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Cantata BWV 190
Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied
Cantata BWV 190a
Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied!
Discussions - Part 2

Continue from Part 1

Discussions in the Week of January 15, 2006 (2nd round)

John Pike wrote (January 14, 2006):
BWV 190 "Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied!": Introduction

As we proceed with our chronological survey of Bach's cantatas, in order of composition, the cantata for discussion this week (beginning 15th January 2006) is Cantata BWV 190 "Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied!"
("Sing unto the Lord a new song! (by Richard Stokes))

Basic Information

Event in the Lutheran church calendar: Cantata for the Feast of Circumcision / New Year's Day [Incomplete]

Readings: Epistle: Galatians 3: 23-29; Gospel: Luke 2: 21

Composed: Leipzig, 1724

First Performed: Leipzig, 1st January 1724

Second performance (parody version): 25th June 1730. BWV 190a, for 200th anniversary of the Augsburg Confession

Text: Psalm 149: 1, Psalm 150: 4, Psalm 150: 6 (Mvt. 1); Johannes Herman (Mvt. 7). Anon [probably Christian Friedrich Henrici (Picander)] (Mvts 2-6)

Short Commentary

The notes below are taken from sleeve notes from Suzuki's recording (by Klaus Hofmann, 2002) [8]:

It was the custom of the baroque era to greet each new year in a festive manner, and this is exactly what Bach did, on 1st January 1724, the first New Year after he assumed his duties in Leipzig, with this cantata . Those who attended church in Leipzig will have expected nothing less from their new cantor, but one can imagine how surprised and overwhelmed they must have been by this cantata, and in particular by its opening chorus: such grandiose music for the New Year had surely never been heard in Leipzig before. In the opening movement, Bach requires (in addition to the choir and string orchestra) trumpets, timpani and a woodwind quartet consisting of three oboes and a bassoon; he also allowed the vocal lines and instruments to compete in a multitude of constantly changing combinations of nuance and thematic material. All the same, Bach's surviving manuscripts only provide us with an approximate, incomplete picture. Bach's score has only been preserved in fragmentary form; the
first 2 movements are missing, and of the parts that were used for the performance in 1724, those for the three trumpets, timpani, the three oboes, viola and basso continuo have also gone astray; only the vocal parts and the first and second violin parts, therefore, are present. For the first two movements, which are missing from the manuscript score, these are thus the only surviving sources.

These losses, which are much to be regretted, can probably be traced back to Bach himself and to a performance of the cantata in revised form to mark the 200th anniversary of the Augsburg Confession in 1730. That new version - as is shown by surviving copies of the text - was a so-called "parody" (Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied, BWV 190a): the music was by and large the same, but the recitatives and arias were provided with different texts - indeed the recitatives were recomposed - and the final chorale was replaced by another hymn. It seems that Bach, in order to minimise the copying that would be needed, simply removed the pages containing the first two movements from the old score and inserted thema into the new one, and that similarly he took the instrumental parts that are now missing from the 1724 edition and re-used them in slightly modified form. Unfortunately, the revised version from 1730 has also been lost and with it all of the materials, score and parts, that had been taken from the 1724 score. This means that the first and second movements of this cantata are, strictly speaking, unperformabe; at the very least, they require reconstruction involving considerable creative input if they are to be resurrected. In the first movement, the trumpets, timpani, oboes, bassoon, viola and continuo must be added, and in the second movement - in which the trumpets and timpani were probably silent - at least the continuo part must be provided (the viola, like the two violin parts, evidently just supported the choir, whilst the woodwind, if they played at all, would have followed the choral lines).

Especially with regard to the opening chorus, therefore, the task that confronts us is by no means an easy one, but at the same time it is an extremely tempting challenge. Since the beginning of the twentieth century, attempts to reconstruct the lost original have been made by experts in the music of Bach such as Bernhard Todt (1904), Walther Reinhart (1948), Olivier Alain (1971) and Diethard Hellmann (BWV 190a, 1972). The recording by the Bach Collegium Japan is based on a new attempt to come closer to the original, a reconstruction by Masato Suzuki(1st movement) and his father Masaako Suzuki (2nd movement) and further details of this reconstruction can be found in the sleeve notes to the recording.

