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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 59
Wer mich liebet, der wird mein Wort halten [I]
Discussions - Part 4

Continue from Part 2

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

William Hoffman wrote (May 4, 2014):
Cantata 59, “Wer mich liebet" Introduction & Importance

Initially Bach’s dialogue solo Cantata BWV 59, “Wer mich liebet, der wird mein Wort halten I” (Who loves me will keep my word, John 14:23), seems like a slight work. It has only four extant movements (two two-part arias with ritornelli (the first, the opening and striking duet), a recitative and a plain chorale, lasting only 14 minutes, with soprano, baritone and strings -- despite its unusual opening flourishes of trumpets and drums. Cantata 59 probably was Bach’s first presentation in Leipzig on Pentecost Sunday, May 16, 1723 at St. Paul’s (University) Church, two Sundays before his official installation as Leipzig cantor and music director. Despite its seemingly meager ingredients, Cantata 59 represents both a significant transitional work as well as a proto transformational cantata that served Bach well as he pursued his calling of “a well-order church music to the glory of God.”

Cantata 59 was a serendipitous conjunction of perfect opportunity, motive, and method for the composer. In his final weeks as capellemeister at the Köthen Court, Bach began the two-month process of securing acceptable libretti with madrigalian poetry for arias and recitatives as well as strophic chorales to be set to music in an annual church cycle at the St. Thomas and St. Nikolaus churches. A special opportunity arose when Bach came ahead of his family and began to acquaint himself with the Leipzig University resources such as patrons and potential librettists and the church where he could present his cantatas on feasts days with the talented university and civic musicians of the Leipzig Collegium musicum. With only meager choral resources and limited rehearsal time, Bach secured an existing (1714) Erdmann Neumeister orthodox libretto with intimate poetry and two chorales quite appropriate for the Feast of Pentecost.

To this “script” or musical sermon text, Bach crafted a dialogue work in Italian style, selecting to set only the first four of Neumeister’s seven movements. The movements, scoring, initial text, key, time signature are:1

1. Aria in canon (Duetto: Soprano, Bass; Tromba I/II, Timpani, Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo): Wer mich liebet, der wird mein Wort halten” (Who loves me will keep my word); C Major, 4/4.

2. Recitative (Soprano; Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo) “O, was sind das vor Ehren” (O what are these honours); a minor to G Major, 4/4.

3. Chorale (SATB; Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo): “Komm, Heiliger Geist, Herre Gott” (Come, Holy Spirit, Lord God); G Major, 4/4.

4. Aria two-part with ritornello (Bass; Violino solo, Continuo) A. “Die Welt mit allen Königreichen . . . Kann dieser Herrlichkeit nicht gleichen” (The world with all its kingdoms, / cannot be compared with this glory); B. “Ach Gott, wie selig sind wir doch” (Ah God, how blessed we are now); C Major, 4/4.

Bach scholars and performers have confronted the modest scoring and abbreviated form in Cantata 59 while praising the two arias and the original Neumeister text and its associated chorales.2 While examining the special conditions under which the work was composed they have noted its textual and musical connections to other, later Bach cantatas for the three-day Pentecost feast. In addition there is the transitional character o dialogue-style sacred dramatic music originating in Weimar and advancing with Italianate qualities in Köthen secular serenades, and to be recycled as parodied in Easter and Pentecost cantatas for the feasts on three successive days, Sunday to Tuesday, in Leipzig when Bach was under pressure. At the same time Cantata 59 is itself a transitional work providing Bach with three movements he transformed or adapted for later Pentecost performances, including in 1725, two works of the Leipzig poetess Christiane Mariana von Ziegler. They are Cantata 175 with a new chorale text to the plain chorale setting closing Cantata 59, and Cantata 74 with an expanded chorus version of the opening Cantata 59 duet to the same text, and with a new, parodied poetic text to the bass trio aria (Mvt. 4) following in the same Cantata 59, with its progressive Italian opera style.

Cantata 59 Opening Soul-Jesus Dialogue

Cantata 59 begins with the mystical soprano-Soul and bass-Jesus canonical duet set to John’s Pentecost Gospel iconic incipit (14:23), “Who loves me will keep my word.” The passage is part of Jesus’ Palm Sunday extended dialogues and discourses with his disciples about “The Promise of the Holy Spirit,” this is central to the Easter-Pentecost “Great Fifty Days” in John’s unique non-synoptic Christological gospel narrative of reflection, intimacy, love, and ultimate victory. The full text is:

Wer mich liebet, der wird mein Wort halten,
Who loves me will keep my word
und mein Vater wird ihn lieben,
and my Father will love him
und wir werden zu ihm kommen
and we shall come to him
und Wohnung bei ihm machen.
and make our dwelling with him.

This setting as an Italianate canonical aria with musical interludes is Bach’s only opening aria with festive trumpets and drums, usually associated with congregational chorus celebration. At the same time, this dialogue setting is similar to secular ones to texts of the Köthen Court poet Christian Friedrich Hunold (“Menantes”) found in Bach’s dialogue celebratory serenades for Prince Leopold (1717-23). These chamber one-act operas without costumes or scenery using varied dance-style arias Bach preserved and parodied in 1724 in Leipzig in four sacred cantatas for the second and third days of the feasts of Easter and Pentecost, respectively, BWV 66, 134, 173, and 184, all to new, parodied anonymous texts. Bach’s Köthen vocal music served as proto-cantata materials transformed in Leipzig into new uses, with duet arias expanded into closing choruses in Cantatas 134 and 173 using new, appropriate texts.

