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Recordings & Discussions of Cantatas: 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

Cantata BWV 4
Christ lag in Todes Banden
Discussions - Part 6

Continue from Part 5

Discussions in the Week of March 1, 2015 (4th round)

Linda Gingrich wrote (March 2, 2015):
BWV 4-Christ lag in Todesbanden

My name is Linda Gingrich, a choral conductor and a list member of several years. Aryeh has asked me to fill in for Will Hoffman in introducing the cantatas to be discussed for the next three weeks. The cantata for this week is a favorite of many, BWV 4, Christ lag in Todesbanden. My introduction to this cantata occurred through singing it in graduate school. It was the first time I had sung a Bach cantata, and it made a strong impression on me, in part because of the difficult transition to the alla breve ending in the first verse! But also because of its beauty, its expressiveness, and its seemingly infinite variety. It was like being a part of a musical kaleidoscope: colorful, ever-shifting patterns that stretched on and on in endless permutations. This isn’t surprising in a per omnes versus or chorale variations cantata like BWV 4, where the melody is retained throughout all movements but taken through many variations. One has the impression, though, that this was child’s play for Bach’s fertile imagination. It’s possible that he composed this cantata as an audition piece for the Mühlhausen position, and to my ear it isn’t much of a leap to hear, in the immense variety, a young, confident composer displaying his musical “chops.”

There are many places on the web to gather information on Cantata 4, so much so that it’s rather difficult to come up with something fresh to present to this list for discussion. Good places to start are the Bach cantatas web site of course (, and Julian Mincham’s always readable and insightful analysis, particularly good for this cantata ( But here are a few facts:

· The earliest extant performing parts date to a 1724 performance in Leipzig as part of the so-called chorale cantata cycle, but there is general agreement among scholars that Bach probably composed the cantata as a young man in 1707-08 at Mühlhausen.

· The text comes from a1524 Easter hymn by Martin Luther, which is a free paraphrase of the eleventh-century Latin hymn Victimae paschali laudes and modeled on the old hymn Christ ist erstanden. This lends a strong sense of antiquity to BWV 4.

· The scoring is for a four-part vocal ensemble, accompanied by strings, continuo, three trombones and cornetto

· The structure is more or less symmetrical, or chiastic (except for the opening sinfonia), meaning the movements are balanced around the central chorus with its core message and radiate outwards in mirrored forms:

Sinfonia- SATB chorus-SA duet-T aria-SATB chorus-B aria-ST duet-SATB chorale

The symmetry isn’t just a clever musical game, but supports the theological flow (described very briefly here):
Verse 1—Christ died on the cross for humanity
Verse 2—Death came because of our sin
Verse 3—Christ came and abolished sin
Verse 4—Death and Life fought, but Life won (resurrection)
Verse 5—Christ, the sacrificial Easter Lamb
Verse 6—We celebrate
Verse 7—We eat the Easter Bread, which is Christ

Most interestingly, although this is an Easter cantata, there is much emphasis throughout on suffering and death, quite different from the way in which many modern churches celebrate Easter. In fact, in an earlier discussion round, Doug Cowling commented that modern performances of BWV 4 are usually done during Holy Week, not Easter day. In The Cantatas of J.S. Bach, Dürr notes that we have little original Easter music from Bach’s pen, that it is Passion music that seems to have called forth his creative powers (p. 263). That would seem to hold true even in this Easter cantata. It’s E-minor key, chromaticism (often symbolic of pain and suffering), and the use of trombones (traditionally associated with funeral music), plays into that as well. Bach certainly reminds us that the joy of Easter day sprang from intense suffering

From my perspective as a conductor, it isn’t difficult to diminish the suffering qualities by speeding up the tempos, especially in the first verse, and many conductors do so. The problem is, if the tempo is too rapid, the alla breve becomes difficult to execute. Alla breve means to proceed with a pulse in half notes rather than quarter notes, and although 500 years ago it did not necessarily indicate a faster tempo, it does make good sense here. To my ear, Gardiner resists that temptation in his YouTube performance, and thus captures the sense of pain inherent in Christ lag in superb fashion.

He isn’t afraid to take a slow, expressive tempo in the sinfonia and the first verse, and as a result, the sense of rising excitement inherent in the music slowly unfolds as the note values become smaller and thus more frequent, until the alla breve explodes in almost manic jubilation (a tricky conducting maneuver, by the way!). He also clips certain words and syllables in what is called martellato technique: notice “dess,” or “und singen,” often followed by a legato “hallelujah” in an understated contrast. It's easy to miss, but it makes the music bubble. It’s masterfully done.

Do we moderns, perhaps, avoid too much reference to pain in our sacred music? Do joy and sorrow go hand in hand? Is Bach suggesting that? Or is it simply, as Dürr says, that the idea of suffering stimulates his musical imagination? Any thoughts?

Julian Mincham wrote (March 2, 2015):
[To Linda Gingrich] I would only add that, despite its archaic features( such as the mainaining of the same (minor) key throughout) Bach would seem to have attached considerable significance to this cantata. It was performed pre-Leipzig and has the unique distinction of being used as part of both the first and second Leipzig cycles! Not only that, but in the chorale cantata cycle it is the work that breaks the pattern of forty continuous chorale cantatas! Work out the significance of that!

It is also worth noting the chromatic passages in E minor which latterly become a reiterated part of the Bm Mass Crucifixus (but reworked from the early BWV 12). There is little doubt that Bach intended these as references to the crucifixion, reminding the listener of the agony of that event.

Paul Beckman wrote (March 2, 2015):
[To Linda Gingrich] I think Bach, being faithful to Luther, understands the theological dialectic present in the cross and resurrection of Jesus. In Luther's view, we can't rightly see the cross except through the lens of Jesus' rising from the dead, and vice-versa. In addition (and this is a clearly biblical view), there is a constant tension between the glory of Jesus' obedience, and the "joy set before him," on the on hand, and the suffering of God's Servant and our sin that is the occasion for that suffering, on the other.

We do certainly prefer to separate such things, and to avoid the darker aspects of the messianic victory. The reasons for our preference are many, and I imagine they include the overwhelming sense of a world full of violence; a greater expectation of comfort and material abundance (exacerbated by the horrid "prosperity gospel" of modern Christianity; and a the moral un-mooring that has arisen over the past couple of centuries.

At any rate, I think Gardiner is right on with his presentation of a slow descent into "todesbanden," and the gradual movement to our triumphing with Jesus in his victory. In that process, there is everything from a danse macabre to the intense meditation on Jesus on the cross, burning with love, to a preview of the messianic banquet at the end.

As often with Bach, something that I can listen to a thousand times and still find something new in each hearing.

Thanks for your willingness to present the cantatas for us.

Linda Gingrich wrote (March 2, 2015):
[To JuMincham] Thanks for your thoughts, Julian. I hadn't made the connection to the B minor Mass. That is indeed worth noting. And it is also worth noting your examples of the significance Bach placed on this cantata. And I agree with Paul that Gardiner got it right, and that death and resurrection are seen through one another's lenses. It's clear that Christ's Passion casts a shadow throughout this work, and Gardiner's interpretation makes that shadow plain. His is a balancing of light and dark throughout--chiaroscuro-- which perhaps makes the light the brighter. And makes it emotionally intense.

I'm fascinated by shifts in performance...reconsiderations I guess you could call it. The shift from Messiah's original Lenten performances to our modern Christmas performances is the most famous. With Christ lag, should we honor Bach's original intentions and keep it for Easter day? How would modern congregations react to that? And if we perform it on Easter day itself, do we make it as uptempo and celebratory as possible or bring out the darkness as well as the light? Or are we more comfortable with moving it to Holy Week and leaving Easter as a day without shadow? I've not conducted it, only performed it as a singer, so haven't thought this through, but I am now! I'm curious how others on this list feel about this.

