Background Information
Performer Bios

Poet/Composer Bios

Additional Information

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

Cantata BWV 9
Es ist das Heil uns kommen her
Discussions - Part 4

Continue from Part 3

Discussions in the Week of July 6, 2014 (4th round)

William Hoffman wrote (July 9, 2014):
Cantata 9, “Es ist das Heil uns kommen her”: Intro.

Cantata BWV 9, “Es ist das Heil uns kommen her” (Salvation has come to us), is one of the most important chorale cantatas of Bach. Finished belatedly about a decade after the anonymous text was written, it uses one of the Lutheran songwriters first initial sacred hymns (1523-24) focusing on the primary ideas of Justification (by grace through faith alone) and the distinction between Old Testament Law and New Testament Gospel, says Robin a Leaver in Luther’s Liturgical Music.1

The Paul Speratus (1482-1551) 14-stanza text and its remarkable Bar Form melody influenced not only other early hymn pioneers but enabled Bach to provide a striking musical sermon as well as materials for other scared church year cantatas, including ones for its designated service, the 6th Sunday after Trinity. Between the initial chorale cycle starting in Trinity Time 1724, when the text was written but not set, and Bach’s probably reperformance of the cycle with the addition of Cantata 9 to fill then gap on the 6th Sunday after Trinity (probably July 20, 1732), Bach preserved the initial traditional consolidated paraphrases with the bass Vox Christi singing three extended secco recitatives as sermonettes while using upbeat concertante flute, oboe, and violin in a strongly rhythmic madrigalian chorus and the two recitative-interspersed commentary arias.

“Speratus’s hymn, from the earliest years of the Reformation, deals with God’s law and the necessity of strong belief in the redeeming power of Jesus death (Justification by faith), says Daniel R. Melamed in his Cantata 9 monograph in the Oxford Composer Companions J. S. Bach.2 The cantata addresses these themes along with the ideas from the Gospel for the day (Matt. 5:20-6, on the Christian way to fulfill the law) and the Epistle (Rom. 6:3-11, on the belief in freedom from sin through the Crucifixion.” Bach’s performance calendar for the 6th Sundays after Trinity shows that he began belatedly choosing a Telemann cantata for 1725, then in 1726 a double bill of his Cantata 170 and cousin Johann Ludwig Bach’s Cantata JLB-7. This double bill probably was repeated c.1746 while Cantata 9 may have been repeated about 1735 and again between 1740 and 1747.

One of the most notable musical features in Cantata 9 is the distinct, intimate use of concertante flute and oboe winds, supported by strings, to drive the seven lines of melody, as well as textual paraphrases, and support them with elaborate harmonization and tonal allegory moving towards the positive. The use of dance-like treble and duple meter for the memorable opening fantasia in ¾ time; the No. 3 tenor aria in giga-style 12/16 time with violin, “Wir waren schon zu tief gesunken” (We were sunk too deep); and the soprano-alto canonical duet No. 5 with transverse flute and oboe d’amore in quick, generic 2/4 style, “Herr, du siehst statt guter Werke / Auf des Herzens Glaubensstärke” (Lord, instead of good works you look at / the strength of faith in our hearts). Throughout, Bach skillfully manipulates the complex text that blends old and new images, elments of the Gospel and Epistle themes, and Speratus’ affirmation with pietistic caution.3

Church Year Readings, Chorale, Librettist

The Readings for the Sixth Sunday after Trinity are: Epistle: Romans 6:3-11 (We may not live in sin); Gospel: Matthew 5:20-26 (Agree with your adversary, teaching); Martin Luther 1545 German translation, English translation Authorised (King James) Version [KJV] 1611; BCW The Introit Psalm is No. 133, Ecce, quam bonum! (Behold, how good and how pleasant it is, KJV), A Song of degrees of David, says Martin Petzold in BACH Kommentar, Vol. 1, Trinity Sundays.4 The full text of Psalm 133 is found at Cantata 9 was performed before the sermon at the early service on July 20, 1732, at the Thomas Church by Pastor Christian Weise (1671-1736) but is not extant. (Ibid.: 138).

