Background Information
Performer Bios

Poet/Composer Bios

Additional Information

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

Cantata BWV 184
Erwünschtes Freudenlicht
Cantata BWV 184a
[Text Lost]
Discussions - Part 4

Continue from Part 3

Discussions in the Week of May 15, 2016 (4th round)

William Hoffman wrote (May 21, 2016):
Pentecost Tuesday Cantata 184, 'Erwünschtes Freudenlicht': Intro.

On the third day (Tuesday) of the Pentecost Festival, June 30, 1724, Bach produced a virtual twin of the previous day’s Cöthen Prince Leopold celebratory serenade. Cantata BWV 184, “Erwünschtes Freudenlicht, / Das mit dem neuen Bund anbricht / Durch Jesum, unsern Hirten!” (Longed-for light of joy, / that dawns with the new covenant / through Jesus, our shepherd!), followed BWV 173, “Erhöhtes Fleisch und Blut” (Exalted flesh and blood) for Pentecost Monday, and probably also was a virtual parody of a profane intimate, festive, annual symbolic salute to a reigning monarch, conveniently transformed into an appropriate, scared didactic musical sermon. Again, the music begins with a proclamatory, narrative recitative, followed by a string of dance-style da-capo arias, and closes with a tutti da-capo chorus expanded to four voices.

Given the Pentecost Tuesday Gospel, John 10:1-10, (Parable of Sheep and Good Shepherd), Bach was able to recycle appropriate pastoral music in the baroque tradition with the new text styled to the template and conventions of a tribute to a reigning monarch. Following the opening tenor recitative with pastoral flutes that enumerates the basic work of the spirit (monarch), three arias convey details of the attributes of the divine and the public’s response. The soprano-alto duet with tutti orchestra (flutes and strings) in passepied-menuett style, establishes and interprets the occasion: “Gesegnete Christen, glückselige Herde, / Kommt, stellt euch bei Jesu mit Dankbarkeit ein!”(Blessed Christians, blissful flock, / come, present yourselves with gratitude to Jesus!). The tenor returns to sing a generic, unaccompanied recitative, “So freuet euch, ihr auserwählten Seelen!” (Then rejoice, you chosen souls!), followed by an interpretive aria with solo violin in polonaise style, “Glück und Segen sind bereit, / Die geweihte Schar zu krönen.” (Happiness and blessing are ready / to crown the consecrated flock).1

In lieu of another recitative presumably for the bass voice (no. 4) in the original BWV 184a, Bach substituted a congregational Reformation hymn, Anarg von Wildenfels’s “O Herre Gott, dein Götthlich Wort ” (O Lord God, your divine word), using the closing Stanza 8, “Herr, ich hoff je, du werdest die / In keiner Not verlassen, / Die dein Wort recht als treue Knecht” (Lord, I hope that you will / in no trouble abandon / those who as loyal servants rightly hold your word”). The activity/agenda concludes with a tutti general chorus in gigue style, “Guter Hirte, Trost der Deinen, / Laß uns nur dein heilig Wort!” (Good shepherd, comfort of your people, / grant to us only your holy word

Cantata 184 was presented on Pentecost Tuesday 1724 in the early main service at the Nikolaikirche following the sermon on the day’s gospel by Deacon Friedrich Werner (1659-1741), says Martin Petzoldt in Bach Commentary, Vol. 2, Advent to Trinityfest (de tempore).2 The new musical sermon combines ideas from the day’s gospel and epistle, Acts 8:14-17 (Holy Spirit in Sumaria), observes John Eliot Gardiner’s Cantata 184 commentary (see below, ‘Embracing Epistle, Gospel Ideas’). The readings of German text of Luther’s 1545 translation and the English Authorised (King James) Version 1611 are found at BCW The opening introit psalm set in polyphonic style was popular vesper Psalm 110, Dixit Dominus (The Lord said unto my Lord, KJV), says Petzoldt (Ibid.), 1031. In Bach’s time, it also was the introit psalm for Easter Sunday as well as the 8th and 18th Sunday after Trinity and the Feast of St. Michael. The text is found at

Meanwhile, the new text underlay of an anonymous librettist (?pastor Christian Weise Sr., with input from poet Picander), was able to reflect similar regal texts, allusions, and other traditional devices found in Bach’s other surviving Cöthen music and texts. Although only instrumental parts of the original serenade (BWV 184a) exist, with no text incipit designations, it is possible from the surviving manuscript score of the companion original Cantata 173a, “Durchlauchster (Most Serene Highness) Leopold” to determine the textual content of Cantata 184a. “We may assume that the circumstances surrounding the origination of the parody text were similar to those” in Cantata 173, says Klaus Hofmann’s Cantata 184 commentary (see below, ‘Profane to Secular Text Similarities,’ second paragraph).

