises occurs'. The bass comes forward next (No. 4, recitative), building from the image of John's father Zechariah's actions to encourage all faithful people to join in a song of praise. In the final section of this movement, we hear the opening notes of the melody of the chorale which follows. The final chorale, in G major (No.5), sings of praise for and faith in the Trinity. An instrumental ritornello brackets the movement at either end.
© Tadashi Isoyama 1998

Cantata 167 Librettist

The librettist for Cantata 167 remains a mystery, as do many others in the first cycle, although the leading candidate is Christian Weise, Bach’s St. Thomas Pastor. It is also quite possible that various people collaborated with Bach, particularly in the additional accompagnato recitatives in Weimar Cantatas 147a, 186a, and 70a, as well as the Cöthen parodies for the Easter, Pentecost, and Trinity festivals, BWV 66a, 134a, 174a, 184a, and 194a.

Meanwhile, because of its Weimar solo form, the text of Cantata 167 may have been written by Salomo Franck, although it does not appear in his published poetry that is the primary source of Bach’s some 24 cantatas. While Franck did compose cantatas for feast days, his primary focus was on Sundays in the church year. Coincidentally, the Feast of John the Baptist fell on a Sunday, the Fourth after Trinity, June 24, 1714. Bach, however, provided Cantata 21 for the previous Sunday, as part of his contribution every four weeks. Franck furnished a different libretto, probably set by the Court Capellmeister or his son, Samuel Drese, or his son, Wilhelm, the vice-capellmeister.

Interestingly, Cantata 167 was one of a series of 10 solo cantatas published by the Bach-Geselellschaft as Vol. 33, Cantatas 161-70, in 1887, edited by Franz Wüllner. Coincidentally, six of the 10 have texts published by Franck in 1715, to be performed in 1715 or 1716, as part of his published cycle of Evangelisches Andachts-Opffer sermon prayers: BWV 161 (Trinity 16/Purification, 1716), 162 (1716), 163 (Trinity 23, 1715), 164 (Trinity 13, 1725), 165 (Trinity Sunday, 1716), and 168 (Trinity 9). As noted, Bach performed four in 1715 or 1716 while two, BWV64 and 168 were performed in 1725 for the third cycle. Three were composed and performed in Leipzig: BWV 166 for Cantate Sunday in the so-called third Leipzig Cycle 1 form with an opening biblical dictum and middle chorale arrangement, quite possibly by Christian Weiss; BWV 169 for Trinity 18 in 1726 with parody material; and BWV 170 to a Georg Christian Lehms 1717 text for Trinity 6 1726 on a double bill with Johann Ludwig Bach’s Cantata JLB-7.

Chorale ‘Nun lob mein Seel

"Nun lob mein Seel, den Herren" (Now praise the Lord my soul), by Johann Gramann (Poliander) 1525, uses the associated melody by Johann Kugelmann (Zahn 8244), first appeared in a broadsheet in 1540 in Nürnberg. The general song of praise in 12-line iambic stanzas is based on Psalm 103, Benedic, anima mea (Bless the Lord, O my Soul),"Thanksgiving for God's Goodness," and is found in Bach's Leipzig hymnbook, Das Neu Leipziger Gesangbuch (NLGB 1682), No. 261 (Christian Life & Conduct, Psalm Hymn) and listed in the hymn schedules for Sundays after Trinity 12-14 and 17-19. Francis Browne English translation is found at BCW with BCW Short Biography at The same Stanza 5, added in 1548, "Sei Lob und Preis mit Ehren" (Praise and glory with honour be) also appears in Cantata BWV 29/8, Town Council 1729, and Cantata BWV 51/4 soprano chorale aria, Trinity 15, c.1730 and "anytime." This stanza appeared posthumously in a broadsheet reprint of the Hymn at Nürnberg c. 1555. The full German text and Francis Browne’s English translation are available at BCW