This Johanine text previously had served as the introductory bass-Jesus recitative in festive chorus Cantata BWV 172, “Erschallet, ihr Lieder” (Ring out, you songs), for the appropriate Pentecost Sunday 1714 in Weimar, Bach’s first major, integral sacred cantata, probably set to a pietist-flavored libretto of Salomo Franck, court poet, and the beginnings of the first church cycle. Pleased with the results, Bach reperformed both Cantatas BWV 59, and 172 with John’s text in a double-bill on Pentecost Sunday, March 28, 1724, to close the first cycle.

They were presented at the Nikolas Church, Superintendent Salomon Deyling (1677-1755) preaching the sermon on the Gospel, John 14:23-31, says Martin Petzoldt in his Bach Commentar, Vol. 2, Advent to Trinity Sunday.3

Pentecost Lectionary Readings

For the Pentecost Sunday service, the lectionary readings were: Epistle, Acts 2:1-13 (Descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles), and Gospel, John 14:23-31 (If a man loves me, he will keep my word).4 Further, the Introit Psalm for Pentecost Sunday was Psalm 51, Miserere mei, Deus (Have mercy upon me, O God, KJV) and is known as “Davids Bußspiegel (David’s repentance reflection), says Petzoldt (Ibid.: 959). Psalm 51 is one of the Vesper Penitential Psalms and is particularly appropriate during Lent services. The others are Psalms 6, 32, 38, 102, 130, and 143. Psalm 51 provided madrigalian texts and paraphrases for 10 Bach sacred cantatas and a unique Bach setting of Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater.

Passages from Psalm 51 are found primarily in recitatives in 10 Bach mostly Leipzig cantatas for Easter-Pentecost and Trinity Time: verse 1 in “Shepherd” Cantatas BWV 85, 104, and 112 for Misericordias Domini (Second Sunday after Easter; verse 3 in general chorale Cantata 97/5; verse 4 in Cantata 132/4 for Advent in Weimar; verse 7 in Cantata 78/1 for the 14th Sunday after Trinity; verse 12 in Cantata 25/4 for the 4th Sunday after Trinity; verse 13 for Cantata 194/11 for Trinity Sunday; verse 15 for Cantata 68/4 for Pentecost Monday; and verse 18 in Weimar Cantata 199/3 for the 11th Sunday after Trinity.

Serendipitously, Bach in the 1740s arranged a paraphrase of Psalm 51 in German, parodied to a setting of Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater, "Tilge, Höchester, meine Sünden" (Blot out, Highest, My Sins), BWV 1083/BC B-26.5 This soprano-alto duet cantata for two believers blends the contemporary Neopolitan opera style of Pergolesi set to Bach’s traditional baroque four-part string harmony and using an accessible German text similar in mood for utilization in Lutheran services. As a motet, it was most appropriate in Leipzig for as a polyphonic motet setting for appropriate Trinity Time services as well as Good Friday vespers and possibly as a polyphonic setting of the Introit Psalm 51 for Pentecost Sunday.

Following the Cantata 59 opening dialogue aria, Bach set the Neumeister second movement appropriate as an extended soprano recitative, “O, was sind das vor Ehren” (O what are these honours), with arioso ending. Here the Soul asks what honors Jesus brings to the fragile believer, ending in John’s lyrical message of what God’s Spirit desires: “Ach, daß doch, wie er wollte, / Ihn auch ein jeder lieben sollte” (Ah if only as he wanted / each and every man should in turn love him). ‘

Pentecost Chorale: ‘Komm, Heiliger Geist, Herre Gott’

Bach sets Neumeister’s third movement chorale text as a four-part plain chorale and recycles this setting to a different text closing the 1725 Pentecost Tuesday solo Cantata BWV 175, “Er rufet seinen Schafen mit Namen” (He calls his own sheep by name, 1 John 10:3). In Cantata 59, Bach sets stanza 1, “Komm, Heiliger Geist, Herre Gott” (Come, Holy Spirit, Lord God), versification of the antiphon Veni Sancte Spiritus of an anonymous 15th century German poet. Martin Luther added verses 2 and 3 which first appeared in print in Wittenberg, 1524. The associated melody of an unknown composer first appeared in the present form in Geystliche Gesangk Buchleyn (edited by Johann Walter) in Wittenberg, 1524 together with the additional verses which Martin Luther had added. The music is related somewhat to the melody for the hymn Adesto, sancta spiritus by Marchetto di Padua (c1270).

“Komm, Heiliger Geist, Herre Gott” is found in Bach’s Neu Leipziger Gesangbuch (1682) as No. 124 for Pentecost, “The Sending of the Holy Spirit” (Wackernagel, III, #19), set to Zahn melody 7445a. It was the de tempore chorale for Pentecost services and was set by various Lutheran composers in various vocal settings and as an organ chorale. Here is the text of this central movement, according to Petzoldt (Ibid.: 974), with its affirmation of grace, love, and light using allusions to affirmative Psalms 50, 102, and 150:

Komm, Heiliger Geist, Herre Gott,
Come, Holy Spirit, Lord God,
Erfüll mit deiner Gnaden Gut
fill with the godness of your grace
Deiner Gläubigen Herz, Mut und Sinn.
the heart, will and mind of your believers.
Dein brünstig Lieb entzünd in ihn'n.
Kindle your ardent love in them.
O Herr, durch deines Lichtes Glanz
O Lord through the splendour of your light
Zu dem Glauben versammlet hast
you have gathered together in faith
Das Volk aus aller Welt Zungen;
people of every language from the world;
Das sei dir, Herr, zu Lob gesungen.
May this be sung in your praise, Lord.
Alleluja, alleluja.

