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Cantata BWV 33
Allein zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ
Discussions - Part 4

Continue from Part 3

Discussions in the Week of August 24, 2014 (4th round)

William Hoffman wrote (August 23, 2014):
Cantata BWV 33, Allein zu dir, HJC: Intro.

BWV 33, “Allein zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ” (Alone towards you, Lord Jesus Christ), Chorale Cantata for the 13th Sunday after Trinity, was presented on September 3, 1724. This 24-minute work in symmetrical form is based on the Konrad Hubert (1507-77) penitential hymn and has an extended opening chorale fantasia (Stanza 1) in ¾ time; two sets of recitatives-arias that paraphrase Stanzas 2 and 3 and briefly quote the chorale text; and the closing plain chorale doxology (Stanza 4). The internal, orthodox madrigalian music (librettist unknown) is closely associated with the day’s Epistle (Galatians III, Paul speaks of the meaning of God’s law), Movements 2-3; and the Gospel (Luke 10:23-37, the Good Samaritan.), Movements 4-5.1

The original hymn text “makes only a fleeting reference to” the Gospel, says Nicholas Anderson in Cantata 33, “Allein zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ,” in Oxford Composers Companion: J. S. Bach.2 “The work as a whole is perhaps best understood as both a contemplation of God’s love of mankind and an exhortation to the Christian believer to love his fellow human beings accordingly.” Observes Alfred Dürr:3 “Although the connection between paraphrase and hymn is unmistakable due to the numerous correspondences of substance and the literal adoption of whole phrases, the expansion by two movements and the consequent lengthening of the text resulted in a freer paraphrase of the hymn than in the cantatas of the preceding Sundays.”

In the opening chorale fantasia, “The melody is sustained in the soprano line of the four-part vocal texture, while each of the nine lines of the hymn [Bar form] is punctuated by instrumental ritornellos developed from the introductory section, which invests the movement with intense vitality,” observe Anderson (Ibid). Besides the large-scale buoyant opening chorus madrigal, Cantata 33 features “one of the loveliest of the many beautiful numbers that Bach wrote for what was evidently his favorite voice” (alto), says W. Gillies Whittaker4 (alto, Mvt. 3, “Wie furchtsam wankten meine Schritte,” (How fearfully were faltering my footsteps). The tenor-bass duet in dance like ¾ that “illustrates the idea of the close association between divine and human pity by means of two obbligato oboes and the frequency of parallel thirds and sixths, creating an atmosphere of deep fervor,” says Walter Blankenburg in the liner notes to Karl Richter’s Archiv recording of the Cantatas for the Sundays after Trinity5 (Mvt. 5, ), “Gott, der du die Liebe heißt / Ach, entzünde meinen Geist,” (God, you who are called love / ah, enkindle my spirit).

The tenor recitative (Mvt. 4), “Mein Gott, verwirf mich nicht,” Psalm 51:1 (My God, do not cast me away), completes what Whittaker describes as a “triptych of agony” (Ibid.: II:367). The tenor-bass duet that follows, with its “serenity of a melody which initially recalls the first Trio of Brandenburg Concerto no. 1, introduces to the cantata, for the first time, a spirit of sustained optimism, suggests Anderson (Ibid.).

The closing plain chorale, also in a minor, “Gott, der du die Liebe heißt / Ach, entzünde meinen Geist” (God, you who are called love / ah, enkindle my spirit), is a festive doxology Hubert added later, and set by Bach in 4/4 time.

Readings and Meanings

Lutheran Church Year, Readings for the Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity: Epistle Galatians 3:15-22 (The promises made to Abraham); Gospel: Luke 10:23-37 (The parable of the good Samaritan);

German text Luther’s translation 1545, English translation Authorised (King James) Version (KJV) 1611; BCW; Thematic Patterns in Bach's Gospels, Part 3, Paired Parable & Miracle: * Trinity 13: Luke 10: 23-37 - Parable of the good Samaritan, “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead”; * Trinity 14: Luke 17: 11-19 - Miracle of healing of the lepers. “And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off:”