The 14-stanza chorale text of Speratus was published in Nuremberg 1523 in the “Achtliederbuch”: “Etlich Christlich lider.” Quoted verbatim are Stanza 1, Mvt. 1 chorale fantasia), and Stanza 12 in plain chorale, Mvt. 7). The anonymous librettist paraphrased and consolidated Movements 2-6). The chorale text (EKG 242), “Es ist das Heil uns kommen her,” with the German text and Francis Browne’s English translation, BCW The chorale is found in Neu Leipziger Gesangbuch (NLGB) 1682, as No. 230 under (“Justification, Confession & Penitence”), with 14 stanzas (Bar Form: A=2 lines, A1=2 lines, B=3 lines). The last two verses are usually omitted, No. 13, “Give laud and praise” (Doxology), and No. 14, “His Kingdom come” (adaptation of “Our Father.” Speratus (1489-1551) BCW Short Biography is found on-line at

Details of the Chorale Melody (anonymous, Zahn 4430): “Es ist das Heil uns kommen her,” are found at BCW,; source, 15th century Easter song or chorale: Freu dich, du werte Christenheit. Bach also used the 1524 melody set to the wedding hymn text (Stanza 1), "Sei lob und Her dem höchsten Gut" (Be praise and honor to the highest good) in wedding chorale BWV 251 (?1729), after the vows (Stiller 94) and the same Jakob Schütz nine-stanza 1675 text in the undesignated pure-hymn chorale wedding chorale Cantata BWV 117 (1729-35), with the Wittenberg melody in the opening chorale chorus and the plain chorales Nos./Stanzas) 4 and 9.

The librettist or group of librettists for the initial Trinity Time Sundays and feast days of 1724 set all the internal stanzas as paraphrases in Cantata 9, instead of using chorale lines as had been done in the previous Cantatas BWV 20(Tr.+1), 2(Tr.+2), 7 (John the Baptist), 135(Tr.=3), 10(Mary Visitation), no Tr.+4, 93(Tr.+5).

Because the previous chorales had averaged about six or seven stanzas, the librettist(s) set one stanza per movement. For the 14-stanza hymn, “Es ist das Heil uns kommen her,” the setting plan eliminated Stanzas 13 and 14 (Doxology, Our Father), set the opening chorale fantasia using Stanza 1 and the closing plain chorale (Mvt. 7) with Stanza 12. The straightforward internal movements, all paraphrases of internal stanzas, involved the following:

2. Bass Recitative, adapted text Stanzas 2-4, with 13 lines of various lengths;
3. Tenor aria free da-capo, original text set as da-capo aria (2 A lines, 3 B lines), unrelated to the hymn text;
4. Bass Recitative, adapted text Stanzas 5-7, with 12 lines of varying lengths, with the last line set as an arioso;
5. Soprano-alto duet da-capo, adapted Stanza 8, with 3 A lines, 3 B lines;
6. Bass Recitatives, adapted texts Stanzas 9 and 11 (omits Stanza 10 since same ideas expressed in Mvt. 5; total of 17 lines of varying length.
7. Plain Chorale, Stanza 13, unchanged hymn text of 7 lines.

“A direct connection between the hymn and the text to the third movement (aria) is not obvious,” says Marianne Helms and Arthur Hirsch in the Hänssler 1985 liner notes to the Hemut Rilling “Die Bach Kantate” Vol. 8 recording.5 In the aria, the speech is drastic and dramatic; it portrays antithetical ideas in emblematic presentations common for the era: the descent of Sin and Death into the abyss and the hand of Mercy, which could help, but pulls back. The aria stands therefore in contrast to the didactic character of the chorale. Bach underlines this contrast through a strongly pictorial theme and a minor s[e minor] while composing the other polyphonic movements in bright major keys (the chorale outer movements in E major and the duet in A major.” Bach’s uses of “Es ist das Heil uns kommen her” are: BWV 9/1 CC (S.1), 9/7 PC (S.12) [Tr.+6]; BWV 86/6 PC (S.9) [Eas.+5]; BWV 155/5 PC(S.12) [Eph.+2]; BWV 186/6 (S.10), 186/11 (S.9) [Tr/+7]. Bach’s uses of the melody only, BWV 638, Orgelbüchlein, No. 40 (“Confession, Penitence, Justification”) (1713-15), details, “Motets & Chorales for 6th Sunday after Trinity”; BCW

