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 96
Herr Christ, der einge Gottessohn
Discussions - Part 4

Continue from Part 3

Discussions in the Week of September 28, 2014 (4th round)

William Hoffman wrote (September 28, 2014):

Cantata BWV 96, “Herr Christ, der einge Gottessohn” (Lord Christ, the only son of God), for the 18th Sunday after Trinity was first performed on October 8, 1724, at the St. Thomas Church before the sermon of Pastor Christian Weise (1671-1736) on the Gospel, Matthew 22:34-46 (The Great Commandment).1 It was reperformed possibly on October 24, 1734, and again about October 1, 1740, with changes in the instrumentation The chorale is based on the 1524 Bar Form five-stanza Christmas hymn from the medieval Latin adapted by Reformer Elisabeth Kreuziger (C1500-c1535), while the melody is based upon a mid-15th century secular love song

Bach set the hymn from a typical libretto in symmetrical form with the unaltered opening chorus fantasia and closing four-part final stanza, with pairs of paraphrased alternating recitatives and arias for the four voices. The 9/8 pastorale gigue nature of the chorus includes two oboes, a recorder and violin piccolo, with Bach reinforcing the cantus firms again with horn or trombone. The piccolo recorder represents the twinkling Morning Star of the coming Jesus.

Of special note in the 17-minute cantata is another tenor-flute da-capo aria (Mvt. 3), “Ach, ziehe die Seele mit Seilen der Liebe,” (Ah, draw my soul to you with ties of love), charming in galant chracter, and a bass abbreviated da-capo aria (Mvt. 5) in ¾ sarabande-style (or polonaise) with two oboes and strings, “Bald zur Rechten, bald zur Linken / Lenkte sich mein verirrter Schritt” (Now to the right, now to the left / my erring steps turn). The traditional secco recitatives are described by John Eliot Gardiner (see comments, below) as (Mvt. 2, alto), “O Wunderkraft der Liebe,” (O amazing power of love), “the first a meditation on the mystery of the Virgin birth,” and (Mvt. 4, soprano), “Ach, führe mich, o Gott, zum rechten Wege” (Ah, lead me, O God, on the right way), “the second a prayer for guidance along life’s path.”

The verse paraphraser of Chorale Cantata 96 may be the librettist of the first group of chorale cantatas, still unidentified, who at this time was alternating writing texts with two other paraphrasers. This poet previously had written the texts of Cantata 78 (Trinity 14) and Cantata 8 (Trinity 16) and next would adapt the chorale stanzas of "Mache dich, mein Geist" for Chorale Cantata BWV 115 for the 22nd Sunday after Trinity, according to Arthur Hirsch's article on Harald Streck’s dissertation on Bach’s poetic texts.2

There is no record that the St. Thomas prefect and former Bach student Christoph Friedrich Penzel copied the parts set and performed Cantata BWV 96 on October 12, 1755. At this point, it appears that Penzel ceased to copy and present Bach chorale cantatas regularly from the parts sets in the Thomas Church, pending the appointment of Bach successor Johann Friedrich Doles.

Biblical Readings for Trinity 18

The Readings for the 18th Sunday are Epistle: 1 Corinthians 1:4-8 (Paul’s thanks for God’s grace); Gospel: Matthew 22:34-46 (The Great Commandment); BCW complete text, ); Martin Luther 1545 English translation, English translation Authorised (King James) Version [KJV] 1611,, The Middle Trinity Time Gospel lessons emphasize "Thematic Patterns of Paired Parables or Teachings & Miracles," according to Douglas Cowling in the Bach Cantata Website (BCW). The current pairs are: * Trinity 18: Matthew 22: 34-46 - Teaching: The great commandment Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. * Trinity 19: Matthew 9: 1-8 Miracle of palsied man And, behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee.

