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 36
Schwingt freudig euch empor
Cantata BWV 36a
Steigt freudig in die Luft
Cantata BWV 36b
Die Freude reget sich
Cantata BWV 36c
Schwingt freudig euch empor
Discussions - Part 4

Continue from Part 3

Discussions in the Week of November 27, 2016 (4th round)

William Hoffman wrote (November 27, 2016):
Advent Cantata 36, Schwingt freudig euch empor: Intro.

For the 1st Sunday in Advent beginning the liturgical church year and Bach’s third cantata cycle, he presented a unique musical sermon, Cantata BWV 36, “Schwingt freudig euch empor” (Soar in your joy up). This joyous piece has an unusual form with four chorale settings interspersed between music parodied from a celebratory secular work (BWV 36c, same incipit). The 1725 original was one of Bach’s first significant borrowings and spawned new text underlay two other profane cantatas, (BWV 36a, 36b). The early version of the saced work contained only the parodied opening chorus and three da-capo arias. All four madrigalian movements are fashioned in dance style: opening chorus generic in 3/4; tenor aria (no. 3), “Die Liebe zieht mit sanften Schritten” (Love draws with gentle steps), 3/8 passepied style; bass aria (no. 5), “Willkommen, werter Schatz!” (Welcome, precious treasure!), 4/4 polonaise style; and soprano aria (no. 7), “Auch mit gedämpften, schwachen Stimmen” (Even with subdued, weak voices), 12/8 giga II style.1

The earlier version of four parodied movements [BWV 36(d), Bach Compendium BC 3a], presented as early as December 1, 1725, closes with a plain chorale setting of the final stanza of Philipp Niccolai’s 1599 Advent chorale, “Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern” (How beautifully shines the morning star), Stanza 7, Wie bin ich doch so herzlich froh” (How full I am therefore of heartfelt joy). A copy of this score, date of origin between 1725 and 1730, is in the hand of Christoph Nichelmann, (1717–1762), Bach student 1730-33, presumably copied 1730/1731 (Nichelmann BCW Short Biography,

The definitive version, premiered on 2 December 1731, lasting 30 minutes, uses the four madrigalian movements as well as the earlier closing chorale to end Part 1, this time with stanza 6, “Zwingt die Saiten in Cythara” (Strike the strings in Cythera), adding the oboes d’amore even more prominently to the instrumental textures. This forms an eight-movement work that has the symmetrical form of a chorus cantata with internal chorales instead of recitatives alternating with the original arias. To relate the cantata more strongly to the 1st Sunday in Advent, Bach added three chorale settings of Martin Luther’s 1524 Advent chorale, “Nun komm der Heiden Heiland” (Come now, saviour of the Gentiles). The soprano-alto Stanza 1 canonic duet (no. 2) with oboes d’amore uses the melody in both voices as well as the basso continuo. The bass chorale aria (no. 6) setting of Stanza 6, “Der du bist dem Vater gleich” (You who are equal to the father), uses long notes in ¾ time. The new plain chorale setting closes Cantata 36 (no. 8) with the eighth and final verse, the customary Trinitarian doxology, “Lob sei Gott, dem Vater” (Praise be given to God, the Father).3

Advent Cantata BWV 36 in its earlier version could have been performed as early as 1 December 1725 at the early main service of the Nikolaikirche before the sermon (not extant) of Superintendent Salmon Deyling (1677-1755) on the day’s Gospel, Matthew 21:1-9 (Christ’s entry into Jerusalem), says Martin Petzoldt in Bach Commentary, Vol. 2, Advent to Trinityfest.4 The complete version was performed on 2 December 1731, at either the Thomanerkirche (sermon Christian Weise Sr) or the Thomaskirche (sermon Deyling), says Petzoldt (Ibid.: 17). The Introit Psalm for the 1st Sunday in Advent is Psalm 102, Domine, exaudi (Hear my prayer, O Lord, KJV), says Petzoldt (Ibid.), which he describes as a “penitential prayer for contested hearts.” The full text (KJV) is found at

The 1731 performance followed the premiere of another Bach hybrid chorale cantata, BWV 140, “Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme” (Wake up, the voice calls us), on 25 November 1731, the rare 27th Sunday after Triniry. Bach’s definitive, unusual setting “was probably influenced by the semi-chorale-cantata structure of Wachet auf, since in both cases three movements” “are based on the same chorale,” “Nun komm der heiden Heiland,” observes Richard D. P. Jones in The Creative Development of Johann Sebastian Bach, Volume II: 1717-1750.5 The soprano-alto canonic duet (no. 2) is set “in a manner reminiscent of the old seventeenth-century chorale concerto,” he says. The bass solo (no. 6) “is more typical of Bach’s chorale arrangements for small ensemble,” with imitative oboes alternating with the melody sung by the tenor, he says. In this version “a uniquely satisfying balance is achieved between older sacred and newer secular forms and styles – a style that seems to reflect the first verse of the chorale, ‘All the world marvels (Des sich wundert alle Welt) at the Saviour’s birth’.”