The main connection between Hubert’s hymn and the readings is the phrase, “Above all, love You and my neighbour as myself” (Luke 10:27) in the third verse, paraphrased in the duet (Mvt. 5), says Dürr (Ibid.). He cites three other biblical references from the anonymous librettist: Job 9.3 (No. 2, the man who rails against God), Psalm 51:11 (No. 4, “Cast me not away from your presence”); and Galatians 5:6 (No. 4, “In Christ Jesus avails . . . faith that works through love”). For Cantata 33, Bach turned to a new librettist or group for the paraphrased texts. While he previously had used other anonymous librettists for the initial 11 chorale cantatas who had produced texts both with pro- and anti-Calvinist sentiments, especially regarding works righteousness and grace, orthodoxy ruled many of the remaining 33 chorale cantatas in the second cycle. Peter Smaill notes that at that time “the congregation were told in no uncertain terms what to think in BWV 33: ‘Since time began there is nothing to be ordained’ (BWV 33/1), and ‘Simply give me out of mercy / The true Christian faith’ (BWV 33/4).” Part 2 to come discusses “Varied Theological Perspectives” in the libretti, with the writings of Smaill, Harald Streck and Arthur Hirsch as well as the chorales, motets and biblical textsThe Introit Psalm is Psalm 70, Deus in Adjutorium (Make haste, O God), says Martin Petzoldt in BACH Commentary, Vol. 1, Trinity Time Sundays.6 Text is at Psalm 70 also is an alternate Introit Psalm for the12th Sunday after Trinity as Bach had the opportunity to use a polyphonic motet setting of Psalm 70, perhaps the Orlando Lassus (1532-94) version (6 voices, live streaming sample; (organ arrangement of motet); Lassus: "Lauda Anima Mea" [from same collection as "Deus in Adjutorium" Cantata 33 was performed on September 3, 1724, before the sermon, of Pastor Christian Weise (1671-1736) at the main service, St. Thomas Church, says Petzold (Ibid.: 371).

Cantata Text author is Konrad Hubert (Mvts. 1, 6); Anon. librettist paraphrase (Mvts. 2-5), Francis Browne Cantata 33 English translation, BCW Original Chorale Text, “Allein zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ,” Hubert 1540, four stanzas, Bar form (9 lines: Stollens 1&2 (2 lines each), Abgesang 5 lines); Neu Leipziger Gesangbuch (NLGB) No. 178, penitential Catechism hymn omnes tempore. It was originally attributed to Johannes Schneesing and published as a Nürnberg broadsheet, Eyn schön Lied, Wittenberg 1541. Francis Browne English hymn translation, BCW; The Chorale Melody: “Allein zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ,” composer anonymous 1541 (originated 1512) was included by Luther in Valentin Babst’s Geystliche Lieder Gesangbuch (Leipzig, 1545), (Zahn 7292b, variants; EKG 166). Details, see BCW “Chorale Melodies used in Bach's Vocal Works,” Hubert BCW Short Biography, see

Bach's uses of the hymn “Allein zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ,” are Chorale Cantata 33, Stanza 1 in the opening cfantasia and Mvt. 6, closing plain chorale doxology, S.4, "Ehr sei Gott in dem höchsten Thron" [Honour be to God on his highest throne, Francis Browne trans.]; and plain chorale BWV 261 in A Minor-Major. The melody is found in the early Neumeister organ chorale prelude BWV 1100; and is listed in the Weimar Orgelbüchelin organ chorale preludes, omne tempore Catechism (No. 70; “Confession, Penitence, and Justification”), but not set.