Stephen Clarke wrote (March 2, 2015):
Linda Gingrich wrote:
< . . . I'm fascinated by shifts in performance...reconsiderations I guess you could call it. The shift from Messiah's original Lenten performances to our modern Christmas performances is the most famous. With Christ lag, should we honor Bach's original intentions and keep it for Easter day? . . . " >
I would opt for a special Easter Saturday occasion, since (Linda again): "Most interestingly, although this is an Easter cantata, there is much emphasis throughout on suffering and death, quite different from the way in which many modern churches celebrate Easter." Good Friday is nothing but tragic, Easter Sunday is celebratory, BWV 4 not only splits the difference but also finds a mood all its own (?). The passage through Easter Saturday is the one big missing piece of the christian mythos and Bach seems to have apprehended something of this - I admit to reading between his lines . . . . I will continue to mull this as I listen to it this week.

Julian Mincham wrote (March 2, 2015):
[To Linda Gingrich] Just to follow the idea of the crucifixion image a little further I took the view, in my study of the cantatas, that if Bach used a clearly identifiable phrase or figure just the once or twice in a movement then it MUST have been for purposes of imagery not structure. Thus the descending chromatic figure at the beginning of the bass aria in movement 5 which is only stated the once and plays no further part in the musical development of the movement, must have symbolic purpose. It is surely no coincidence that like the Bm Mass and the earlier BWV movements, it is in E minor, 3/4 time and uses the same basic rhythm. I wonder how many people Bach would have expected to have recognised this, and it's allusions to BWV 12?

Luke Dahn wrote (March 2, 2015):
[To Linda Gingrich] Thanks Linda and everyone. A few miscellaneous thoughts...

First, a document containing all 5 of Bach's extant four-part chorale settings of Christ lag in Todesbanden is available at the below link. Also included in the document is the hymn as it appears in the 1682 Neu Leipziger Gesangbuch.

Two of the chorale settings come from extant larger works (BWVs 4 and 158) while the other three are individual settings (BWVs 277, 278, 279) that have survived by way of CPE Bach's Breitkopf compilation of his father's chorales.

BWV 278 is easily the most complex of the five being highly saturated with figuration in the lower three voices. BWV 279 is, on the other hand, very closely related to BWV 158.4 as the lower voices of the two are identical 89.9% of the time.

Second, it's absolutely true that the tragic and the celebratory are wrapped up into one for Luther and for Bach. How else, for instance, could one sing "Alleluia" after that tragic second verse? I am reminded of artist Makoto Fujimura's wonderful phrase referring to the "terrifying beauty of the Crucifixion," a single phrase that encapsulates the tension.

This tension is integral not just to Lutheranism but to Christian theology as a whole. Luther simply recognized it. Each time Communion is encountered, for example, the tension comes to the fore. Past, present and future are wrapped up into one single rite: "As often as you eat this bread [now] (present), you proclaim the Lord's death (past) until he comes (future)." The "already-not yet" tension is ever present in the life of the believer.

Third, I resonate with Julian's connection of BWV 4 to the B minor Mass "Crucifixion". Coincidentally, I just composed a short work entitled Davon kam der Tod so bald (the title being taken directly from Luther's second verse of Christ lag) as part of a larger collaborative project called the Cruci Project involving six composers, three poets, three musicians, an artist, and a narrator. In addition to referencing BWV 4, my piece is also a direct reference to the Mass "Crucifixus" in that it features its descending chromatic passacaglia bass line (though with quarter tone steps in my piece). My program notes explain:

"It is as if Bach’s meditation of Christ’s torn body has been echoing through the generations, even until now. We, like Bach, continue to contemplate the terrifying beauty of the crucifixion. The title (English: Therefore death came so quickly) is the fifth line of the second verse of Martin Luther’s hymn "Christ lag in Todesbanden," a verse which Bach set for soprano and alto duet (indirectly referenced here by the flute/sax duet here) in the second movement of his fourth cantata."
All that is to say, the connection between BWV 4 and the Crucifixus seems strong to me.

Lastly, three years ago I created a video of the BWV 4.3 duet for a talk I gave on Bach. That video, viewable at the link below, features the Hilliard Ensemble's OVPP performance.

Julian Mincham wrote (March 3, 2015):
Luke Dahn wrote:
< Second, it's absolutely true that the tragic and the celebratory are wrapped up into one for Luther and for Bach. How else, for instance, could one sing "Alleluia" after that tragic second verse? >
But as I have argued before, this is the very point of this particular cantata. In others, Bach makes the transformation from misery to joy through the development of the narrative as a whole, and over several movements. Here he has, uniquely, set himself the task of making that musical transformation within each movement. This is typical of Bach--the self setting of a monumental technical and/or artistic problem which seemed to inspire his most creative responses. This may explain the lack of recitatives, and certainly the decision to begin each movement in the 'crucifixion' key of E minor.Every movement encapsulates the transformation within itself, a marvel of artistic thinking and expression, particularly in one so young. No wonder Bach himself had such a regard for this cantata.

The extract below is quoted (unashamably!) from my website essy on BWV 4.

"But the artistic dilemma of this work (and many other contemporary religious compositions) is, how does one convincingly reconcile the two contrasting moods (i.e. Christ's pain and misery and the exuberant joy of salvation) within each movement whilst maintaining appropriate stylistic unity? Indeed, the bringing together and expression of opposing views, ideas and emotions within a single movement was a challenge that appears to have stimulated Bach througout his entire career; and produced many of his most supreme moments.

Bach sought to solve tproblem by mitigating the expression of tragedy with rounds of Hallelujahs at the end of most movements. It is very probable that he conceived of each one as a transformation of feeling within itself; progressing from the sadness of the sacrifice to a mood of joyous redemption. If so, he set himself an artistic challenge of huge proportions, something he continued to do throughout his composing life."

Linda Gingrich wrote (March 3, 2015):
[To Stephen Clarke] Easter Saturday is an interesting idea. My church, a Presbyterian one and therefore not a liturgical church, doesn't have an Easter Saturday service. I don't know if most churches do anymore, but it's an intriguing thought.

Linda Gingrich wrote (March 3, 2015):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< Just to follow the idea of the crucifixion image a little further I took the view, in my study of the cantatas, that if Bach used a clearly identifiable phrase or figure just the once or twice in a movement then it MUST have been for purposes of imagery not structure. Thus the descending chromatic figure at the beginning of the bass aria in movement 5 which is only stated the once and plays no further part in the musical development of the movement, must have symbolic purpose. It is surely no coincidence that like the Bm Mass and the earlier BWV movements, it is in E minor, 3/4 time and uses the same basic rhythm. I wonder how many people Bach would have expected to have recognised this, and it's allusions to BWV 12? >
Absolutely! Personally I think Bach enjoyed the connections he built into his pieces, whether the works lay close together in time and style or far apart. Maybe the draw for him lay partly in puzzle-making, which he certainly loved about canons, and partly the musical allegory aspect of his works that I find so fascinating. If God was his ultimate audience, as several scholars have pointed out from Bach's notes in his Calov Bible, then God was certainly big enough to see these patterns, even though we aren't!

I can imagine him chuckling over and delighting in a particularly beautiful connection with another work.

Linda Gingrich wrote (March 3, 2015):
[To Julian Mincham] In my opinion Julian's analysis is spot on, the transformation from suffering to joy in each movement. That's a great way to describe the cantata.

Second, it's absolutely true that the tragic and the celebratory are wrapped up into one for Luther and for Bach. How else, for instance, could one sing "Alleluia" after that tragic second verse?

They are indeed wrapped up into one for Luther and Bach. My question is, are they wrapped up into one in modern Easter worship services? Or even for modern concert audiences? Are we missing out on a more profound insight if we box them off from one another?

Peter Smaill wrote (March 3, 2015):
There is no doubt that the Passion Oratorios were in Bach's time assigned to Good Friday (in earlier times the Passion was sung (pre-1721) on Palm Sunday); and "since time immemorial" (Stiller), "Christ Lag in Todesbanden" was assigned to Easter Day.

However, there was an Easter Saturday observance, because the sexton's records survive and speak of Easter Eve. Rost noted that on Easter Eve, regarding the vestments " bright colours were used". I wonder what music, if any, was actually performed at this service....

