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Cantata BWV 49
Ich geh’ und suche mit Verlangen
Discussions - Part 4

Continue from Part 3

Discussions in the Week of April 13, 2014 (4th round)

William Hoffman wrote (April 13, 2014):
Cantata 49: Ich gehe und suche mit Verlangen: Intro.

“Ich geh und suche mit Verlangen” (I go and seek with longing), dialogue Cantata for the 20th Sunday after Trinity, November 3, 1726 Cantata 49 is the last of four designated dialogue cantatas involving two solo voices, the Bride/Soul (soprano) and Bridegroom/Jesus (bass) in Church Year Cycle III (1725-27), The others are BWV 35, 57, and 58. Lasting about half an hour, it has three extended arias, including the closing duet that interpolates the soprano singing the chorale melody and text, interspersed with two extended dialogue recitatives. Besides its textual format of alternating, contrasting lines in the manner of Baroque opera seria scenes, Cantata 49 uses other secular elements such as an extended opening instrumental sinfonia in concertante dance-style, an intimate orchestra with oboe d’amore, a concerted and obbligato organ, strings and continuo, and “an operatic love duet” “with split-text dialogue as in the Cöthen serenatas,” says Richard D. P. Jones.1

“Ecclesiastical tradition returns, however, in the chorale-finale” that surprisingly “unites chorale and aria in an innovative fashion,” says Jones. “The ritornello form of the [bass] aria and the bar form of the chorale are superimposed” with the soprano singing both the popular hymn melody and text from Philipp Nicolai’s “Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern” (How beautifully shines the morning star). The bass partner “simultaneously sings madrigalian words that express his love for the Soul in the form of an aria. Chorale, aria, and ritornello themes are all interrelated.” To the rhetorical use of symmetry of structural form and contrast of old hymn and poetic aria together, Bach uses other repetitive devices, particularly the repeated verbal motto that links two movements together. The opening poetic dictum (Mvt. 2) sung in the solo bass aria, “Ich geh und suche mit Verlangen” ” (I go and seek with longing) from the Song of Solomon (3:1), is sung in the succeeding recitative dialogue movement (3) by the bass as an arioso response to the Bride/Soul statement, “Mein Jesus redt von mir” (My Jesus speaks of me).

Besides music of intimacy involving solo and dialogue cantatas, Bach’s last extant church year cantata cycle (III) uses the device of the verbal motto recurring lines to similar music in solo Cantatas BWV 169 (alto), 56 (bass), 49 (dialogue), 55 (tenor), 82 (bass), and 158 (bass). “It remains an open question whether this textual linking of two movements indicates that one and the same author was involved and whether it is right to regard these cantatas as a self-contained group,” says Alfred Dürr in his Introduction, Leipzig Cycle III, The Cantatas of J. S. Bach.2 The text is ananymous, possibly Picander (Mvts. 2-5); Philipp Nicolai, after Jeremiah 31: 3 and Revelation 3:20 in Mvt. 6 with chorale Stanza 7, Philipp Nicolai 1597 “Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern” (How beautifully shines the morning star); German text and Francis Browne English Translation,, with Bach’s uses of text and melody.

Cantata 49 Structure

The structure of Cantata 49 is a virtual palindrome or pyramid (mirror) form with an opening instrumental sinfonia, alternating arias and dialogue recitatives and a closing duet with interpolated chorale. Movements, scoring, text, time signature and key are:3