Cantata 33 Movements, Scoring, Key, Meter, as well as Text7

Chorus (Chorale fantasia), ritornelli in 4-part motet or imitation [S(C.f.)ATB; Oboe I/II, Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo]; a minor, ¾ time;
Allein zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ,
Alone towards you, Lord Jesus Christ,
Mein Hoffnung steht auf Erden;
my hope on earth looks;
Ich weiß, daß du mein Tröster bist,
I know that you are my comforter,
Kein Trost mag mir sonst werden.
nowhere else can there be any comfort for me.
Von Anbeginn ist nichts erkorn,
From the very beginning nothing has been decreed,
Auf Erden war kein Mensch geborn,
no man was born on earth
Der mir aus Nöten helfen kann.
who can help me out of my troubles.
Ich ruf dich an,
I call to you
Zu dem ich mein Vertrauen hab.
in whom I put my trust.
2. Recitative secco [Bass Continuo]: “Mein Gott und Richter, willt du mich aus dem Gesetze fragen,” (My God and judge, if you want to question me by the law); chorale quote, “meine Sünd ist schwer und übergroß” (my sin is heavy and too great); closing arioso, “Mich wiederum erfreuen.” (give me joy again.); e minor to G Major; 4/4 time.
3. Aria da-capo [Alto; Violino I con sordino, Violino II, Viola, Continuo]: A. Wie furchtsam wankten meine Schritte,” (How fearfully were faltering my footsteps); B. “Mich drückten Sündenlasten nieder, (The burden of my sins weighed down heavily on me); C major, 4/4 time.
4. Recitative secco [Tenor, Continuo]: “Mein Gott, verwirf mich nicht,” Psalm 51:1 (My God, do not cast me away); chorale quote, “Gib mir nur aus Barmherzigkeit / Den wahren Christenglauben! In your mercy give me only / true Christian faith!); a minor, 4/4 time.
5. Aria four-part with parallel- and canon-fugue, ritornelli, (Duet) [Tenor, Bass; Oboe I/II, Continuo): A. “Gott, der du die Liebe heißt / Ach, entzünde meinen Geist,” (God, you who are called love / ah, enkindle my spirit,); B. Laß zu dir vor allen Dingen / Meine Liebe kräftig dringen!” (towards you before everything else / let my love strongly push its way!); C.Gib, daß ich aus reinem Triebe / Als mich selbst den Nächsten liebe;” Luke 10:27 (Grant that from a pure impulse / I may love my neighbour as myself.); D. Stören Feinde meine Ruh, / Sende du mir Hülfe zu!” (If enemies disturb my peace, / then send me your help!); e minor, ¾ time minuet style.
6. Chorale (Stanza 4) [SATB; Oboe I e Violino I col Soprano, Oboe II e Violino II coll'Alto, Viola col Tenore, Continuo]:
Ehr sei Gott in dem höchsten Thron,
Honour be to God on the highest throne,
Dem Vater aller Güte,
to the Father of all goodness
Und Jesu Christ, sein'm liebsten Sohn,
and to Jesus Christ, his dearest Son,
Der uns allzeit behüte,
who protects us always,
Und Gott dem Heiligen Geiste,
and to God the Holy Spirit,
Der uns sein Hülf allzeit leiste,
who always supports us with his help,
Damit wir ihm gefällig sein,
so that we may be pleasing to him.
Hier in dieser Zeit
here in this time
Und folgends in der Ewigkeit.
and thereafter in eternity.

Bach cantatas presented on the 13th Sunday after Trinity have similar form: Opening Chorus/Aria, 2 pairs of recitatives-arias, closing plain chorale), BWV 77, 33, and 164.

*1723-08-22 So - Cantata BWV 77 Du sollst Gott, deinen Herren, lieben (Cycle 1, ) WF?score, CP parts
*1724-09-03 So - Cantata BWV 33 Allein zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ (Cycle 2, chorale cantata), WF score, AM parts
*1725-08-26 So - Cantata BWV 164 Ihr, die ihr euch von Christo nennet (Cycle 3, solo cantata), CP score, WF parts
*1726-09-15 So - J.L. Bach: Cantata Ich aber ging fur uber, JLB-16 (Johann Ludwig Bach) CP both

Overview: Trinity 13 & Bach’s Response

Here is an overview of the meaning of the 13th Sunday after Trinity and Bach’s creative response, in John Eliot Gardiner, Bach Cantata Pilgrimage 2000.8 “Cantatas for the Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity Dreikönigskirche, Frankfurt.” “Sure enough, after the breezy pleasures of last week’s celebratory pieces – a brief reprieve – came the cold shower of our man’s resumption of the earnest process of musical exegesis. Bach saw the exposition of scripture-al exegesis as the main meditative goal of his church music, in particular the need to forge audible links in the listener’s mind between the ‘historical’ (‘what [is] written in the book of the law’) and spiritual attributes of the texts to be set. Here, on the 13th Sunday after Trinity, he is faced with a Gospel (Luke 10: 23-37) centered on the parable of the Good Samaritan which stresses man’s slipperiness in evading his responsibilities to his neighbour, and an Epistle (Galatians 3:15-22) in which Paul probes the distinction between faith and the law. This was adopted by Luther in his twelve-verse hymn paraphrasing the Ten Commandments, ‘Dies sind die heil’gen zehn Gebot’, insisting that their purpose, and the first step in the believer’s understanding of them, was the ‘recognition of sin’ and ‘how one should rightly live before God’, a theme that had preoccupied Bach from the outset of his first Leipzig cycle.