Chorale “Nun komm der Heiden Heiland”

Bach’s favorite Advent chorale, NLGB No. 2, Nun komm der Heiden Heiland (Now come, savior of the gentiles), is Martin Luther’s 1524 8-stanza, 4-line German vernacular translation of the Latin hymn on Veni redemptor gentium (Come, Saviour of the people), the second verse of the Advent text, Intende qui regis Israel, by Bishop Ambrose of Milan (340-397). It was published in the Erfurt Enchirida and in Johann Walther’s Geystliche Gesangk Buchleyn at Wittenberg. It is based on German paraphrases of the Gregorian chant dated to 1120. Luther’s text and Francis Browne’s English Translation are found at BCW, Luther (1483-1546) BCW Short Biography is found at Ambrose’s BCW Short Biography is found at

The text and melody of the same titled is found in Bach’s Das neu Leipziger Gesangbuch (NLGB) of 1682 under Advent hymns as No. 2. The melody, composer anonymous (1524, Zahn melody 1174), is based on the Dorian (“minor”) modal melody of the hymn, Veni redemptor gentium. The earliest source is a Swiss-Benedictine manuscript dating from 1120. The same melody source served as a basis for three important Reformation chorale melodies: “Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland,” “Verleih uns Frieden gnädiglich” (Grant us peace mercifully), Luther’s melody based upon the antiphon Da pacem Domine, and Luther’s, “Erhalt uns, Herr, bei deinem Wort” (Preserves us, Lord, with your word). For further information on the melody, see BCW,

Bach’s other uses of the hymn, “Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland” are found in 1714 Weimar chorus Cantata BWV 61, opening with in French Overture style, and chorale 1524 Leipzig Cantata 62, opening chorale fantasia and closing plain chorale (S.8). Untexted Bach uses of the melody are found in the melody and bass setting, SBCB 1, “Sebastian Bach’s Choral-Buch” (c.1740), as well as organ chorale preludes BWV 599, Orgelbüchlein collection, and the settings BWV 659-61(a), “Great 18” collection, as well as questionable BWV deest Miscellaneous Chorale setting, Emans 139 &140.

“Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland” is sung today as “Savior of the Nations, Come.” It is found in the Lutheran Bookof Worship (1978) and the Lutheran Service Book (2006) as an Advent hymn with composite translations of all seven verses. The first three verses describe incarnation or God becoming human, as well as God’s plan for salvation. The fourth to sixth stanzas describe the Christus Paradox of man and God and the seventh the “New light” that “remains always radiant.” The final verse, sometimes omitted, is a Trinitarian doxology song of praise and thanksgiving.

“Wie schön leuchtet” Chorale

The other, well-known chorale appropriate for Advent in Cantata 36 is “Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern” (How beautifully shines the morning star), BAR Form in seven stanzas, 10 lines (AABCCBDDEE). It is found in the NLGB as No. 313 under the “Word of God and Christian Church.” It makes references to two biblical love songs, Psalm 45, “My heart is inditing a good matter” (KJV) and Solomon’s Song of Songs. The German text and Francis Browne’s English translation are found at BCW

Philipp Nicolai’s hymn was first published, with the melody, in 1599,” says Charles S. Terry.6 “The tune is a reconstruction of older material. The first half is taken, with the alteration of two notes, from the first, second, and concluding phrases of the melody to which Psalm 100, ‘Jauchzet dem Herren, alle Land,’ is set in Wolff Köphel’s Psalter, published in 1538. The concluding phrase of Nicolai’s tune also is modelled on that original. The opening phrase of the second part of his tune (line 7 of the hymn) is identical with one in the old Carol ‘Resonet in laudibus,’ whose opening phrase, moreover, bears close similarity to ‘Jauchzet dem Herren,’ a fact, perhaps, which drew Nicolai’s attention to it.”

Besides the plain chorale closing Part 1 of Cantata 36, Bach’s uses of “Wie schön leuchtet” are found in chorale Cantata BWV 1, opening chorale fantasia and closing plain chorale; and chorales closing: Cantata 61, “Nun komm der Heiden Heiland,” Stanza 7 Abgesang, “Komm, du schöne Freudenkrone” (Come, you sweet crown of joy); SB Dialogue Cantata 49, “Ich geh und suche mit Verlangen” (I go and seek with longing), for the 16th Sunday after Trinity 1726, Stanza 7, “Wie bin ich doch so herzlich froh” (How full I am therefore of heartfelt joy); Cantata 172, Erschallet, ihr Lieder, erklinget, ihr Saiten! (Ring out, you songs, resound, you strings), for Pentecostfest Sunday 1714, possibly repeated 1731, Stanza 4, “Von Gott kommt mir ein Freudenschein” (A joyful light from God comes to me); and Cantata BWV Anh. 199, “Siehe, eine Jungfrau ist schwanger” (Lo now, there a virgin is pregnant), for Annunciation Feast 1724, Stanza 2 plain chorale, “Ei meine Perl', du werte Kron',” (Ah my pearl, my precious crown); probably BWV 436. Bach’s use of the melody is found in Cantata 37, “Wer da gläubet und getauft wird” (Whoever believes and is baptized, Mark 16:16), for the 1724 Ascension Feast, repeated in 1731, soprano-alto duet (no. 3) with canto in basso continuo, and Miscellaneous Organ Chorale Preludes BWV 739 and BWV 763-64 (questionable). The melody is listed in the Orgelbüchlein as No. 120, “Word of God,” but not set.

