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Cantata BWV 133
Ich freue mich in dir

C. Smith | A. Dürr | P. Spitta | Voigt | A. Schweitzer | Schuhmacher | N. Anderson


Aryeh Oron wrote (June 3, 2003):
Craig Smith (1999)

The extensive commentary below is quoted from the liner notes to Emmanuel Music’s recording of this cantata on Koch International. It was written by Craig Smith, musical director of Emmanuel Music (1999):

The number of different characters that Bach finds for cantatas in the Christmas season is remarkable. The day after Christmas in the second Jahrgang, Bach presented the grand and granite-like masterpiece BWV 121 "Christum wir sollen loben schon." Our piece BWV 133, "Ich freue mich in dir" performed the next day, couldn't be more different from Cantata BWV 121. Here Bach uses the same wonderful faux folk style as the great magic realist painters like Hans Baldung (Grien) and Altdorfer. All of the earthy and realistic touches are bathed in an otherworldly heavenly glow. The opening chorus, with its sturdy oboe d' amore melismas and predictable sequences, nevertheless has a heavenly magical quality that befits the story. The bell-tones that keep reappearing in all of the orchestra play an important role throughout the cantata. The orchestration is interesting for several reasons. The two oboes d' amore double the second violins and violas instead of the usual doubling of the two violin parts. The first violin part sings out quite high in its range against the solidity of the middle voices, which gives the movement a richness that it otherwise would not have. All of the chorale phrases are plain and simple except for the sixth phrase, "ah, what a sweet tone!," which suddenly becomes hushed and imbued with echo effects.

The alto aria uses the oboes d' amore in an uncharacteristic trumpet-like fashion. The little military motives clearly indicate that Bach reads this text as a call to arms. A little motive appears in the introduction, and will reappear only under the words "wie wohl ist mir geschehen." It functions like a personal weapon against the cruelties of the world. This motive reappears in the soprano aria with even more prominence.

The hushed lines at the end of the tenor recitative take the cantata inward, and bring us to the extraordinary soprano aria. Although the introduction is only eight bars long, it is so full of material and variety that it seems like a world of its own. A beautiful singing melody is played against a slithering bass part that sounds almost like a sympathetic vibration. The violin then goes into a swinging arpeggio figure that carries us into the cadence. The motive from the alto aria is taken from the orchestra's accompaniment to the first theme of the soprano aria. This quiet little motive has a kind of ghostly presence that reminds us of "wie wohl ist mir geschehen." The bells referred to in the text are illustrated by both the violin arpeggios and a repeated note figure that is played on both a fingered and an open string. In the B section, the continuo drops out and the time signature changes to a 12/8 Largo, making this section even quieter. There is also a full da capo. This lullaby floats by like angels in a Grien painting. It is interesting that this formula is reversed in another aria written for this day in Cantata BWV 151. There the 12/8 lullaby is the A-section and the 4/4 time is reserved for the B-section.

The bass recitative quotes, at the end, more lines of the chorale text but not the melody. It is surprising that the final chorale harmonization has not become famous as a Christmas carol, for it is a wonderful melody, beautifully harmonized and in a singable range.

Thomas Braatz wrote (June 4, 2003):
Dürr’s Commentary:

Francis Browne has already shared Dürr’s commentary on the text. Check out both:

Go to the note at the bottom of this page:

Some of the characteristics of this cantata can be viewed as showing Bach’s consideration of the circumstances surrounding his responsibilities as music director in Leipzig at a time when his musical ensembles had to perform different works in church on 3 consecutive holidays. It was necessary for Bach to show his mastery by limiting himself for the sake of his musicians, particularly the boy sopranos and altos who, in addition to singing for a number of church performances might also be singing outdoors as the Kurrende (caroling groups.) In this challenge of limitation, Bach was remarkably successful. The instrumentation has been reduced to a minimum: 2 oboi d’amore + strings and continuo. Only in the 1st and last mvts. does a Zink support the sopranos in bringing out the c. f. . Even the choir has only a rather simple 4-pt. chorale rendition in both mvts. In the 1st mvt. there is only a very slight polyphonic expansion on the phrases “ach wie ein süßer Ton” and “der große Gottessohn.” The animative joy that can be expected from the cantata libretto is reflected primarily in the orchestral ritornelli beginning with the opening figure played by the 1st violin. Somewhat unusual is the fact that the oboi d’amore and 2nd violin + viola play exactly the same parts, but this group of instruments forms a central grouping of instruments as a contrast to the virtuosic, very expansive, violinistic figures of the 1st violin, on the one hand, and the continuo support on the other. Very charming is the instrumental echo-effect (ms. 66) which takes place at the end of the choral line “ach wie ein süßer Ton.”