Bach also set the established text (EKG 98) as a plain chorale in the 1729 Motet, “Der Geist hilf unsre Schwacheit auf” (The spirit upholds our infirmities), suitable for Pentecost. Bach also set the chorale’s alternate text, Johann Rist’s 1561, “O Gottes Geist, mein Trost und Rat” (O God’s Spirit, my trust and counsel), to his recycled plain chorale harmonization found ending Cantata 175 with changes in full instrumental support and based on a Christiane Mariana von Ziegler operatic-style text. In addition, Bach had set the melody as an instrumental obbligato in the soprano-alto duet (Mvt. 5) in the Weimar Pentecost Cantata BWV 172, as well as two separate, extended organ chorales, BWV 651 and 652, in the so-called “Great Leipzig 18” of the 1740s, based on materials first developed in Weimar as early as 1708. 6

Bach in Cantata 59 found another Pentecost service use for the fourth movement bass trio aria with violin solo in two-part form, “Die Welt mit allen Königreichen . . . Kann dieser Herrlichkeit nicht gleichen” (The world with all its kingdoms, / cannot be compared with this glory). Here, the bass as the voice of Jesus, assures the Soul that the blessed believer will live in heave with God. Bach essentially recycles this aria, mostly unchanged except for text, but transposed to soprano voice in F Major. The aria follows the opening C Major expanded chorus version of Cantata BWV 59/1 opening duet, now Cantata BWV 74 for Pentecost Sunday 1725, same incipit, “Wer mich liebet, der wird mein Wort halten II.” Here Bach had his librettist Ziegler parody the original text, now beginning “Komm, komm, mein Herze steht dir offen” (Come, come, my heart lies open to you).

Cantata 59: Problems & Challenges

The problems and challenges of Cantata 59, particularly its modest scoring and abbreviated text, are outlined in Bach scholar Klaus Hofmann’s 2001 liner notes to the Masaaki Suzuki BIS complete cantata recordings.7 <<The cantata 'Wer mich liebet’ presents certain problems to Bach scholars. To judge from all appearances, Bach's score was written for the Whitsun feast in 1723. At that time, admittedly Bach was not yet Cantor of St. Thomas; on the other hand, even though it was two weeks before the official commencement of his duties, he did take part in the university church service on the first day of Whitsun (16th May l723).

It is therefore possible that he composed the BWV 59 cantata for this occasion. Two points should, however, be considered. On the one hand Bach evidently reckoned with modest performance conditions: the choir only sings a simple four-part chorale. There are only two solo singers (a soprano and a bass), and he does without woodwinds and the third trumpet that was always present in the later Leipzig festive cantatas.

Normally, however, feast day services in the Leipzig university church could call upon the same forces that were available for cantata performances in the principal churches.

The second point is that Bach’s cantata is a fragment. It is based on a text published in l714 by the renowned Hamburg theologian Erdmann Neumeister (1671-1756). This text runs to seven movements, whilst Bach's composition has just four; Neumeister goes on to include a chorale strophe, a bible quotation and an aria. It is unclear why these movements are absent from Bach s piece. In its abbreviated form, the cantata ends in a rather unsatisfactory manner, with an aria scored or small forces (fourth movement). At the very least one would expect a final chorale and it is possible that Bach did indeed add such a movement at Whitsun 1724: one of the parts used for that performance (the bass) contains the indication at the end 'Chorale Segue' ('chorale follows'). It does not reveal which chorale was used, however, it may have been the strophe prescribed by Neumeister, 'Gott Heilger Geist, du Tröster wert' ('God, Holy Spirit, o worthy comforter').>> © Klaus Hofmann 2001

Background, Limitations, Musical Character.

Biogbackground to Cantata 59, its seeming limitations, and the character of the music is described in John Eliott Gardiner’s 2006 liner notes to his Bach 2000 Cantata Pilgrimage on Soli Deo Gloria recordings.8 <<There is an intriguing biographical wrinkle connected to the origins of Bach’s second Pentecostal cantata BWV 59 Wer mich liebet, der wird mein Wort halten I. In one of his frequent letters of complaint to the Saxon king, Bach claimed that he ‘entered upon my university functions [in Leipzig] at Whit Sunday 1723’. Now Alfred Dürr states categorically that the cantata’s autograph was written for Whit Sunday 1723 at the latest, although the surviving performing parts date from the following year. It seems as though it may have been assembled by Bach, drawing on some earlier material, before he left Cöthen. Did Bach then actually announce himself to his Leipzig public on this important day, performing this four-movement cantata at the university church on Whit Sunday 1723 (16 May), two weeks before his reported arrival in the city, or was it a plan which simply failed to materialise? One can read into its restricted instrumentation (no woodwind or third trumpet), its solo allocation limited to soprano and bass and the lack of a final chorale, a tactical adjustment to the modest capabilities of the university forces available. As so often Bach proves the truth of Goethe’s saying, ‘In der Beschränkung zeigt sich erst der Meister’ – in Alfred Dürr’s words, that he was ‘a master even in limitation’.

The opening movement is a delight in its synthesis of Italian chamber duet and festive instrumentation, yet tactfully restrained. Four times the biblical motto is given in canon for the two singers, then a fifth and last time homophonically in parallel sixths, a cue for the instruments to let rip at last and add majesty to the Saviour’s words in an exuberant postlude. The string-accompanied recitative for soprano is stylistically of a piece with several that Bach wrote in his Weimar years, culminating with a wistful arioso prayer that ‘each of us should love Him’. The placement of a chorale at this point (No.3) is a little odd, yet as an appeal to the Holy Spirit for grace, utterly appropriate. This is Luther’s Pentecostal hymn of 1524 which, as a result of the independent parts

which Bach provides for the viola and second violin, sounds deceptively opulent and full-textured. The closing aria for bass with violin obbligato again focuses on the ‘indwelling’ of God in the human heart through love and the Holy Spirit. Is this really the end? The inscription ‘Chorale seque’ leaves us without any clear directive as to what Bach intended. A repeat of the previous chorale underlaid with the third stanza of Luther’s hymn seems a plausible solution.>> © John Eliot Gardiner 2006, From a journal written in the course of the Bach Cantata Pilgrimage