Original, Later Secular Versions

“Schwingt freudig euch empor,” BWV 36c, was written in early April 1725 to an unpublished text possibly by Picander, and performed as a birthday tribute to a Leipzig academic. His identity has not been confirmed, but the Bach Scholar Werner Neumann suggested (1977) that the recipient might have been the noted poet Johann Burckhard Mencke (1675-1732), a professor at the university who celebrated his 50th birthday that year (April 8).7 More recently, others have suggested Johann Heinrich Ernesti (1652-1729), Thomasschul rector and Leipzig University Prof. of Poetry, for his 75th birthday (12 March 1727), although the cantata performance already may have been between April and July 1725.8

In 1725 or 1726 Bach revived the piece for the November 30 birthday of Princess Charlotte Friederike Wilhelmine of Anhalt-Cöthen (1702-1785), the second wife of Prince Leopold. The text was by Picander, “Steigt freudig in die Luft” (Rise joyfully into the air), BWV 36a, and was published the in 1727 in Picander’s Ernst-Scherzhaffte und Satyrische Gedichte. Almost ten years later, in 1735, Bach performed the music a third time, on this occasion as a birthday offering (July 28) to the Leipzig University professor Johann Florens Rivinius (1681-1755). The text was again rewritten, perhaps by Picander, this time as Die Freude reget sich (Joy rouses itself) BWV36b.

Cantata 36 movements, scoring incipits, key, meter 9

First Part,
1. Chorus form ABA’B’, with ritornelli, homophonic & fugal (madrigal-like), choral sections with obbligato instruments (oboes d’amore) [SATB; Oboe d'amore I/II all' unisono, Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo]: A. “Schwingt freudig euch empor zu den erhabnen Sternen” (Soar in your joy up to the lofty stars); B. “Ihr Zungen, die ihr itzt in Zion fröhlich seid!” (you tongues, which are now joyful in Sion!); A’. “Doch haltet ein! Der Schall darf sich nicht weit entfernen” (But stay! The sound need not spread so far); B’. “Es naht sich selbst zu euch der Herr der Herrlichkeit.” (for he himself draws near to you, the Lord of glory.); D Major; ¾ generic dance style.
2. Chorale “Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland” (S.1), Duet in canon, free arioso; canto in soprano, alto, continuo; voices doubled in oboes da’amore [Soprano, Alto; Oboe d'amore I col Soprano, Oboe d'amore II coll'Alto, Continuo (with optional bassoon)]: “Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland, / Der Jungfrauen Kind erkannt, / Des sich wundert alle Welt, / Gott solch Geburt ihm bestellt.” (Come now, saviour of the Gentiles / known as the child of a virgin, / all the world is amazed / that God ordained such a birth for him.); f-sharp minor; 4/4.
3. Aria da capo [Tenor] with ritornelli; Oboe d'amore solo, Continuo]: A. “Die Liebe zieht mit sanften Schritten / Sein Treugeliebtes allgemach.” (Love draws with gentle steps / his true beloved gradually.); B. Gleichwie es eine Braut entzücket, / Wenn sie den Bräutigam erblick / So folgt ein Herz auch Jesu nach.” (Just as a bride feels delight / when she sees her bridegroom, / so too a heart follows Jesus.); b minor; 3/8 passepied style.
4. Chorale plain, “Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern” (S.4), BAR Form [SATB; Oboe d'amore I (imitation), Violino I col Soprano, Oboe d'amore II, Violino II coll'Alto, Viola col Tenore, Continuo]: A. Zwingt die Saiten in Cythara / Und lasst die süße Musica / Ganz freudenreich erschallen” (Strike the strings in Cythera / and let the sweet music / ring out all rich in joy); A’. Dass ich möge mit Jesulein, / Dem wunderschönen Bräutgam mein, / In steter Liebe wallen!” (so that with my dear Jesus, / my wondrously beautiful bridegroom, / I may always overflow with love!); B. Singet, Springet, / Jubilieret, triumphieret, dankt dem Herren! / Groß ist der König der Ehren.” (Sing, spring. / rejoice, triumph, thank the Lord! / Great is the King of Heaven.); D Major; 4/4.
Second Part,
5. Aria free da-capo, ritornelli crossover [Bass vox Christi; Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo (ostinato, optional bassoon)]: A. “Willkommen, werter Schatz!” (Welcome, precious treasure!); B. “Die Lieb und Glaube machet Platz / Vor dich in meinem Herzen rein, / Zieh bei mir ein!” (love and faith make room / for you in my pure heart, / Come into me!); D Major; 4/4 polonaise style.
6. Chorale aria “Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland” (S.6) [Tenor (canto); Oboe d'amore I/II, Continuo]: “Der du bist dem Vater gleich, / Führ hinaus den Sieg im Fleisch, / Dass dein ewig Gott's Gewalt / In uns das krank Fleisch enthalt.” You who are equal to the father, / lead forth victory in the flesh, / so that your eternal divine strength / may support in us our sick flesh.); b minor; ¾ time.
7. Aria da-capo [Soprano; Violino solo con sordino, Continuo]: A. “Auch mit gedämpften, schwachen Stimmen / Wird Majestät verehrt.” (Even with subdued, weak voices / God’s majesty is honoured.); B. “Denn schallet nur der Geist darbei, / So ist ihm solches ein Geschrei, / Das er im Himmel selber hört.” (for if only the spirit resounds, / there is such a cry to him / that he himself hears it in heaven.); G Major; 12/8 giga II style.
8. Chorale plain, “Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland” (S. 8) [SATB; Oboe d'amore I e Violino I col Soprano, Oboe d'amore II e Violino II coll'Alto, Viola col Tenore, Continuo]: “Lob sei Gott, dem Vater, g'ton, / Lob sei Gott, sein'm eingen Sohn, / Lob sei Gott, dem Heilgen Geist, / Immer und in Ewigkeit!” (Praise be given to God, the Father, / praise be to God, his only Son, praise be to God, the Holy Spirit, / forever and in eternity!); b minor 4/4.