The opening Introit motet for the 18th Sunday after Trinity is Psalm 110, Dixit Dominus (The Lord said unto my Lord), which is popular as a summer Vespers psalm. Martin Petzoldt calls Psalm 110 the “Prophecy of Christ, our King, Prophet, and High Priest,” in his Bach Commentary, Vol. 1, Trinity Sundays.3 The full seven-verse text of Psalm 110 is found at

Cantata & Hymn Text Details

The cantata text,4 "Herr Christ, der einge Gottessohn," is based on the 1524 Wittenberg five-verse hymn of Elisabeth Kreuziger (c.1500-35), wife of a Martin Luther pupil and preacher (Kaspar Kreuziger) in the initial "Wittenberg orbit" of reformers. It is set in
5-line Bar Form: Stollen 1=AB, Stollen 2=CD, Abgesang=EFG It was first published in the Ehrfurt Enchiridion in 1524. As was often the practice at that time, the text is freely adapted and used from earlier Catholic sources: the Latin Christmas hymn by Aurelius Prudentius (c.348-413) "Corde natus ex parentis" (Of the Father's Love Begotten). It "is the first Reformation chorale to draw on the late medieval tradition of Jesus mysticism that became prominent in succeeding generations" (BCW, . Likewise, the melody is derived from a 15th century secular love song, "Mein Freud möcht sich wohl mehren" (My joy will most likely increase), as a contrafaction edited by Johann Walther, and found in his four-voice setting, Geistliches Gesangbuchlein, SW1-3, Wittenberg 1524. It is he first Reformation chorale to draw on the late medieval tradition of Jesus mysticism that became prominent in succeeding generations.

As is also typical of many early Lutheran hymns, "Herr Christ, der einge Gottessohn" found its niche in the liturgy and was adapted as choral settings by Hans Leo Hassler, Johann Hermann Schein, and Samuel Scheidt; organ settings of Scheidt, Johann Heinrich Scheidemann, and Sebastian Knüpfer, as well as Buxtehude, Johann Michael Bach, and Johann Pachelbel; and Bach contemporaries in Telemann cantatas and cousin Johann Gottfried Walther organ preludes.

The liturgical use of "Herr Christ, der einge Gottessohn" is in the omnes tempore (Ordinary Time) church year thematic time of Lutheran Justification, particularly in later, transitional Advent, Epiphany, and Trinity Times, where it is found in the Gottfried Vopelius Das Neu Leipziger Gesangbuch of 1682 as Hymn No. 231.5 It appears along with other popular Justification chorales that Bach set, "Durch Adams Fall ist gantz verderbt" (By Adam's Fall All Is Corrupted), "Es ist das Heil uns kommen her" (Salvation Has Come To Us), "Nun freut euch lieben Christen gmein" (Now Rejoice, Dear Christians All), and "Also hat Gott die Welt geliebt" (God so loved the world).

The NLGB lists "Herr Christ, der einge Gottessohn" as the Hymn of the Day for the 18th Sunday after Trinity and "which most often occupied the first or second position in the Leipzig and Dresden hymn schedules (in Bach's time), and also sung in Weißenfels on this Sunday," says Güther Stiller in <JSB and Liturgical Life in Leipzig> (St. Louis: Concordia, 1984: 243f). The NLGB Justification Hymns "Es ist das Heil" (No. 230) and "Nun freut euch" (No. 232) are also listed as Pulpit or Communion Hymns for his Sunday, as well as the Catechism Hymn, "Dies sind die heilgen zehn Gebot (These Are the Ten Holy Commandments, No. 170).

These three chorales, frequently sung in the early and middle Trinity Time, are replaced with Hymns of Christian Life and Hope for the final quarter of Trinity Time Sundays and are listed as the next thematic category in the NLGB, following Justification Hymns, and also are appropriate for the 18th Sunday After Trinity, according to the NLGB. These Hymns of Christian Life and Hope, NLGB Nos. 234 to 274, include Psalm Hymns, and are followed by the thematic categorieof Persecution, Tribulation, and Challenges.

Besides setting the entire hymn "Herr Christ, der einge Gottessohn" as Chorale Cantata BWV 96, Bach used the closing fifth verse in three other cantatas: BWV 132/6, "Bereite die Wege, Bereite die Bahn!" (Prepare the Way, Prepare the Road), for the 4th Sunday in Advent 1715, BWV 164/6, "Ihr, die ihr euch von Christo nennet" (You, who are yourselves after Christ called), for the 13th Sunday after Trinity in 1725, and chorale chorus closing Cantata BWV 22/5, "Jesus nahm zu zich die Zwölfe (Jesus Took With Him the Twelve), for Estomihi probe 1723. Bach also set the melody in two chorale preludes, BWV 601 and 698. For details of these two and other disputed organ chorales, see BCW,, Cantata BWV 164.