1. Sinfonia (Oboe d'amore, Violino I/II, Viola, Organo obligato, Continuo (da capo, minuet or passepied style), 3/8, E Major (extant source: E major Clavier Concerto, BWV 1053/3)
2. Aria free da-capo (Bass; Organo obligato, Continuo): A. “Ich geh und suche mit Verlangen” (I go and seek with longing), B. “Sag an, wo bist du hingegangen” (Tell me, where have you gone away); A’. “Ich geh und suche . . . .; 3/8, c-sharp minor.
3. Recitative 4/4, Arioso 3/8 (Dialogue: Soprano, Soul; Bass, Jesus; Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo): Bass: “Mein Mahl ist zubereit'” (My dinner is prepared); Soprano: “Mein Jesus redt von mir” (My Jesus speaks of me); Bass: “Ich geh und suche mit Verlangen” (I go and seek with longing motto repeat from Mvt. 1), A Major.
4. Aria modified da-capo (Soprano; Oboe d'amore, Violoncello piccolo, Continuo): A.“Ich bin herrlich, ich bin schön” (I am glorious, I am beautiful); B. “Seines Heils Gerechtigkeit / Ist mein Schmuck und Ehrenkleid” (The justice of his salvation / is my adornment and robe of honour; A’. “Ich bin herrlich . . . . ; 4/4, A Major.
5. Recitativo (Dialogue: Soprano, Soul; Bass, Jesus; Continuo): Soprano, “Mein Glaube hat mich selbst so angezogen” (My faith has dressed me in this way); Bass, “So bleibt mein Herze dir gewogen” (In this way my heart remains well-disposed to you); 4/4, f-sharp minor – E Major.
6. Duetto Chorale Aria (Bass, Jesus) and Chorale (Soprano, Soul); Oboe d'amore e Violino I all' unisono, Violino II, Viola, Organo obligato, Continuo); Bass, Dich hab ich je und je geliebet” (For ever and ever I have loved you); Soprano chorale, “Wie bin ich doch so herzlich froh” (what heartfelt joy is mine); 2/4, E Major.

Soul-Jesus Dialogue Cantata BWV 49

Bach literally sets solo Cantata BWV 49, "Ich gehe und suche mit Verlangen" (I go and seek with longing) as a "Cantata Dialogus" (his description) between Bride (soprano, Soul) and Bridegroom (bass, Jesus). It utilizes another composite text near the end of the third Leipzig cantata cycle, for the 20th Sunday after Trinity, on November 3, 1726. Like previous cycle cantatas for late Trinity Time, Cantata 49 shows the influence of established cantata poets, particularly theologian Erdmann Neumeister with emblematic biblical references, and a closing, interpolated chorale, "Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern" (How lovely shines the morning star), as assimilated by Bach's textual collaborator (possibly Picander). Like previous Cycle 3 Trinity Time cantatas, the music also opens with recycled instrumental material from Bach's previous post at Köthen, here perhaps originating as the opening movement of a viola concerto.

Cantata 49 culminates in the final, seventh stanza of "Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern": "Wie bin ich doch so herzlich froh" (How full I am therefore of heartfelt joy), with its theme of eschatological expectation amid vigilance anticipating the new church year of rebirth and renewal. The first six lines in long notes in the soprano are inserted between the first two lines of the biblical dictum opening the final movement (No. 6), a love duet: "I have loved you forever, and [CHORALE Stollen A'A] How full I am . . . ] Therefore I draw you to me" (Jeremiah 31:3).

In the closing Abegesang imitating the Bar form chorale (B of AA'B), the bass bridegroom sings phrases of love to his bride who responds with the final four lines (B) of the chorale. They each quote a passage from Revelation: he who seeks entry into the eternal place of the mutual meal of fellowship and victory (Rev. 3:10), "I stand before the door"; she welcoming him as the "Crown of Joy," referring to the phrase "crown of life" in Rev. 2:10; and he responding with "Open up, my place of residence."

Other Biblical paraphrase references, also cited in Dürr (Ibid.: 592-97, are: 1. Bass aria, Song of Songs: "fairest bride" 5.2, "my dove" 6.9; 3. Soprano-Bass recitative duet: "Your Feast of fat things" (Isaiah 25:6, from A Hymn of Praise); and 5. Soprano-Bass recitative: "betrothe myself in eternity" (Hosea 2:19, Covenant with Israel).