Original Cantata 36c Composition

The dedicatee of the original 1725 secular congratulatory Cantata, BWC 36c, with the same incipit, “Schwingt freudig euch empor” (Soar in your joy up), is a teacher on his birthday. It was distinguished poets and Leipzig University professors Johann Heinrich Ernesti, Thomas School rector and Bach’s boss, or noted gallant Johann Burckhard Mencke. The references found in Picander’s published text to BWV 36c (BCW seem to suggest the classics poet and aged Ernesti, who was 73 in 1725, as described in Klaus Hofmann’s BWV 36c liner notes, BCW[BIS-2041-SACD_booklet].pdf. These include the “uninterrupted teaching” and “silver adornment of age” of a “most deserving man” “with the highest honour” in the bass recitative (no. 4), as well as the “dear teacher” in the tenor recitative (no. 2) and the closing chorus (no. 9), “Wie die Jahre sich verneuen, So verneue sich dein Ruhm!” (As the years are renewed, / so may your fame be renewed!).

Historical-biographical considerations would suggest the younger Mencke on his 50th birthday, 8 April 1725, as compared to Ernesti’s birthday, March 12, whose 75th birthday occurred in 1727. The key may lie in the music, with its galant favored dance-styles, particularly the polonaise-style bass aria favored by the Saxon Court and its supporters in Leipzig. Mencke was part of this group that included fellow progressive poet Johann Christoph Gottsched, and Count Johanim Friedrich von Flemming, governor of Leipzig, who frequented the salon of Christiane Mariane von Ziegler at the Romanus family mansion, along with lawyers, professors, and other notables, says Katherine K. Goodman in “From Salon to Kaffeekranz: Gender Wars and the Coffee Cantata in Bach’s Leipzig.” 10

When Flemming and Gottsched came to Leipzig in 1724, Picander made their acquaintance and wrote texts to evening serenades for Flemming, possibly to music by Bach. For the wedding of Mencke’s daughter Christiane Sibylla on Tuesday, 27 November 1725, probably at Mencke’s home, Gottsched provided the text and Bach the music to a secular serenade, BWV Anh. 196, “Auf! süß-entzückende Gewalt” (Up, sweet-enchanting force and pow'r). Four days later, on Friday, 30 November, Bach may have presented parodied Cantata BWV 36a, “Steigt freudig in die Luft” (Rise joyfully into the air, Picander published text) for Princess Charlotte Friederike Wilhelmine of Anhalt-Cöthen (1702-1785), the second wife of Prince Leopold.

The Cantata BWV Anh. 95 original bass Nature aria, No. 3, “Entfernet euch, ihr kalten Hertzen” (Remove yourselves, ye frigid spirits, was parodied in the Ascension Oratorio, “Lobet Gott in seinen Reichen” Praise God in his kingdoms), BWV 11 in 1735 as the alto aria, "Ach, bleibe doch, mein liebstes Leben" (Ah, stay yet, my dearest life), and finally, in contrafaction as the Agnus Dei in the B-Minor Mass, c.1749. The original Modesty aria (no. 5), “Unschuld, Kleinod reiner Seelen” (Chasteness, jewel of pure spirits), was parodied as the Cantata 11 soprano “echo” aria (no. 10), “Jesu, deine Gnadenblicke” (Jesus, your gracious look), in menuett dance style. Bach also considered adapting this aria in the Christmas Oratorio, BWV 248, but found its affect not quite appropriate (see next week’s BCML Discussion).