Stephen Clarke wrote (March 3, 2015):
[To Linda Gingrich] I'm not looking at the German text for this but I am glad to see that instead of "Hallelulia" it reads "Allelulia." This confirms my 'sense' (that's all I will call it) that while Hallelulia calls for a full-court press of celebration a la the Bm Mass' "Osanna", Allelulia conveys, at least to me, a sense of humble awe and praise. The latter certainly conveys more of the intended sense of the mysteriously miraculous involved in the disappearance of Christ into the tomb and the process of resurrection. Although this sense of things would lessen the conflict between grief and rejoicing about which some have commented, it would be more specifically appropriate to an "Easter Saturday" mood.

Just a thought. Great comments so far!

Paul Beckman wrote (March 3, 2015):
Linda Gingrich wrote:
< Easter Saturday is an interesting idea. My church, a Presbyterian one and therefore not a liturgical church, doesn't have an Easter Saturday service. I don't know if most churches do anymore, but it's an intriguing thought. >
Wow - no Easter service is radical. We attend a Presbyterian congregation (EPC) that is actually pretty liturgical. I haven't heard of many denominational churches that would eschew Easter like that.

Luke Dahn wrote (March 3, 2015):
[To Julian Mincham] To what extent is E minor the "crucifixion" key? On what basis is that association established? I am not a historian, so I'm asking honestly.

I had always assumed that the Crucifixus movement in the Mass was moved down a step from the F minor key of BWV 12.2 simply to fit the key scheme of the surrounding movements -- the B minor Et incarnatus est preceding and the altered ending of the Crucifixus to G major leading smoothly into the D major Et resurrexit. Also, while the opening key of the SMP is E minor, not one of the 23 chorales from SMP and SJP are in E minor.

If E minor became the Crucifixion key, perhaps the question is when that association became established.

Stephen Clarke wrote (March 3, 2015):
[To Peter Smaill] Good to hear from you again (did not see yr post when I sent mine . . . .). This question is for you and anyone else who might know: "What was the nature and details of the Lutheran liturgy in Bach's time on the Saturday after Good Friday?" Any references from the literature or in the knowledge of Lutheran pastors here onlist greatly appreciated.

My own interest involves the general process of how all things in existence at some point in their life-cycle fade from manifestation, only to arise again in altered, refreshed, aspect. The example of the seed, which dies but from which traces the form unfolds itself again, is entirely apt. Native American Medicine Wheels, which map this part of the life-cycle across North to East acknowledge an untraceable gap into and back out of the Great Mystery at this point, and in much greater scope than in standard Christian doctrine. Although Bach would have had no familiarity with this map, he did seem to know the territory. I am looking for evidence of this intuition in how the Lutheran ritual calendar is/was set up.

Peter Smaill wrote (March 3, 2015):
E minor is more broadly I think a key associated in Bach to suffering,sorrow , doubt, fear and the Passion: Eric Chafe ("Tonal Allegory in the Vocal Music of J S Bach ") quotes Cantata 4, 7, 20, 32, 60, 75, 81, 84, 88, 91, 92, 100, 109, 135, 138, 147, 155, 158 "among others" and states "the Passion".

Likewise the extreme key of B flat minor in BWV 106, "In deine Hande", the point of death. That's the only aria type movement using it, and all the rest are recitatives/

In the Matthew Passion E minor is used at the emphatic point , ""Ich bin Gottes Sohn", and also for Jesus' last words: referred to by Chafe as the "E minor crucifixion drama". So he is very sure of this correlation.

E minor is not much discussed regarding the John Passion. Here the central chorale is in E major, four sharps (symbolic of the cross?), and with a rising passus duriusculus in the bass in the last few measures. Chafe considers E major the key of divine intervention. I'm not so sure on that point

Douglas Cowling wrote (March 3, 2015):
Peter Smaill wrorte:
< There is no doubt that the Passion Oratorios were in Bach's time assigned to Good Friday (in earlier times the Passion was sung (pre-1721) on Palm Sunday); and "since time immemorial" (Stiller), "Christ Lag in Todesbanden" was assigned to Easter Day. However, there was an Easter Saturday observance, because the sexton's records survive and speak of Easter Eve. Rost noted that on Easter Eve, regarding the vestments " bright colours were used". I wonder what music, if any, was actually performed at this service.... >
Easter Eve was the remnant of Luther's excision of all the Holy Week ceremonies of the New Fire and Lighting of the Paschal Candle which are now so prominently revived in Catholic, Anglican and Lutheran liturgies since the Second Vatican Council. Bach's Holy Saturday was probably a prayer service with scripture, chorales and sermon. "Bright colours" indicated the importance of the day, not necessarily symbolic of joy at the Resurrection.

I think the problem is that modern ears have trouble associating a modal melody in a "minor key" with a joyful text. We hear the "sad" affekt of E minor. Almost all of the chorales derived from plainsong melodies seem to have the wrong emotion. Listen to the great organ settings of the "Magnificat" and "Te Deum". Knowing the antiquity of 'Christ Lag' as a variant of "Victimae Pascali", and the general dourness associated with Gregorian chant by modern listeners, I think Bach would have been surprised by our sensibilities.

Linda Gingrich wrote (March 4, 2015):
[To Paul Beckman] We have an Easter Sunday service! It's Easter Saturday that doesn't have a service.

Paul Beckman wrote (March 4, 2015):
[To Linda Gingrich] Oops - bad reading on my part!

Linda Gingrich wrote (March 4, 2015):
[To Peter Smaill] In the same book Chafe also refers to E major as the upper limit of Bach's tonal palette in the cantatas, one with strongly positive associations such as salvation, trust, resurrection. etc. I also have a 1938 article by Manfred Bukofzer in which he comments that musical allegory in Baroque music can only be interpreted with the text in front of us. He also writes that when we realize allegory we experience a sense of immense richness, perpetually leaping from one meaning to another. I've been pondering that these last few days as this discussion has unfolded.

Julian Mincham wrote (March 4, 2015):
Linda Gingrich wrote:
< In the same book Chafe also refers to E major as the upper limit of Bach's tonal palette in the cantatas, one with strongly positive associations such as salvation, trust, resurrection. etc. I also have a 1938 article by Manfred Bukofzer in which he comments that musical allegory in Baroque music can only be interpreted with the text in front of us. He also writes that when we realize allegory we experience a sense of immense richness, perpetually leaping from one meaning to another. I've been pondering that these last few days as this discussion has unfolded. >
E major is an odd key for Bach. He uses it for two of the most extrovert concerti for violin and keyboard, the 6th French suite etc. . He set the wonderfully personal chorale chorus of BWV 8 in E, 'When, oh Lord, shall I die?'. Dürr describes this as 'a rather anxious questioning about death' and one might make a strong case for the choice of the 'extreme' key for this work. But when he revived this cantata (originally part of the second cycle) some 20 years later he transposed ot down to D major. This would seem to be pretty good evidence that, while Bach may well have attributed symbolic significance to key and key colour, it was not a primary consideration since he was prepared to sacrifice it for pragmatic reasons.

Aryeh Oron wrote (March 10, 2015):
Cantata BWV 4 - Revised & updated Discography,

The discography pages of the Chorale Cantata BWV 4 "Christ lag in Todesbanden" for Easter Sunday on the BCW have been revised and updated.
The cantata is scored for soprano, alto, tenor & bass soloists; 4-part chorus; and orchestra 2 violins, viola & continuo in the original Mühlhausen version (1707-1708). For the 2nd Leipzig performance of this cantata in 1725, Bach added a cornett and 3 trombones.
This is probably the most famous and most recorded Chorale Cantata by J.S. Bach. There are currently 80 complete recordings and 55 recordings of individual movements. The discography is presented chronologically by recording date in 8 pages, a page per a decade. You can see that there are recordings for every taste: the early or the later version, big choir or OVPP, solo movements sung by soloists or the choir, conventional or original instruments, etc On the BCW there are also 6 discussion pages of this cantata, including the recent discussion from last week.
All are linked from the main page of this cantata:
The revised discography includes about 150 listening/watching options to recordings directly from the discography pages, just below the recording details.