The origin and acceptance of the text "Sei Lob und Preis mit Ehren" is found at Hymnary on-line:
<<Lauxmann, in Koch, viii. 316-320, quotes Martin Chemnitz, 15V5, as stating that it was written in 1525 at the request of the Margrave Albrecht, as a version of his favourite Psalm, and as saying that himself (i.e. Chemnitz) heard the Margrave joyfully ringing it on his death-bed. Lauxmann adds that it was used by Gustavus Adolphus on April 24, 1632, at the first restored Protestant service at Augsburg. It was also sung by the inhabitants of Osnabruck, in Westphalia, as a thanksgiving at the close of the Thirty Years' War on Oct. 25, 1648, &c… -- John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology,

A translation by Catherine Winkworth, "My Soul, now Praise thy Maker!", was published in 1863. It is found in The Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) as No. 519, Praise & Adoration (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing, 1978)

A chorale chorus motet setting of Stanza 1 is found in several sources and is attributed to Georg Philipp Telemann: in the double chorus motet, “Jauchzet dem Herren Alle Welt,” TVWV 8:210/2, and in the 1723 Christmas Cantata, TVWV 1:1066, “Lobt Gott ihr Christen allzugleich,” Mvt. 3, to the Neumeister IV text 1714. It is found in two works originally attributed to Bach, Motet BWV Anh. 160, “Jauchzet dem Herren Alle Welt,” and motet “Sei Lob und Preis mit Ehren, BWV 231; as well as Bach’s Cantata BWV 28, “Gottlob! Nun geht Jahr zu ende,” for the Sunday after Christmas 1725, set to the Neumeister IV text, Mvt. No. 2.10

“Nun lob’, mein’ Seel’ Chorale Melody

The melody of the concluding Choral, “Nun lob’, mein’ Seel’, den Herren,” was first published, with the Hymn, in Johann Kugelmann’s News Gesanng, mit Dreyen stymmen (Augsburg, 1540), a Hymn book [Concentus novi trium vocum] compiled for the use of the Lutheran Church in Prussia and one of the earliest of its kind after Walther’s (1524), says Charles S. Terry.11 It contained thirty-nine hymns, for the majority of which (thirty) Kugelmann composed the tunes. Kugelmann is said to have been born at Augsburg. In 1519 he was in the service of the Emperor Maximilian I at Innspruck as Court Trumpeter. Later he passed into the service of Duke Albert of Prussia in a similar capacity, and eventually became Ducal Capellmeister at Königsberg. He died in 1542. The variations of the original melody which appear in Bach’s versions are found in texts within sixty years of the publication of the tune in 1540.

The origin of the melody may be one of three sacred settings of the 15th Century secular German folk song “Weiss mir ein Blümlien blaue.” It appeared with Kugelmann’s hymnbook Concentus novi, publication dedicated to Margrave Albrecht of Prussia, a Renaissance prince, statesman, humanist, lied poet, and perhaps also a melody composer, who influenced the creation of the collection and helped to finance it by ordering three hundred copies. Johann (Hans) Kugelmann is first found as a trumpeter, then in 1536, as Kapellmeister at the court of Margrave Albrecht. From 1540 to 1543, Niikolaus Decius (LBW 111) was his assistant at Königsberg. His death date is possible 1556.12

Bach's other plain chorale usages of "Nun lob mein Seel, den Herren" include Cantata BWV 17/7 (S.3), Trinity 14 1726), and troped in Motet BWV 225/2(S.3) (?New Years 1725), and four-voice chorales BWV 389 in C Major in 4/4 and BWV 390 in C Major ¾ time. "Sebastian Bach'Choral-Buch" (SBCB) c.1740 sets the melody and figured bass, p.148f (Robin A. Leaver, American Bach Society 2012).

"Nun lob, mein' Seel', den Herren" is listed in the chorale prelude Orgelbüchlein collection (Weimar, c.1714) as No. 86, a Communion hymn but not set. An early organ Miscellaneous Chorale, BWV Anh. 60 (G Major, ¾ time), is attributed to Bach cousin Johann Gottfried Walther (Emans 144).

Other Composers: Music: The text has been set by composers. Christoph Graupner wrote a cantata, Johann Hermann Schein composed a motet, Michael Praetorius a motet for eight voices. Heinrich Schütz set the hymn as part of Book I of his Psalmen Davids in 1619 (SWV 41).[FN 5 "Heinrich Schütz: Nun lob, mein Seel, den Herren / aus: Psalmen Davids" (in German). Carus-Verlag. Retrieved 31 December 2013.] Dieterich Buxtehude composed a chorale fantasia, BuxWV 212, in C major, and three organ preludes, BuxWV 213–215. An organ prelude was also written by Johann Pachelbel. Source is Wikipedia,,_mein_Seel,_den_Herren.