Chorale `Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern'

"Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern" with its utilitarian and cyclic influences is one of Bach's most utilized chorales in various formats. Its primary usage is for the 20th Sunday after Trinity, Stiller (Ibid, 246) points out, when it was "the hymn of the day in Leipzig and also enjoyed high priority in the Dresden hymn schedules around 1750." In the Neu Leipziger Gesangbuch of it also is designated to be sung on the final 27th Sunday after Trinity. As hymn No. 313, it is found in the omnes tempore section, "Word of God& Christian Church," where it is described as the "wedding song of the heavenly Bridegroom of Jesus Christ," based on Psalm 45, Ercutavit cor meum (My heart is stirring with a noble song) to King David, as well as Solomon's Old Testament book, Song of Songs.

The author of both the seven-stanza text and melody is Philipp Niccolai, dating to about 1597. Francis Browne's BCW English translation is found in Bach utilized all the verses and the melody (Zahn 8359) is found in Cantatas: BWV 1/1, BWV 1/6, BWV 36/4, BWV 37/3, BWV 49/6, BWV 61/6, BWV 172/6, BWV Anh 199/3 for Annunciation Advent, Ascension, Trinity 20, and Pentecost respectively; in plain Chorale BWV 436; and in Miscellaneous Organ-chorale: BWV 739.

Trinity +20 Cantatas Biblical Teachings

All three Bach cantatas and their chorales composed for the 20th Sunday after Trinity -- BWV 162, 180, and 49 -- closely follow the Gospel and Epistle biblical teachings for this Sunday in settings that are affirmative, varied, and engaging, reflecting the Epistle emphasis on vigilance as shown in the Gospel parable of the marriage feast. The cantatas are: SATB solo Cantata BWV 162, "Ach! Ich sehe, jetzt, da ich zur Hockzeit gehe" (Ah, I see sow, as I to the marriage go); chorale Cantata BWV 180, "Schmücke dich, o liebe Seele" (Arise thee, O loving soul); and soprano-Bass dialogue Cantata BWV 49, "Ich gehe und such emit Verlangen" (I go and seek with longing).

Here are the details of the readings: Epistle: Ephesians 5:15-21 (Avoid bad company); Gospel: Matthew 22: 1-14 (Parable of the marriage of the king’s son); (Luther’s German 1545 English Authorised (King James) Version (KJV) 1611. The Introit Psalm is Psalm 1, Beatus vir qui non abiit (Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel f the ungodly, KJV), according to Martin Petzoldt information in his Bach Commentar: Die geistlichen Kantaten des 1. Bis 27. Trinitas-Sontagges.4 The theme of Psalm 1 is “Apprenticeship in Bliss of Piety and Punishment by Removal” (Lehre von Glückseligkeit der Frommen und Strafe der Gottlosen). The Epistle theme is “Christian Ethic” and the Gospel subject is the “Parable of the Great Wedding Feast.” The sermon on November 3, 1726, was preached by St. Thomas Church deacon Gottfried Sieber (1671-1736) but it is not extant.

The lectionary teaching found in that Sunday's Epistle, Ephesians 5:15- 21, emphasize achieving vigilance through moderation and circumspection as described in the Gospel, Matthew 22:1-14, Jesus' Parable of the marriage of the king's son and in inappropriately-dressed wedding feast.

The final quarter of the Trinity Time mini-cycles on the meaning of being a Christian emphasizes the "last things" (eschatology) couched in symbols of the annual Coming and Sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The final cycle theme is the "Completion of the Kingdom of Righteousness" involving fulfillment and rewards. This Cycle of Last Things closes a complete year of instruction and emphasizes the promises/warnings of eternal life [ref.: Paul Zeller Strodach, The Church Year.5

While the teachings in the final Trinity Time quarter of six Sundays are generally grim and harsh, this 20th Sunday after Trinity offers contrast and respite for the Christian believer. Bach responds accordingly with particularly compelling pastoral music reflecting vivid imagery. The Gospel of the Marriage Feast, "prompts many figurative references to the soul as bride, to travel, to clothing and to food, such as Jesus as the `bread of life', and Bach came up with three settings all marked in their way by this imagery, each one creating a distinctive sensuous atmosphere by means of scoring, vocal writing, special sonority, or a mixture of all three," says John Elliott Gardiner "Cantatas for the 20th Sunday after Trinity," notes to the Bach Pilgrimage 2000.6