Notes on Text, Music

In Leipzig the 1st Sunday in Advent “was also linked to Lent as the start of a period [closed, tempus clausum] of repentance and preparation, in this case for Christmas,” says Anne Leahy in J. S. Bach’s “Leipzig Chorale Preludes.” 11 Her study emphasizes the significance and meaning of Bach’s treatment of the chorale melody in these extended organ preludes and their associated texts, examining the treatment of individual stanzas with various theological and biblical themes, citing specific biblical passages. Recent writers such as Leahy and Robin A. Leaver (Luther’s Liturgical Music)12 have found significant Christological themes, particular the Christus Paradox of Jesus Christ as “true God and Man” in the eschatological “Last Things” involving the incarnation and Passion of Christ, particularly in Luther’s Advent chorale, “Nun komm der Heiden Heiland” (Now comes the saviour of the nations). “The saving of mankind begins with the birth of Christ, and therefore his suffering and Passion begin with his birth,” says Leahy (Ibid: 144f), particularly with the use of the “Passion Chorale,” “O sacred head now wounded,” at the beginning and end of the six-part Christmas Oratorio, BWV 248 (1734-35).

Advent Cantatas 61, 62, 36

Bach’s Advent cantatas BWV 61, 62, and 36 are compared and contrasted in John Elliot Gardiner’s 2000 notes to his Bach Cantata Pilgrimage on Soli Deo Gloria recordings.13 Introduction. <<None of Bach’s identifiable cantata cycles actually begins at Advent or coincides with the start of the liturgical year. Only the fact that his appointment as Thomascantor occurred in the summer of 1723 explains why his first two Leipzig cycles start with the second half of the liturgical year, the Trinity season, with its theological emphasis on how Christians should cope in the actual world, and then move on to the first half, which traces the principal events of Christ’s life on earth. But that does not diminish the exceptional significance Bach attached to Advent Sunday, as is immediately clear from his three surviving cantatas for this red-letter day. All three (BWV 61, 62 and 36) are based in one way or another on the favourite Advent chorale of the time, ‘Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland’, Luther’s 1524 transformation of the Ambrosian Advent hymn ‘Veni redemptor gentium’. It has a dark, imposing character, one that Bach reinforces – or softens – through his inventive variety of treatments.

In the earliest of the three, BWV 61 composed in Weimar in 1714, Bach superimposes the old medieval chant on top of the most avant-garde music he then knew, the French overture of Louis XIV’s monopolistic court composer, Lully, and thereby brings just the right flavour of majesty, awe and expectation to this first day in the liturgical calendar. A decade later in Leipzig his model for BWV 62 is now Italian, a violin concerto movement full of Vivaldian rhythmic bounce and gesture – italianate, too, in the way it conjures up a vision of an airborne angelic orchestra, like a Filippino Lippi fresco. Against this festive instrumental backcloth the eight tones of the iconic hymn tune boom out in the bass line, then migrate upwards to the oboes and thence to the voices, first in diminution, then achieving full plumage when declaimed by the sopranos (doubled by cornetto). Seven years later in 1731 Bach finds new ways to incorporate the chorale in BWV 36: firstly in all three strands of the soprano/alto duet, with its elaborate continuo line, then stated ilong notes by the tenors as it threads its way through a trio sonata texture for two oboes d’amore and continuo (No.6), and finally in the four-part harmonisation of the seventh strophe of Luther’s hymn (No.8).

Besides the festive allure they have in common, all three of these contrasted works display a sense of excitement at the onset of the Advent season. This can be traced back both to qualities inherent in the chorale tune itself, and to the central place Bach gives to Luther’s words. By treating it with so much flair and fantasy was he consciously responding to local tradition and people’s attachment to a favourite hymn? Advent Sunday offered the last chance to his Leipzig congregation to hear figural music in church before Christmas, and therefore inaugurated a time of anticipation and waiting. One imagines too how welcome it must have been for both the Weimar and Leipzig congregations to turn away from all those self-absorbed feelings of guilt, fear, damnation and hellfire that dominated the final Sundays of the Trinity season. This sense of having at last turned a corner is summed up in the radiantly benign accompagnato for soprano and alto ‘Wir ehren diese Herrlichkeit’, the penultimate movement of BWV 62. The two voices move serenely together in pairs of fourths and sixths in rhythmic unison, with just a momentary discord to evoke the midwinter darkness which no longer holds any threats for the believer.>>

Gardiner: Cantata 36 Description

Gardiner describes the Cantata 36 music in his usual descriptive manner. <<There is a certain logic to recycling a particularly fine secular birthday cantata to serve as the opening cantata of the liturgical year – and that is just what Bach did in BWV 36, ‘Schwingt freudig euch empor,’ first as a five-movement work and then in this doubledecker form in eight movements, first performed on 2 December 1731. Its opening movement is best described, perhaps, as a spiritual madrigal – capricious, light-textured and deeply satisfying once all its virtuosic technical demands have been met: those tricky runs, divisions and chromatic intervals in all voices, and the chains of triplet figuration in the unison oboes d’amore and first violins. Gone is the cosseting of his trebles as in the chorale cantatas of 1724-1725, a year in which their principal function was to intone the simple, slow-moving cantus firmus of his opening chorale fantasias, so that either he had an exceptionally improved intake of trebles in 1731 or he was prepared this once to throw caution to the winds in assigning such acrobatic lines to them. At least the individual phrases are short or separated by singer-friendly rests, and the whole movement is a marvel of deftly rhythmicised motifs, imitated voice by voice, contrasted with an equally sprung homophonic delivery of the text. The little ‘Haltet ein!’ figures in the B section recall the repeated ‘Wohin?’s in the bass aria ‘Eilt, eilt’ from the St John Passion (BWV 245/24).

