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Cantata BWV 32
Liebster Jesu, mein Verlangen
Discussions - Part 2

Continue from Part 1

Discussions in the Week of September 9, 2007 (2nd round)

Douglas Cowling wrote (September 7, 2007):
Week of Sept 9, 2007: Cantata 32, "Liebster Jesu" - Introduction

Week of Sept 9, 2007

Cantata 32, ³Liebster Jesu mein Verlangen²

First Performed: January 13, 1726 ­ Leipzig
1st Sunday after Epiphany
Third Annual Cantata Cycle, 1725-27 (Jahrgang III)

After a hiatus in the Fall of 1725, Bach began composing cantatas again for Christmas Day until Epiphany 3. Before and after the 1725-26 Christmas season, he performed cantatas by Johann Ludwig Bach.

Georg Christian Lehms (Mvts. 1-3, 5)
Luke 2: 49 (Mvt. 2)
Paul Gerhardt (Mvt. 6)
Librettist Biographies:

Texts & Translations:

Epistle: Romans 12: 1-6 (³We are all one in Christ²)
Gospel: Luke 2: 41-52 (Finding of Jesus in Temple)
Texts of readings:

Previous Sundayıs Cantata (Epiphany): Unknown
Next Sundayıs Cantata (Epiphany 2): BWV 13, ³Meine Seufzer, meine Tränen²

Other Cantatas previously written for Epiphany 1:
BWV 124 Meinem Jesum, lass ich nicht (Leipzig, 1725)

BWV 154 Mein liebster Jesus ist verloren (Leipzig, 1724)

Introduction to Lutheran Church Year:


Mvt. 1: Aria (Soprano)
³Liebster Jesu, mein Verlangen²
Instruments:Ob, Vns, 2 Vn, Va, Bc

The cantata is conceived as a Dialogue between Christ (bass) and the Soul (soprano), a literary sturcture familiar from cantatas BWV 57, ³Selig ist der Mann² and BWV 140, ³Wachet Auf². The use of solo oboe and violin is reminiscent of the rhapsodic instrumental writing in BWV 140, ³Wachet Auf²

Mvt. 2: Recitative (Bass)
³Was ists, dass du mich gesuchet?²
Instruments: BC

The recitative text is the scriptural Dictum of the cantata, and Bach sets the words of the 12-year old Jesus for bass. Interestingly, the libretto does not attempt to portray the dialogue between Mary and the child Jesus in the Gospel narrative, but accepts the traditional patristic anagogical typology of Mary and Jesus as the Soul and Christ.

Mvt. 3: Aria (Bass)
³Hier, in meines Vaters Stätte²
Instruments: Vns, BC

The bass as the Voice of Christ extends the image of the Temple as Heaven and the goal of the Soul.

Mvt. 4: Recitative ­ Dialogue (Soprano & Bass)
³Ach! heiliger und großer Gott²
Instruments: 2 Vn, Va, Bc

The Soprano and Bass recitative is remarkably passionate with a rich string accompaniment. How many recordings add apoggiaturas? ³heiliger² (bar 1), OGottı (bar 2), ³prangt² (bar 12), ³sein² (bar 18), ³heisst² (bar 19) and ³ein² (last bar) are all candidates. The sopranoıs sudden paraphrase pf Psalm 84 in the arioso, ³Wie lieblich², echoes the Temple image again (Brahms set this verse as ³Wie lieblich sind deine Wohnungen² in the OGerman

Mvt. 5: Duet (Soprano & Bass)
³Nun verschwinden alle Plagen²
Instruments: Ob, 2 Vn, Va, Bc

It would be interesting to know what percentage of Bachıs duets are used in these dialogues for Christ and the Soul. A superb operatic scena.

Mvt. 6: Chorale (Choir)
³Mein Gott, öffne mir die Pforten²
Instruments: Ob, 2 Vn, Va, Bc

Bach uses the duple time version of the chorale as in Cantata BWV 194. The triple time version appears in Cantatas BWV 18 & BWV 70 and is much closer to the quite jazzy isometric original.

Chorale Melodies:
³Freue dich sehr²:

Piano Vocal Score: (free PDF download):


Music (free streaming download):

Emmanuel Music:

Previous Discussion: January 2000:

Julian Mincham wrote (September 7, 2007):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< After a hiatus in the Fall of 1725, Bach began composing cantatas again for Christmas Day until Epiphany 3. >
But why none for Epiphany itself 1726? It would have fallen between BWV 16 and BWV 32. He certainly composed cantatas for this day in the first 2 cycles and it seems very odd that Bach would not have produced one for this important day. Might it have been lost? but that would itself be a bit odd as all the others from the Christma New Year period seem to have survived.