The order of the cantata is: 1. Chorus; 2. Chorale and recitative (Bass, tenor, alto); 3. Aria (alto); 4. Recitative (bass); 5. Aria duet (tenor, bass); 6. Recitative (tenor); 7. Chorale

Useful information

Link to texts, translations, details of scoring, references, provenance, commentary, vocal score, music examples, and list of known recordings:

Link to previous discussions:

Chorales used in this cantata

Bach used the chorale "Jesu, nun sei gepreiset" in this cantata. See:


Streamed over the internet, it is possible to hear a MIDI file of the final chorale:

Koopman's version of the whole cantata [4] is not currently available.

You can listen to short examples from other recordings through the links to Amazon provided at the Recordings page.

I look forward to reading your comments about this cantata and about the available recordings.

Craig Burroughs wrote (January 14, 2006):
The first Chorus is made up of quotes from Luther's version of the "Te Deum" and quotes from Psalm 149:1 and 150:4, 6.

Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied! Die Gemeine der Heiligen soll ihn loben!
Lobet ihn mit Pauken und Reigen, lobet ihn mit Saiten und Pfeifen!
Herr Gott, dich loben wir!
Alles, was Odem hat, lobe den Herrn!
Herr Gott, wir danken dir!
(Psalms 149:1; 150:4, 6)
(Luther's "Te Deum")

Sing a new song to the Lord! The company of the saints shall praise Him!
Praise Him with drums and dances; praise Him with strings and pipes!
Lord God, we praise You!
Everything that has breath, praise the Lord!
Lord God, we thank You!

As this is a piece for New Years Day, Bach's idea of including the Te Deum flies in the face of an old Catholic traditional that a "plenary indulgence" would be granted anyone who recited it on the last day of the year. Being a child of the Reformation, could this be a move for musical redemption or a statement of theology? Luther would have been in favour; after all he had himself reworked this old piece! It is quite possible that the original congregation of the Cantata would have been aware of its previous Roman Catholic use and Bach being well read in Theology would almost certainly known.

Alternatively Psalm 149 and 150 are normally thought of as closing Psalms and may have been specifically written for this purpose. They do, of course, close the Psalter. So another idea is maybe that of closing the old year before starting the new but that seems to contradict the point of singing it on the first day of the year. However when we refer the text to the last Choral we can see that in Bach's idea the year has gone full circle:

Laß uns das Jahr vollbringen
Zu Lob dem Namen dein,

(Let us complete the year
to the praise of Your name)

But to return to my first thought, the music, in Suzuki's version [8] at least, (sadly the only version I have of this piece) speaks so solidly of entrance and the "new song". Suzuki comments "Those who attended church in Leipzig will have expected nothing less from their new cantor, but one can imagine how surprised and overwhelmed they must have been by this cantata, and in particular by its opening chorus: such grandiose music for the New Year had surely never been heard in Leipzig before."

My musical understanding is limited and my background is more theological but seeing as Bach regularly used music to underline or complement his theological ideas can anyone remark further? Or does the text maybe help comment on how the music could be reconstructed? Is Dr. Tim Smith or anyone with the same understanding of Bach's music and theology willing to comment?


I must thanks Hans-Joachim Reh who first asked about this in the last discussion of this Cantata, August 24, 2003.

Hans-Joachim Reh wrote (January 14, 2006):
Craig Burroughs wrote:
< As this is a piece for New Years Day, Bach's idea of including the Te Deum flies in the face of an old Catholic traditional that a "plenary indulgence" would be granted anyone who recited it on the last day of the year. Being a child of the Reformation, could this be a move for musical redemption or a statement of theology? >
Yes, I do think that this a theological statement. But the meaning is a different one:
When Bach uses this very old "Te Deum" (it dates back to the 4th century) I suppose he wants to point out, that "das neue Lied" is not just "a new song" but the melody of the new testament - in contrast to the old testament. By contrasting his own music to "Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied" with the "Te Deum" Bach makes cleasr that the real new song started on Christmas/Easter.