In its final state this much-revised cantata is structurally unusual in the way its opening chorus and three fine arias are separated not by recitatives but by chorale stanzas. The first is a duet for soprano and alto doubled by oboes d’amore, with continuo. It is paragraphed in overlapping sequences of ten bars (twice), then eleven bars, then sixteen bars reserved for the most important clause, ‘Gott solch Geburt ihm bestellt’, followed by a three-and-a-half bar closing ritornello. The gentle, triple-time aria for tenor with oboe d’amore obbligato (No.3) makes play with the popular conceit of the soul (bride) and Jesus (bridegroom), and the delight of the one at the appearance of the other, clinched by the rousing four-part harmonisation of Nicolai’s ‘Morgenstern’ hymn to conclude Part 1.

One might have expected Bach to assign the next aria to a soprano, since he pursues the theme of the soul as bride, but he has other ideas. It is the bass soloist who gets this spirited aria (No.5) with its echoes of the first movement and its highly sophisticated (but totally un-pedantic) elaboration and avoidance of a regular da capo structure. Luther’s sixth stanza, dealing with the sins of the flesh and Christ’s mission to redeem humankind, is embedded in a flurry of semiquavers marked molt’ allegro, in effect a trio sonata movement for the two oboes d’amore with continuo. In a berceuse of pure enchantment, the final aria (No.7) is for soprano proclaiming the way God’s majesty can be celebrated even with ‘subdued, weak voices’, and is accompanied, appropriately, by a muted violin. If it were not for a passing similarity to the echo aria ‘Flößt, mein Heiland’ from the Christmas Oratorio, one would be tempted to describe this aria as unique in Bach’s cantata output, not least in its tender lyricism, its confidential exchanges and playful interweaving of violin and voice, a technique that springs from much older dialoguing, Michael Praetorius’ Zwiegesüngen. The final chorale is the eighth of Luther’s stanzas, a sturdy public proclamation of praise.

The Romanesque basilica of St. Maria im Kapitol (Cologne) was badly destroyed during the Second World War and has since been rebuilt. We were deployed in such a way as to connect with the audience seated in all three apsidal areas. Considering its great size and its unusual layout (a bit like a stylised tree drawn by a child) with a rood screen at the end of the nave, it was astonishing how intimate and reverential an atmosphere was created during the concert. The themes of light and darkness that run through these cantatas felt very much at home here.
© John Eliot Gardiner 2009, From a journal written in the course of the Bach Cantata Pilgrimage>>

Cantata 36 Detailed Accounting

A detailed accounting of Cantata 36, including textual and musical sources, as well as its origins as a secular work, are found in Klaus Hofmann 2009 liner notes to the Masaaki Suzuki BIS complete Cantata recordings.14

<<The cantata for the 1st Sunday in Advent, which Bach performed during the Leipzig church service on 2nd December 1731, will have been familiar to some of its listeners: in the preceding years it had already been heard in a similar if shorter form. Even that, however, was not the original form of the work: the compositional process began with a secular work from 1725, a cantata written for the birthday of a teacher, which opens with the same words as the later church cantata (BWV 36c). Here the text of the opening chorus is as follows:

“Schwingt freudig euch empor und dringt bis an die Sternen, / ihr Wünsche, bis euch Gott vor seinem Throne sieht! / Doch haltet ein! Ein Herz darf sich nicht weit entfernen, /das Dankbarkeit und Pflicht zu seinem Lehrer zieht.” (Soar joyfully aloft and reach the stars, / Ye wishes, until you see God before His throne! / But wait! A heart may not stray / In gratitude and obligation to its teacher.).

We know nothing more as to the identity of the teacher in question. The most likely librettist is Bach’s Leipzig ‘poet in residence’, Picander (Christian Friedrich Henrici (1700–1764). Shortly afterwards, Bach used the cantata again: in late November 1725 or 1726 it was heard at the Köthen court to mark the birthday of Princess Friederike Wilhelmine von Anhalt-Köthen, on which occasion the text was reworked by Picander, with the opening words ‘Steigt freudig in die Luft’ (‘Soar joyfully into the air’, BWV 36a). And some years later, probably in 1735, it was performed in honour of a member of the Leipzig family of scholars Rivinus – again with a revised text, now starting ‘Die Freude reget sich’ (‘Joy is stirring’, BWV 36b).