I also put at the BCW Home Page:
2 audios and 2 videos of the cantata. A short description below the audio/video image is linked to the full details at the discography pages.

I believe this is the most comprehensive and detailed discography of this chorale cantata. If you are aware of a recording of BWV 4 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.

William Hoffman wrote (April 5, 2015):
Discussion Easter Season Music 1725

(In lieu of Cantata 4, discussed three weeks ago, here is material from previous BCW discussions, updated)

Easter Season: Easter, Ascension, Pentecost (Christology)

Easter is the most important annual religious feast in the Christian liturgical year. According to Christian scripture, Jesus was resurrected from the dead on the 3rd day after his crucifixion. Some Christians celebrate this resurrection on Easter Day or Easter Sunday (also Resurrection Day or Resurrection Sunday), two days after Good Friday and three days after Maundy Thursday. The chronology of his death and resurrection is variously interpreted to be between AD 26 and AD 36. Easter also refers to the season of the church year called Eastertide or the Easter Season. Traditionally the Easter Season lasted for the 40 days from Easter Day until Ascension Day but now officially lasts for the 50 days until Pentecost. The first week of the Easter Season is known as Easter Week or the Octave of Easter. Easter also marks the end of Lent, a season of fasting, prayer, and penance. The Sundays in Easter, Ascension Day, the Pentecost Festival and Trinity Sunday all use the Gospel of John.

Easter is a moveable feast, meaning it is not fixed in relation to the civil calendar. The First Council of Nicaea (325) established the date of Easter as the first Sunday after the full moon (the Paschal Full Moon) following the vernal equinox. Ecclesiastically, the equinox is reckoned to be on March 21 (regardless of the astronomically correct date), and the "Full Moon" is not necessarily the astronomically correct date. The date of Easter therefore varies between March 22 and April 25. Eastern Christianity bases its calculations on the Julian Calendar whose March 21 corresponds, during the twenty-first century, to April 3 in the Gregorian Calendar, in which calendar their celebration of Easter therefore varies between April 4 and May 8.

Easter is linked to the Jewish Passover not only for much of its symbolism but also for its position in the calendar. In most European languages the feast called Easter in English is termed by the words for Passover in those languages and in the older English versions of the Bible the term Easter was the term used to translate Passover.

Easter Festival1

The Easter season is the final, transitional church season of de tempore time in the life of Jesus Christ, leading to the second half of the church year with its omnes tempore or timeless treatment of Christian themes and revelation of the teachings of Christianity's savior. Thus, the Easter season reflects a liminal, "in-between" time on the threshold to a greater understanding of the meaning and purpose. Bach's response was appropriately subdued as he deliberately crafted original, mostly imitate music, usually with only a closing chorale.

Liturgically, the Easter season emphasizes Christian witness and the related themes of freedom and discipleship, established on Easter Sunday in Mark's earliest, abbreviated account, 16.1-8. The themes sounded in the appointed Gospel stories and Epistle teachings portray examples of optimistic proclamation and te. They are established in the three-day Festival of Easter (Sunday, Monday and Tuesday), for the "Octave" of Easter, the first eight days ending with the First Sunday After Easter, also known as Quasimodogeniti Sunday, for the opening words of the Introit, "As newborn babes" (which desire the sincere milk of the word).

The Easter Monday gospel, Luke 24: 13-35, depicts the followers Walk to Emmaus, and the Easter Tuesday gospel, Luke 24: 36-47, Jesus appears to the Disciples. The first two days of the Easter Festival had highly structured liturgy while the third day used the ordinary liturgy. Gradually since Bach's time, Easter Tuesday and then Monday disappeared from the festival celebration but the gospel readings are retained in the three-cycle readings for Easter established by Vatican II a half-century ago and adopted by mainline Protestant denominations.

Interestingly, this closing season on Christ's life, with the feasts of his resurrection, ascension, and the descent of the Holy Spirit, has fewer service cantatas than the other de tempore seasons. Bach's output during both the Easter season festivals and the Sunday services fell sharply although in terms of the busiest musical times of the year it ranks second only to Christmas in terms of opportunities for cantatas and oratorios. The first event, Easter Sunday, sets the tone in the succeeding cycles and yields less original composition in Leipzig, as Bach scholar Alfred Dürr points out in Cantatas of JSB.2 He says that the history of Protestant church music and Bach's compositions reveal a "rich store" of Passion music "but relatively few outstanding pieces of Easter Music."

For Easter Sunday, beginning on April 9, 1724, his first year in Leipzig, Bach presented music already on hand, Cantatas BWV 4 and BWV 31, and in succeeding years turned to compositions of other composers. He probably originally composed Cantata 4 for Easter Sunday, April; 4, 1707, possibly as his test piece, at Mühlhausen. He composed Cantata BWV 31, for Easter Sunday, April 21, 1715, in Weimar. In 1725 he performed the Easter Oratorio BWV 249 as a parody of a royal birthday serenade presented 31 days earlier on February 23. Easter Sunday Cantata BWV 15 is one of 21 cantatas of his cousin, Johann Ludwig that Bach presented in 1726 during his third cycle. The other "new" Easter Sunday works are by Telemann, Cantata BWV 160 (TWV 1:877) and the Easter motet, TWV 8:15.

Bach’s Easter Sunday Performance Calendar

EASTER SUNDAY (NBA KB I/1, Dürr 1986, BWV 4, BWV 31)
Gospel, Mark 16:1-8 (Resurrection); Epistle, I Cor. 5:7-8 (Christ our Passover)
Date(cycle)/ BWV/ Title/ Type (Note)
?4/24/1707 or 4/4/1708 BWV 4 Christ lag in Todesbanden chorale (Luther)
4/21/1715 BWV 31 Der Himmel lacht! die Erde Jubilieret chorus (Franck)
4/9/1724 (BWV 4) Christ lag in Todesbanden (repeat, revisedf)
and (BWV 31) Der Himmel lacht! die Erde Jubilieret (repeat, rev., ?excerpts)
4/1/1725 BWV 249 Kommt, eilet & laufet, ihr flüchtigen Füße ("cantata," parody)
4/3/1725 (2) (BWV 4) Christ lag in Todesbanden (repeat, ?partial
and? (TWV 8:15) Der Herr ist König Telemann motet
?1725-6 BWV 160 (TWV 1:877) Ich weiß, daß nmein Erlöster lebt Telemann cantata
4/21/1726(3) BWV 15(JLB-21) Denn du wirst meine Seele J.L. Bach cantata
4/15/1729 (P-28) Es hat überwunden der Löwe (Picander, text only)
3/25/1731 (BWV 31) Der Himmel lacht! die Erde Jubilieret repeat
4/10/1735 ? BWV 249 BC D8 Kommt, eilet & laufet, ihr flüchtigen Füße Oratorio (?interim)
4/10/1735 ? BWV 160 & JLB-21 Denn du wirst meine Seele (?repeat)
1736-04-01 - G.H. Stölzel: Ich bin die Auferstehung und das Leben, Mus. A 15:141
4/6/1738 BWV 249 (c) BC D8 Kommt, eilet& laufet, ihr flüchtigen Füße (repeat)
c1743-46 BWV 249 (c) BC D8 Kommt, eilet& laufet, ihr flüchtigen Füße (repeat)
4/6/1749 BWV 249 (c) BC D8 Kommt, eilet& laufet, ihr flüchtigen Füße (repeat)

Symptomatic of Bach's diminution of original music in Leipzig in the last half of the 1720s is his divergence from the completion of the final one-fifth of his 1724-25 chorale cantata cycle in the 1725 concluding Easter season. Bach produced fewer total cantatas with large musical forces and festival works, in comparison with the Christmas season, which also had three major festivals (Christmas, New Year, Epiphany). The pattern shows Bach intending to resume chorale cantata composition with sketches for several mostly opening movements, then setting aside these materials. Later, he composed one work from a paraphrased libretto Cantata 112 for Misericordias (2nd Sunday after Easter), as well as 10 pure-hymn chorale cantatas. In the first cycle Bach had the luxury of reusing Weimar works and sometimes resorting to double performance of two cantatas or longer two-part cantatas.