The rapid movement of the 16th-note figures of the introductory mvt. spills over into the 2nd mvt. (an aria for alto) where the musical figures are remarkably similar, but now are being played by both oboi d’amore. The main motif announced immediately at the beginning of the mvt. is developed rhythmically from the idea suggested by the word, “Getrost!” in the text which is here repeated 3 times in succession. The middle section is dominated by a ‘circulatio’ (circling) figure in 8th notes on the words, “wie wohl ist mir geschehen!” This, in turn, is derived from the opening figure in the bc. in ms. 1.

Mvt. 3 is a secco recitative with ‘arioso’ insertions marked “adagio” in the style of tropes, a tradition of elaboration by insertion of new material, a tradition that goes back to the Middle Ages, but here neither the text nor the melody is directly quoted except in the phrase “kehrt selber bei uns ein.” Otherwise Bach only hints at the connection.

The 2nd aria for soprano (mvt. 4) is a composition of graceful tenderness. The strings are dominated by the 1st violin part, with the other strings playing a very subordinate role. The continuo has a repeating ostinato motif. The middle section offers a stark contrast in the tempo (“Largo”) and in the reduced instrumentation: the continuo stops playing entirely (a form of ‘bassetchen’= a 'little bass' or without a natural bass - this also appears in BWV 11/10; BWV 46/5; BWV 105/3; BWV 135/1; BWV 154/4; BWV Anhang 1, BWV 196/5; BWV 234/3 and BWV 244/49.) In essence, this section is a trio with echo effects and sometimes open, unstopped notes on the accompanying string instruments. All of this, along with interesting passages in the 1st violin serve to interpret the text “Wie lieblich klingt es in den Ohren.”

Mvt. 5 is obviously the counterpart to mvt. 3: it is also composed as a secco recitative and also concludes with quotation from the chorale with a greatly transformed melody derived from the final 3 lines of the chorale. The final chorale (mvt. 6) is set in a simple 4-pt. version of the chorale melody.

Thomas Braatz wrote (June 5, 2003):

Sometimes the librettist took the chorale verses and cut them into 2 halves: the alto aria (mvt. 2) of BWV 133 is based upon the 1st half of the second verse of the chorale text, the soprano aria (mvt. 4) is based upon the 1st half of the 3rd verse, with both of the remaining halves being used in the following recitatives.


The highpoint of this cantata is the very delightful soprano aria (mvt. 4.) It is worthwhile to perform this entire cantata simply to be able to perform this aria.

The introductory choral mvt. suffers because of the wide separation of the lines of the chorale caused by the long, intervening ritornelli. There is no way to shorten this mvt. Very charming is Bach’s treatment of the line “Ach, welch ein süßer Ton.”

The 1st aria (for alto, mvt. 2) is limited to the middle range. It would be best to stop at ms. [I don’t know specifically which measure he is referring to here], thus eliminating the final reprise of the ritornello.

Very attractive is the short recitative which forms a bridge to the wonderful soprano aria already referred to above, an aria with a deeply-felt ‘largo’ middle section. I imagine the repeated phrase “Mein Jesus ist geboren” to be performed very softly with the most tender accompaniment that is possible. It would be difficult to get by without performing the reprise, but a possible cut can be made from … to …. [again, not to be determined precisely.] Attention should be directed to the peculiar violin effects which involve switching between open and stopped strings. The trill marking in the main theme should probably be understood as a ‘Pralltrill.’ This marking is missing in a number of places in the autograph score.


In the 1st mvt. of the cantata, the scantily figured chorale is sung to a simple orchestral accompaniment, based on the naïve “joy” motif, consisting of continuous semiquaver passages, of this we have a typical specimen in the chorale prelude “Lobt Gott, ihr Christen, allzugleich.” This mode of expressing joy is frequently used in the Christmas chorale cantatas.

This chorus shows us the risks that the declamation has to run even in the simplest chorale figuration; in 2 places Bach phrases thus – (ms. 64-65 of the alto part) on “ach wie, ein süßer Ton.

Schweitzer comments on the separation of words by pauses: The two arias are very characteristic. The 1st begins with the cry “Getrost, getrost, getrost” (ms. 9-11.) In the 2nd aria for soprano (mvt. 4), Bach can not forbear making the violins illustrate the “ringing” at the words “klingt es in den Ohren.” (ms. 18-19; ms. 22-23.)

This ‘ringing’ was later interpreted by Whittaker as the ‘tolling of a small bell.’