Trinity +20 Cantatas 162, 180, 49

A comparison and contrast of the three cantatas Bach composed for the 20th Sunday after Trinity, are found in Julian Mincham’s commentary in Cantata 49.7 <<The three extant cantatas written for this day begin quite differently. C 162 (vol 1, chapter 22), an early work dating from 1716 (Dürr p 587) and reused in the first Leipzig cycle, commences with a dignified and imposing bass aria. C 180 (vol 2, chapter 21), along with the majority of the second cycle works, begins with a chorale fantasia. C 49 continues the practice that Bach was in the process of establishing within the third cycle of replacing the opening chorus with a sinfonia of large, sometimes immense, proportions. These sinfonias are increasingly to be found in solo cantatas or those which only call upon the choir for the closing chorale; or, as in this case, a cantata for two voices and no choral movements at all. Even the conventional final four-part chorale harmonisation is omitted.

The earlier two cantatas have a sense of spaciousness about them, a quality which sets them apart from C 49, a work which exudes a greater degree of personal intensity. All three are constructed around the notion of the wedding feast but, as we have come to expect, each has its own perspective. C 162 concerns itself with the appropriateness of the individual to attend the feast and the terrifying concern that he, or she, may be excluded. C 180 describes the process of leaving the ‘caverns of sin’ so that one may be welcomed at, and enjoy the benefits of, admission to that glorious event.

C 49 takes the form of a dialogue between Christ and the Soul, and thus declares itself to be a part of an established tradition stretching back well before Bach’s time. His own interest in the genre may be noted from the fact that this is the third of four cantatas of dialogue between Christ and the Soul in this cycle. Cs 57 (chapter 7) and 32 (chapter 11) portray different perspectives of the evolving union between the two entities and both may be usefully compared with C 49 (a fourth and later dialogue cantata, C 58, is discussed in chapter 35).>>

Cantata 49: ‘Beauty of the Soul’

The Italian opera house elements in Cantata 49 are described in John Eliott Gardiner’s 2010 liner notes to his Soli Deo gratias 2000 recordings of the Bach cantatas.8 “BWV 49 Ich geh und suche mit Verlangen is a dialogue cantata dating from 1726 in which the obbligato organ performs a concerto-like sinfonia and has a highly decorated part in the opening bass aria and the final love duet between the soul (soprano) and its bridegroom, Christ (bass). All is geared towards creating an atmosphere depicting the beauty of the soul. The language is sensuous, reminiscent of the Song of Songs, its religious outer skin easily penetrated. The first duet section ‘Komm, Schönste, komm’ / ‘Come, fairest, come’ is, as Whittaker says, ‘a frank love-duet which may well take a place on the boards of an Italian opera-house’, appropriately since we were about to perform it in Italy. The best movement is the fourth, an aria for soprano with oboe d’amore and violoncello piccolo, ‘Ich bin herrlich, ich bin schön’, a kind of early version of Bernstein’s ‘I feel pretty’. The religious-erotic mood continues in the long final duet with its highly decorated organ part. The soprano sings verse 7 of Nicolai’s hymn ‘Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern’, ending with the phrase ‘I wait for Thee with longing’, to which the bass responds encouragingly, ‘I have always loved you, and so I draw you to me. I’m coming soon. I stand before the door: open up, my abode!’ None of the double entendres is troublesome, only the length of each movement, which slightly outlives its welcome. © John Eliot Gardiner 2010, 4rom a journal written in the course of the Bach Cantata Pilgrimage, 2000.

Dialogue Cantata as Musical Sermon.