The movements, scoring, initital text, key, time signature are:6

1. Chorale Chorus (Bar form) two parts, C.f.soprano (SATB; Flauto traverso, Oboe d'amore, Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo): A. “Es ist das Heil uns kommen her / Von Gnad' und lauter Güte” (Salvation has come to us / from grace and sheer kindness; A1. “Die Werke helfen nimmermehr, / Sie mögen nicht behüten” (Works never help, / they cannot protect us); B. “Der Glaub sieht Jesum Christum an” (Faith looks towards Jesus Christ); E Major; ¾. 2. Recitative (Bass, Continuo): “Gott gab uns ein Gesetz, doch waren wir zu schwach” (God gave us a law, but we were too weak); c sharp to b minor; 4/4.
3. Aria free da-capo (Tenor; Violino solo, Continuo): A. “Wir waren schon zu tief gesunken” (We were sunk too deep); B. “Die Tiefe drohte schon den Tod” (the deep already threatened us with death); e minor; 12/16 (3/4) giga style. 4. Recitative (Bass, Continuo): A. Secco “Doch musste das Gesetz erfüllet werden” (But the law had to be fulfilled); B. Arioso ending, “Und fest um Jesu Arme schlingt” (And clasp Jesus firmly in their arms); b minor to A Major, 4/4. 5. Aria (Duet, canonical) da-capo Soprano, Alto; Flauto traverso, Oboe d'amore, Continuo) A. “Herr, du siehst statt guter Werke / Auf des Herzens Glaubensstärke” (Lord, instead of good works you look at / the strength of faith in our hearts); B. “Nur der Glaube macht gerecht” (only faith justifies us); A Major, 2/4.
6. Recitative (Bass, Continuo): A. “Wenn wir die Sünd aus dem Gesetz erkennen / So schlägt es das Gewissen nieder;” (When we recognize sin through the law / then conscience strikes us down); f sharp minor to E Major, 4/4. 7. Chorale (SATB; Violino I e Flauto traverso in octava e Oboe d'amore col Soprano, Violino II coll'Alto, Viola col Tenore, Continuo): A. “Ob sichs anließ, als wollt er nicht / Laß dich es nicht erschrecken” (Although it seems that he is unwilling / do not be dismayed); A1. “Denn wo er ist am besten mit, / Da will ers nicht entdecken” (for when he is most present with us, / then he does not want to reveal that fact); B. “Sein Wort lass dir gewisser sein” (Regard his word as certain for you); E Major; 4/4. Cantata 9: Traditional Form, Concertante Instruments

Although composed almost a decade after the text was written, Cantata 9 shows Bach using symmetry in the layout of the movements with the common theme of salvation while introducing the flute with oboe in a concertante style, says Julian Mincham’s introductory Commentary,7 in contrast to Bach’s extensive uses of pairs of oboes in the other early Trinity Time chorale cantatas composed in 1724. <
The overall structure of C 9 reflects Bach's preoccupation with matters of symmetry, a recitative separating each of the main movements (fantasia, two arias and chorale). The theme of the work is a common one, that of salvation which, we are told, can be achieved; but through God’s laws alone----His laws have been established and must be obeyed if we are not already yet so immersed in sin as to have disregarded them. The orchestra has a particularly ‘chamber music’ feel about it. Flute and oboe join strings and continuo for the outer movements and both instruments are employed, along with a solo violin, as obbligati in the arias.>>

Theological Theme ‘sola fide’

As with chorale Cantata 9, “Wer nur den lieben Gott läßt walten,” for the previous early Trinity Time Sunday (5th after Trinity Sunday festival), Bach and his librettist in Cantata BWV 9, “Es ist das Heil uns kommen her,” chose to downplay the Gospel for the day, Matthew 5:20-26 (Agree with your adversary), in favor of the theme of the Epistle, Romans 6:3-11 (We may not live in sin), victory over sin and death, says John Eliot Gardiner in his 2009 liner notes to his Soli Deo Gloria recordings of the Bach Cantatas.8 Paul Speratus’ 1524 chorale deals with the Lutheran sola fide “faith alone” as the solo justification for salvation through grace with faith alone, not Calvinist and Catholic “good works.” <> © John Eliot Gardiner 2009, From a journal written in the course of the Bach Cantata Pilgrimage Lutheran Doctrine, Wind Concerto