1 Neumeister German text, Francis Browne English translation,

2 See the following on-line sources: Cantata 59 Details & Discography,; Scoring: Soloists Soprano, Bass; 4-part Chorus (for the Chorale); Orchestra: 2 trumpets, timpani, 2 violins, viola, continuo; Score Vocal & Piano [0.84 MB],; Score BGA [1.30 MB],; References: BGA XII/2 (Wilhelm Rust 1863, Cantata 51-60), NBA KB XIII (Pentecost Sunday cantatas, Dietrich Kilian, 1960), Bach Compendium BC A 82, Zwang: K 28.

3 See Petzoldt, Bach-Kommentar: Theologisch Musikwissenschaftlicke K ommentierung der Geistlichen Vokalwerke Johann Sebastan Bachs; Vol. 2, Die Geistlichen Kantaten vom 1.Advent bis zum Trinitatisfest; Internationale Bachakademie Stuttgart (Kassel: Bärenreiter, 2007: 975; Cantata 59 text & commentary, 974ff).

4 Pentecost readings at (German, Martin Luther 1545; English, Authorised King James) Version [KJV] 1611).

5 For the complete Psalm 51 text and Bach’s usage, as well as details of “Tilge Höchster,” BWV 1082, see BCW Discussion,, scroll down to “Introduction to BWV 1083 -- The Dresden Connection?”

6 See chorale German text and Francis Browne English translation, BCW; BCW Melody,; and di Padua BCW Short Biography,].

7 See Hofmann notes at[BIS-CD1271].pdf, BCW Recording details,

8 Gardiner notes,[sdg121_gb].pdf; BCW Recording details,


TO COME: Cantata 59 chorale, Luther’s signature “Erhalt uns, Herr bei deinen Wort,” and its history with addenda, and a Pentecost chorale to close Cantata 59 with the choices of Gardiner, Suzuki, and Koopman-Wolff on recordings.

Aryeh Oron wrote (May 6, 2014):
Cantata BWV 59 - Revised & Updated Discography

The discography pages of Cantata BWV 59 “Wer mich liebet, der wird mein Wort halten” [I] for solo soprano & bass, 4-part Chorus (for the Chorale), 2 trumpets, timpani, 2 violins, viola & continuo on the BCW has been revised and updated. See:
Complete Recordings (14):
Recordings of Individual Movements (5):
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 59 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 (May 10, 2014):
Cantatas 59: Chorale Rercordings, "Erhalt" chorale
Bach’s solo dialogue Pentecost Cantata BWV 59, “Wer mich liebet, der wird mein Wort halten I” (Who loves me will keep my word), of 1723/24 survives as a torso of four movements with a possible, unidentified closing chorale. It also functioned as a proto cantata for other Bach musical sermons associated with the 1725 Easter-Pentecost feasts. Its two arias were expanded and the latter given a new text as the first two movements of Pentecost Cantata BWV 74, same incipit, in 1725. Its extant central plain chorale harmonization ofLuther’s Komm, Heiliger Geist, Herre Gott (Come, Holy Spirit, Lord God) Bach recycled to a new Christiane Mariana von Ziegler text to close Cantata BWV 175, “Er rufet seinen Schafen mit Namen” (He calls his own sheep by name), for Pentecost Tuesday 1725

The surviving Erdmann Neumeister text also contains a second, appropriate Luther-Johann Walther chorale, Erhalt uns, Herr bei deinem Wort, that Bach scholars and conductors have considered in the second half of the 20th century as more likely Bach’s possible choice to conclude Cantata 59. Given the cantata’s associations with other Pentecost cantatas and this chorale’s use to close Cantata BWV 6, “Bleib bei uns, denn es will Abend werden” (Stay with us, for evening is coming, Luke 24:29), for Easter Monday 1725, several realizations using Neumeister’s text have been recorded, as well as the other Luther chorale.

The Neumeister unused text of the three movements Bach omitted (NBA KB I/13), is found at BCW Provenance,

5/7 Chorale*] GOTT Heil’ger Geist, du Tröster, werth,
Gieb dein’m Volck ein’rley Sinn auf Erd.
Steh bey uns in der letzten Noth
Gleit uns ins Leben aus dem Tod.

[5 Recitative, Rom XV, 13]
Gott der Hoffnung erfüllt euch
mit aller Freude und Friede im
daß ihr völlige Hoff nung habet
durch die Krafft des
Heiligen Geistes.

[6 Aria] Ich bin der Seeligkeit gewiß,
Und fürchte weder Tod noch Hölle.
Mich, mich erquickt die Freuden-Quelle,
Der Tröster, Gott der Heil’ge Geist.
Weil der michs freudig hoffen heißt,
So ist gewissers nichts als diß:
Ich bin der Seeligkeit gewiß!