The evidence for the Easter Season subsequent diminution is accumulative and persistent. One reason perhaps is that Church attendance in Leipzig was greatest during the six services of the 12-day Christmas season, less during the six weeks of 13 services for the Easter season, including the three-day festivals of Easter itself and Pentecost at the conclusion of the season. Further, Bach resorted to recycling whole cantatas by parody during the second and third days of the Easter and Pentecost Festivals. Bach also recycled individual movements from cantatas and concerti, primarily in his hybrid third cantata cycle while using music for one-third of the services from cantatas of cousin J.L. Bach. Bach also began to turn to cantatas of other composers, initially the popular Georg Philippe Telemann and later during the so-called Picander cycle of 1728-29, added other works of well-known and prolific contemporaries such as Stözel, Fasch, and Graupner.

The reasons for fewer original compositions at Easter season are numerous and pragmatic. In the 1725 pre-Easter Season of the six weeks of Lent when no service music was allowed, Bach mined a new mother lode of secular works which he skillfully parodied into the beginnings of his Christological cycle of major church works, while utilizing the last of his supply of Weimar church music for a new version of his St. John Passion at Good Friday Vesper Services. Meanwhile, Bach had set aside his major new annual Matthew Passion for another year and began collecting materials from other composers while seeking new cantata texts to sustain his service commitment.

The Easter season would be a serendipitous situation since Bach was settling into life - personal, professional, social, and musical - in Leipzig. Meanwhile, he encountered two realities: the Thomas Church School term, with all its administrative, non-musical requirements, ended on the first Sunday in June. Meanwhile, the three-week Leipzig annual Spring Fair began after the Easter season. As Cantor at St. Thomas, Bach was expected by the end of the school term to conduct exams, write evaluations and reports, audition choir members, write recommendations, and do inventories of materials, instruments and books. As a prominent member of the community he was expected to participate in and contribute to its vibrant economic, social and cultural life, especially the famous seasonal fairs in this great European trade city.

Bach had begun his tat the end of the 1722-1723 term on Sunday, May 30, 1723, the First Sunday after Trinity Sunday (today known as the Second Sunday after Pentecost). Bach needed a break after two intensive years of systematic cantata composition. Gerhard Herz observes in "Toward a New Image of Bach," BACH Vol 11, No. 1, 1971 (Riemenschneider Bach Institute: p. 12): "The second Jahrgang shows the fullest realization of Bach's goal: the chorale cantata (as well-ordered church music). This intensity of production reaches its peak between Christmas, 1724, and Estomihi (February 11), 1725, with fourteen imposing works composed in seven weeks. But after Easter the level begins to decline with solo cantatas and adaptations."

Easter Season (Festivals in Bold Face, Cantata Cycles in parentheses (1), Chorale Cantata (CC):

Easter Sunday, 1st Day of Easter (Resurrection); CC BWV 4(2), BWV 31 (1), BWV 249 (5), 15-JLB21(3), BWV 160 (?3) (Telem)
Easter Monday, 2nd Day of Easter (Walk to Emmaus); BWV 66(1), BWV 6(2), JLB 10(3), BWV Anh 190(4)
Easter Tuesday, 3rd Day of Easter (Disciples); BWV 134(1), BWV 145(4), BWV 158 (2), JLB 11(3)
1st Sunday After Easter, Quasimodogeniti, "As newborn babes" BWV 67(1), BWV 42(2), JLB 6(3)
2nd Sunday After Easter, Misericordias, Goodness/tender mercies (Shepherd) BWV 104(1), BWV 85(3), CC BWV 112(2) JLB 12(3)
3rd Sunday after Easter, Jubilate, "Make a joyful noise"; BWV 12(1), BWV 12(2), BWV 146(3)
4th Sunday after Easter, Kantate, "Sing"; BWV Anh. 191 BWV 166(1), BWV 108 (2), JLB 14(3)
5th Sunday after Easter 5. Rogate "Pray" BWV 86(1), BWV 87(2), JLB deest(3)
Ascension Day (Himmelfahrt) Festo ascensionis Christi BWV 37(1), BWV 128(2), BWV 43(3), BWV 11(5)
6th Sunday after Easter Exaudi "Hear" BWV 44(1), BWV 183(2), no JLB(3)
1st Day of Pentecost (Pfingsten) (Whit Sunday) Pentecost BWV 172(1), BWV 59(1), BWV 74(2), BWV 34(5), BWV 218 (Telemann)
2nd Day of Pentecost Whit Monday BWV 173(1), BWV 68(2), BWV 174(4)
3rd Day of Pentecost Whit Tuesday BWV 174(1), BWV 175(2)

Douglas Cowling wrote (Readings, April 15, 2007):
With the exception of the Three Days of Easter and Ascension Day, all of the gospel readings during the fifty days of the Easter season are from the Gospel of John. This is the pattern inherited from the pre-Reformation church and confirmed by Luther.

Quasimodogeniti [1st Sunday after Easter, "As newborn babes"] John 20: 19-31, Christ Appears to Disciples;
Misericordias Domini [2nd Sunday after Easter, "Goodness/tender mercies"] John 10: 12-16, Good Shepherd;
Jubilate [3rd Sunday after Easter, "Make a joyful noise"] John 16: 16-23, Christ's Farewell;
Cantate [4th Sunday after Easter, "Sing"] John 16: 5-15, Work of the Spirit;
Rogate [5th Sunday after Easter, "Pray"] John 16: 23-30, Christ's Promise to the Disciples;
Ascension Day Mark 16: 14-20; BWV 37, 128, 43, 11
Exaudi [Sunday after Ascension, "Hear"] John 15: 26 - 16: 4, Spirit will come;
Whit Sunday [1st Day of Pentecost] John 14: 23-31, Promise of the Spirit;
Whit Monday [2nd Day of Pentecost] John 3: 16-21, God so loved the world;
Whit Tuesday [3rd Day of Pentecost] John 10: 1-10, Parable of Sheep.

A contributing musical factor, according to various Bach scholars, included Bach's weariness at composing 40 works in the severely-restricting form of the chorale cantata during nine monthly of unrelenting composition of all new works. Both Schweitzer (JS Bach II:245) and Whittaker (Cantatas of JSB I:435f) cite the rigid stanzas of chorale texts, ranging from four to eight, which create monotony among the choruses, arias, and recitatives, especially in da capo arias which need contrasting closing lines in the B section. Further, the chorales stanzas rarely made direct reference to the appointed Gospel or Epistle lessons for the service, despite skillful paraphrasing of the arias and recitatives.

Bach also seemed to have had little interest in the appointed chorales for the later Easter season. He used Easter season chorales in his chorale preludes in the Orgelbüchlein and other collections for the church year (Günther Stiller, JSB & Liturgical Life in Leipzig, pp. 240f). He was simply expected to present settings of chorales appropriate to the season and the appointed gospel. The exception is "Komm heiliger Geist" for Pentecost. The other available chorales were rarely set more than once in the cantatas for this time period. Bach simply may not have been excited to set the Easter season chorales in chorale cantata form.

Fortunately, for Bach, his earliest service cantata compositions for Easter Sunday embraced the seasonal signature hymn, "Christ lays in bondage." Besides treating all seven stanzas with variations on the melody in Cantata BWV 4 for the First Easter Day (Sunday) 1724 and 1725, Bach used it to close Cantata BWV 158 for the Third Easter Day 1725, originally a Marian Feast work which he adapted from Weimar.

Other musical factors could have been Bach's loss of the services of the librettist, who has never been identified. Also, Bach could have been concerned with the quality of the choir, which he finally outlined in his 1730 letter to his employer, the Town Council, on "a well-appointed church music."

In a positive sense, Bach's subsequent compositional practices show that he created more large-scale, "well-appointed" works (he took charge of the Leipzig Collegium musicum in 1729); in the 1730s, he used extensive parody in his Christological feast day oratorios, Mass settings and St, Mark Passion (BWV 247); and produced more works in the progressive style of the gallant and dance forms. Having exploited the instrumental and vocal chorale form more extensively than any other composer, Bach had little more to say about chorale settings, except for his Clavierübung III German Organ Mass of 1736, using Catechism chorales.