“Although it was a deliberate choice during this year to group the cantatas by feast day, slicing through the years of their composition so as to compare Bach’s differing responses to the same text, yet with each previous week’s offerings still ringing in our ears we were always conscious of the connective tissue that binds cantatas week to week within a given annual cycle. Bach announced himself to his twin congregations in Leipzig with two monumental, fourteen-movement cantatas (BWV 75 and 76) in which he set out his compositional stall. His underlying purpose seems to have been to connect the dualism of love of God and brotherly love with a vision of eternity as man’s eschatological goal. All the signs are there that he intended to stretch these thematic links over at least the first four weeks of the Trinity season, first in BWV 75 and 76, and then by reviving two Weimar-composed works, BWV 21 and 185. Now, for the past six weeks, from the Eighth to the Thirteenth Sundays after Trinity, we have been encountering a sequence of works, all newly composed in Leipzig to theologically interrelated texts, based on the principle of reinterpreting an Old Testament dictum in terms of the New Testament Gospel of the day, and then applying it to the contemporary worshipper. All this was in a poetic ssuggesting that the texts may have been the work of a single librettist. © John Eliot Gardiner 2007, From a journal written in the course of the Bach Cantata Pilgrimage.

Bach’s text usage, the meaning of the cantata, and effective word-painting in the two arias and closing chorale are discussed in Klaus Hofmann’s 2004 liner notes to the Masaaki Suzuki BIS cantata recordings.9 << Allein zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ, BWV 33 In you alone, Lord Jesus Christ. Bach's cantata is based on the well-known hymn of the same name by the Strasbourg theologian Konrad Hubert (1507- 1577) - with a final strophe by an unknown author added in Nuremberg around 1540 - and a melody from l5l2 that was originally associated with a secular text by the famous Renaissance musician Paul Hofhaimer (1459-1537). As usual, Bach's librettist in Leipzig left the first and last verses unaltered and revised the rest to suit recitatives and arias.

The cantata was written for 3rd September 1724, the thirteenth Sunday after Trinity. The subject of the gospel reading and sermon on that day is traditionally the parable of the Good Samaritan according to Luke 10, verses 23-37. One is initially surprised at the choice of hymn, as at first glance it would appear to have little to do with the Bible story. A conceptual link is hinted at in the tenor recitative (fourth movement), however, where the words 'Gib mir nur aus Barmhe/ den wahren Christenglauben!' ('Of your mercy grant me/The true faith of the Christian') suggest that God himself is being addessed as the 'Good Samaritan', or in the duet for tenor and bass (fifth movement), where the words 'Gib. daß ich aus reinem Triebe/als mich selbst den Nächsten liebe' ('Grant that my purest impulse may be/To love my neighbour as myself') allude to the requirement to love one's neighbour that is central to Jesus' parable.

Bach's cantata begins in the minor, following the old melody; it speaks of mankind's distress, which can only be alleviated by Jesus Christ. The 1st strophe, however also contains the comforting words: 'lch weiß, daß du mein Tröster bist'('I know that you are my comforter'). This certainty characterizes the emotional content of the entire introductory chorus: it is an animated movement, again in 3/4-time, and its musical expression is determined by muted but joyful confidence. In the instrumental introduction (as with BWV ll3, the orchestra here comprises two oboes, strings and continuo). Bach develops this atmosphere in a lively instrumental prelude, rich in motivic interest. The choir presents the chorale one line at a time, thematically supported and divided by interludes with a constant flow of new variations and combinations of that motivic material presented at the outset. The chorale lines themselves are sometimes treated homophonically, sometimes polyphonically. There is no interpretation of individual words or concepts in the text, but the melismatically expansive first four lines of the chorale, and also the final line, are treated broadly by Bach and are beautifully written, also in the accompanying vocal parts.

The second movement. too - the tenor recitative 'Mein Gott und Richter' ('My God and judge') - shows this essential confidence, which here, after the confession of sinfulness, is expressed in a final arioso as an anticipation of God's promise of forgiveness. The third movement, the alto aria 'Wie furchtsam wankten meine Schritte' ('How fearful was my progress') is one of the most characteristic movements in all of Bach's cantatas. The vocal line is accompanied by string orchestra; the muted first violins play in a restrained manner 'fearful', while the remainder of the strings have a pizzicato accompaniment. The 'fearful progress' of the steps, as the sinful Christian approaches God's judgement seat, is musically depicted by Bach by means of syncopated hesitations in the melody, and 'fearfulness' is illustrated with minor-key shadows.