* Chorale "Gott Heilger Geist, du Tröster wert" (God, the holy spirit, you precious comforter), Stanza 3, Erhalt uns, Herr bei deinem Wort (Lead us, Lord, with Thy Word), is found in Bach’s hymnbook, Neu Leipziger Gesangbuch (NLGB) 1682, No. 305, “Word of God & Christian Church” with affirmation in time of peril; text, Martin Luther, 1541, v.1-3; Justus Jonas, 1493-1555, v. 4-5. The chorale was first found in the Geistliche Lieder, Wittenberg, 1543; Zahn melody No. 350a. Luther’s setting often was sung before the benediction in many services throughout Germany, particularly during Lent, and for the Reformation Festival, followed by “the Lord’s Prayer (that) was prayed silently, and then the Gospel was read once more and the sermon was preached,” says Günther Stiller in Johann Sebastian Bach and Liturgical Life in Leipzig.1

Cantata 59 Recordings

Of the recordings available of Cantata 59, the original four-movement version is found in six performances: Helmut Rilling, Angela Yeung, Jaap Schröder, Pieter Jan Leusink, Salamon Camp, and Pál Németh. Three conductors each have used Bach settings of two different
Luther chorales: Komm, Heiliger Geist, Herre Gott (John Eliot Gardiner, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, and Kurt Thomas), and three with Erhalt uns, Herr, bei deinem Wort (Ton Koopman, Misaaki Suzuki, and Rudolf Lutz) (see Cantata 59 BCW Details & Discography,

Six recordings have only the original first four movements of Cantata 59. For Helmut Rilling Edition Backakademie Hänssler complete recordings from the 1970s, see BCW Recording details, The same sequence of four movements is found in 2011 in the YouTube video of Angela Yeung conducting the Greater San Diego Music Coterie, BCW, scroll down to No. 13, with BCW Recording details. The Jaap Schröder, Amsterdamer Kantorei / Concerto Amsterdam Concerto Amsterdam Telefunken 1967 recording is found on YouTube at; BCW recording details, The Leusink and the Holland Boys Choir / Netherlands Bach Collegium 2000 on Brilliant Classics has only BWV 59/1 on YouTune video,; see BCW Recordings details, Salamon Kamp and the Lutherania Choir / Budapest Strings 2010, see BCW Recording details, Pál Németh and the Capella Savaria 1988 Hungaraton recording, see BCW Recording details,

Komm, Heiliger Geist, Herre Gott (Come, Holy Spirit, Lord God)

There are three recordings of the
Luther chorale, Komm, Heiliger Geist, Herre Gott, using Bach’s harmonization of the first stanza in Cantata 59/3 (Gardiner, Harnoncourt, and Kurt Thomas). Bach set Neumeister’s third movement chorale text in Cantata 59 as a four-part plain chorale and recycles this setting to a different text closing the 1725 Pentecost Tuesday solo Cantata BWV 175, “Er rufet seinen Schafen mit Namen” (He calls his own sheep by name), 1 John 10:3

Says Gardiner in his 2000 Bach Cantata Pilgrimage Soli Deo Gloria liner notes: The inscription ‘Chorale seque’ leaves us without any clear directive as to what Bach intended.
2 A repeat of the previous chorale underlaid with the third stanza of Luther’s hymn (Komm, Heiliger Geist, Herre Gott , “Du heilige Brunst, süßer Trost” [You sacred warmth, sweet consolation]), seems a plausible solution.>> © John Eliot Gardiner 2006, From a journal written in the course of the Bach Cantata Pilgrimage

This same
Luther “chorale movement (with the final verse of the chorale text) is repeated,” says Nikolaus Harnoncourt’s notes to the Tölzer Knabenchor / Concentus Musicus Wien Teldec 1975 YouTube.3

Kurt Thomas and the Thomanerchor Leipzig / Gewandhausorchester Leipzig in a 1959 Eterna recording, see BCW Recording details, .

Erhalt uns, Herr, bei deinem Wort

The other chorale addition in the recordings is
Neumeister’s second chorale text, “Gott Heilger Geist, du Tröster wert” (God, the holy spirit, you precious comforter), Stanza 3 of Luther’s Erhalt uns, Herr, bei deinem Wort (Lead us, Lord, with Thy Word). It uses Bach’s plain chorale setting of Stanza 2 closing (Mvt. 6) of Cantata BWV 6, “Bleib bei uns, denn es will Abend werden” (Stay with us, for evening is coming) Luke 24:29) for Easter Monday 1725 to a Cycle 1 type chorus cantata anonymous text, possibly by Christian Weise Sr. or Picander. Here it is transposed a major third higher.

The 1723 version reflects the order of Movements given by Neumeister, i.e., 1(Duet), 2. (Recitative), 3. (Chorale), 4. (Aria), but for later revivals probably from 1724 onwards), the movements were reordered, with the third movement - a setting of the opening strophe of Luther's 1524 hymn, Komm, heiliger Geist, Herre Gott – being placed last, so that the order was now 1-2-3-4, ” says Christoph Wolf’s liner notes to the 1998 Ton Koopman Erato recordings.4 “The present recording offers a hypothetical but musically plausible solution to the problematical order of the movements in the1723 score, with the chorale being repeated at the end, this time with words taken from the fifth [sic.] strophe of Luther's hymn. Bach himself might well have given verbal instructions for the movements to be performed in this order.”

The same setting and text is used in Masaaki Suzuki’s recording, as he relates in his 2002 Production Notes.5 “BWV 172 was performed before the sermon and BWV 59 after the sermon on the first day of Whitsuntide in 1724. It is unclear whether the cantata was performed on that occasion in accordance with the extant parts (i.e. ending with a bass aria) or whether it ended with a chorale of some description. In this performance we have added Bach's chorale Gott heil'ger Geist, du Troster werth (the third verse of Erhalt uns, Herr bei deinem Wort), the text of which appears in the Geistliche Poesien [1714] as the fifth movement, following on from the first four settings of original poems by Erdmann Neumeister. The final movement from BWV 6, in which this chorale appears, is borrowed to provide the harmony.” @ Masaaki Suzuki 2002

The same setting and text is found in the 2010 Bach Stiftung complete recording project, Rudolf Lutz conductor, liner notes.
6 “Der im Kantatentext hier folgende Choral, ein weiteres Rezitativ und eine Arie sind von Bach nicht mehr vertont worden. Die von Erdmann Neumeister vorgesehene dritte Strophe «Gott Heilger Geist, du Tröster wert» des Lutherliedes «Erhalt uns, Herr, bei deinem Wort» kann nach Bachs Vertonung dieses Liedes in der Kantate BWV 6 musiziert werden und den Abschluss der Kantate bilden.”