The dialogue text in Cantata 49 is religious love poetry centering on the royal marriagefeast, says Klaus Hofmann in his liner notes to the Masaaki Suzuki BIS 2011 recording.9 <<Bach’s cantata for the twentieth Sunday after Trinity 1726 – 3rd November – includes the word ‘Dialogus’ in its title, and thus places itself within a long tradition. Each of the two voices plays a role: the bass represents Jesus, the soprano is the faithful Soul. The relationship between these roles is characterized by mediaeval bridal mysticism: Jesus and the Soul meet as bridegroom and bride; this imagery comes from the Song of Solomon. Dialogue texts of this kind are, in a sense, religious love poetry. The unknown librettist took his cue from the gospel passage for that Sunday, Matthew 22:1–14, containing the parable of the royal marriage feast. Admittedly the cantata does not try to interpret this parable, but in a sense takes just its keyword for the enactment of the bridal dialogue – which in its turn can be understood as a sort of sermon: Jesus seeks out the faithful Soul, loves it, draws it close, with the aim of becoming united with it.

Bach has clothed his music in the ‘wedding garments’ of exquisite scoring. The strings and continuo are joined not only by an organ – to which Bach assigns a brilliant, soloistic role – but also by an oboe d’amore (‘oboe of love’) and, briefly, a violoncello piccolo. The work opens with a splendid concertante movement for organ and orchestra, arranged from an older concerto – possibly for oboe – by Bach himself, a work that is now lost but has survived in a later revision as a harpsichord concerto (BWV 1053).

In the first aria, the vocal line and organ part, each with its own thematic material, almost stand in mutual opposition – an image of distance and of seeking. The following duet then depicts, in a most beautiful manner and with a subtle reminiscence of the preceding aria, the coming together of the bride and bridegroom. In the soprano aria ‘Ich bin herrlich, ich bin schön’ (‘I am glorious, I am beautiful’) it is as if the bride is looking at herself in the mirror, and sees herself dressed with insurpassable beauty in ‘Seines Heils Gerechtig keit’ (‘The justice of His salvation’).

This is also exquisitely accompanied by the sound of the oboe d’amore and violoncello piccolo, in a movement full of contrapuntal artfulness which includes multiple stretti based on the opening of the main theme. The final movement is something that in this period only Johann Sebastian Bach was capable of writing – admittedly encouraged by an excellent text which, in a flash of genius, integrates the final strophe of the well-known hymn Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern (How lovely shines the morning star by Philipp Nicolai, 1599) into the dialogue process, combining it with newly written poetry. The finale of Bach’s cantata is every thing at once: final duet, final chorale and organ concerto movement. With its lively figuration, the organ expresses wordlessly what the soprano – as a cantus firmus – can say only in words, not in music: ‘Wie bin ich doch so herzlich froh!’ (‘How sincerely happy I am!’).>> © Klaus Hofmann 2011

Picander Cycle

Serendipitously, the liner notes on Cantata 49 are part of Suzuki’s recording of three Picander cycle settings of Bach’s Cantatas 145, 149, and 174). Hofmann (Ibid.) in his introduction to the recording provides valuable information on the Bach-Picander collaboration and the cycle characteristics including concise form, use of parody and other types of borrowing from instrumental materials, characteristic of Cantata 49.

<<Among the most significant products of Bach research in the twentieth century was the realization that his church cantatas were not – as had long been supposed – composed gradually during his 27 years of work in Leipzig (from 1723 to 1750), but that the vast majority date from his first six years here, in other words between 1723 and 1728–29. At the end of this period, Bach’s attention turned to a church year cycle based on cantata texts by the Leipzig poet Christian Friedrich Henrici (1700–64). After studies at Wittenberg University, Henrici – who as a poet used the pseudonym Picander – settled in Leipzig, where he worked in postal and financial administration but also, especially, as the writer of occasional poems. His collaboration with Bach began in

1725, and would soon result in a very important work: the St Matthew Passion. Like that work’s text, those for the cantata year were specifically intended to be set by Bach. The cantata texts appeared in four volumes that were published quarterly, beginning in June 1728, for the congregation to follow.