Cantata 167 Provenance

Provenance: Only the original parts set if Cantata 167 survives, probably from Friedemann, who probably also received the score, which is lost. John the Baptist 1724 Chorale Cantata 7 probably was divided between Friedemann (score, lost) and parts (Anna Magdalena (survive), while the late (1738) chorus two-part Cantata 30 (Picander text) survives with both score and parts in Emanuel’s 1789 estate.

In Thomas Braatz’ BCW Provenance (June 22, 2002),, Francis Browne inquired: < Why in this cantata did Bach depart from his normal practice of an opening, fugal chorus (for which the text seems suitable) and a simple closing chorale? > “My guess would be that cantatas of this type would have been used in the second half of the service and that the 1st part very likely consisted of a cantata with an opening choral mvt. BWV 167 might then be used as the 2nd part following the sermon. This might explain the feeling that this cantata seems to begin more tentatively in medias res. The strong chorale with an additional orchestral accompaniment might have provided a suitable, solid conclusion for this special religious holiday (Festtag=Feast Day.) There are quite a number of Bach cantatas that are already split up into two separate parts. In this case, simply imagine that another cantata preceded this one in the slot designated as part 1 before the sermon.” A readily available work could have been BWV 220, "Lobt ihn mit Herz und Munden," unknown composer (not known if performed by J.S. Bach), see BCW details, Another candidate could be Weimar solo Cantata BWV 132, “Bereitet die Wege, bereitet die Bahn” (Prepare the way, prepare the road), for Advent Sunday 4, 1715, but with no record of a Leipzig performance (original materials survive in Emmanuel’s 1789 estate for Advent 4).


1 Cantata 167 BCW Details and Discography,
2 Mincham, The Cantatas of Johann Sebastian Bach: A listener and student guide, Revised 2014; Home Page,
3 Chafe, Analyzing Bach Cantatas, “Aspects of the Liturgical Year” (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000: 12f).
4 The Readings for the Fifth and Sixth Sundays after Trinity are found at BCW, and
5 Cantata 167 scoring, Soloists: Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bass; 4-part Chorus (for the final Chorale)
Orchestra: clarino, oboa da caccia, 2 violins, viola, continuo; Score (vocal & Piano),; BGA Score, .
6 Schumacher notes, Cantata 167,[Teldec-2CD].pdf; BCW Recording details, Nikolaus Narnoncourt Teldec complete Bach cantatas recording.
7 Dürr, Cantatas of J. S. Bach, revised and translated by Richard D. P. Jones (Oxford University Press, New York, 2005: 684).
8 Gardiner notes,[sdg101_gb].pdf; BCW Recording details,
9 Tadashi Isoyama notes,[BIS-CD931].pdf; BCW Recording details,
10 BCW Details & Discography: Motet BWV Anh. 160, “Jauchzet dem Herren Alle Welt,”; motet “Sei Lob und Preis mit Ehren, BWV 231,, scroll down to BWV 231.
11 Johann Sebastian Bach, Bach’s Chorals. Part I: 2 The Hymns and Hymn Melodies of the Cantatas and Motetts, by Charles Sanford Terry (Cambridge University Press, 1915-1921). 3 vols. Vol. 2. July 5, 2015: 176f
12 Source: Hymnal Companion to the “Lutheran Book of Worship” by Marliyn Kay Stulken (Philadelphia: Fortress Press: 1981: 533f).

Aryeh Oron wrote (July 21, 2015):
Cantata BWV 167 - Revised & updated Discography
The discography pages of Cantata BWV 167 “Ihr Menschen, rühmet Gottes Liebe” for the Feast of Nativity of St John the Baptist on the BCW have been revised and updated.
The cantata is scored for soprano, alto, tenor & bass soloists; 4-part chorus; and orchestra of clarino (trumpet), oboe, oboe da caccia, 2 violins, viola & continuo. See:
Complete Recordings (7):
Recordings of Individual Movements (10):
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 & 1 video 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 167 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 167: 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
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