1725 Easter Season Cantatas

During the 1725 Easter season from Easter Sunday to Trinity Sunday, April 1 to May 27, Bach was responsible for presenting cantatas on nine successive Sundays and the second and third festival days, Mondays and Tuesdays of Easter and Pentecost, as well as Ascension Thursday - 14 cantatas in all. During this time, Bach made a transition from chorale cantatas to nine consecutive lyrical works of the Leipzig poetess Mariane von Ziegler, beginning with the Third Sunday after Easter.

During the previous Lent season, Bach probably had examined available old texts from his Weimar period, including works of Georg Lehms, Salomo Franck, and Erdmann Neumeister, and possibly the so-called Rudolstadt-J.L. Bach texts which originated from about 1704-05. Instead, Bach probably, initially turned to two immediate, accessible Leipzig sources, an unknown poet, possibly Thomas Church pastor Christian Weiss Sr., and Picander, the probable author of the Easter Oratorio.

Meanwhile, Bach probably assembled a revised version of a Weimar cantata, BWV 158, for Easter Tuesday, and possibly two Telemann works, a cantata and a motet, on an Easter Sunday double bill with Cantata BWV 4, "Christ Lag in Todesbanden," at the University church. It appears that the Easter Oratorio, with trumpets and drums, was presented in the two main Leipzig churches of St. Thomas and St. Nikolas.

For the initial period of Easter Sunday to the Second Sunday after Easter, Bach, while awaiting Ziegler's texts probably to be printed in church libretto books, presented reperformances and three new works: BWV 6 for Easter Monday, BWV 42 for the First Sunday after Easter, and BWV 85, for the second Sunday after Easter. These three new pieces return to a text form from the same Easter period of the previous year, 1724, using New Testament texts for opening movements, with freely-invented verses and chorale stanzas for the succeeding movements, says Carl Marshall in <Bach's Compositional Process>, I:28. Weiss also may have written libretti for new Cycle 1 Easter season cantatas and possibly the texts of the chorale cantatas.

The 1750 Bach estate division shows that Wilhelm Friedemann gave Carl Philipp Emanuel all the post-Easter new cantata scores and parts, except for three von Ziegler texts, while he kept the scores of the previous chorale cantatas and Anna Magdalena received the related parts sets. Friedemann retained Ascension Day Cantata BWV 128 and Pentecost Monday Cantata BWV 68, both having chorale incipits. Friedemann also kept Pentecost Sunday Cantata BWV 74, which has the same title and opening movement text with modifications of the musical materials from Pentecost Sunday Cantata BWV 59 from 1723/24. Freidemann probably assumed that BWV 74 was simply a revision of BWV 59, all the materials of which he had retained. Alfred Dürr in his <Chronologie>: 16f, assigns all three 1725 works to the succeeding annual cantata Cycle 3.

The Ziegler texts, which represent new poetic directions, offered a variety of cantata forms, with opening chorus (BWV 103, BWV 74, and 176), solo aria and recitative with closing chorale (BWV 108, BWV 87, BWV 183, and BWV 175), and opening chorale chorus (BWV 128, BWV 68). Assuming that Bach allowed Ziegler four weeks to cthe first of the series of texts, he must have decided no later than Holy Week 1725 to compose no more chorale cantatas through the rest of the cycle. Meanwhile, Bach instructed Ziegler to parody solo movements from Cantatas BWV 103 and BWV 83, and later edited five of the other seven texts, excepting BWV 103 and BWV 83, suggesting close collaboration.

Easter Season Chorales

Bach's settings of Easter sacred songs represent the apogee of his treatment of Lutheran hymns in the first half of the church year, the de tempore or timely treatment of the life of Jesus Christ through service music. This period constitutes some 29 services over six months, from the panoply of celebratory chorales beginning with the initial time of Advent, Christmas and New Years to the liminal, in-between time of Epiphany with its timeless, omnes tempore thematic "Jesus Hymns" and pre-Lent chorales, to the Passiontide abundance of both Passion and non-Passion chorales of sacrifice and suffering, culminating in the "Moveable Feast" of Easter with its emphasis in Christ's final days on triumph through the word and sacrament using the themes of peace and the Good Shepherd.

Bach exploited the chorale melody in myriad forms and usages during the Easter Season of 13 services involving seven feast days (three each for Easter and Pentecost as well as Ascension Day). In his second year in Leipzig, Bach's production of service cantatas as musical sermons diminished and his creation of church-year chorale cantatas, which had constituted his second church-year cycle, virtually ceased.

The record is now clear. Bach's creative focus on sacred cantatas in Leipzig had produced an initial heterogeneous cycle of varied old and new music, including two-part cantatas and double-bills, and series of large and then intimate pieces. The second cycle of chorale cantatas focused on hymns through uniformity and originality, beginning with the Trinity Season and culminating in assured and appealing works for the general Christmas and Epiphany Seasons.

The three-month Easter Season from Easter Sunday to Trinity Sunday was Bach's busiest time as Cantor at the Thomas School, when the annual term ended and he was responsible for crucial teaching and administrative duties. These included student exams and auditions, accounting for musical and instructional resources, and preparing for the new term, which commenced with the First Sunday After Trinity, beginning the <omnes tempore> Trinity of some 25 weeks of Sunday services and select festivals. At the same time, Bach was expected to participate fully in the Leipzig Spring Fair which began appropriately on Jubilate Sunday, the Third After Easter Sunday, running three weeks.

Various Bach scholars have cited major negative reasons for the diminution of his church cantatas. These include Bach's increasing lack of enthusiasm, both personal and spiritual, the pressures of both civil authority and burdensome school responsibilities, and the challenge to sustain quality musicianship from his performing forces. By the end of Bach's second year in Leipzig he had reached a crisis in his calling to create a "well-regulated (and appointed) church-music to the glory of God." Bach's incomparable and profound treatment of chorales, at the heart of his calling, was symptomatic of his conflicts, desires and directions. Diversity, renewal, and respite were essential.

While setting chorales in his cantatas, Bach explored complex usages of melodies and original music, new forms of extended scena, particularly complex dual usage of aria and recitative, the deployment of non-traditional melodies in new contexts, the exploitation of dance form and instrumental technique, and increasing compositional complexities, especially in four-part chorales and chorale fantasias. In the next decade, Bach emphasized strict hymn-verse chorale cantatas for unspecified services, broadened his creative palette with lesser-known, more contemporary four-part hymn settings, and produced a wide range of devotional sacred melodies and texts. Bach also wrote a parodied St. Mark Passion emphasizing simple chorales in lieu of arias, and probably presented an apocryphal St. Luke Passion replete with less-known hymn texts and tunes.

In retrospect, the period of Lent and Easter 1725 was a watershed time for Bach, personally and professionally. He embraced new musical expression through larger works and parody, renewed his interest in keyboard and ensemble music, and strengthened his situation through greater collaboration and outreach, as well as learned pursuits such as theology, literature, and the old music.

For the record, Bach in the Orgelbüchlein Easter Season set all six chorales for Easter, omitted both Ascension Day chorales, and set only three of nine Pentecost hymns. Virtually all these settings were done in Weimar between 1710 and 1714 when Bach composed few sacred cantatas, awaiting the development and establishment of the so-called "Neumesier" (and Meiningen-Prince Ludwig) modern cantata texts.