Douglas Cowling wrote (January 14, 2006):
[To Hans-Joachim Reh] I don't see a literary quatation from Luther's German Te Deum in this chorus. It only uses psalm texts. Contrast this with Cantata BWV 16 which sets the text:

Herr Gott, dich loben wir,
Herr Gott, wir danken dir.
Dich, Gott Vater in Ewigkeit,
Ehret die Welt weit und breit.

Thomas Braatz wrote (January 14, 2006):
[To Douglas Cowling] Check out:

Alfred Dürr explains in his book on the cantatas:

"The introductory chorus which dominates the entire work has a text consisting of various parts/sections and is comprised of Psalm verses (Psalm 149:1; 150:4; and 150:6) AND [my emphasis] the beginning of Luther's German Tedeum. Musically the movement can be divided into 3 parts with the Tedeum citations providing the pivotal moments in a choral unison which separates one part from the other:

A: The concertante section "Singet dem Herrn..."; (Tedeum: "Herr Gott, dich loben wir")

B. The choral fugue "Alles, was Odem hat..."; (Tedeum: Herr Gott, wir danken dir")


A'. The repeat, in shortened form, of the 1st section (Tedeum: "Alleluja")

Scott Sperling wrote (January 17, 2006):
Text in Cantata BWV 190

"Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied!", "Sing to the Lord a new song!", what a great way to begin a New Year's Day Cantata!

That exhortation, "Sing to the Lord a new song!", which is taken from Ps. 149:1 (and also found in Ps. 33:3; Ps. 96:1; Ps. 98:1 and Isa. 42:10), has multiple layers of meanings:

It is an encouragement to composers throughout the ages to write new music for the church, in praise of God. We do not need to be locked into a fixed hymnody. God welcomes new songs of praise.

It is a cross-cultural invitation for peoples from all lands to sing praises to God, in their own tongues and traditions: Japanese can praise the Lord with Taiko Drums; Australians with didgeridoos.

But for this Cantata, being a New Year's Cantata, it is an exhortation that the congregation of saints, in this New Year, "Sing to the Lord a new song": they are to find new and creative ways to praise the Lord.

The textual theme of Cantata BWV 190 is praise to the Lord. The opening Chorus, as stated, begins with Ps. 149:1, and then moves to cite Psalm 150, which is the summarizing chapter in the book of praises: "Praise ye the Lord. Praise God in His sanctuary: praise Him in the firmament of His power. Praise Him for His mighty acts: praise Him according to His excellent greatness. Praise Him with the sound of the trumpet: praise him with the psaltery and harp. Praise Him with the timbrel and dance: praise Him with stringed instruments and organs. Praise Him upon the loud cymbals: praise Him upon the high sounding cymbals. Let every thing that hath breath praise the Lord. Praise ye the Lord."

Notable in this psalm is that praise to the Lord is to be loud and full of joy, and certainly the opening chorus, which Bach composed to begin this Cantata of praise, is in obedience to this psalm. Sadly, many think that a place of worship to God must be dark, dank and solemn. Not so the Psalmist, and not so Bach. The opening chorus in this Cantata is bright, loud and full of joy, in praise to God.

Especially masterful in the Chorus is the Fugue "Alles, was Odem hat, lobe den Herrn!" ("Let everything that has breath praise the Lord"). The Fugue, with its layers of contrapuntal voices, is quite effective in depicting "every breathing thing" praising the Lord.

Following the opening Chorus, the Recitative/Chorale is a prayer of thanks to God, reminding the congregation of the reasons they have to praise Him. I find interesting the specificity of the prayer, that it applies specifically to their land and their city. This would draw the congregation in, making concrete, the possibly abstract notion of praising God. The Alto Aria that follows reiterates the exhortation of praise: "Praise Zion your God, praise your God with joy. Up! Tell of His glory!".

The Bass Recitative, and the Duet that follows, speak of the center and object of their praise: Jesus. For the Christian church, an important aspect of praise is to keep Jesus as the center of one's life. The Bass Recitative ends with the resolution that "I shall
begin this year in Jesus' name." This is fulfilled in the following Duet, with each line beginning with the name of Jesus.