"Herr Christ, der einge Gottessohn" is known as "The Only Son From Heaven," No. 86 for Epiphany, with resemblance to the Christmas Hymn, "Of the Father's Love Begotten," in the Epiphany section of the Lutheran Book of Worship (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1978). It is listed as No. 40 in the Evangelisches Kirchengesangbuch (EKG)

Kreuziger Hymn, Biblical Text

The Kreuzger hymn and related biblical text are discussed in the Thomas Braatz BCW Provenance.6
<<The Text: The cantata text by an unknown author is based on the 5-verse chorale text by Elisabeth Creuziger (or Creutziger, Kreuziger, Kreutziger) whose biography was given in the discussion of BWV 164. The text and chorale melody are normally considered to belong to the church-year category of Epiphany, the same as "Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern" by Philipp Nicolai, whose chorale was also used as the basis of a chorale cantata, not designated as Epiphany, but rather used for the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin (always on March 25) by Bach in BWV 1. It was, however, part of a long-standing tradition to use the latter hymn (Nicolai's) for the 18th Sunday after Trinity as well.

In this chorale text for BWV 96, Christ is recognized and praised as the true 'morning star,' with the congregation fervently praying to Christ to send to them love and true understanding so that "der alte Mensch" ("the 'old' human being") in our hearts may die so that "der neue Mensch" (the 'new' human being) which searches only for God may become alive. Only Kreuziger's outer verses (1st and last) are preserved intact. The other verses were only used very freely as the basis for the other mvts. The connection between the cantata text and the Gospel reading, particularly as related in Mat 22:41-46 [NLT] Then, surrounded by the Pharisees, Jesus asked them a question: 42 "What do you think about the Messiah? Whose son is he?" They replied, "He is the son of David." [2 Sam 7] 43 Jesus responded, "Then why does David, speaking under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, call him Lord? For David said, 44 'The LORD said to my Lord, Sit in honor at my right hand until I humble your enemies beneath your feet.' 45 Since David called him Lord, how can he be his son at the same time?" [Ps 110:1]

46 No one could answer him. And after that, no one dared to ask him any more questions. In Bach's time the answers to these questions found voice not only in the 1st verse (mvt.), but also in mvts. 2 and 5 (in the latter Christ becomes the leader.)>>

Special Instrumentation/Reperformances

The special instrumentation, especially in the reperformances, also is discussed in the Braatz Provenance (Ibid.).

<<The Instrumentation. Although Bach's autograph score and original set of parts were always for the most part available for study, much confusion about what Bach really intended has not been sufficiently cleared up until the NBA I/24 KB was printed in 1991. A century ago, Bach scholars like Schweitzer said of the 1st mvt. that it was "exceptionally beautiful. It receives an individual physiognomy through the animated semi quaver figures in the flauto piccolo and violino piccolo that run through the whole movement." He discusses the "Quartgeige" [3/4 violin] and marvels at the fact that Bach makes the 'violino piccolo' play in octaves with the ordinary violin. So both 'special' instruments are playing simultaneously in the 1st mvt.! Voigt has the Zink and horn playing colla parte with the cantus firmus.

Here, then, is how the NBA editors resolved the problem: The cantata was composed in 1724 (Dürr's assessment was accepted) and it had its 1st performance on Oct. 8, 1724 in Leipzig. After that time the cantata was again performed with changes in the instrumentation, obviously in response to the availability and non-availability of certain instruments (not the main group of strings or oboes). Another performance on Oct. 24, 1734 is definitely confirmed with a later one on either Oct. 9, 1746 or Oct. 1, 1747. The designation 'Fiauto [sic] piccolo" can only mean a sopranino recorder for the 1st performance (with no "Violino piccolo" being used at all.) The NBA editors are unable to identify which instrument is meant by "Corno." Is it a horn or a cornetto (Zink)? This is the question we have encountered recently about the proper instruments to be used in performing Bach's music. If "Corno" can mean "Tromba", does this also allow us to reverse this substitution by using a horn for a trumpet part (Güttler plays the horn in the 2nd Brandenburg and feels justified in doing so)?