Bach evidently viewed his congratulatory cantata of 1725 as especially successful – and thus it is all the more understandable that he also sought to adapt it for church use, with a sacred reworking of the text. When planning to do so, Bach must regarded the joyful opening chorus as especially suitable for the 1st Sunday in Advent, as it calls to mind the gospel passage for that day (Matthew 21:1–9) describing Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem and the people’s jubilant shouts of ‘Hosanna’. For the newly coined church cantata, Bach initially confined himself to the introductory chorus and the three arias from the original, adding only a final chorale: in other words, he did entirely without linking recitatives. Admittedly the result was not wholly satisfactory. It is hard to discern a link with the Advent story in the somewhat clumsy textual revisions of the three solo arias, in which the librettist kept all to closely to the originals; moreover, these movements appear in sequence without there being any particular relationship between them. Sometimes the secular origins of the music are also clearly evident. In the new version of the church cantata for the 1st Sunday in Advent in 1731, however, Bach remedies this situation by adding three strophes from the old Advent hymn “Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland” (Now come, Saviour of the gentiles). These serve to anchor the cantata to some extent in the Advent story, and to give it liturgical purpose and a clear focus. At the same time Bach divided the work into two parts, the first of which ends with what had originally been the concluding choral setting (albeit a different strophe from the same hymn). In the context of the church service the first part was heard before the sermon, and the second part after it.

From the very first bar, the introductory chorus of Bach’s Advent cantata is full of joyful vitality. The oboe d’amore plays a leading role, with a charming theme that is supported by filigree string writing consisting of short entries, with occasional attempts by the first violin to enter into a concertante competition with the oboe d’amore. With its circling figurations and the ascending sequence of first entries, from the basses via the tenors and altos to the sopranos, the choir illustrates the ‘Emporschwingen’ (‘soaring aloft’), and then the sopranos immediately reach for the ‘Sterne’ (‘stars’) with the top note a''. The madrigal-like vocal writing alternates between free imitatory polyphony and relaxed chordal passages. A particular dramatic effect that is carried over from the secular cantata but seems surprising in a religious context is the sudden repudiation of all the previous words of encouragement, ‘Doch haltet ein!’ (‘But stop!’), at which point even the orchestra falls silent for a moment.

In stark contrast to the lively, stylistically up-to-date opening chorus is the following duet for soprano and alto – a setting of the first strophe of Martin Luther’s reworking of the old Advent hymn Veni redemptor gentium by Ambrose of Milan (c. 386). Here Bach develops the entire movement from the archaic hymn melody, not least the basso ostinato of the continuo instruments, which take sole responsibility for the prelude, interludes and postlude. This beginning of this basso ostinato theme also constantly brings the start of the hymn melody to the fore. Moreover, the hymn tune is present in the two vocal lines, which are strictly imitatory and unfold the melodic material line by line, admittedly in a more up-to-date, expressive form, supported and lent tonal colour by two oboi d’amore.

With the aria ‘Die Liebe zieht mit sanften Schritten’ (‘With soft steps love attracts’), the tenor – pampered by the oboe d’amore (the traditional musical symbol of love) – returns us to the secular style of the opening chor us. In character and phrase structure the movement is dance-like throughout. In Bach’s work the ‘soft steps’ are the dance steps of the then fashionable passepied. In the middle of the aria we encounter an image that is rich in tradition: the faithful soul as a bride, and Jesus as the bridegroom. This association is maintained in the fourth movement, a choral strophe from Philipp Nicolai’s well-known “Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern” (How beautifully shines the morning star, 1599).

In the second part of the cantata we once again find an alternation of stylistic worlds. The bass aria (fifth movement) with its striking call of ‘Welcome’, diverts our attention from the historical entry of Jesus into Jerusalem towards his symbolic entry into the hearts of the faithful. The sixth movement, however – a strophe from Luther’s Advent hymn – is again characterized by an archaic tone. Bach presents his ideas as a sort of vocal-instrumental organ chorale: the melody is performed as a cantus firmus in long note values by the tenor, surrounded by two thematically independent and strictly imitatory oboi d’amore and by a basso continuo dominated by ostinato figures.

Next comes the soprano aria ‘Auch mit gedümpften, schwachen Stimmen’ (‘Also with muted, soft voices’), charming and playful. In accordance with the keyword at the beginning of the text, the solo violin plays with mute (con sordino). In the middle section, to the words ‘Denn schallet nur der Geist dabei’ (‘For, if the soul can be heard among them’), we find all manner of echo effects between the solo voice and solo instrument – a feature which admittedly has little to do with the Advent message. All the more emphatically, the final strophe of Luther’s hymn – with its praise of the Holy Trinity – places the cantata within the context of a church service.>>
© Klaus Hofmann 2009