The Gospel for the 6th Sunday after Trinity, Matthew 5:20-26 from the Sermon on the Mount, also relates to the Lutheran doctrine of justification by faith through grace alone, says scholar Klaus Hofmann in his 2012 liner notes to the Masaaki Suzuki BIS recordings of the Bach cantatas.9 <<Bach scholars’ theories concerning the date of this cantata focus on the years 1732–35. Some evidence points to 1732, whilst other indications suggest a performance in 1735 – though possibly the 1735 date refers not to the first performance but rather to a repeat. The cantata was thus a later composition to fill a gap in the chorale cantata year on the sixth Sunday after Trinity (perhaps the result of Bach making a musically motivated visit to Köthen in 1724 with his wife Anna Magdalena). The hymn on which the cantata is based remains this day one of the most important hymns in the German Evangelical Church. The strophic text, written in 1523 by Paul Speratus (1484–1551), a contemporary and co-reformer of Luther’s, concerns one of the principal tenets of Reformist thinking: that man is rendered righteous in God’s eyes not through good deeds but through faith alone. The choice of this hymn for the cantata is explained by its similarity of content with the gospel passage for the sixth Sunday after Trinity, Matthew 5:20–26. In this extract from the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus explains that neither the Pharisees’ and scribes’ righteousness nor all the gifts brought before God can make man righteous in His estimation. The text of the cantata corresponds to the usual type used in 1724–25, in which the inner strophes are reworked as recitatives and arias. Probably this is the text that Bach would otherwise have set to music in 1724. Within the framework of the first and last strophes, which remain unchanged, three recitatives and two arias alternate. One peculiarity of Bach’s setting is that he assigned all three recitatives to the bass. As all three of them deal explicitly with ‘the law’, there is a close similarity of content between them, and Bach emphasizes this by setting them for the same forces. Thereby he creates the impression of an ongoing theological discourse – of a sermon. A sort of guiding principle in the composition of this cantata seems to have been the idea of a wind concerto, for transverse flute and oboe d’amore. The introductory chorus corresponds essentially to the type generally found in the chorale cantatas. The cantus firmus is presented one line at a time by the soprano, whilst the lower choral voices have their own polyphonic thematic writing, alluding in part to the wind parts. The distinguishing feature of this movement is to be found in the orchestral writing. The flute and oboe d’amore are constantly present as concertante instruments, but the string orchestra is very much in the background. On occasion the first violin joins in with the wind players’ concertante playing, but overall the orchestral contribution has more of the character of chamber music. The tenor aria ‘Wir waren schon zu tief gesunken’ (‘We had already sunk too low’) contrasts strongly with the opening chorus: now the strings have a chance to come to the fore. The agile violin part is virtually omnipresent; there are hardly even any rests. Whereas in the opening chorus Bach avoids textual interpretation, here he leaves no stone unturned, portraying the descent into the abyss with descending scales over an octave and a half, and darkening the harmonies to depict distress. In the second aria, a duet for soprano and alto, Bach returns to the two concertante wind instruments from the introductory chorus, and gives them plenty of roto manoeuvre. The movement is a showpiece for connoisseurs of the art of composition: the two wind parts are in canon for long stretches, as indeed are the two voices, and at times they all proceed in double canon. © Klaus Hofmann 2012 Production Notes “Es ist das Heil uns kommen her,” BWV 9. The full score of this cantata in Bach’s own hand is preserved in the Library of Congress in Washington (Shelf no.: ML96 B186/case), while most of the original parts are held in the Bach Archive in Leipzig. The parts used at a performance of the work in Halle directed by the composer’s eldest son, Wilhelm Friedemann, are also extant. At that performance the upper two voices in the fifth movement were per formed on the organ. As in the case of BWV 177, the second to fourth movements in the organ part used at the first performance are inscribed tacet, and the harpsichord alone is therefore used in these movements. © Masaaki Suzuki 2012 Bach performance history (6th Sunday after Trinity, BCW