Julian Mincham wrote (September 7, 2007):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< It would be interesting to know what percentage of Bachıs duets are used in these dialogues for Christ and the Soul. >
Not many I think.

For those who indulge in a contextual approach to the cantatas it is interesting to compare this one with BWV 57, performed just 3 weeks earlier and also based upon the Jesus/Soul dialogue. BWV 57 has no duet--but the journey to the merging of the two is less arduous, it would seem, than in BWV 32. In the earlier aria Jesus speaks first (opening aria) and seems much more encouraging than in 32 where he is almost brusque on his first entry---why have you sought me out--are you not aware that I am concerned with the business of my Father?? The opening aria of BWV 32 is quite bitter/sweet, the Soul on the one hand fearing the separation but (as the duet finally fully confirms) not entirelydoubting its ultimate reality.

Interesting that even when taking the same textual themes Bach never does the same thing twice and always finds a different tack. It is his consistency in this that leads me to believe that he may have had quite a bit of input into the structure and content of his libretti.

Further contextual observation leads to the two earlier cantatas composed for this day, BWV 154 and BWV 124. All three are concerned with the separation of Christ and Soul and all three deal with this theme differently. BWV 154 begins with an awsome tenor aria despairing at the loss of Jesus. BWV 124 begins much more gently but the later tenor aria graphically paints a picture of the fear of death which, it seems, is an event which is not to be confused with the separation from Christ. BWV 57 and BWV 32 trace quite operatically the progress of union of the two entities.

BWV 154 and BWV 124 both contain joyous duets but not for bass and sop--i.e. not between Christ and the Soul.

Incidentally in taking a contextual approach to the cantatas I have found a number of occasions when Bach seems to have looked back over scores of works written for the same church day in earlier years---perhaps seeking rapid inspiration?---because of apparent similarities. The tenor arias from BWV 154 and BWV 124 have a number of points of similarity, one of several such examples.

Jean Laaninen wrote (September 9, 2007):
[To Douglas Cowling] Thanks Doug, for a very knowledgeable introduction that shows your years of study. Every week I marvel at the depth of knowledge writers on this forum have accumulated. I'm still a beginner in my own mind, but enjoying the experience so much.This cantata is truly a lovely dialogue, and the use of the strings seem to add brilliantly to the kind of emotion that is conveyed here in such a heartful manner. I really love Aria 5 (Mvt. 5) - the lovely duet. This is mere personal commentary, but I wish I'd been in Bach's church in person to hear this number. It seems to me to have a touch of a German folk dance. Perhaps it had a bit of a tune that would have been familiar to the congregation. The words of the chorale following offer an opportunity for communal personalization of the experience. In my experience this particular chorale tune has often been used in connection with the communion service in contemporary times.

Neil Halliday wrote (September 13, 2007):
The soprano aria, described as "of particular beauty" in the OCC, has detached string chords ("spiccato") accompanying the vocalist and obbligato oboe. I find the sharp staccato of Leonhardt [8] and Leusink [11] to be excessive; Koopman [13] has a more varied, expressive treatment of these chords, while Rilling [9] and Werner [4] have a more legato (but still detached) treatment. I find the Rilling version (adagio) to be very moving, with the joyful, major-key sounding melismas on "erfreue" (rejoice) making a lovely contrast with the expressive longing of the aria's overall mood.

The bass aria is bright and melodious, with the inventive obbligato violin as well as the voice line having some interesting `out of the scale' notes on "troubled spirit". A two bar long note on "Stätte" (dwelling, place) is imitated by the violin two octaves above, and there is strong syncopation in the middle section (second time
through the text of this section). Leonhardt [8] is very pleasing, as are Rilling [9], and Leusink [11]. As is often the case, I find Koopman's [13] continuo to be problematic, and his singer the least appealing (also the violin is too quiet in places). Werner [4] has the excellent Barry McDaniel, but the violin sounds somewhat bland at the slow tempo.

The "passionate" accompanied recitative (I agree with Doug's description) has attractive string harmonies; note the chord rising a whole tone at "(only to this) dwelling go".

I like Rilling's [9] `jaunty' SB duet (Mvt. 5); short samples of this and other recordings can be heard at the BCW.


Continue on Part 3

Cantata BWV 32: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements
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