Another highlight of the cantata is the duet for tenor and bass 'Gott, der du die Liebe heißt' ('God, whose name is love'; fifth movement). It is a highly stylized, festive minuet in which connoisseurs of Bach's work. who are used to complete polyphonic structures, will be struck by the almost naive-sounding parallel sixths and thirds heard at the beginning from the two oboes and recurring in the two vocal lines as well. The special aspect here lies in the expression of the text, and was doubtless readily understood by the audience in Bach's time: 'love' is represented by 'lovable' consonances, sixths and thirds, and also by unanimity of movement - as the parallel progress of the two voices. Bach's setting is also very pictorial in the passage 'stören Feinde meine Ruh' ('and should the enemy disturb my peace'): the 'disturbing' is expressed by lively motion involving some syncopation, the 'peace', by conrast, with long-held, 'calming' notes.

In the final chorale (sixth movement), Bach has skillfully harmonized Paul Hofhaimer's beautiful melody and, in the process, lent particular emphasis to the words 'dem Vater aller Güte ... der uns allzeit behüte' ('the father of all good things... who constantly preserves us') - which had in any case been stressed by the melody. He also underlines the words 'in der Ewigkeit' ('through all eternity') by means of especially songful writing in the accompaniment. © Klaus Hofmann 2004


1 Cantata 33, BCW Details & Discography, http://www.bach-cantatas. com/BWV33.htm.
2Anderson, in OCC: J. S. Bach, ed. Boyd, Malcolm (Oxford University Press: New York, 1999: 8).
3 Dürr, Cantatas of J. S. Bach, revised and translated by Richard D. P. Jones (Oxford University Press, New York, 2005: 515).
4 Whittaker, W. Gillies. The Cantatas of Johann Sebastian Bach (Oxford University Press: London, 1958: II:365)
5 Blankenburg notes (Martin Cooper English Translation), BCW Recording details,
6Petzoldt, Bach Kommentar: Die geistlichen Kantaten des 1. Bis 27. Trinitas-Sontagges, Vol. 1; Theologisch Musikwissenschaftlicke Kommentierung der Geistlichen Vokalwerke Johann Sebastan Bachs, Internationale Bachakademie Stuttgart (Kassel: Bärenreiter, 2004: 349; Cantata 33 text 366-371, Commentary 371-78).
7 Scoring, Soloists: Alto, Tenor, Bass; 4-part Chorus; Orchestra: 2 oboes, 2 violins, viola, organ, continuo. Score Vocal & Piano [1.94 MB],; Score BGA [2.82 MB], References: BGA VII (Church cantatas 31-40, Wilhelm Rust, 1857), NBA KB I/21 (Cantatas Trinity +14, Werner Neumann 1959) I/21, Bach Compendium BC A 127, K 85; Provenance, BCW
8 Gardiner notes, BCW,[sdg134_gb].pdf; BCW Recording details,
9 Hofmann liner notes,[BIS-CD1351].pdf; BCW Recording details,


To come: Cantata 33, Part 2, Trinity +13 chorales and motets, paraphrase text theology and librettists, and hidden allegorical links.

William Hoffman wrote (August 24, 2014):
Cantata BWV 33, Part 2, Motets & Chorales, Hidden Allegorical Links, Theology

The following is an examination of the Trinity +13 chorales and motets, hidden allegorical links, and paraphrase text theology and librettists.

With its Gospel teaching of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:23-37), the 13th Sunday after Trinity in Bach’s Leipzig offered cantatas that emphasize “Works of Faith and Love” through the Feast of Michael and All Angels, September 29. Increasingly, the paraphrased madrigalian internal movements (recitatives and arias), emphasize Lutheran theological orthodoxy, mixing elements of individual pietism and Lutheran confessional teachings of discipleship and service following works with proto- and anti-Calvinist sentiments. In particular are the Catechism teachings of the commandments, especially the Great Commandment to love others and oneself (Cantata 77), “Confession, Penitence & Justification” (Cantata 33), and the theme of following Christ in Cantata 164. The Johann Ludwig Bach cycle cantata presented in 1726 with its Rudolstadt text contains crypto-Calvinist sentiments and judgements. Later, in the mid to late 1730s Bach presented two acceptable cycles of cantatas by Gotha composer Gottfried Heinrich Stölzel and pietist poet Benjamin Schmolck.