Bach’s performance calendar, 1st Sunday in Advent

1714-12-02 So Cantata BWV 61 Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland I (Weimar)
1723-11-28 So Cantata BWV 61 “Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland I (Leipzig reperformance)
1724-12-03 So Cantata 62 Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland II (Leipzig 1st performance
1725-12-02 So Cantata 36(d) Schwingt freudig euch empor (Leipzig early version)
1731-12-02 So Cantata 36 Schwingt freudig euch empor (Leipzig complete version)
1734-11-28 So Cantata TVWV 1:1074 Machet die Tore weit (Telemann)
1735-11-27 So G.H. Stölzel Kommt her zu mir alle, die ihr mühselig und beladen seid (String Cycle)
?1736-12-02 So Stölzel two lost cantatas from cycle “Book of Names of Christ” Cycle (or later)


1 Cantata 36 BCW Details& Discography, Score Vocal & Piano [3.14 MB],; Score BGA [3.42 MB],; Score BGA Anh [0.97 MB], (BWV 36c/9 (chorus, recitative), parodied BWV 36a9, 36b/8).
References: BGA VII (Cantatas 301-40, Wilhem Rust, 1857), NBA KB I/1 (Alfred Dürr, Advent cantatas 1955), Bach Compendium BCA 3 | Zwang K 185.
2 Cantata 36(d), Bach Compendium BC A 3a, earlier version, movements 1-4 of this version borrowed from the secular cantata BWV 36c, NBA KB I/1: 18; provenance: Nichelmann to J. P. Kirnberger, Berlin, Amalien-Bibliothek, Joachimsthalsches Gymnasium - BB (Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, Preußischer Kulturbesitz); facsimile,
3 Cantata 36 definitive version, Bach Compendium BC A 3b; movements 1, 3, 5, 7 and 4 were borrowed from the early version of the cantata (BWV 36, early version). Provenance: J. S. Bach - C. P. E. Bach - Georg Poelchau (1805) - BB (Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin Preußischer Kulturbesitz) (1841). Score P 45:; parts St. 82, Johann Ludwig Krebs (1713-) main copyist,
4 Petzoldt, Martin. 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: 41). The text of the early version of Cantata 36(d) is printed along side the text of Cantata 36c, showing verbatim phrases where appropriate (pp. 36-39), revealing the secular circumstances for the later sacred parody
5 Richard D. P. Jones, The Creative Development of Johann Sebastian Bach, Volume II: 1717-1750, “Music to Delight the Spirit” (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013: 283).
6 Charles S. Terry, Johann Sebastian Bach, Bach’s Chorals. Part III: The Hymns and Hymn Melodies of the Organ Works, by Charles Sanford Terry (Cambridge University Press, 1915-1921), 3 vols; Vol. 3, November 26, 2016,
7 Schwingt freudig euch empor BWV 36c Bach Compendium BC G 35; birthday cantata for a teacher, NBA, I/39, (Werner Neumann, 1975), Critical report (1977), p. 1Score P-43,
8 BWV 36b and 36c, documentation and texts of Bach’s 20 works presented under the auspices of the Leipzig University, are found at Festmusikenzu Leipziger Universitätsfeiern,
9 Cantata 36 ?Picander German Text, Francis Browne English translation,
10 Katherine K. Goodman, “From Salon to Kaffeekranz: Gender Wars and the Coffee Cantata in Bach’s Leipzig” in Bach’s Changing World: Voices in the Community, ed. Carol K. Baron (University of Rochester (NY) Press, 2006:192).
11 Anne Leahy, in J. S. Bach’s “Leipzig Chorale Preludes, ed. Robin A Leaver (Lanham MD: Scarecrow Press, 2011: 138).
12 Robin A. Leaver, Luther’s Liturgical Music (Grand Rapids MI: Eerdmans Publishing, 2007).
13 Cantata 36 Gardiner notes, BCW; BWC Recording details, 1992 recording, Part 1; to continue click on “J.S. BACH, Advent Cantata, BWV 36. II «Schwingt freudig,” (Part II).
14 Cantata 36, Klaus Hofmann notes, BCW; BCW Recording details,

Aryeh Oron wrote (December 26, 2016):
Cantata BWV 36 - Revised & updated Discography

Cantata BWV 36 "Schwingt freudig euch empor" (Soar in your joy) was composed by J.S. Bach in Leipzig for the 1st Sunday in Advent of 1731. The cantata is scored for soprano, alto, tenor & bass soloists; 4-part Chorus; and orchestra of 2 oboes d'amore, 2 violins, viola & continuo.

The discography pages of BWV 36 on the BCW have been revised and updated. See:
Complete Recordings (36):
Recordings of Individual Movements (32):
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 & 2 videos of the cantata. A short description below the audio/video image is linked to the full details at the discography pages.

I believe this are the most comprehensive discography of the cantata. If you are aware of a recording of BWV 36 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):

Happy New Year,

William Rowland (Ludwig) wrote (December 30, 2016):
[To Aryeh Oron] I found this cantata rather disappointing considering the season it was written for. What I had expected were trumpets blaring high notes, timpani and organ (well it does have a 'organ concerto' movement but it is very subdued compared to other such 'concerti' of Bach's.


Cantata BWV 36: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements
Cantata BWV 36a: Details
Cantata BWV 36b: Details & Complete Recordings
Cantata BWV 36c: Details & Recordings
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 15:24