Next, in the Tenor Recitative, we are given a prayer for the New Year. Again, the prayer is specific, asking for blessings on the church, the school, the teachers, the city leaders, and each house.

The final Chorale has the same instrumentation as the opening Chorus, as if to remind the hearer of that song of praise. The final Chorale is an exhortation to resolve that praise would continue throughout the New Year, so that the New Year would end, as it began, with praise to God.

Neil Halliday wrote (January 19, 2006):
BWV 190. "Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied"

The aria and duet are tuneful movements, both having melodies starting on the mediant in the major key (D major and A major respectively). Naturally, in the duet, the tenor takes up the melody a fifth higher than the bass.

The alto aria has B's usual enlivening syncopation in the instrumental and vocal parts.

Those who dislike vocal vibrato will find that Robin Blaze, with Suzuki [8], fits the bill in the alto aria (but his voice becomes practically inaudible on the low C sharp on "Ruhm"). I find Watts with Rilling [3] to be acceptable, more mellow than usual. Koopman's strings [4] sound too light, almost dainty, in this movement - Suzuki definitely has the stronger of the period strings.

In the duet, Suzuki [8] and Koopman [4] allot the obligato part to what sounds like a violincello piccolo, where Rilling uses an oboe d'amore. The worshipful effect that Suzuki achieves is quite attractive. Once again, Suzuki sounds much `larger' and much more satisfying than Koopman.

The situation with the opening chorus confronts us with one of the disasters of music history; to expect satisfactory reconstruction of this obviously powerful, brilliant, festive chorus, in which most of the orchestration has been lost, is of course a tall order, given that it requires the arranger to emulate Bach's incomparable skills, virtually an impossible task with such music. One can hear the differing degrees of divergence from the ideal in the various recordings. Suzuki [8] seems to have the most brilliant of the reconstructions/performances, of the examples at the BCW.

In the closing chorale, Bach recalls the brilliance of the opening chorus, with the interludes for trumpets and timpani. Bach later reused this music to close BWV's BWV 41 and BWV 171, as noted at the BCW. In this movement Rilling [3] has the somewhat feeble timpani that sometimes appear in his recordings (BWV 79 is another one).

Overall, first place must be given to Suzuki's recording [8].

Neil Halliday wrote (January 19, 2006):
Neil Halliday wrote:
<"The alto aria has Bach's usual enlivening syncopation in the instrumental and vocal parts".
Plus, I omitted to say, a clever and effective combination of dactyl and anapaest rhythms in the pricipal melody - the 'figura corta' that Thomas Braatz drew our attention to some time ago.

John Pike wrote (January 19, 2006):
[To Neil Halliday] It's a great pity that this cantata is incomplete because much of it is very beautiful, especially the duet. Nevertheless, I thought the reconstructions that have been made were successful, especially the stirring one by Masato Suzuki of the first movement.

I have listened to Suzuki [8], Rilling [3], Koopman [4] and enjoyed them all, but the most enjoyable thing I heard was the performance of the duet from this cantata on Gardiner's "Alles mit Gott" CD....very beautiful.


BWV 190

Lew George wrote (September 28, 2008):
I am currently working through Bach's oeuvre chronologically and today reached BWV 190 Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied. It is not included in the Harnoncourt or Leusink "complete" editions, despite the manuscripts of 5 of the 7 movements being extant. However, Suzuki has recorded a version in which he and his son reconstructed the missing first chorus and the second movement bass aria/recit.

The reconstructed chorus (done by his son) is absolutely thrilling, and I defy anyone who does not know this cantata in a blind test hearing to believe it is not authentic Bach. The same is true of the recit/aria (of course they are in one sense in that Suzuki jnr for example based his reconstruction on the "...wonderful extant vocal parts and the various figures scattered through the (surviving) violin parts", as Suzuki pere put it in his notes to the recording (one wonders if any other way is possible).

Suzuki mentioned that Koopman reconstructed his own version of this movement. I would be grateful if someone who has both recordings can tell me whether they sound roughly the same, a bit different, or totally different, and which sounds more (or less) authentic.