(„The chorale, another recitative and an aria which originally followed at the point where Bach’s setting of the original text breaks off, were no longer set to music by Bach. As a substitute chorale setting for the chorale Erhalt uns, Herr, bei deinem Wort, the third verse (Gott Heilger Geist, du Tröster werth) of which Neumeister had intended to be used at this point, it is possible here to use Bach’s own setting of this chorale in BWV 6.”) Only movements 1, 4 and 5 are found on the YouTube recording,

Erhalt uns, Herr bei deinem Wort: Text & Melody

Erhalt uns, Herr bei deinem Wort is a late
Luther hymn that is both liturgical for worship and a catechesis for teaching, embracing the Lutheran principles of the Word with its three stanzas upholding the doctrine of the Trinity during time of threat, says Robin A. Leaver in Luther’s Liturgical Music.7 The Trinitarian principle is “the father who preserves, the Son who defends, and the Spirit who unifies” while the three-fold threat at the time was unbelief, the military the forces of the Ottoman empire, and “the external ecclesiastical threat of Roman Catholicism,” says Leaver (ibid.: 113f). “The hymn’s catechetical connections were made explicit when it was appended to the 1549 Leipzig edition of the Small Catechism and headed A Children’s Catechism Hymn.”

Bach’s setting of Luther’s text (Stanza 2), “Beweis dein' Macht, Herr Jesu Christ” (Show your might, Lord Jesus Christ), of (Wackernagel, III, #1482), is harmonized in g minor as a plain chorale to close (Mvt. 6) of chorus Cantata BWV 6, “Bleib bei uns, denn es will Abend werden” (Stay with us, for evening is coming, Luke 24:29), for Easter Monday 1725, to a text possibly by Christian Weise Sr. or Picander. The melody and text sources for Erhalt uns, Herr, bei deinem Wort are found in Charles Sanford Terry, Bach’s Chorals, vol. 2.8 <<The melody, “Erhalt’ uns, Herr, bei deinem Wort,” which Bach uses in the concluding chorale of the Cantata [6], was first published in Joseph [148] Klug’s Geistliche Lieder zu Wittemberg (Wittenberg, 1543). It bears a close resemblance to the melody [Zahn 1945b] of Luther’s Hymn, “Verleih’ uns Frieden gnädiglich” (see Cantata 42), both being derived from the tune of the Antiphon, “Da pacem, Domine” [HDEKM I, 1 335, NLGB 323, Word of God & Christian Church] of which Luther’s “Verleih’ uns Frieden” [Dona nobis pacem, Grant us peace] is a translation. The similarity between the melodies is matched by the intimate association of the two Hymns. In many districts of Germany Luther’s stanza was sung immediately after the sermon, either by itself or with the hymn, “Erhalt’ uns, Herr.” Bach uses the melody also in [chorale] Cantata BWV 126. The sharpened fourth note of the tune in this movement is found in an early text (1593). The words of the concluding Choral [BWV 6/6] are the second stanza [Beweis’ dein Macht, Herr Jesu Christ] of Luther’s Hymn, “Erhalt’ uns, Herr, bei deinem Wort,” written, probably in 1541, for a service at Wittenberg against the Turks. Luther called the Hymn “Ein Kinderlied zu singen wider die zween Ertzfeinde Christi und seiner heiligen Kirchen, den Babst und Turcken” (A Children’s Hymn, to Be Sung against the Two Arch-enemies of Christ and His Holy Church, the Pope and the Turk, translation Leaver in Luther’s Liturgical Music (Ibid: 107). The Hymn was first printed as a broadsheet at Wittenberg in 1542, and, with the tune, in Klug’s 1543 hymnbook.>>

Erhalt uns, Herr, bei deinem Wort is one of four early Lutheran chorales based on the plainsong melody associated with the Ambrosian hymn, Veni redemptor genitum, of Ambrosius [Ambrose of Milan]’s (c340-397), says Leaver (ibid., Congregational Hymnody: 199). The other three are Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland (Now come, Saviour of the gentiles), Verleih uns Frieden gnädiglich (Grant us peace, in your mercy), and Gib unserm Fürsten und aller Obrigkeit (Grant to our Princes and all those in authority).9

Given the common origin of these four chorales based on Veni redemptor genitum, particularly the melody and its variants, Luther’s original 1543 setting of three verses of Erhalt uns, Herr, bei deinem Wort was expanded with two additional verses of Luther close associate Justus Jonas (1493-1555) at the time of Luther’s death in 1546: Stanza 4, “Ihr Anschläg, Herr, zu nichte mach,” and Stanza 5, “So werden sie erkennen doch,” as the Turkish and papist threats continued.

Walter Chorale Origin & Expansion

Johann Walther (1496-1570), called the “First Cantor of the Lutheran Church” in Carl Schalk’s booklet, “Johann Wather,”10 had planted the seeds of Erhalt uns, Herr, bei deinem Wort with a simple homophonic setting for four voices (CATB, tenor melody) in his Geistliches Gesangbüchlein of 1524 (Sämtliche Werke [SM] 1-3) in collaboration with Luther (Schalk, ibid.: 31). The original text, set to Veni redemptor genitum, along with Walther’s setting of Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland, is:

Erhalt uns Herr, bei deinem Wort
Und steur des Papists und Türken Mord
Die Jesum Christum, deinen Sohn,
Stürzen wollen deinem Thron.