Pentecost Feast Significance

The significance of the Pentecost Feast and a summary of Cantata 184 is discussed in a new recording of Cantata 184 Also with three cantatas for Pentecost Monday (BWV 68, 173, and 174), “Cantatas for the Days Following Pentecost” has just been released on ATMA Classique, with the Montreal Baroque conducted by Eric Milnes.3 “In devotional music, God is always present with his grace,” Bach is quoted at the beginning of Francois Fillatrault’s liner notes. << The major religious holiday known as Pentecost begins 50 days (seven Sundays) after Easter Sunday; pent kost is Greek for “50th day.” Pentecost Sunday, and the two days that follow it, commemorate the moment, 50 days after Jesus’ resurrection, when the Holy Spirit descended on the Virgin and the apostles who had gathered together [Acts 2:2-3]. The sound of “a rushing mighty wind filled all the house” and “cloven tongues like of fire” appeared over each of their heads, conferring upon them the gift of tongues, so that they could announce the gospel throughout the world. Thus, as Irenaeus declared in the 2nd century A.D., “scattered tribes, restored to unity by the Spirit, were offered to the Father as the first fruits of all the nations” [Irenaeus of Lyons,, 3rd paragraph].

The gospel for the second day of Pentecost (John 3:16-21) tells how Jesus explained to the Pharisee Nicodemus that God had sent his son not to judge the world, but to save it. This account of the incarnation and its purpose is evoked by several musical elements in the cantatas BWV 68, 173, and 174, the three surviving works written by Bach for the Monday after Pentecost. These three cantatas exalt God’s love for his creatures, and insist on our resulting duty to spread the word. The title of the first, “Also hat Gott die Welt geliebt” (God so loved the world), is drawn from the Gospel of Saint John (3:16): “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” The same phrase recurs in the two other cantatas, and Luther wanted it inscribed in golden letters on every house. In a similar spirit, the gospel for the third day of Pentecost [John 10: 1-10, Parable of Sheep & Good Shepherd], for which cantata BWV 184 was written, explains how Jesus presents himself as the good shepherd.

Written for Pentecost Tuesday and first performed on May 30, 1724, the cantata Erwünschtes Freudenlicht (O welcome, joyous light) BWV 184, a setting of an anonymous libretto, appears, says [Giles] Cantagrel [Le cantates de J.-S. Bach (Fayard 2010), “like the song of thanks of Christians amazed and grateful to find Jesus in their midst, the good shepherd consoling them in their torments, guiding them on the right path, and nourishing them with the word.” This cantata also reuses previously written music, this time from a serenata composed for the New Year celebrations of 1723 at Prince Leopold’s court, of which some parts for individual instruments have survived. This cantata aopens with a recitative; two traversos accompany the tenor voice, creating the pastoral mood evoked by the text. The soprano and alto then sing a duo, still accompanied by traversos, as well as by strings, continuing the same mood, while the text enjoins us to beware the vain attractions of the world. Next comes an aria in which the tenor dialogues with the violin in what is essentially a trio sonata movement. The cantata ends with a chorale and a chorus. The secular feeling of the original music of the chorus shows through in its lively gavotte rhythm, and especially in the duo that, at one moment, interrupts it. Then the traversos return, and the music recreates “the joy of the flock gathered around its shepherd.” © Francois Filiatrault, Translated by Sean McCutcheon [Commentary on Bach’s self-borrowing, called “parody,” is found below

Cantata 184 Movements, Scoring, Text Incipits; Key; Meter.4

1. Recitative secco, penultimate phrase arioso [Tenor; Flauto traverso I/II, Continuo]: “Erwünschtes Freudenlicht, / Das mit dem neuen Bund anbricht / Durch Jesum, unsern Hirten!” (Longed-for light of joy, / that dawns with the new covenant / through Jesus, our shepherd!); arioso, “Drum folgen wir mit Freuden bis ins Grab.” (Therefore we follow with joy even in the grave.); recit., “Auf! Eilt zu ihm, verklärt vor ihm zu stehen.” (Arise! Hurry to him, to stand transfigured before him.); G Major; 4/4.
2. Aria da capo (Duetto in canon) with ritornelli [Soprano, Alto; Flauto traverso I/II, Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo]: A. “Gesegnete Christen, glückselige Herde, / Kommt, stellt euch bei Jesu mit Dankbarkeit ein!”(Blessed Christians, blissful flock, / come, present yourselves with gratitude to Jesus!); B. “Verachtet das Locken der schmeichlenden Erde, / Daß euer Vergnügen vollkommen kann sein!” Despise the enticements of the flattering earth / so that your enjoyment may be perfect!); G Major; 3/8 menuett-passepied style.
3. Recitative [Tenor; Continuo] with closing arioso: “So freuet euch, ihr auserwählten Seelen! / Die Freude gründet sich in Jesu Herz.” (Then rejoice, you chosen souls! / Your joy is founded on Jesus' heart.); arioso, “Und hoffet dort vollkommne Himmelsfreude.” (and hope there for perfect joy in heaven.); C Major to D Major; 4/4.
4. Aria free da-capo with ritornelli [Tenor; Violino solo, Continuo]:A. “Glück und Segen sind bereit, / Die geweihte Schar zu krönen.” (Happiness and blessing are ready / to crown the consecrated flock); B. Jesus bringt die güldne Zeit, / Welche sich zu ihm gewöhnen.” (Jesus brings the golden time / to those who get to know him.); b minor; ¾ polonaise style.
5. Plain Chorale in Bar form [SATB; Flauto traverso I/II, Violino I col Soprano, Violino II coll'Alto, Viola col Tenore, Continuo): “Herr, ich hoff je, du werdest die / In keiner Not verlassen, / Die dein Wort recht als treue Knecht / Im Herzn und Glauben fassen;” (Lord, I hope that you will / in no trouble abandon / those who as loyal servants rightly hold your word / in their hearts and faith); D Major; 4/4.
6. Chorus da-capo [S, A, T, B; Flauto traverso I/II all' unisono, Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo]: A. four-part homophonic with instrumental interludes, “Guter Hirte, Trost der Deinen, / Laß uns nur dein heilig Wort!” (Good shepherd, comfort of your people, / grant to us only your holy word!); B. soprano-bass in canon, “Laß dein gnädig Antlitz scheinen, / Bleibe unser Gott und Hort” (Let your merciful shine, / remain our God and refuge); D Major, 2/2 gavotte-style.