What do other BCW members think of attempts such as these to restore lost, or partially lost masterpieces? En passant Klaus Hoffman in his introductory notes to Suzuki's recording lists Bernhard Todt (1904), Walter Reinhart (1948), Olivier Alain (1971) and Diethard Hellmann (BWV190a, 1972) as other known attempts to reconstruct the opening chorus, but I don't know whether any of them have been recorded.

William Hoffman wrote (September 28, 2008):
Lew George wrote:
< What do other BCW members think of attempts such as these to restore lost, or partially lost masterpieces? >
With the church year sacred cantatas, strides are being made, where once it was considered a mortal sin to attempt to "play" Bach, even with extant incomplete parts or full parodies. "Thou shalt not imitate the Master." The same strides and more have been made with parodies, once considered abominable self-plagairism. Reconstructions had been done for many years with concerti, especially original versions of the harpsichord concerti, like the marvelous Double Concerto for Violin and Oboe, BWV 1060. Now, some wonderful vocal music is being recovered.

Twenty yeatrs ago, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, in the penultimate volume of his "Complete Cantatas," Vol. 44, omitted Cantatas BWV 190, BWV 191 and BWV 193, on the grounds that they were incomplete or parodies -- or both. But things were already changing. Rilling perfomed all three. By 2000, he and Koopman (with alternate versions of movements) in their much more "complete" editions had perfomed all the published materials and some reconstructions, as well as newer works such as the German Pergolesi Stabat Mater adaptation, BWV 1083, and some single movement insertions.

There are still some gaps, like Christmas Cantata BWV 197a, Glory to God in the Highest," a 1728 Picander-text proto cantata, parodied as a sacred wedding cantata, with the music of an opening chorus and aria lost. A reconstruction by Gustave Adolf Theil, who also reconstructed the St. Mark Passion (BWV 247), I believe uses the music of BWV 1068/1, as Bach used the similar French Overture to BWV 1069/1, with added trumpets and drums and a choral setting of the text in BWV 110. I hope Suzki is bold enough, where Rilling and Koopman were not, to give us a realization of this amazing work.

We are even getting realizations of the original versions of Weimar cantatas like BWV 147a, "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring," and BWV 80a, "A Might Fortress Is Our God," I believe by Theill and Diethard Hellmann.

Also, the Dutch conductor Jos Van Veldhoven has a realiztions of the Köthen Funeral Music, BWV 244a, a parody of some of the finest choruses and arias in the St. Matthew Passion (BWV 244), adding accompanied recitatives. And we are getting recordings of the "apochryphal" cantatas and motets from Helbig.

Yes, we can go too far, with pastiche Bach Requiems, Ted Deums, and chamber opera ("Silvia"). Still, we need to have a completion of BWV 216 and others. As we used to say in the revolutionary 1960s: "Let it all hang out!

Peter Smaill wrote (September 28, 2008):
[To Lew George] Thanks for the post on this work, which even in reconstructed form is hugely enjoyable; both for the splendid introductory chorus and the intensely moving christological duet, BWV 190/5, "Jesus soll mein alles sein." This has been recorded to great effect by John Eliot Gardiner [7]. This work, for Bach's first Year at Leipzig,has triple trumpets and triple oboes in the final chorale, "Jesu nun si gepreiset" (v2)?, and calls on the Trinity in the various verses by each Person.It has also been reconstructed by Walther Reinhardt.

As Dürr notes it was used for the celebration of the Augsburg Confession in 1730, possibly the reason why the parts, set to a parody text, have been lost for the principal movements. Now a reconstrucion of that version would be interesting, but although Duerr refers to the Augsburg clebration, he does not list the text as surviving but does list the titles of the twenty or so canatats whose names we have , and texts sometimes too, but where the music is lost; plus fourteen doubtful or spurious works. Of this latter category my personal favourite is BWV 222, "Mein Odem ist schwach", by J E Bach, in which a very low bass voice is set against a chorale. Of the works recorded by Wolgang Helbich only this IMO approaches the quality of Johann Sebastian's text settings.

Both this and BWV 190 are well worth the effort of hunting down in recorded form.