Maintain us, Lord, within thy word,
And fendoff murd'rous Pope and Turk,
Who Jesus Christ, thy very Son,
Strive to bring down from his throne.11

After Jonas’ two additional verses, Walther sought to enhance Luther’s legacy with the addition of his hymn, Gib unserm Fürsten und aller Obrigkeit, tune (Zahn 1945b) adapted from Erhalt uns, Herr, bei deinem Wort of 1543, first found in a Breslau manuscript around 1560 (Leaver, ibid.: 203f), as well as Luther’s Verleih uns Frieden gnädiglich. Walther published both additional verses with the Luther’s three stanzas of Erhalt uns, Herr, bei deinem Wort in 1566 whenWalther published his last collection of music. It contained eighteen German and two Latin compositions. The title was: Doctor Martin Luther’s Christian Hymn for Children, "Lord, Keep Us Steadfast in Thy Word," [Christlich Kinderlied D. Martini Lutheri: Erhalt uns, Herr], Augmented by Several Beautiful Christian Texts, Latin and German Songs. The collection (SM 6) was dedicated to Duke Johann Wilhelm of Saxony, says Walter E. Buszin, “Johann Walther: Father of Lutheran Church Music.” 12

The content of Gib unserm Fürsten und aller Obrigkeit “enshrines Luther’s view of the Christian responsibility of rulers and governments,” says Leaver (ibid.). It is a paraphrase of 1 Timothy 2:1-2: “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; 2 For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty,” and concluded with a final amen.

Martin Luther's German setting of the Latin Mass Proper closing litany, Dona nobis pacem (Grant us peace) is based on the Ambrosian fourth century hymn, Veni, redemptor, genitum (O come, redeemer of the earth), first found in the 1530 Nürnberg hymnbook, and Luther’s translation of the Latin antiphon chant text, Da pacem Domine (Grant peace, Lord), published by Luther in 1531. In the Deutsche Messe (German Mass) of Luther and Walther, Luther's hymn occurs after the closing Benediction and intonation of Da pacem (Leaver, ibid.: 218).

Concerning the two hymns, Verleih uns Frieden gnädiglich and Erhalt uns, Herr, bei deinem Wort, it “seems likely that
Luther himself connected” them together since in 1544 composers Walther and Balthazar Resinarius “linked together their respective settings of these text” in sacred songbooks issued by Georg Rhau in Wittenberg, says Leaver (ibid.: 221). “Thereafter, numerous Lutheran composers, including Michael Praetorius, Schein, Buxtehude and Johann Sebastian Bach, created many different combined settings of these two hymns by Luther.” Both hymns plus Gib unserm Fürsten und aller Obrigkeit are found in Buxtehude’s chorale cantata, Erhalt uns, Herr, bei deinem Wort (BuxWV 27), as well as Bach’s chorale Cantata BWV 126, Erhalt uns, Herr, bei deinem Wort (Leaver, ibid.: 205). Luther’s Verleih uns Frieden and Walther’s Gib unserm Fürsten und aller Obrigkeit are found in Johann Schelle’s chorale Cantata Nun danket alle Gott, in a collection of six chorale cantatas (Leaver, Ibid).

Both the four
Luther and one Walther chorale stanzas are set to a plain chorale closing (Mvt. 6) Bach’s chorale Cantata BWV 126, “Erhalt’ uns, Herr, bei deinem Wort.” Cantata BWV 126 uses the Klug melody in the opening chorale fantasia with Stanza 1, in the alto-tenor trope of Stanza 3 recitative (Mvt. 3) as a tenor slow arioso. The closing plain chorale (Mvt. 6) harmonization has two additional chorale texts found in hymnbooks of Bach’s time, forming a popular seven-verse hymn: Luther’s Verleih uns Frieden gnädiglich (Grant us peace, in your mercy; 1531) and Johann Walther’s Gib unserm Fürsten und aller Obrigkeit (Grant to our Princes and all those in authority, 1566, after 1 Timothy 2.2).13 In “Walter’s memory, ‘Erhalt uns Herr’ had become Luther’s last will and testament,” says Schalk (ibid.: Footnote 45: 36).

Luther’s three verses of Erhalt uns, Herr, bei deinem Wort was used as a closing hymn in services (Bighley 1986 pp. 283f.),” says Peter Williams in The Organ Music of J. S. Bach.14 The melody (Klug 1543) is found in the Neumeister organ chorale, Erhalt uns, Herr, bei deinem Wort, BWV 1103 (c .1700), in G Major. There are two other organ chorale settings attributed to Bach, a manualiter version, BWV Anh. 50, in A Major, and an extended (117 measures) two-manual fantasia version, BWV deest (Emans Nr. 63).15 The BWV Anh. 50 version shows that “nothing in the music points clearly to authorship,” says Williams (ibid.: 577). However, the latter version suggests “the conception could be that of an imaginative young organist creating a spacious setting while systematically surveying current techniques” in the Neumeister style, says Williams (ibid.: 581). In addition, the chorale is listed in the Orgelbüchlein chorale collection, as No. 122, “Word of God & Christian Church.” Williams displays the melody version in a minor from the LeipzigValentine Bapst's Hymn-book (Geystliche Lieder), 1545.

The full text of seven verses of

1. Erhalt uns, Herr, bei deinem Wort,
Und steur' des Papsts und Türken Mord,
Die Jesum Christum, deinen Sohn,
Stürzen wollen von seinem Thron.

Preserve us, Lord, with your word,
and control the murderous rage of the Pope and the Turks,
who would want to cast down Jesus Christ, your son,
From his throne.