“Note on the text. This cantata for the third day of Pentecost was first performed at Leipzig on 30 May 1724, and repeated there in 1731. It is a parody of a secular cantata composed at Cöthen, of which the text is lost and only a few instrumental parts survive among the Leipzig performing material. The main structural difference between the two works is that the penultimate movement of the Cöthen version, a recitative has been replaced by a plainly harmonised setting of the eighth strophe from Anarg von Wildenfels' hymn O Herre Gott, dein göttlich Wort (1526). The anonymous librettist has fitted a new text which relates to the Gospel reading for the day, St. John 10: 1-10, telling of Jesus as the good shepherd. Extract from the Oxford Composer Companion: J.S. Bach>>

Embracing Epistle, Gospel Ideas

Borrowed from a secular serenade, the next text of Cantata 184 combines ideas from the epistle and the gospel for Pentecost Tuesday, observes John Eliot Gardner in his 2008 liner notes from the 2000 Bach Cantata Pilgrimage Soli Deo Gloria recordings.5 << Pressed for time at the end of a busy Whit weekend during his first year in Leipzig, Bach based BWV 184, “Erwünschtes Freudenlicht,” on a hasty revision of a lost Cöthen secular cantata, of which only a few instrumental parts survive from the new (1724) Leipzig material, scored for two transverse flutes and strings. Bach and his anonymous librettist neatly combine ideas from the Epistle – the visitation of the Holy Spirit in Samaria (Acts 8:14-17) – and the Gospel – Jesus as the good shepherd (John 10:1-10). The long opening accompagnato for tenor has paired flutes playing an enchanting lilting triplet rhythm in thirds over the simple basso continuo. The string band joins the two flutes for a soprano/alto duet, ‘Gesegnete Christen’, cast as a pastoral minuet (and very possibly danced to when first given in secular form in Cöthen) despite scurrying, demisemiquaver scales (gambolling lambs or blessed spirits?) in which the two voices are fused in euphonious thirds and sixths. One might momentarily mistake it as the origin of the celebrated duet from Lakme, before considering the long odds of Delibes ever having clapped eyes on this obscure piece. The extended secco recitative (No.3) for tenor, after drawing a parallel with the hero of Judah (King David) and the effective way he deals with the enemy, culminates in an arioso twinning of voice and continuo to portray the ‘perfect joy of heaven’ (‘vollkommne Himmelsfreude’) that is available even to sinners. It is appropriate that the tenor should then develop the theme of Jesus as bringer of the ‘golden age’ in the ensuing aria (No.4), in minuet form with violin obbligato. Coming at this point the four-part chorale ‘Herr, ich hoff je’ (No.5) gives us a brief reminder that this is after all a church cantata, before it reverts for its final movement to a deliciously bucolic gavotte, a soprano/bass duet expanded to include the chorus in its rondo-like refrains.>>

Profane to Secular Text Similarities

Although the original Cantata 184a survives only in instrumental parts, “the circumstances surrounding the origination of the parody text were similar” to Cantata 173, says Klaus Hofmann in his liner notes to the Masaaki Suzuki BOS recording of the complete cantatas.6 <<The cantata 184 'Erwünschtes Freudenlicht ' ('Awaited light of joy') is to some extent a companion piece to Cantata 173, 'Erhöhtes Fleisch und Blut', and Bach seems to have liked to perform them together later as well (we know that this happened in 1731, for instance). Much that was said about ' Erhöhtes Fleisch und Blut applies to this work as well. This cantata, too, is a parody of a congratulatory piece from Köthen (BWV l84a); here, however, the original is lost except for a few instrumental parts that were used again, in revised form, when the reworked version of the piece was performed on Whit Tuesday in 1724. They do not contain any of the original text, not even the opening line.

We may assume that the circumstances surrounding the origination of the parody text were similar to those for ‘Erhöhtes Fleisch und Blut'. Admittedly the gospel for that day (John 10, 1-11), developing the image of Jesus as the good shepherd, is taken more fully into consideration, but the parody principle remains the same: w, in the parody, we find the words 'Jesus' or 'Hifte' ('shepherd'), the original presumably contained an allusion to Prince Leopold; and where now the text mentions the Christians or, figuratively, the flock, the original would presumably have referred to the people of Anhalt-Köthen. It is easy to work out what the text for the opening of the second movement must have been, for instance: 'Gesegnete Christen, glückselige Herde, kommt stellt euch bei Jesu mit Dankbarkeit ein!' ('Blessed Christians, happy flock. Come and stand by Jesus in thankfulness!'
Here, too, the original was a duet cantata, and again Bach has not only distributed the solo parts among four vocal soloists but has also turned the final duet into a four-part choral setting. In this cantata, too, the courtly tone is unmistakable. The two arias and the final chorus form a genuine sequence of dances: the second movement is a sung passepied, the fourth movement a polonaise and the sixth movement a gavotte. On this occasion, though, Bach did compensate for the secular tone by providing a contrasting chorale strophe (from the song 'O Here Gott, dein göttlich Wort' ['O Lord God, Thy divine Word'l by Anarg von Wildenfels, 1526).
In 1733, Bach reused the final [chorus A section] movement of the Köthen piece in a further parody form, in the [Hercules] homage cantata 'Laßt uns sorgen, laßt uns wachen' ('Let us be sorrowful, let us keep watch', BWV 213), now with the text 'Lust der Völker, Lust der Deinen' ('Desire of the peoples, desire of your own'). © Klaus Hofmann 2001