Bariolage’ is a special type of bowing involving the repetition of the same note by the alteration of 2 strings, one played open and the other stopped (‘bariolage’ may be played either slurred or unslurred)

Some instances of bariolage in Bach’s works can be found in:

BWV 1003 Sonata II for Solo Violin Fuga ms. 44, 46, 51, 53, 55, 59
BWV 1004 Partita II Ciaccona ms. 229-240
BWV 1006 Partita III Preludio E major ms. 13-15, 63-65, 76-77
BWV 1041 Violin Concerto 3rd mvt. ms. 105, 110
BWV 1047 2nd Brandenburg 1st mvt. Violino ms. 92-93
BWV 1049 4th Brandenburg 3rd mvt. Violino principale ms. 106-7 (E string) ms. 114-5 (A string)
BWV 1052 Harpsichord Concerto in D minor mvt. 1 (keyboard part) ms. 62-63 (A); ms. 70-71 (E) [Notice that the ‘bariolage’ still shifts from the open A string to the open E string as if this were still for a violin.] “The Concerto in D minor is now generally assumed to have been a very early concerto by Bach and almost certainly for violin.” John Butt in “Oxford Composer Companions: J.S.Bach [Boyd]”

Schuhmacher (for the Harnoncourt/Leonhardt series):

In the large-scale opening chorus the lines of the chorale are woven into the orchestral writing rather in the manner of a chorale prelude; the substance of the mvt. is a motif related to the line of the text “Ach wie ein süßer Ton” and is treated contrapuntally. This passage is the only one in which the choral writing contains counterpoint. The 1st violin almost functions as a solo instrument, for the 2nd violin and viola are joined by the 2 oboi d’amore. These also carry over the throbbing motion of the opening chorus into the alto aria musically, symbolizing Man and his salvation. As in the 1st and 3rd mvts. of BWV 132, the motif “Getrost” is a rhetorical figure; likewise the phrase “Wie wohl ist mir geschehen” is taken out of the context of the message as an expression of personal experience by the dynamic marking piano. The secco recitative (mvt. 3) is followed by a soprano aria with string accompaniment whose melody is developed from the cantus firmus and orchestral writing of the opening chorus. The 1st line of the text “Wie lieblich klingt es in den Ohren” corresponds to the obbligato violin of the opening chorus, and indeed the “delightful sound” of this mvt. is entirely in keeping with the “sweet sound” of the opening; the passage “dies Wort” matches the “Getrost” in the alto aria. The 1st and 4th stanzas of the hymn text were retained in the cantata, the 2nd and 3rd stanzas being extensively rewritten for the recitatives and arias although various elements, such as the rhymes in the recitative preceding the 1st chorale, were accommodated in the paraphrase of the text.

Nicholas Anderson:

The cantata begins with a concerto-like mvt. in D major of enormous rhythmic vitality, in which the 8 lines of Ziegler’s hymn, set to an anonymous melody, are interpolated between joyfully spirited instrumental ritornellos scored for strings and continuo with oboes d’amore doubling 2nd violin and viola. 6 lines of the hymn are presented in straightforward cantional style, while the remaining 2 (lines 6 and 8) are effectively elaborated in order to emphasize key words in the text. Thus in the 6th choral interpolation Bach highlights the words “süßer Ton” by sustaining the “Ton” in the soprano line for 3 ½ bars, while in the last choral phrase he elaborates the vocal texture to underline the “große” of “große Gottessohn.” The chorale cantus firmus is sustained throughout in the soprano line and supported by a cornett.

The alto aria in A major which follows is accompanied by two obbligato oboes d’amore with continuo. Its central textual motif is contained in the word “Getrost” which is reiterated with emphasis both in the opening section and in the freely treated da capo. The remainder of the text makes symbolic reference to the appointed Gospel reading, given expressive intimacy and warmth by the oboi d’amore. A tenor recitative, whose concluding Adagio section in arioso style makes reference to the Christ-child, leads to an extended aria for soprano with string accompaniment. Its text contains the Christmas message of the angels that Christ has come to save mankind. This effectively constructed and subtly expressive da capo mvt. in B minor is introduced by strings and continuo. The melodic idea which dominates the 1st section of the aria and the da capo is presented by the 1st violin and taken up with modest elaboration by the voice. At bar 17 a brief passage for solo violin introduces affective and recurring imagery of ringing bells [see above] to accompany the words “Wie lieblich klingt es in den Ohren.” The middle section provides strong contrast: the rhythm changes to 12/8, the tempo is marked “Largo,” and the continuo remains silent. It is a meditation on the name of Jesus in which Bach combats the rock-hard human heart with music of lyrical, intimate tenderness.

A bass recitative, with an arioso section marked ‘Adagio,’ reflects on Jesus’ love and protection. The cantata ends with the last strophe of Ziegler’s hymn, set to the same anonymous melody that was incorporated into the opening chorus of the work and simply harmonized by Bach with instrumdoubling the voices.


Cantata BWV 133: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

Commentaries: Main Page | Cantatas BWV 1-50 | Cantatas BWV 51-100 | Cantatas BWV 101-150 | Cantatas BWV 151-200 | Cantatas BWV 201-224 | Other Vocal Works BWV 225-524 | Sources


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Last update: Friday, September 01, 2017 13:38