Of the roughly sixty cantatas by Bach that will have been performed in the 1728–29 season in the Thomaskirche and Nikolaikirche, only nine have survived (and some of these only in fragmentary form). Three of the cantatas on this disc are among them [BWV 145, 149, and 174). In recent decades, the small number of surviving works

has given rise to various speculations among Bach scholars that Bach might not have set the year’s full complement of texts. Nonetheless, the nine works that have chanced to survive are spread widely throughout

the church year, which would suggest that Bach did indeed make a continuous series of settings. Moreover, the quarterly publication of the texts would certainly have been discontinued if Bach’s musical settings had not appeared, or had broken off early. We must therefore conclude that some fifty Bach cantatas from 1728–29 have been lost forever.

Among the peculiarities of this cantata year – as we can already discern from Picander’s texts – is the relatively concise form. The cantatas generally centre on two arias, linked by one or two recitatives, and a final chorale. A further distinguishing feature is the extremely sparing use of the choir: introductory choruses based on Bible quotations, as we find in many other Leipzig cantatas, are present only in those works destined for major church feasts – and not even in all of these. In addition, the nine surviving works display a peculiarity of a different kind: they contain a larger than average incidence of parody – in other words movements in which Bach did not compose entirely new music for Picander’s text, but combined the words with an existing composition. We also find other kinds of borrowing, such as the reuse of earlier instrumental movements as cantata introductions. It was apparently part of Bach’s and Picander’s plan that the music should contain as much as possible of valuable older pieces and, by integrating them into a cantata year, to give them an enduring function. The three Picander

cantatas recorded here [BWV 145, 149, 174], too, display these features.”>>


1 Richard D. P. Jones Jones, “Music to Delight the Spirit,” The Cöthen and early Leipzig Years: 1717-29, Sacred and secular: the vocal works (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013: 172f).
2 Dürr, revised and translated by Richard D. P. Jones (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005: 38).
3 Cantata 49 BCW Details & Discography,; Score Vocal & Piano,, [2.17 MB]; Score BGA,, [3.86 MB]; References, BGA, X (BWV 41-50; Wilhelm Rust 1860), NBA KB I/25 (Cantatas Trinity +21, Ulrich Bartels 1997), Bach Compendium BC: A 150; Provenance, Another general source is Wikipedia, on-line,,_BWV_49.
4 Petzoldt Bach Commentary, Vol. 1, : Theologisch Musikwissenschaftlicke Kommentierung der Geistlichen Vokalwerke Johann Sebastan Bachs, Internationale Bachakademie Stuttgart (Kassel: Bärenreiter, 2004: 563).
5 Strodach, Studies in the Introits, Collects, Epistles and Gospels. (United Lutheran Publication House, Philadelphia PA, 1924: 239).
6 Gardiner liner notes in[sdg168_gb].pdf, Musical Context of Bach Cantatas: Motets & Chorales for 20th Sunday after Trinity, BCW
7 Mincham, The Cantatas of Johann Sebastian Bach: A listener and student guide, Revised 2012.
8 Gardiner[sdg168_gb].pdf, BCW Recording Details,
9 Klaus Hofmann,[BIS-SACD1941].pdf, BCW Recording details, .

Aryeh Oron wrote (April 15, 2014):
Cantata BWV 49 - Revised & Updated Discography

The discography pages of Cantata BWV 49 “Ich geh’ und suche mit Verlangen” for solo soprano & bass, oboe d’amore, 2 violins, viola, obbligato organ & continuo on the BCW has been revised and updated. See:
Complete Recordings (16):
Recordings of Individual Movements (19):
The revised discography includes many listening/watching options to recordings directly from the discography pages, just below the recording details.

I believe this is the most comprehensive discography of this solo cantata. If you are aware of a recording of BWV 49 missing from these pages, or want to correct/add details of a recording already presented on the BCW, please do not hesitate to inform me.


Cantata BWV 49: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

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


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