Meanwhile, Bach had the opportunity in the 13th Sunday after Trinity to present repeat introit psalm motets and service chorales, particularly Psalm 70, Deus in Adjutorium (Make haste, O God), and the popular, ubiquitous Trinity Time chorales “Nun freut euch lieben Christen g’mein “Es ist gewißlich on der Zeit”); “Dies sind die heilige zehn Gebot” “Es ist Heil uns hommen her,” “O Herre Gott begnade mich,” and “Erbarme dich mein Gott, o Herre Gott.”

1st part of the message, see: Motets & Chorales for 13th Sunday after Trinity

Hidden Allegorical Links in Trinity Time Chorale Cantatas

A fascinating perspective on Cantata 33 is found in Linda Gingrich’s The seen and the unseen: Hidden allegorical links in the Trinity season chorale cantatas of J. S. Bach; D.M.A., University of Washington, 2008, 146; 3303284 ( Her abstract notes that “these same (musical) elements, tantalizingly hidden, work within the cantata cycles and appear to bundle consecutive cantatas into purposeful groups. Bach's second Leipzig cycle in particular, the chorale cantata cycle, is rich in this veiled allegory, the hidden musical and textual components that link individual cantatas together into larger-scale theological narratives driven by the ever-changing face of the church year. Tonalities, forms, number symbolism, instrumentation, motives, symmetries, vocal patterns and the like, unify his chorale cantata cycle on an unseen level, and stretch across weeks at a time to create two-, three-, four-, even five-cantata storylines . . . .”

Previously, she had identified and analyzed the following sequences: Chapter 4, The Opening Sequence; Cantatas 22, 7, 2 and 135; Allegorical drama; Chapter 5, The Second Sequence; Cantatas 10, 93 and 107; Antithesis and Unity; and Chapter 6, Third Sequence; Cantatas 178, 94, 101, 113; Interlocking Design. Cantata 33 opens Chapter 7, Fourth Sequence; Cantatas 33, 78, 98, 130; The Metaphorical Apex.

“Up to this point in the Trinity season the cantatas freely explored a wealth of issues deemed important in the spiritual lives of Bach’s congregation – God’s loving care, wrath, and judgment, baptism, repentance, the dangers of heresy, Satan’s attacks, humanity’s sinfulness, the forgiveness of Christ – all designed to remind them of the need for God.” “Bach’s fertile imagination moved in new directions once again, no doubt sparked in part by the desire for freshness of variety but also by the sharpening focus of the later portion of the Trinity season” as “the themes narrow their scope to the Second Advent of Christ.” (Page 65)

In Cantata 33 [66] “it would appear that Bach had his own purposes in mind in this cantata and the series.” “The hymn and the cantata are a penitential cry, a cry to God for the release from the demands of the Law” “which Jesus directs to the lawyer in the biblical passage” (Luke 10-23-37, Good Samaritan). “This is reflected in the imagined questioning by God from the law in the cantata’s second movement, and the emphasis on the kindling of love for God and neighbor in the penultimate movement, which echoes the moral of the parable.” Metaphorical characteristics and musical allegory seem lacking.” The alto aria and the tenor-bass duet “answer [67] this insolubility in their textual emphasis on God’s help and comfort through Christ . . . .”

Gingrich points out that the alto aria (No. 3), “Wie furchtsam wankten meine Schritte,” (How fearfully were faltering my footsteps), “is the first real da capo aria since Cantata 10 [Feast of the Visitation, July 2] and the only major key movement [C Major] in the cantata.” In the tenor-bass duet (No. 5), “Gott, der du die Liebe heißt / Ach, entzünde meinen Geist” (God, you who are called love / ah, enkindle my spirit), “the ¾ meter musically represents the triune God who will answer that request.” Bach’s choice of keys for Movements 2-4, what W. Gillies Whittaker called the “triptych of agony” (Cantatas of JSB: II:367) -- e minor-G Major, C Major, and a minor – “keeps all the cantata numbers within a relative major or dominant tonal relationship to the tonic key [a minor] thereby allegorically uniting the whole,” observes Gingrich.