Easter (6 of 6 set):
34. Christ Lag in Todesbanden, OB 625
35. Jesus Christus, unser Heiland, der du Tod überwand, 626
36. Christ ist erstanden, 627
37. Erstanden ist der Heil'ge Christ, 628
38. Erschienen ist der herrliche Tag, 629
39. Heut triumpieret Gottes Sohn, 630

Ascension (neither OB set):
40. Gen Himmel aufgefahren ist, no BWV
41. Nun freut euch, Gottes Kinder, all; no BWV

Pentecost (3 of 9 set, one twice)
42. Komm, heiliger Geist, erfüll die Herzen deiner Glaübigen
43. Komm, Heiliger Geist, Herre Gott
44. Komm Gott Schöpfer, Heiliger Geist, 631
45. Nun bitten wird das Heil'gen Geist
46. Spiritus Sancti gratias or Des Heil'gen Geistes reichte Gnad
47. O Heil'ger Geist, du göttlich's Feuer
48. O Heiliger Geist, o heilger Gott
49. Herr Jesu Christ, dich zu und wend, 632
50. Leibster Jesu, wir sind hier, 634
51. Liebster Jesu, wir sing hier (distinctius), 633

The compositional record shows that while Bach's general interest in Easter Season chorale settings diminished by the time of the Pentecost festival, his overall usage and treatment is extensive, varied, and systematic. Of particular note are the wealth of Easter as well as non-Easter hymns and the use of thematic hymns such as the Good Shepherd, Communion hymns, and ones that emphasize Easter proclamation of the Word. Bach also uses hymns, as he did during Epiphany, to anticipate the coming feasts, especially for Ascension Day and Pentecost. While Bach uses few available Pentecost hymns in his cantatas, he does set several as organ preludes and four-part chorales, as well as certain Easter hymns. It is particularly interesting to note that for the single feast day at Ascension, Bach was able to accommodate several appropriate chorales, including two settings in his Ascension Oratorio, BWV 11. Perhaps Bach's possibly-lost Pentecost Oratorio may have utilized familiar chorales listed but not set in the Orgelbüchlein. The following are the chorales that Bach set for his vocal works during the Easter Season:

Easter Season Abbreviations:

Services: ES=Easter Sunday, EM=Easter Monday, ET=Easter Tuesday, E1=1st Sunday After Easter, E2=2nd Sunday After Easter, E3=3rd Sunday After Easter, E4=4th Sunday After Easter, E5=5th Sunday After Easter, As=Ascension Day, E6=6th Sunday After Easter, P1=Pentecost Sunday, P2=Pentecost Monday, P3=Pentecost Tuesday;

* [--/--] Douglas Cowling: Easter Season in Leipzig: Sacred Songs: M=Motet (Introit), SH=Service Hymn (de Tempore), PH=Pulpit Hymn, VH=Various Hymns for Chancel, Communion & Closing; VM-Vesper Motet

+ Orgelbüchlein (OB): Easter, Bach set all 6 (OB 34-39=BWV 625-30);
<--> Stiller <JSB & Liturgical Life in Leipzig>

*Ach, bleib bei uns <ET> [EM/VH], 6/3(S.1.2) EM; 253, 414 (alt. mel), 649; Anh. 4/6 (S.1.2.), Augsburg Confession 1730
Also hat Gott die Welt geliebt, 68/1(S.1) PM
Auf, mein Herz, des Herren Tag (mel. Jesu Meine Zuversicht)< EasterSeason>, 145a(S.1) ET 1729;
Baumherz'er Vater (mel. Was mein Gott will), 103/6(S.9) E3),
+*Christ lag in Todesbanden <Easter Season> [ES-E5/SH, 625(OB34), 695, 718; 4/1-8 (S.1-8) ES, 277, 278=?P28/6(S.6) ES, 279=158/4(ET)
+*Christ iserstanden <Easter Season> [ES-E5/PH], 627(OB36, vv1-3), 66/6(v.3) EM, 276 (vv1-3); Latin Easter sequence Victimae paschali (1200 Leise), Lutheran setting transformed into 3-part chorale.
Christus ist erstanden, hat überwunden (mel. Allein Gott), 284
*Der Herr ist mein getreuer Hirt, dem ich, Becker (mel. Allein Gott in der Hoh) <E2> [E2/V(C)H], 104/6(S.1) E2, 85/3(S.1) E2,
Der Herr ist mein getreuer Hirt, halt mir, Meusel (mel. Allein Gott in der Hoh) <E2>, 112/1-5(S.1-5) E2 CC (5vv)
Du Friedefürst, Herr Jesu Christ <ET Dresden>, 67/7(S.1) E1, (143/2 NY); 112CC Tr. 25, OB 125, 1102
Erhalt uns, Herr, bei deine Wort, 6/6(S.2) EM, 318, Anh. 50; OB 122 (Word, not set)
+*Erschienen ist der herrlich Tag <ET> 14 vv.) [ET-E1,E3-4/VH], 629(OB 38), 67/4(S.1) E1, 145/5(14) ET
+Erstanden ist der Heil'ge Christ, der den Tod, 628(OB 37), 306
Es ist das Heil uns kommen her (E5) 86/6(11)
Herr Jesu Christ, ich weiß gar wohl (mel. Herr Jesu Christ, du höchstes Gut), 166/3 (E4(1)
+*Heut triumphieret Gottes Sohn, Kaspar Stolzhagen 1599, 6vv [ES-ET/M, As/VH] (vespers, ET, As.), 630a(OB39); Anh. 190/6=P29/6 EM(mel.)=?342
Komm her zu mir, spricht Gottes Sohn (S.14-16, Mat. 11:28) JLB 8/8 E3
O süßer Herre, Jesu Christ (mel. Heut triumphert), Anh. 190/6=? (S.3), EM(1729)
Ist Gott mein Schutz und treuer Hirt (mel. Ist Gott mein Schild und Helfersmann, 85/6 E2
Lasset ab von eurer Tränen (mel. Werde munter, mein Gemüte), 146/8(9) E3 (1729) (Wustmann text sub.)
Selig ist die Seele (mel. Jesu meine Freude), 87/7(S.9), (E5)
Versage nicht <Dresden E3>, 42/4(S.1) E1
Zeuch ein zu deinen Toren (mel Helf mir Gotts Güte preisse), 183/5(5), E6

Easter, no Bach cantata setting
Auf, auf! Mein Herz, mit Freuden, 441 (SG, Easter)
Als verzig Tag' nach Ostern war'n, 266 (See Erscheinen ist, Easter)
+Jesus Christus, unser Heiland, der den, 364 (Easter); 626(OB35); 665, 666 [Great 18];
Jesus Christus, unser Heiland, der von uns, 363 (Eas.), 626 (OB 78, Eucharist, not set)
Jesu Christ, unser Trost und Leben, 475 (SG, Easter)
O du allersußeste Freude, JLB14/6(1, 5; E4)

*Auf Christi Himmelsfahrt (mel. Allein Gott) <As> [As/VH], 128/1 Asc. (1) 3 vv.
*Du Lebenfürst, Herr Jesu Christ (mel. Ermuntre dich)< As> [As/VH], 43/11 (S.1,13) Asc., 11/6(S.4) Asc. 1735
*Gott fähret auf gen Himmel (mel. Von Gott will ich)< As> [As/VH], 11/11(7) Asc.
Mein Jesu hat nunmehr (Asn., Rudolstadt) <As Dresden> , 43/5-10(1-6) PS, 1725), text only

Ascension, no cantata setting
+Gen Himmel aufgefahren ist, OB 40 not set
+Nun freut euch, Gottes Kinder, all; OB 41, not set; 734, 387

Pentecost: (OB, 3 of 9 set, one twice)
*Also hat Gott die Welt geliebt [PM/VH), 68/1 (cle. chs.) PM
*Gott Vater, sende deinen Geist (also, Kommt her zu mir) (mel. Enzeldruck zu mir) <Asc., Dresden E4> [PS/VH], 108/6 (E4, S.10)
Kommt her zu mir, spricht Gottes Sohn 86/3 (16) E5
*Komm, Heiliger Geist, Herre Gott (also, O Gottes Geist, mein Trost und Rat (Veni Sancte Spiritus, PS/VM) [PS-T/SH]; 59/3(P)=175/7(PT), 59/5 (S.3, music ?6/6, mel. Erhalt uns)., 172/5 ob. mel. P; 226/2 (motet), P38/2, 7 (1,3) P; OB 43 not set; 651-2(GL18); 1005/1 (mel.), 218/5=TVWV1:634