Ed Myskowski wrote (October 3, 2008):
William Hoffman wrote:
< Yes, we can go too far, with pastiche Bach Requiems, Ted Deums, and chamber opera ("Silvia"). >
Ed Myskowski responds (with rare internet access):
Not to mention Tedium, but you will have to explain the Ted Deum and Silvia jokes to this rube.

William Hoffman wrote (October 3, 2008):
Bach Pastiches, was BWV 190

Ed Myskowski responds (with rare internet access):
< Not to mention Tedium, but you will have to explain the Ted Deum and Silvia jokes to this rube. >
William Hoffman replies: Sorry for the typos. Here's the info:

1. "Te Deum" (Andre Isior adaptation of Clavier Uebung III with 4-part voces of German Te Deum, "Her Gott, dich loben wir," BWV 725 and relatec chorales; Ensemble Metamorphosis, Maurcie Bourbon; Caliope CD 9722. Yes, we have the Bach German Magnificat, Deutsche Messe, etc. The closest we've come, to a Te(d) Deum may be in my current posting BWV 215 Discussion: "Häfner suggested a possible origin of BWV 248a in a Thanksgiving Service for the War of Polish Succession, July 6, 1734, at the Nikolas Church. There is no record of any music being presented at service, although the occasion and the music of BWV 248a is reminiscent of Händel's "Dettingen Te Deum" of 1743."
2, "Silvia: Cantata Opera in 3 Acts (Johannes Fabricus, text; Lars Bisgaard, recitatives & musical arrangement); arias, duets, recits., chorus from BWV 150/1, BWV 170/1; BWV 8/4, BWV 70/9-10, BWV 234/1, BWV 161/4-5, BWV 182/1, BWV 208/9, BWV 33/3, BWV 202/1, BWV 155/1, BWV 199/7, BWV 1/3, BWV 125/3, BWV 206/10, BWV 19/3, BWV 159/4, BWV 95/5, BWV 196/1, BWV 25/5, BWV 59/4, BWV 140/5-6, BWV 79/1; Danish National Radio, Point CD 5154/5, 2001.

3. "Requiem after JSB (Joseph James), text 1605 Officium Defunctorum; music: Chromatic Fantasy & Fugue, BWV 903; Capriccio BWV 992; 3-Part Inventions, other keyboard music; Philharmonia Orch., London Choral Society, Stephen Barlow dir., Black Box CD 98232, 1999. If we can have the 1733 Missa BWV 232I for August III, why not a Requiem for Dear Old Dad, August the Strong; or perhaps Bach contributing a movement to a Dresden composite Requiem in stile misto with Hasse, Zelenka, etc.?, in the manner of Monteverdi, Verdi Manzoni, etc. Maybe a Latin contrafaction of BWV 131, De profundis; altho that cantata is in stile antico.

4. I'm still searching for Sebastian's stile gallante collaborations with his unknown last daughter, Brunhilde Wilhelmena Victoria, in her lost Buchlein.

Have fun!

Bradley Lehman wrote (October 3, 2008):
William Hoffman wrote:
< 4. I'm still searching for Sebastian's stile gallante collaborations with his unknown last daughter, Brunhilde Wilhelmena Victoria, in her lost Buchlein. >
They were really ghost-written by PDQ as his "Notebook for Betty-Sue Bach", weren't they? BWV Bach, BS Bach, whatever. Discovered 1973. Available here:

I like the "Three-Part Contraption" in it, pp 10-11, although it goes too low and too high for my harpsichord. It's a nicely constructed, or contrapted, piece of three-voiced invertible counterpoint in F minor.

The "Allemande Left" is fun, too, although it too ventures too high in bars 8 and 9. I haven't dared to try out the "Corrate" on anything but a piano, yet again because of tessitura...and especially because I don't want to have to repair my harpsichord from its fff karate chops and Samurai yells.

The last piece in the book, "Capriccio Espagnole for Charles III - The Reign in Spain", has some very tricky keyboard techniques in it. It's hard to play chords in both hands, clap one eighth note, and have the hands apart immediately to play the next chords...doing this for ten bars in succession.


Continue on Part 3

Cantata BWV 190: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements
Cantata BWV 190a: Details & Complete Recordings
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

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