Cantata 184a Description, Details, Poet

From all the bits and pieces, it is possible to construct a scenario of how and what Bach put together when composing lost Cantata BWV 184a. The sole surviving materials are original instrumental performing parts that Bach re-used, without alteration. Examining the parts as well as the later Leipzig full set of parts from Cantata 184 and the materials from the other Köthen works, Bach’s intentions and practices are clear, as first revealed by Friedrich Smend in Chapter 6, “Parodies of Lost Originals,” in Bach in Köthen, updated English edition ed. Stephen Daw (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1985: 60-63 etc.). The surviving parts (virtually unaltered) are 2 flutes, 2 violin and cello, presumably the original instrumental ensemble, with no keyboard part or text indications. Cantata 184/5 chorale “is a later substitute for a secco recitative that previously occurred at this point,” says Smend. The cello continuo part showing BWV 184/5 in G Major is preserved without text. Smend also identified the dance forms in the two arias and closing chorus, based on similar examples in other surviving cantatas.

Further Cantata 184a details and structure are found in Werner Neumann’s final (5th) edition of Handbuch der Kantaten Joh. Seb. Bachs (Wiesbaden: Beitkopf & Härtel, 1984: 193). He suggests that it is a congratulatory cantata for the New Year, 1722 or 1723. Citing Alfred Dürr’s NBA KB I/14 (Cantata 184, Ibid.) and I/35 (Köthen cantatas, 184a, 1964), Neumann shows the same movement structure and sequence as Cantata 184, and the key of each movement, which is the same. Given this as well as the textual similarities, it is apparent that, serendipitously, Bach was able to retain the original instrumental parts that needed no revision, adding only the new vocal parts with new text underlay, as well as continuo parts. In the Cantata 184 parts set of 1724 (St. 24), principal copyist Johann Andreas Kuhnau copied the music but Bach added the text. It is a mystery as to why Bach preserved the score of companion Cantata 173a but not the scores of Cantata 184a or the other Köthen originals (BWV 66a, 134a, 194a), only the necessary, surviving parts as identified in Bach in Köthen.

As to the original poet, a possibility is Johann Friedrich Helbig (1680-1722) of Eisenach, whose text Bach used for Cantata 47 (Trinity 17, 1726). Helbig had connections with the Köthen court and may have filled in for court poet Christian Friedrich Hunold (“Menantes,” (1680-1721), who published the texts of Bach’s Köthen Cantatas 66a, and 134a, and BWV Anh. 5-7, as discovered by Smend. While it is only speculation based on similar practices in the extant Hunold dialogue texts, the original tenor part could have been taken by Time (Die Zeit), and the soprano and alto, Fame (Fama) and Fortune (Glückseligkeit).

Pentecost Tuesday Chorales

Cantata 184 uses plain chorale “O Herre Gott, dein Götthlich Wort” (O Lord God, your divine word), NLGB 308 (Word of God and Christian Church), Staza 8, “Herr, ich hoff je, du werdest die” (Lord, I hope that you will). The text of Anarg von Wildenfels, 8 stanzas BAR form, 1526 was published in 1531. It refers to Luther’s sermon, “On the freedom of the Christian.” The choice of a hymn in the category (Word of God) “may have seemed especially apropro on “the birthday of the church,” says Günther Stiller in JSB and Liturgical Life in Leipzig.7

The German text and Francis Browne’s English translation are found at BCW The anonymous melody (Zahn 5690) is based on a 15th century folksong, Weiß mir ein Blümlein blaue” (I know about a little, blue flower). For further information on the text and melody, see BCW The melody also was used in BWV 757, miscellaneous organ chorale, and BWV 1110 (Neumeister Chorale), and is found in the Orgelbüchlein organ chorale No. 60, last de tempore listing for the All-Saints Day (October 28).

Pentecost Tuesday motets and chorale, says Douglas Cowling [BCW, “Musical Context of Bach Cantatas: Motets & Chorales for Pentecost Festival,”], are Introit: “Accipite Jucunditatem” (LU 762): “Accipite jucunditatem glorie vestre, attendite popule meus, legem meam” (Give ear, O my people, to my teaching), Vespers Introit, Thursday After Pentecost (IV. Ezra 2:36, Psalm 77,1). Motet: “Spiritus sancti gratia,” “Des Heiligen Geistes reichte Gnad” (NLGB 126); Hymn de Tempore: “Komm Heiliger Geist, Herre Gott” (NLGB 124); Pulpit Hymn: “Nun bitten wir den Heiligen Geist” (NLGB 130); Hymns for Chancel, Communion & Closing: “Gott Vater, Sende deiner Geist” (no NLGB, Paul Gerhardt 1653).