1723-07-04 – No performance (Bach performed BWV 147 of July 2) 1724-07-16 – No performance -- Bach & Anna Magdalena in Köthen 1725-07-08 -- G.P. Telemann: Cantata “Wer sich rachet, an dem wird sich der Herr wider rachen,” TVWV 1:1600 (Neumeister III text) 1726-07-28 -- Cantata BWV 170 “Vergnügte Ruh', beliebte Seelenlust” (Lehms 1711 text) (double bill) and J.L. Bach: “Cantata Ich will meinen Geist in euch geben,” JLB-7 (Rudolstdadt text 1704)
1727-07-20 – No performance 1728-07-04 – “Ach Gott, ich bin von dir und aller Welt vergessen (Picander, P-50, no performance): Mvt. 5 plain chorale, Stanza 10; may survive as BWV 421, “Warum betrübst du dich, mein Herz?” (Why are you afflicted, my heart” 1732-07-20 Possible reperformance of Chorale Cantata cycle with gaps filled BWV 129, 177, 9, 137, 14, 112 to 1734-08-01 -- Cantata BWV 9 Es ist das Heil uns kommen her (1st performance) 1735-07-17 double bill, Stözel’s “Dies wird sein Name sein, daß man ihn nennen wird, Herr,” Mus. A 15:251 and “Daß sie genennet wer-den Bäume der Gerechtigkeit,” Mus. A 15:252 (“String-Music” cycle) 1736-07-08 – double bill or later; no titles, “Book of Names of Christ” cycle; also Benjamin Schmolck text.
1740-07-24 to
1747-07-09 Cantata BWV 9 Es ist das Heil uns kommen her (2nd performance)
1746-07-17 – possible double bill reperformance: Cantata BWV 170, and J.L. Bach JLB-7 Vocal works with no definite date: (1732-1735) - Cantata BWV 9 Es ist das Heil uns kommen her (1st performance, Leipzig)
(1740-1747) - Cantata BWV 9 Es ist das Heil uns kommen her (2nd performance, Leipzig)
(c1743-46) - J.L. Bach: Cantata Ich will meinen Geist in euch geben, JLB-7 (2nd performance, Leipzig)
(1746-1747) - Cantata BWV 170 Vergnügte Ruh', beliebte Seelenlust (2nd performance, Leipzig) Not authenticated: Neumann XXVIII Church Cantata “Dom. 6. Post Trinit: Concerto a 4 Voci e 4 stromenti”; autograph turned sideways in the handwriting with composition of C. Ph. E. Bach (P 1130). Werner Neumann Handbuch der Kantaten Joh. Seb. Bachs, Edition 5, 1984 Breitkopf& Härtel: Wiesbaden ISBN 3 7651 0054 4 (Page 264). FOOTNOTES:

1 Leaver, Principles and Implications (William B. Eerdmans Publishing: Grand Rapids MI: 108).
2 J. S. Bach, ed. Malcolm Boyd (Oxford University Press, 1999: 162).
3 Chorale Cantata BWV 9, Details and Discography, BCW
4 Petzoldt, Martin. Bach Kommentar: Die geistlichen Kantaten des 1. Bis 27. Trinitas-Sontagges, Vol. 1; Theologisch Musikwissenschaftlicke Kommentierung der Geistlichen Vokalwerke Johann Sebastan Bachs, Internationale Bachakademie Stuttgart (Kassel: Bärenreiter, 2004: Cantata 9 Commentary, 127ff; Cantata 9 text, 135-39).
5 Helms/Hirsh liner notes, BCW Recording details,
6 Scoring, Soloists: Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bass; 4-part Chorus; Orchestra: transverse flute, oboe d’amore, 2 violins, viola, continuo. Score Vocal & Piano [2.24 MB],; Score BGA [2.89 MB], References: BGA I (cantata 1-10, Moritz Hauptmann, 1851), NBA KB I/17.2 (Cantatas, Tr.+6, Reinmar Emans, 1993), Bach Compendium BC A 107, Zwang K 187. Provenance, Thomas Braatz 2001,
7 Mincham Commentary,; from The Cantatas of Johann Sebastian Bach: A listener and student guide, Revised 2014; Home Page,
8 Gardiner notes,[sdg156_gb].pdf; BCW Recording details,
9 Klaus Hofmann liner notes,[BIS-1991-SACD-booklet].pdf; BCW Recording details,


To Come: Lutheran background and use of “Es ist das Heil uns kommen her,” Liturgy and Chorales for the 6th Sunday after Trinity, and Fugitive Notes.

William Hoffman wrote (July 12, 2014):
Cantata 9, Chorale Background, Trinity +6 Chorales

See: Motets & Chorales for 6th Sunday after Trinity

Aryeh Oron wrote (July 19, 2014):
Cantata BWV 9 - Revised & updated Discography

The discography pages of the Chorale Cantata BWV 9 “Es ist das Heil uns kommen her” for the 6th Sunday after Trinity on the BCW has been revised and updated.
The cantata is scored for soprano, alto, tenor & bass soloists; 4-part Chorus; and orchestra of transverse flute, oboe d’amore, 2 violins, viola, & continuo. See:
Complete Recordings (14):
Recordings of Individual Movements (7):
The revised discography includes many listening/watching options to recordings directly from the discography pages, just below the recording details.

I believe this is the most comprehensive discography of this chorale cantata. If you are aware of a recording of BWV 9 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 9: Es ist das Heil uns kommen her for 6th Sunday after Trinity
Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements
Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

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


Back to the Top

Last update: Saturday, September 30, 2017 00:19