2. Beweis dein Macht, Herr Jesu Christ,
Der du Herr aller Herren bist;
Beschirm dein arme Christenheit,
Dass sie dich lob in Ewigkeit.

Show your might, Lord Jesus Christ,
you who are the Lord of lords;
protect your poor Christian people,
so that they may praise you for ever.

3. Gott Heilger Geist, du Tröster wert,
Gib dein'm Volk einerlei Sinn auf Erd
Steh bei uns in der letzten Not!
G'leit uns ins Leben aus dem Tod!

God, the holy spirit, you precious comforter,
Give to your people unity of purpose on earth,
Stand by us in our last agony!
Lead us out of death into life

4. Ihr Anschläg, Herr, zu nichte mach,
Laß sie treffen die böse Sach,
Und stürz sie in die Grub hinein,
Die sie machen den Christen dein.

Lord, let their attacks come to naught,
Let their evil cause be destroyed,
And plunge them into the graves,
they had made for Your Christians.

5. So werden sie erkennen doch,
Daß du, unsr Herr Gott, lebest noch
Und hilfst gewaltig deiner Schar,
Die sich auf dich verlässet gar.

Thus they will come to recognize,
That You, our Lord God, still lives
And powerfully helps out Your flock,
Which very much depends upon You.

6. Verleih uns Frieden gnädiglich,
Herr Gott, zu unsern Zeiten;
Es ist doch ja kein andrer nicht,
Der für uns könnte streiten,
Denn du, unser Gott, alleine.

Grant us peace, in your mercy,
Lord God, in our time;
there is indeed no one el
can fight the fight for us
except you alone, our Go

7. Gib unsern Fürst'n und aller Obrigkeit
Fried und gut Regiment
Dass wir unter ihnen
Ein geruh'g und stilles Leben führen mögen
In aller Gottseligkeit und Ehrbarkeit.

Grant to oPrinces and all those in aut
peace and good gove
so that we amon
g then
may lead a calm and peacefu
l life
in all godliness and honesty.

S. 2 English Translation by Francis Browne (April 2005); BWV 6/6)
S. 1, 3, 6-7 English Translation by Francis Browne (August 2008); BWV 126/1, 3, 6)
S. 4, 5, English Translation by Francis Browne (May 2014); no Bach usage)


1 Stiller (Concordia House: St. Louis MO: 124).
2 See Gardiner liner notes,[sdg150_gb].pdf, BCW Recording details,, with movement listings,
3 Harnoncourt video at; liner notes, 1975 Teldec Cantata recording,[Teldec-CD].pdf; and BCW Recording details, http 3://
Wolf liner notes to the Complete Cantatas, Vol. 6,[Erato-3CD].pdf; BCW Recording details,
5 See Suzuki notes at[BIS-CD1271].pdf, BCW Recording details,
6 Bach Stiftung liner notes,[BWV59].pdf; BCW Recording details,
7 Leaver, Principles and Implications, Chapter II, Musical Catechesis William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapid MI, 2007: 107-115).
8 Terry, The Hymns and Hymn Melodies of the Cantatas and Motetts (Cambridge University Press, 1915-1921). 3 vols. Vol. 2. April 28, 2014;, scroll down to Cantata VI.
9 Details of Veni redemptor genitum found at BCW, “Chorale Melodies used in Bach's Vocal Works,” Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland, Melody & Text, The full text (eight stanzas) of the hymn with Francis Browne’s English translation and notes are found at BCW, Luther’s adaption of the hymn is discussed by Dick Wursten at: BCW,
10 Schalk (Concordia Publishing, St. Louis Mo., 1992).
11 Translation, Virtual Baroque site. Erhalt uns, Herr, bei deinem Wort is best known in English in the Luther three-verse hymn, “Lord, keep us in Thy Word and Work” as “A Children’s Song against the two arch-enemies of Christ and his Holy Church. Today it is known as “Lord, keep us steadfast in your word” (Katherine Winkworth 1863,, in the hymnal category “Word of God,” No. 517, Evangelical Lutheran Worship (Augsburg Fortress: Minneapolis MN, 2006. A similar translation, from William Sterndale Bennett 1865, is found online at The Hymns of Martin Luther [1884],, scroll down to XXXIII:
Maintain us, Lord, within thy word,
And fend off murd'rous Pope and Turk,
Who Jesus Christ, thy very Son,
Strive to bring down from his throne.
12 Buszin, published in the Valparaiso University Musical Heritage series in 1946. - See more at:
Further details are found in Charles Sanford Terry, Bach’s Chorals, vol. 2 (ibid.: scroll down to Cantata CXXVI). See also Peter Smaill’s Introduction, Cantata 126 BCML Discussions Part 3, March 28, 2010,
14 Williams, 2nd ed. (Cambridge University Press, 2003: 556f)).
15 J. S. Bach Organ Works: Organ Chorales from Miscellaneous Sources, BA 5251; ed. Reinmar Emans (Bärenreiter: Kassel, 2008).

William Hoffman wrote (May 10, 2014):
Addendum: Browne Erhalt stanza translation

Here is Francis Browne's Erhalt translation of Justus Jonas stanzas as an addendum to my srticle.

4. Ihr Anschläg, Herr, zu nichte mach, Laß sie treffen die böse Sach, Und stürz sie in die Grub hinein, Die sie machen den Christen dein.

Their attack, Lord, bring to nothing,
Let them meet with a bad end,
And hurl them down into the pit
They are making for your Christians

5. So werden sie erkennen doch,
Daß du, unsr Herr Gott, lebest noch Und hilfst gewaltig deiner Schar, Die sich auf dich verlässet gar.

Then they will realize
That you, our Lord God, still live
And give mighty help to your flock
Who rely on you.


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Last update: ýMay 11, 2014 ý07:31:19