Pentecost Tuesday cantatas use the following chorales: BWV184, “Erwünschtes Freudenlicht” (1724),Chorale: 184/5, “O Herre Gott, dein Götthlich Wort”; BWV175, “Er rufet seinen Schafen mit Namen” (1725)

Chorale: 175/7=59/3, “Komm heilger Geist, Herre Gott” (NLGB 124); and 1729 Picander cycle P-40, “Ich klopf an deine Gnadentüre,” chorale “Du, o schones Weltgebaude” (NLGB 385). Details of Pentecost Tuesday chorales used in cantatas: 1725: 175/7, “O Gottes Geist, mein Trost und Rat,” S.9, “Nun, werter Geist, ich folg dir” (Now, honored spirit, I follow you); melody “Komm, Heiliger Geist, Herre Gott” (NLGB 124); and 1729: P-40/5, “Du, o schones Weltgebaude” (O Beautiful Abode of Earth), J. Franck 1649, 8 stanzas; melody J. Crüger (NLGB 385); S. 8, “Komm, o Tod, du Schlafes Bruder” (Come, O death, you brother of sleep), ?=BWV 301; same stanza, 56/5, Tr.19 (1726).

For the second cantata cycle in 1725, Bach originally may have considered composing chorale cantatas for the Pentecost Festival. Likely candidates may have been Martin Luther’s popular settings: 1. Pentecost Sunday (de tempore): “Komm, Heiliger Geist, Herre Gott” (3 verses, NLGB 124), BCW:; 2. Pentecost Monday: “Komm Gott Schöppfer, Heiliger Geist (6 verses, NLGB 129), melody “Also hat Gott” (NLGB 233 justification),; 3. Pentecost Tuesday: “Nun bitten wir den Heiligen Geist” (4 verses, NKGB 402), “Nun bitten wir den Heiligen Geist” (EKG 124)

Pentecost Tuesday Cantatas 8

In all likelihood, Bach composed only two cantatas for the Third Day of the Pentecost Festival, Pentecost Tuesday: BWV 184, “Erwünschtes Freudenlicht“ (Desired Light of Joy) in 1724, and BWV 175, “Er rufet seinen Schafen mit Namen” (He Calls His Sheep by Name), in 1725. Yet these two pastoral shepherd works, using recycled materials, are emblematic of Bach’s intense and fruitful interest in popular musical and religious interests of his day as well as his basic strategy to created a significant and meaningful well-order church music to the glory of God. Bach’s Leipzig performance calendar for Pentecost Tuesday shows the following:

Date (Cy.) | BWV Title | Type/Note
5/30/1724 (1) 184 Erwunschtes Freudenfest Chorus/Parody
5/22/1725 (2) 175 Er rufet seinen Schafen mit Namen Solo/Partial Parody
6/11/1726 (3) no record
5/27/1727 (1) (184) Erwunschtes Freudenfest /repeat
6/7/1729 (4) [P40] Ich klopf an deine Genadentüre /Picander text only
5/15/1731 (184) Erwunschtes Freudenfest /repeat
5/31/1735 (?184) Erwunschtes Freudenfest /no repeat documented
5/22/1736 G.H. Stölzel, “Durch Christum haben wir auch einen Zugang im Glauben zu dieser Gnade,” Mus. A 15:209 + “Wer aus der Wahrheit ist, der höret meine Stimme,” Mus. A 15:210

By contrast, for the next Sunday, the Trinity Festival, that ends the de tempore first half of the church year, Bach presented four different cantatas. He recycled Weimar Cantata BWV 165 and Cöthen serenade 194a while composing new Cantatas BWV 176 (1725) and 129 (1726/27). In addition he presented as the Sanctus in C, BWV 237, and possibly presented the Missa (Kyrie-Gloria) of the B Minor-Mass, BWV 323I, in 1733, followed by the Missae (Kyrie-Gloria), BWV 233-236, in the second half of the 1730s.

Pentecost, Shepherd, and Parody

Bach’s< de tempore> cantata cycle for the first half of the church year (Advent Sunday to Trinity Sunday) closes with the 14 services of the Easter Season, from Jesus Christ’s Resurrection to the birth of the Christian (Catholic) Church. The Easter Season closing involves five festivals within six consecutive services: Ascension Day, the three-day Pentecost Festival (Sunday, Monday and Tuesday), and Trinity Sunday, with the Sixth Sunday After Easter (Exaudi) occurring four days after Ascension.

In some respects, the Easter Season is a liminal – “in-between” time, a threshold or transition between the life of Jesus Christ on earth (from his coming at Advent to his death on Good Friday) to the<omnes tempore> Trinity Season of some 25 weeks focusing on the teachings and themes of Christianity. The 17-day post-Ascension period with its five feast days is a concentrated liminal time of preparation focusing on the three-day Pentecost Festival with the Gospel Christological themes of the “Promise of the Spirit” (Sunday), “God’s Love of the World” (Monday) and the “Parable of the Sheep” (Tuesday). Each theme embodies the Triune or Trinitarian concept of God the Creator, Jesus as God the Redeemer, and the Holy Spirit as God the Sanctifier.