In 1734 Bach had the original part of the Flauto piccolo (the sheet for this part also contained the aria, Mvt. 3 for transverse flute and was almost certainly played by the same instrumentalist who simply switched instruments after Mvt. 1 in order to play Mvt. 3) changed in order to accommodate a Violino piccolo instead. Confusion arises because of numerous corrections and Bach's own 'cross outs' of the original part (he did not obliterate it - it still can be read)(Bach crossed out Mvt. 3 [originally for transverse flute] entirely. Did Bach intend to have the Violino piccolo replace the transverse flute part and use it in performance this way, or was this part copied out by mistake? Was this part simply a doubling of the solo parts to give them more support? There is no clear answer.

The 1746/47 performance: was the alto trombone simply a doubling of the corno or did it replace it? The NBA editors surmise that both instruments, Zink and trombone, were used in the final chorale, where the Zink (or more rarely a soprano trombone) would play colla parte with the soprano part, and the alto, tenor, and bass trombones with the other vocal parts respectively. So Bach used the alto trombone to duplicate the alto cantus firmus in Mvt. 1 and the Zink to duplicate the soprano part in the final chorale. Since the Flauto piccolo/Flauto traverso part (on one sheet) have nothing more to play after Mvt. 3, it is then quite obvious that these instruments would not be playing in the final chorale. For this there is additional evidence in other cantatas: BWV 8 and BWV 103.

Cantata 96 movements, scoring, text, key, meter are:7

1. (Stanza 1 unaltered) [Chorus “Vivace, concerted” with ritornelli between lines [SATB Corno, Tromba da tirarsi, Flauto piccolo, Oboe I/II, Violino piccolo, Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo]: “Herr Christ, der einge Gottessohn” (Lord Christ, the only son of God); F major; 9/8 pastorale gigue style.

2. (Stanza 2, paraphrased) Recitative secco [Alto, Continuo]: “O Wunderkraft der Liebe,” (O amazing power of love) . . . “Im letzten Teil der Zeit” (In the last part of time, line 4) . . . Da er den Himmel auf-, die Hölle zugeschlossen.” (for he has opened heaven and shut hell); B-flat to F major; 4/4.

3. (Stanza 3 paraphrased) Aria da-capo [Tenor; Flauto traverso solo, Continuo]: A. “Ach, ziehe die Seele mit Seilen der Liebe” (Ah,draw my soul to you with ties of love); B. “Erleuchte sie, dass sie dich gläubig erkenne” (Enlighten it, so that it may recognise you in faith); C major; 4/4.

4. (Stanza 4 paraphrased) Recitative secco [Soprano, Continuo]: “Ach, führe mich, o Gott, zum rechten Wege” (Ah, lead me, O God, on the right way); F major, 4/4.

5. (Stanza 4 paraphrased) Aria “Vivace” abbrevda-capo [Bass; Oboe I/II, Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo]: A. “Bald zur Rechten, bald zur Linken / Lenkte sich mein verirrter Schritt” (Now to the right, now to the left / my erring steps turn); B. “Gehe doch, mein Heiland, mit” (Go along with me, my saviour); CA. “Laß mich in Gefahr nicht sinken” (let me not sink into danger); d minor, ¾ sarabande (or polonaise) style.

6. (Stanza 5) Chorale [SATB; Corno e Oboe I/II e Violino I col Soprano, Violino II coll'Alto, Viola col Tenore, Continuo]: “ Ertöt uns durch dein Güte” (Kill us with your goodness); F Major; 4/4.