Pentecost, no cantata setting:
Brunnquelle aller Gütter, SG 445(1,6), deest Wiemer 4 (7)
Dir, dir Jehova, will ich singen, SG 452(1) (prayer)
+Herr Jesu Christ, dich zu uns wend, 332, 632 (OB49), 659(18), 709, 726, 749
+Leibster Jesu, wir sind hier, 373, 633-34=OB50-51 (dinstinctius)
+Komm Gott Schöpfer, Heiliger Geist, 370, 631=OB44, 667(18), 218/5=TVWV
+Komm, heiliger Geist, erfüll die Herzen deiner Glaübigen OB 42 not set; mel. only
+*Nun bitten wir das Heil'gen Geist [PS-T/PH], 385, OB 45 not set
+O Heil'ger Geist, du göttlich's Feuer, OB 47 not set
+O Heiliger Geist, o heilger Gott, OB 48 not set
+*Spiritus Sancti gratias or Des Heil'gen Geistes reichte Gnad [PS/M], 295, OB 46 (not set)

Various Occasions:
Ach Gott, wie Manches Herzelied (mel. O Jesu Christ, meins), 44/3(S.1), E6; 3/6 Eph.2, 153/9 SaNY
Alle Menschen müssen sterben, P33/6 E3=?162/6(Tr20), 262=?P-70 (Tr26); 643 (OB131 Death/Dying), 1117
Es ist das Heil uns kommen her (Eas.5) 86/6(S.11); 9/7 (Tr.6) 638 (OB77, Confess), 155/5 (Eph.2); 251 (mel. Sei Lob & Herr), wed./Thanks), 117/4,9 (no service, ??E5)
Ich danke dir, liebe Herre, 36/6(S.4) (Asc.); 347-348=P20/5(Septuag.), 147a/6 (S.6, Adv.4, music lost)
In allen meinen Taten (Passion mel., O welt, ich muss dich lassen); 44/6(S.15) E6; 97/1-9 (no occ., ??Exaudi 1735; 13/6 (S.15) Eph.2
*Nun freut euch, liebster Christian G'mein [As-E6/SH] (communion hymn), 307, 388 S.1,9 (Eas.); 755 (Adv.), 248/59 (Eph.)
O Gott, du frommer Gott (or O Jesu, meine Lust), 128/5(4) Asc./2 (Ziegler, Habermann mel.); 45/7 (Tr8), 94/8(Tr9), 399 P52,55,57(Tr.+), 24/6(Tr4) -- diff. mels. Ziegler, Heermann, Pfefferkorn
Valet will, ich dir geben, 415=?P.36/7 (Asc.), 736; BWV 245/52, OB132 (not set, Death)
Verleih uns Frieden, 42/7(S.1) E1; 126/6 (Sexag); Anh. 4a/4 (Council)
Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan <Cross & Trial>, 12/7=69a/6(S.6) E3; 100 & 250 wed., 144/3 Septua., 99/6 Tr.15
Welt ade, ich bin dein müde, 158/2 ET, 27/6 (Tr.16)
Wenn mein Stündlein vorhanden ist <ET>, no OB; 31/9(S.5) ES; 95/7 (Tr.16), 428, 429, 430=?247/41, 15/11 > Anh III 157=JLB21/11(S.4) ES
Wer weiß, wie nahe mir mein Ende (mel. Wer nur den lieben Gott laßt wahlten, 166/6 E4; 84/5 Septuag.)
mel. Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern, 172/6 PS, 37/3 Asc. 1724; 436/Anh.199 (?Ann.),
36/4 Adv, 1/6 Ann.

Not used by Bach:
*Trinity <Christ fuhr fuhr gen Himmel> [As/PH] BCW: (Pre-Reformation Hymn, C. S. Terry 1952)

Edition Bachakademie Vol. 80: A Book of Chorale-Settings for Easter, Ascension, Pentecost, Trinity; Chorales: BWV 266, 276-278, 284, 293, 295, 304, 306, 317, 342, 364, 365, 370, 378, 385, 387-388, 415, BWV deest/ Wiemer 4, 9, 10

TO COME (Food for thought and digestion):

1. A study of Easter Season chorales Bach used, as well as established Leipzig and Dresden service practice, shows or suggests which chorales Bach would have used or considered for chorale cantata settings.

2. Bach's choice of Easter Season chorales may involve connections with sermon themes preached by Christian Weiss Sr. as well as cantata texts possibly written by Weiss.

3. Further, Easter Season themes from the Gospel of John may have a bearing on Bach's choice of Easter Season chorales in his cantatas. As Douglas Cowling pointed out (BCW Readings, April 15, 2007): "With the exception of the Three Days of Easter and Ascension Day, all of the gospel readings during the fifty days of the Easter season are from the Gospel of John."

4. As Doug Cowling recently (8/11/10) observes: "The interplay of chorales in Bach's service is more than just a tracking down of sources. They're not just quotations. There is a dynamic performance hermeneutic in play here. The placement of chorales in the service and in the cantatas creates sets of premonitions and reminiscences of the most sophisticated sort."

William Hoffman wrote (May 3, 2010, BCML Discussions Part 4, BWV 127, Lenten Time 1725

Bach’s Calendar Lenten time 1725 showed a rich varied activity involving vocal music, in lieu of chorale cantata composition for the coming Easter season:

1. Sunday (Estomihi), Feb. 11, Cantata BWV 127

2. Monday, Feb. 12, lost sacred wedding Cantata BWV Anh. 14, “Sein segen fließt daher wie ein Storm,” four arias may have been adapted in the Mass in B Minor (BWV 232), says William Scheide. They are opening aria, "His blessings flow" (Ecc. 39:22), as No. 5, "Laudamus Te" for alto and violin; BWV Anh. 14/3, aria "Happy are you" (Ezek 47:1,4), as No. 10, "Quoniam," for bass and horn; Arioso No. 4, "Bitterness withdraws from you" (Ex. 18:25) as No. 22, Benedictus qui venit," for soprano and flute; and Aria No. 6, "So step into paradise" (Gen. 2:11), as No. 18, "Et in Spiritum Sanctum" for bass and two oboes d'amore. While all the music is lost, Bach took the text directly from the Bible, as he had done in some of hisearliest cantatas.

3. Friday, Feb. 23, Weissenfels, Shepherd Cantata BWV 249a, “Entfliehet, verschwindet, ihr Sorgen” birthday of Duke Christian (text, Picander)

4. Sunday (Annunciation), March 25, Cantata BWV 1, Wie schön leuchtet der Mogenstern” (last composed chorale cantata in Cycle 2, with two horns, oboes da caccia).

5. Good Friday, March 30, St. John Passion (BWV 245), at St. Thomas Church during Vespers; second version with insertions: opening chorale chorus, “O Mensch, bewein dein Sunde groß” (O humankind, bewail your great sin, and arias, BWV 245a-c -- “Himmel reiße,” ) “Zerschmettert mich,” and “Ach windet euch” -- probably composed at this time with text by Leipzig student Christoph Birkmann.

6. Easter Sunday, April 1, Easter Oratorio, BWV 249, “Kommt, eilet unds laufet” (?text, Picander; performance at St. Niklaus and St. Thomas churches).

7. Thursday, April 5, Birthday Cantata BWV 36c, “Schwingt freudig euch empor” (for Leipzig University professor, text Picander), later parodies.

8. Quasimodogeniti Sunday, April 8, BC A 64 (Neumann XXXII), 7-bar sketch of opening sinfonia (2 obs., str., bc; ¾ time, e minor) ?to chorale cantata; at end of autograph score of Cantata BWV 103, first cantata set to von Ziegler text for Jubilate Sunday, 4/22/1725.


1 Source material (edited): Cantata BWV 4, BCW Discussions Parts 5,
2 Dürr, Cantatas of J. S. Bach, revised and translated by Richard D. P. Jones (Oxford University Press, New York, 2005: 263)
To Come: Easter Oratorio, overview (BCW Discussion Part 2) and new materials from Richard D. P. Jones (The Creative Development of JSB: Vol. II: 1`717-1750), John Eliot Gardiner (Bach: Music in the Castle of Heaven) and Eric Chafe (J. S. Bach’s Johanine Theology: The St. John Passion and the Cantatas for Spring 1725).


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