Prominent during the 40 days of the Easter Season proper and the 17-day festival period is the theme of the shepherd and his flock of sheep. The theme is exemplified in the tenth chapter of the Gospel of John the evangelist. Verses 11-16 are the Gospel lesson for the Second Sunday After Easter, <Misericordias Domini>, the “tender mercies” or “goodness” of Jesus as the Good Shepherd. The preceding verses, 1-10, are the Gospel lesson for Whit Tuesday or the Third Day of Pentecost, the Parable of the Shepherd.

The theme of the shepherd and his sheep enabled Bach to create numerous pastoral cantatas celebrating events in both the sacred and profane worlds. In the sacred are the <Misericordias Domini> Cantatas BWV 104, 85 and 112, and the Pentecost Tuesday Cantatas BWV 184 and 175, as well as the dramatic secular serenades Bach composed in Weimar in 1713, BWV 208, Bach’s first “modern” cantata, and in Cöthen between 1717 and 1723, followed by 11 serenades, composed in Leipzig. Bach exploited two Baroque stylistic traditions in his serenades: the Italian secular cantata and the French orchestral dance suite.

Bridging the two spheres, Bach was able to recycle half of his “wordly” serenades as sacred vocal works through various forms of parody or new text substitution, with musical adaptation of the original pastoral materials composed for various celebrations. The best known parodied works are the 1713 Weißenfels Hunting Cantata (Jagtkantate) BWV 208, and Weißenfels Shepherd’s Cantata (<Schafekataten>) BWV 249a, “Entflieht, verschwindet, entweichet, ihr Sorgen” (Fly, vanish, flee, O worries -- translation Richard Stokes) of early 1725 which five weeks later, on April 1, 1725, became the Easter Oratorio, BWV 249.

As Bach competed his first Leipzig sacred cantata cycle, he had been able to utilize most of the vocal material previously composed in the “modern” Italian style. These involve the five Cöthen serenades reused for the Easter Festival, BWV 66(a) on Monday and 134(a) on Tuesday; the Pentecost Festival Cantatas BWV 173(a) and 184(a); and the Trinity Sunday Cantata BWV 194(a). Bach’s Köthen parodies for the Pentecost Festival, BWV 173 and 184, were among Bach’s most frequently reperformed sacred cantatas: in 1727 (probably the first such Leipzig works to be repeated), and again as part of a seasonal or annual cycle in 1731 and 1735.

In addition, Bach had been able to expand Weimar sacred Sunday materials for use in the first Leipzig cycle (20 cantatas): BWV 21, 185, 147, 186, 199, 162, 163, 70, 61, 63, 154, 155, 181, 18, 182, 31, 4, 12, 172, and 165; and five cantatas later in Leipzig: BWV 72, 80, 158, 161 and 162. There is no record of Bach’s reuse of Weimar Cantatas BWV 54 and 132 and no materials survive for Cantatas BWV Anh. 191, 199, and 209. Further, dance-like materials presumed to have been composed in Cöthen may survive in Church Cantatas BWV 136/1, 143, 145/1,3, 154, 190, 193.

Thus Bach created a significant portion of his well-order church music, especially in the first Leipzig cantata cycle of 1723-24, using previous materials through expansion and parody. Bach the calculating recycler was foremost Bach the opportunist who bears further hearing. Instead of immediately beginning the second cycle on the First Sunday after Trinity, Bach could have waited until the end of 1724 to begin at the traditional start of the church season on the First Sunday in Advent. But he was anxious to proceed with the chorale cantata cycle with initial texts on hand and approved, as well as an outline of chosen chorales until the Easter Season 1725. In 1725, Bach waited ,taking a vacation at the end of the second cycle and not actively composing each week during Trinity Time second half of the church year (omnes tempore).

Bach’s Interests, Grand Design

When Bach came to Leipzig in early May 1723 to begin what would become his last calling as church cantor and city director of music, he brought with him some 30 sacred cantatas composed in Weimar between 1714 and 1717 and a handful of secular serenades recently composed as capellemeister at Cöthen. These would help him substantially fulfill his primary composing task of providing new works for the some 60 sacred services during the church year.

Serendipity prevailed with the Cöthen dance movements. These enabled Bach to reuse the pastoral-influenced shepherd music, with new sacred texts, to engage churchgoers with familiar sacred biblical themes and popuprofane dances in the gallant style. At the same time, Bach was able to preserve the basic form of these previously-composed works. The sacred Weimar cantatas were expanded mostly with additional recitatives and chorales emphasizing the biblical lessons and sermon of the particular service, while virtually all the Cothen music was retained with new substitute texts and new appropriate chorale hymns.

Cantata BWV 184 is among the five sacred “Shepherd Cantatas” with pastoral music Bach composed for Pentecost Tuesday and the Second Sunday after Easter. For Pentecost Tuesday, the two Shepherd Cantatas, BWV 184, “Erwünschtes Freudenlicht“ (Desired Light of Joy) and 175, “Er rufet seinen Schafen mit Namen” (He Calls His Sheep by Name), are based on the Gospel of John, 10:1-11, “Jesus as the true Shepherd.” Cantata BWV 184 preserves its three Köthen dance-forms: -passepied-minuet (2), polonaise (4), and gavotte (6). Cantata BWV 175 of 1725 has two pastorales, a newly-written aria (2), and an expanded, parodied aria (4) from Köthen Cantata BWV 173a/7.