Gospel Connection, Recitatives Meanings

The gospel connection to the chorale, that is between the Son of God and David, a chorale fantasia of “celestial beauty,” the meaning of the two recitatives as a “meditation on the mystery of the Virgin birth” and, “a prayer for guidance along life’s path,” and the deeper meaning of conflict and the search for faith” are described in Gardiner’s 2009 liner notes to the 2000 Cantata Pilgrimage.8 <<Our programme opened with BWV 96 Herr Christ, der ein’ge Gottessohn. The title of Bach’s chorale cantata for this Sunday looks at first to be its chief link to the Gospel of the day, Matthew’s account of Jesus’ theological dispute with the Pharisees on the significance of the epithet ‘Son of David’ (Matthew 22:34-46). Far closer is its connection to a 200-year-old hymn by Elisabeth Cruciger (or Creutziger), a poet who came from an emigrant aristocratic Polish family. So close were she and her husband to Martin Luther that he placed her hymn at the head of his first Gesangbuch. In its praise of Christ as the Morning Star it seems better suited to the Epiphany season, and in fact it is not until halfway through the first recitative (No.2) – like all the four intermediate
movements of the cantata, a paraphrase of Elisabeth Cruciger’s hymn stanzas – that the Gospel connection is made, ‘the mighty Son of God whom David of old worshipped in spirit as his Lord’. Bach makes the connection with Epiphany immediately clear by adding a sopranino recorder in F high above his basic orchestra of two oboes, strings and continuo in his opening movement, a chorale fantasia of celestial beauty. The twinkling figuration suggests the radiant Morning Star guiding the Magi through a pastoral landscape admittedly more Saxon than Near Eastern. To make the most of Bach’s delicate instrumental palette we experimented by placing Rachel Beckett at a slight distance – a third of the way down the nave in the pulpit, from where her recorder glinted alluringly in the same way that a particular colour serves to make an individual line in an illuminated manuscript stand out. But we were told that the pulpit was out of bounds to visiting musicians. Nothing, however, could prevent the sudden, heart-stopping lift to E major that Bach engineers at the mention of the ‘Morgenstern’. Normally the most extreme of the sharp keys in the tonal spectrum of his cantatas, in the context of a movement rooted in F major this key symbolises mankind aroused by the dazzling vision of the Morning Star, whose ‘light stretches further than that of all the other stars’. Bach adds a cornetto (‘corno’ being a common abbreviation of ‘cornetto’) to bolster the cantus firmus he assigns on this occasion to the altos, their entry always preceding that of the other three voices in imitative counterpoint.

Two secco recitatives, one for alto (No.2), the other for soprano (No.4), are exemplary even by Bach’s standards in their economy of means and richness of expression, the first a meditation on the mystery of the Virgin birth, the second a prayer for guidance along life’s path. Bach requires his recorder player to switch to transverse flute for the tenor aria (No.3) that describes the timid advance of the soul. This is one in a series of twelve cantatas from the autumn of 1724 with prominent obbligato parts for flute, evidently devised by Bach to make the most of the skills of an exceptionally talented flautist whom some scholars have identified as the law student Friedrich Gottlieb Wild. One should not be fooled by the populist galant style of this aria: beneath its genial surface one senses Bach’s intention to make profound observations about the soul’s ardour and thirst for faith. This is evident in the way he introduces sighing dissonances and passing appoggiaturas approached by downward sixths and sevenths to portray the tug-of-war within the Christian soul, drawn on the one hand by ‘bonds of love’ and on the other by worldly counter-attractions.

The second aria (No.5) is for bass with an antiphonal accompaniment of oboes and contrasted strings. Here is a further representation of the internal tussle expressed in the tenor aria, those vying pressures ‘now to the right, now to the left’ that dog the pilgrim’s steps as he stumbles along life’s journey. One is reminded of the accursed in Dante’s Inferno, lurching forwards blindly but with their heads twisted backwards. There is a hint of cori spezzati technique here, the practice of setting antiphonal choirs of voices or instruments in mutual combat, pioneered in late sixteenth-century Venice then emulated and brought back to Germany by visiting composers like Heinrich Schütz. It made one wish that the so-called Stadtpfeiferemporen had survived from the Thomaskirche of Bach’s day – those raised, twin-facing galleries on which he used to deploy his winds and strings either side of his singers, and which would have given added aural and visual sense to his use of antiphonal contrast here (and in the sinfonia of BWV 169). The way that the dotted rhythms are hoisted up and then dragged downwards in a succession of first and second inversion chords suggests another stylistic provenance, Bach’s encounter in his late teens with the pompous gestures of the French heroic style he first heard perhaps at the Hamburg opera or played by the Duke of Celle’s band in Lüneburg. With the third line (‘Gehe doch, mein Heiland, mit’ – ‘Go with me, my Saviour’) Bach irons them out completely, like a plane emerging into a clear airstream after turbulence, so that what we experience is the soul’s new-found sense of direction under Jesus’ skilful piloting. But the reprieve is only provisional, with a lunging return of the dotted chromaticism and a plea not to be engulfed by dangers (‘in Gefahr nicht sinken’). © John Eliot Gardiner 2009