“The cantata’s final doxology, 33/6, not only functions as the tool used by Bach to signal a turning point, it also strengthens the overall stress on God’s trustworthy support as it honors the Father’s goodness (dem Vater aller Güte), the Son who keeps believers safe (de runs allzeit behüte), and the Holy Spirit who sends His help (der uns sein Hülfe allzeit leiste), thereby completing an effective and attractive work.”

Chorale Cantatas: Varied Theological Perspectives

The chorale cantata cycle begins with works with a variety of theological perspectives until Cantata BWV 33 for the 13th Sunday after Trinity, according to Peter Smaill, “Bach among the Heretics: Inferences from the Cantata texts, <Understanding Bach>, 4, 101-118; (c) Bach Network UK, 2004 (p.116):

“The incursion of Calvinism and anti-Calvinism in the< Jahrgang> II casts further doubt on the identity of the librettist. Harald Streck has identified four groups of texts in <Jahrgang> II, suggesting several contributors.64 The author has been considered to be a theologian, but the sweep of ideas from the potentially chiliastic BWV 20 [June 11, 1724; First Sunday after Trinity] through the ultra Trinitarian and anti-Calvinistic texts of BWV 7 [June 24, St. John] to the proto- Calvinistic images in the three works quoted [BWV 93/5, BWV 107, and BWV 135/5,4; Trinity 5, 7, 3] suggests either a person of highly variable outlook, or that pressures from various parties in Leipzig induced the writer to manipulate the chorale series to satisfy party predelictions. Deyling does not appear to be exercising theological control, at least not until BWV 33 [September 3, Trinity 13].*

“Thus it is conceivable that the first set of published texts for <Jahrgang> II had provoked a reaction from the theologically alert congregation (which included [Town] Council members) of St. Thomas; while later on, the specific possibilities are that the Meiningen [Rudolstadt] cantatas as a whole, or the <Ascension Oratorio> (BWV 11); or the St. Mark Passion (BWV 247) at some point caused trouble for Bach, judging by the 1739 altercation over the St. John Passion.


64 As analyzed in Arthur Hirsch, Johann Sebastian Bach’s Cantatas in Chronological Order,’ <BACH, The Journal of the Riemenschneider Instiutute III (July 1973), 18-35.”

* Smaill notes that at that time “the congregation were told in no uncertain terms what to think in BWV 33: ‘Since time began there is nothing to be ordained’ (BWV 33/1), and ‘Simply give me out of mercy / The true Christian faith’ (BWV 33/4).

For this second cycle of original chorale cantatas, Bach had already presented 11 new compositions and may have been struggling to find theologically acceptable paraphrases of the internal stanzas of the chosen Lutheran hymns. Hirsch’s “Texts by Bach” relates that Streck (<Die Verskunst in den poetischen Texten zu den Kantaten J.S. Bachs>, diss., University of Hamburg, 1971) “proves that several authors can be identified by style, technique of verse, and language – though not by name, particularly as far as the Chorale Cantatas are concerned; and he has established four groups of cantatas – each group of which might be written by one author.”

The Chorale Cantata Cycle began with Cantata BWV 20 on the First Sunday after Trinity (June 11, 1724) with a libretto, says Streck (cited by Hirsch on Page 19), produced by the librettist of the cantatas of the “4th Group, possibly various authors and of inferior poetic quality,” who produced the next six libretti (BWV 2, 7, 135, 10, 93, 178, and 94), omitting BWV107, “Was willst du dich betrüben,” for the 7th Sunday after Trinity, Bach’s first pure-hymn cantata since BWV 4, “Christ lag in Todesbanden,” probably for his Easter Sunday probe in Mühlhausen in 1707.

For the 10th Sunday after Trinity (August 13), the libretto of Cantata BWV 101, “Nimm von uns, Herr,” appears to have been written by the unknown author of Streck’s “2nd Group,” who previously had produced the text for Cantata BWV 9, “Es ist das Heil uns kommnen her,” for the 6th Sunday after Trinity, but set aside because Bach was visiting Köthen that Sunday (July 16, 1724) and not set bBach until 1732-35, to fill the gap in the Chorale Cantata Cycle.