For the Second Sunday after Easter (Misericodias Domini), the three Shepherd Cantatas are based upon the Gospel of John 10: 12-16, “I am the Good Shepherd,” and the Epistle Lesson, I Peter 2:21-25, the biblical illusions to one sheep led astray, as well as the Collect, the deliverance from peril. The three cantatas are BWV 104, “Du Hirte Israel, höre" (You Shepherd of Israel, Give Ear), composed in 1724 with an opening pastorale chorus and a siciliana bass aria (5); Cantata BWV 85, “Ich bin ein gutter Hirt” (I am a Good Shepherd), composed in 1725, with a pastorale tenor aria (5); and the chorale Cantata BWV 112 for Misericordias Domini 1731, “Der Herr ist mein getreuer Hirt” (The Lord is my Faithful Shepherd, Psalm 23) with a pastorale alto aria (2) and a bouree soprano-tenor duet (4).

The significance of the pastoral(e) is summarized in Little and Jenne, <Dance and the Music of J. S. Bach> (1991: 47): “Yet the classic proportions of the gavotte, both as music and as dance, reach a high point in popularity during the “pastoral” craze of the 1720s and 1730s, when those who lived in cities and courts idealized a simpler rural life, with shepherds and shepherdesses doing rustic dances indoors to the accompaniment of bagpipes. It was during this period that Bach wrote most of his gavottes, frequently including pastoral references but always retaining the ideals of calm balance and expected rhyme, which are so characteristic of this dance.”

Other notable pastorales in Bach’s music include the opening alto da-capo aria, Cantata 174, “Ich liebe den Höchsten von ganzem Gemüte,” (I love God most high with all my heart – Francis Browne translation to Picander text), Pentecost Monday, 1729; the opening chorus of the Ascension Oratorio, May 19, 1735, “Lobet Gott in seinem Reichen” (Praise God in his Kingdom), parodied from the openings of two lost secular cantatas for the 1732 rededication of the Thomas School (BWV Anh. 18), and the Nameday of Saxon Prince Augustus III (BWV Anh. 12) in 1733; as well as two instrumental “pifa” shepherd’s pipe sinfonias to Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, BWV 248 in 1734, as well as Handel’s Oratorio “The Messiah” in 1741.

Besides BWV 184 for Pentecost Tuesday there are four other dance-infused Köthen serenatas parodied in 1724 as church cantatas in the first cantata cycle. They are: BWV 66a, “Der Himmel dacht auf Anhalts Ruhm und Glück” (The Heavens Resound in Anhalt’s Glory and Fortune), for Easter Monday; BWV 134a, “Die Zeit, die Tag und Jahre macht” (The Time, the Day, the Year Make”), for Easter Tuesday; BWV 173, “Erhötes Fleisch und Blut” (Exhalted Flesh and Blood), for Pentecost Monday; and BWV 194, “Höchsterwüschtes Freudenfest” (Most Highly Desired Festival of Joy), for Trinity Sunday. The librettist is unknown, while speculation centers on Bach and his Thomas Church pastor, Christian Weise Sr., with possible involvement of librettist/parodist Picander.

Bach also composed two secular birthday Shepherd Cantatas for the Court at Sachsen-Weißenfels: BWV 208, “Was mir behagt, ist die mutre Jagd” (What pleases me above all is the lively hunt – Frances Browne translation of Salamo Franck text), Bach’s first “modern,” Italian-style cantata, Feb. 23, 1713, and BWV 249a, “Entflieht, verschwindet, entweichet, ihr Sorgen” (Fly, vanish, flee, O worries -- Richard Stokes translation of Picander text), Feb. 23, 1725, which five weeks later was parodied as the Easter Oratorio, BWV 249, on Easter Sunday, April 1.

Bach in the 1724 Easter Season utilized the existing music from Weimar: two cantatas for Easter Sunday (BWV 4 and 172), Cantata BWV 12 for the Third Sunday After Easter (Jubilate), two Pentecost Cantatas (BWV 172 and 59), and Trinity Sunday Cantata BWV 165. For the Second and Third Days (Monday and Tuesday) of the Easter and Pentecost Festivals, and Trinity Sunday, Bach would reuse five Cöthen serenades. Originally, Bach may have planned to use new libretti by local poet Christiane Mariane vion Ziegler, from Jubilate to the Trintyfest, according to a theory of John Eliot Gardiner in Bach: Music in the Castle of Heaven (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2013: 293 passim). Unfortunately the texts were not ready in advance for approval of the Town Council, and Bach substituted a patchwork of heterogeneous old and new music. As a result, when it came to Easter season 1725, Bach may have decided in advance to end the composition of chorale cantatas and proceed with the available Ziegler texts as well as ones for Easter Monday to the 2nd Sunday after Easter in old Cycle 1 text format.

Bach’s Self-Borrowing

Bach’s self-borrowing, beginning with the 1724 Easter season Cöthen serenades parodies, is studied in Francois Filiatrault’s liner notes to the new “Cantatas for the Days Following Pentecost,” ATMA Classique (Ibid.)<< Several of the movements of the four works on this CD [BWV 68, 173, 174& 184] use the compositional procedure, common in Bach’s time, known as ‘parody’. This musical term implies not mocking imitation but rather self-borrowing. That Bach recycled his own music is easily understandable given the heavy work load he assumed at Leipzig, and the fact that many of the works from which he borrowed were secular cantatas, each of which had been heard only once, at the occasion for which it had been written. When the borrowed element is vocal—an aria or chorus—, the new text has to match the old one in structure, meter, and general sense, so that the musical images and symbols that Bach used as highlights do not fall, awkwardly, on inappropriate words. The master always made a few changes when self-borrowing—adapting, transposing, filling out the polyphony, modifying the instrumentation. And though he integrated parts borrowed from secular works into sacred works, he never did the opposite: once fitted to a sacred message, the music became sacred, and later secularization was verboten.