From a journal written in the course of the Bach Cantata Pilgrimage

Gospel Interpretation, Recitative-Aria Pairs’ Meanings

The Great Commandment Gospel interpretation, the dominant fantasia, and the meanings of the pairs of recitative-aria as the Gospel’s message of love and a prayer for God’s guidance are the topics of Klaus Hofmann’s 2004 liner notes to the Masaaki Suzuki BIS cantata recordings.9 <<The cantata Herr Christ, der einge Gottessohn was composed for the 18th Sunday after Trinity, which in 1724 fell on 8th October. The gospel passage that was traditionally read on that day, and which was discussed in the sermon, tells a complicated story: it relates the theological disputes between Jesus and the Pharisees. When they ask the trick question - about which is the greatest of the commandments Jesus gives a double answer: love God and love thy neighbour Jesus is then asked by the Pharisees about the nature of Christ who, in the Bible, is referred to both as the son of David and the Lord of David. The first strophe of the hymn chosen for this cantata seems to provide the New Testament answer: Christ is the Son of God. The hymn itself, 'Herr Christ, der einig Gotts Sohn' ('Lord Christ, the only Son of God'), which is sung to this day in the Evangelical church, is one of the Reformation hymns that was published in 1524; it is by the first poetess of the Protestant Church, Elisabeth Cruciger (nee von Meseritz: 1505-1535) who, like Luther's wife Katharina von Bora, was first a nun but, influenced by the Reformation, left the nunnery and in 1524 married the Magdeburg clergyman (and later professor of theology in Wittenberg) Caspar Cruciger. Bach's librettist has, as usual, adopted the first and last verses of the hymn unaltered, has converted the middle verses into a two-fold sequence of recitatives and arias

The centre of musical gravity undeniably lies in the opening chorus, animated piece in 9/8 time, which derives its particular character from two features. Firstly, however lively the other parts may be, the cantus firmus is presented grandly in broad, bar-long note values, and it is presented- exceptionally- in the alto rather than the soprano (a peculiarity that Bach had tried out sixteen weeks earlier in the chorale cantata for the second Sunday after Trinity, Ach Gott, vom Himmel sieh darein (Ah God, from heaven look on us, BWV2). Secondly, there is an agile, virtuosic and extremely high-pitched flute part that Bach has entrusted to a 'Flauto piccolo', a recorder in f" (one octave higher than the alto recorder). This flute part is evidently the musical equivalent of the text lines: 'Er ist der Morgensterne, / sein' glanz streckt er so ferne / vor andern Sternen klar' ('He is the morning star, / His gaze reaches out so far, / More brilliant than other stars'), the illustration of the twinkling morning star in the firmament. The unusual scoring in itself must have come as a sensation for musical connoisseurs among the Leipzig congregation: the piccolo recorder was not n common use as a concerti instrument, and was also a novelty in Bach's cantatas. Admittedly he had made a first attempt in this direction two weeks earlier with the cantata Liebster Gott, wenn werd ich sterben (Dearest God, when shall I die, BWV 8), which has a similarly brilliant flauto piccolo part but, as alterations to the original part reveal, in that case the piccolo player seems to have dropped out at short notice, and the part had to be played on a normal transverse flute.

In the following twofold sequence of recitative and arias, the four vocal soloists come into their own. The point of reference for the first pair of movements is the gospel's message of love. Alluding to the second and third verses of the original hymn, the alto recitative (second movement) praises God's love for His creatures and the tenor aria (third movement) rings out as the heartfelt plea of the faithful for the love of Jesus and its invigorating, illuminating and even incendiary effect. As so often in his chorale cantatas, Bach combines an extremely trying tenor part with a transverse flute solo that is no less demanding, and lets the two virtuosos compete in lively figuration, thereby clearly emphasizing the important words 'haftig', 'erleuchte' and 'entbrenne (' 'powerfully', 'enlightened' and 'burn').