That same “2nd group” librettist, according to Streck, produced the libretto for the next Sunday (Trinity 11, August 20), BWV 113, “Herr Jesu Christ, du höchstes Gut.” Then, the record shows that for the next week Bach performed no cantatas, either for the 12th Sunday after Trinity on August 27 or the annual Installation Service of the Town Council, the next day, on Monday, August 28, as was his duty. Bach did make amends the next year, presenting his next original pure-hymn Cantata BWV 137, “Lobe den Herren, den Mächtigen König der Ehren,” for the 12th Sunday after Trinity (August 19, 1725). Apparently no paraphrased chorale cantata text was written for the 12th Sunday after Trinity in 1724 and its is possible that Bach originally intended to compose Cantata BWV 137 a year earlier for the 1724 Town Council installation, set to a non-controversial pure-hymn text with no contemporary paraphrases of the internal stanzas.

The record also shows that Bach continued his Chorale Cantata Cycle in September 1724 by turning to two other “group” librettists for the first time: Streck’s “3rd group” for Cantata BWV 33 for the 13th Sunday after Trinity (September 3) and then Streck’s “1st group” for Cantata BWV 78, “Jesu, der du meine Seele” for the succeeding 14th Sunday after Trinity (September 10). From then on until Easter Sunday, April 1, 1725 (repeat of Cantata 4), Bach initially alternated “group” librettists, often in a pattern similar to his third cycle at Trinity Time a year later in 1726, his last effort at composing Trinity Time cantatas on a regular basis. The Streck classification shows that Bach switched librettists usually every two weeks until the three-day Christmas Festival of 1724 when he turned to the “3rd group” librettist almost exclusively until Lent Time 1725, when Bach ceased composing chorale cantatas in the final segment of the second cycle, Easter-Pentecost Season. Perhaps, Bach had tired of the “vexations” from the various political and theological parties on the Town Council, be they Orthodox (Evangelical), Pietist, Enlightened (Humanists), Mystics, or even crypto Calvinist- or Catholic-leaning.


1BACH'S MOTET COLLECTION: Otto Riemer, "Erhard Bodenschatz und sein Florilegium Portense"
Schünigen: Kaminsky,1927. ML 410 B67R4. Partial Index of Motets in “Florilegium Portense” with links to online scores and biographies:; Dissertation on Bodenschatz Collection (downloadable):
2 Petzoldt, Bach Kommentar: Die geistlichen Kantaten des 1. Bis 27. Trinitas-Sontagges, Vol. 1; Theologisch Musikwissenschaftlicke Kommentierung der Geistlichen Vokalwerke Johann Sebastan Bachs, Internationale Bachakademie Stuttgart (Kassel: Bärenreiter, 2004: 349; Cantata 33 text 366-371, Commentary 371-78).
3NLGB, BACH'S HYMN BOOK: Jürgen Grimm, "Das neu [?] Leipziger Gesangbuch des Gottfried Vopelius (Leipzig 1682)", Berlin: Merseburger, 1969. ML 3168 G75.

Julian Mincham wrote (August 24, 2014):
William Hoffman wrote:
< Gingrich points out that the alto aria (No. 3), “Wie furchtsam wankten meine Schritte,” (How fearfully were faltering my footsteps), “is ----------- the only major key movement [C Major] in the cantata.” >
True but it should be noted that Bach makes much use of the three notes which distinguish major from minor---in this case B flat, A flat and E flat. In fact they all appear as early as in the first four bars.

This is a technique which Bach uses often for movements of sadness or penitence--see for example, the opening chorus of BWV 8, 'When. Oh Lord, shall I die?'

Aryeh Oron wrote (August 26, 2014):
Cantata BWV 33 - Revised & updated Discography

The discography pages of the Chorale Cantata BWV 33 “Allein zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ” for the 13th Sunday after Trinity on the BCW has been revised and updated.
The cantata is scored for alto, tenor & bass soloists; 4-part Chorus; and orchestra of 2 oboes, 2 violins, viola, organ, continuo. See:
Complete Recordings (12):
Recordings of Individual Movements (16):
The revised discography includes many listening/watching options to recordings directly from the discography pages, just below the recording details.

I believe this is the most comprehensive discography of this chorale cantata. If you are aware of a recording of BWV 33 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.


Cantata BWV 33: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

Recordings & Discussions of Cantatas: Main Page | Cantatas BWV 1-50 | Cantatas BWV 51-100 | Cantatas BWV 101-150 | Cantatas BWV 151-200 | Cantatas BWV 201-224 | Cantatas BWV Anh | Order of Discussion
Discussions of General Topics: Cantatas & Other Vocal Works | Performance Practice | Radio, Concerts, Festivals, Recordings


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Last update: Sunday, May 28, 2017 05:57