Since the Romantic period we have come to think of works of art as necessarily unique. This may cloud our judgment of the parody procedure, no matter how well it works. “Often, when we consider how surprisingly well parodies respect their new, mostly religious destination,” said Jean-Luc Macia [Johann Sebastian Bach [Actes Sud 2006], “we realize the extent to which Bach’s genius went beyond the pragmatic and involved a sixth sense of apt transformation, if not of actual transcendence.” And since a lot of the original work from which Bach borrowed has not survived, parodies allow us to hear music which otherwise would have been lost forever.>> Translated by Sean McCutcheon

Bach’s Varied Borrowings

Bach’s initial borrowings in Leipzig were rather complex and involved recitatives in one case, I wrote in the Cantata 184 BCML Part 3 discussion (Ibid., March 8, 2011). <<The Kothen serenade revisions of Cantata BWV 134 (Easter Tuesday 1724) underwent tversions until 1731 -- all in the recitatives! Firstly, some Bach scholars still fail to realize that Bach indeed "parodied" recitatives -- some one-fifth of his borrowings. Yes, some Bach scholars still consider that it is a lot "easier" to compose a recitative that an aria and therefore a lot easier to compose a new recitative in place of the old one. Here is the Abstract of my paper, "Bach's Recitative Self-Borrowing," given at the regional meeting of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the American Musicological Society, April 20, 1995, at Brigham Young University in Provo Utah:

"Johann Sebastian Bach's self-borrowing of recitatives was significant and complex. It was a deliberate practice during his tenure in Leipzig from 1723 to his death in 1750. Twenty percent of Bach's adaptation of vocal movements involved recitatives, the remainder being choruses and arias. Close examination and analysis, using examples, reveal varied techniques and characteristics. Recitatives were recycled by borrowing only portions of movements, altering vocal line but retaining accompaniment unchanged, or revising both text and music throughout."

As to BWV 134, it shows that Bach certainly had time later to make changes and he finally did write one new recitative, although I would hesitate to make a blanket statement that all Bach's "alterations" were always "improvements" over the previous. Barring changes in performing conditions, Bach's primary motivation for revision, at least with the serenades, IMHO, seems to have been to preserve their original Italianate dialogue structure and French dance style, while clarifying some of the music for the new purpose of presentation in a church service. The tradition of parody was practiced significantly and particularly in the late Renaissance with Masses and motets. For example, Monteverdi's collections of Italian madrigals subsequently were "parodied" by someone else as sacred Latin contrafaction.

Thus, I think, Bach had his cake and ate it too, presenting very accessible dance music and dramatic dialogue in church, despite the prohibition against operatic music. Then, he repeated these now-sacred pieces -- virtually unchanged!


1 Cantata 184 BCW Details & Discography, Score Vocal & Piano [1.73 MB],, Score BGA [2.21 MB], References: BGA XXXVII (Cantatas 181-190, Alfred Dörffel, 1891), NBA KB I/14 (Pentecost Tuesday cantatas, Alfred Dürr, 1963, Bach Compendium BC A 88, Zwang K 73.
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: 1037).
3 For on-line streaming from Classics OnLine, go to
4 German text and Francis Browne English translation and “Note on the text” are found at BCW
5 Gardiner notes, BCW[sdg138_gb].pdf; recording details
6 Hofmann notes, BCW[BIS-CD1271].pdf; Recording details,
7Stiller, Johann Sebastian Bach and Liturgical Life in Leipzig, Ed. Robin A. Leaver (Concordia Publishing: St. Louis, 1985: 241).
8 Most of the succeeding material, except where noted, originated in the BCML Cantata 184 Discussion, Part 3 (Week of March 6, 2011),

Aryeh Oron wrote (May 25, 2016):
Cantata BWV 184 - Revised & updated Discography

Cantata BWV 184a for New Year's Day Congratulations was composed in Köthen between 1717 and 1723. The music & text of this cantata have been lost.
Cantata BWV 184 "Erwünschtes Freudenlicht" (Longed-for light of joy) for Whit Tuesday [3rd Day of Pentecost] was composed in Leipzig in 1724. The music of this cantatas is based on BWV 184a's music and it is scored for soprano, alto & tenor soloists; 4-part Chorus; and orchestra of 2 transverse flutes, 2 violins, viola & continuo.

The discography pages of BWV 184 on the BCW have been revised and updated. See:
Complete Recordings (11):
Recordings of Individual Movements (1):
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 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 are the most comprehensive discography of the cantata. If you are aware of a recording of BWV 184 missing from these pages, or want to correct/add details of a recording already presented on the BCW, please do not hesitate to inform me.

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



Cantata BWV 184: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements
Cantata BWV 184a: Details
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


Back to the Top

Last update: Monday, September 11, 2017 15:22