The second pair of movements is a prayer for God's guidance, for the Saviour's leadership and for protection from anger and falsehood. The short soprano solo (fourth movement) is followed by a highly individual bass aria in the manner of a polonaise (fifth movement) which, with its constant alternation of strings and oboes, offers an impressive musical illustration of the beginning of the text, 'Bald zur Rechten, bald zur Linken lentt sich mein verirrter Schritt' ('Stand to the right, soon to the left / My errant path turns') – a metaphor for the Christian's indecision. In the concluding chorale the text of which is a prayer. In a musically simple form consisting of the original hymn strophe with its melody unaltered - the voice of the congregation seems to be heard. © Klaus Hofmann 2004 FOOTNOTES

1Cantata 96, BCW Details & Discography,
2 Streck, Harald, “Die Verskunst in den poetischen Texten zu den Kantaten J. S. Bachs.” diss. (Hamburg, 1971), 214p; described in Arthur Hirsch’s “Johann Sebastian Bach’s Cantatas in Chronological Order,” AUTHOR’S NOTES: 19 (BACH, Journal of the Riemenschneider Bach Institute 11 [July 1980]: 18-35).
3 Petzoldt, 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: 513; Cantata 96 & Kreuziger text, 516-21, Commentary 520-25.
4 Cantata Text & Chorale Text, Francis Browne BCW English translations); Author: Elisabeth Kreuziger (C1500-c1535), BCW Short Biography, Chorale Melody: Herr Christ, der einge Gottessohn | Composer: Anon (1455, Zahn 4297a), BCW
5 NLGB, BACH'S HYMN BOOK: Jürgen Grimm, "Das neu [?] Leipziger Gesangbuch des Gottfried Vopelius) Leipzig 1682)", Berlin: Merseburger, 1969. ML 3168 G75.
6Braatz, BCW Provenance (October 19, 2001),
7Scoring, Soloists: Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bass; Four-part Chorus; Orchestra: transverse flute, piccolo flute, piccolo violin, 2 oboes, 2 violins, horn and trombone in the continuo. Score Vocal & Piano [1.61 MB],; Score BGA [2.82 MB], References: BGA: XXII (Church cantatas 91-100, Wilhelm Rust 1875, NBA KB I/24 (Cantata for Trinity18, Matthias Wendt, 991), Bach Compendium BC: A 142, Zwang K 91.

8 Gardiner notes,[sdg159_gb].pdf; BCW Recording details,
9 Hofmann notes,[BIS-CD1401].pdf; BCW Recordings details.

Cantata 96, Part 2

See: Motets & Chorales for 18th Sunday after Trinity

Aryeh Oron wrote (September 30, 2014):
Cantata BWV 96 - Revised & updated Discography

The discography pages of the Chorale Cantata BWV 96 “Herr Christ, der einige Gottessohn” for the 18th Sunday after Trinity on the BCW have been revised and updated.
The cantata is scored for soprano, alto, tenor & bass soloists; 4-part chorus; and orchestra of transverse flute, piccolo flute, piccolo violin, 2 oboes, 2 violins, horn and trombone in the continuo. See:
Complete Recordings (14):
Recordings of Individual Movements (9):
The revised discography includes many listening/watching options to recordings directly from the discography pages, just below the recording details.

I also put at the BCW Home Page:
four complete recordings of this cantata. Two are audios: studio recordings by Karl Richter (1977-1978) and Nikolas Harnoncourt (1978). The other two are videos of live performances: Sigiswald Kuijken with La Petite Bande sung OVPP (2009) and, on the other hand, Salamon Kamp with Lutherania Choir & Chamber Orchestra (2001).

I believe this is the most comprehensive discography of this chorale cantata. If you are aware of a recording of BWV 96 missing from these pages, or want to correct/add details of a recording already presented on the BCW, please do not hesitate to inform me.

You can also read on the BCW WilliamHoffman's detailed introduction to the discussion of this cantata in the BCML (4th round):


Cantata BWV 96: 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


Back to the Top

Last update: Sunday, May 28, 2017 05:15