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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

Cantata BWV 22
Jesus nahm zu sich die Zwölfe

Philipp Spitta | Albert Schweitzer | W. Gillies Whittaker | Alfred Dürr | Wolff/Koopman | Little & Jenne


Thomas Braatz wrote (March 8, 2003):

Bach’s audition composition was performed under Bach’s direction on February 7, 1723. The designated Sunday, Estomihi, is the last one before Lent, which is a period in which the congregation is to prepare itself for the time of Christ’s suffering. In BWV 22, in contrast to BWV 23, Bach tried to accommodate the listening public in Leipzig which was more accustomed to a more cheerful operatic treatment and to Kuhnau’s gentle melodies. The 1st chorus with fugue demonstrates simplicity of counterpoint of the type commonly found in Telemann’s compositions. This is rather unlike the real Bach. After a graceful tenor solo and the ‘vox Christi’ sung by the bass, there follows an easily understandable choral section, a rather simple 4-pt. composition. The remaining mvts. go deeper than the 1st mvt. Here the emphasis is placed upon the instrumental accompaniment which becomes more than simply an accompaniment as it takes on an independence that allows it to stand alone on its own merits. It is evident here that Bach really understood what he was doing.


The unknown poet has taken from the Gospel for this last Sunday before the Passion (Luke 18:31-43) only the 1st and 4th vs. –Christ’s announcement to the disciples of His coming Passion; he unfortunately passes over the expressive series of pictures in the 2nd and 3rd vs. Following tradition, the bass gives out the words of Jesus in an arioso; the orchestra – strings and oboes – adds a symphonic accompaniment that is wonderfully expressive of the sorrow of Jesus and His inner firmness. The whole mvt. has a somewhat march-like character. The succeeding chorus, “Sie aber vernahmen der keines,” reproduces very effectively the mutual questionings of the disciples.

The charming syncopated theme of the aria “Mein Jesu, ziehe mich nach dir” [“Jesus, draw me near to thee”] paints the picture suggested in the words –[1st 3 ms. of the oboe solo in mvt. 2].

The aria “Mein alles in allem, mein ewiges Gut” [“My all in all, my endless treasure,”] which is based on the ‘joy’ motive, is overpowering in the energy of its flight. The final chorale has a ravishing orchestral accompaniment.

Themes of a syncopated style (Schweitzer sees mvt. 2 as an example of this), always embody the idea of something being drawn or dragged along.


Regarding the choral section in mvt. 1, Whittaker states:

A vocal fugue leads off supported only by continuo, the first five words being employed for the subject: (quotes opening bars of the fugue here.) The countersubject utilizes the next 3 words twice over. So far treatment is normal, but the free counterpoints make of the last 4 words dramatic ejaculations, “was’ being separated from ‘das’ by a rest and ‘das’ from ‘gesaget,’ ‘das,’ and ‘was’ usually being thrust on unaccented beats. The picture, therefore, is of turmoil and confusion, implying scorn at the lack of understanding of the disciples, and the setting of the text is an interesting example of Bach’s subtle methods of dealing with words. When the upper instruments enter they merely double the voices, but they increase the animation and lead to a forceful climax.

The bass follows with a recitative (mvt. 3) accompanied by strings. Again we have the step motive, ‘laufen’ [‘run’] has a roulade, the penultimate word ‘Freuden’ [‘joys’] uses the step motive in elaborated form and the final bars are florid, violin I breaking into a short arabesque.


A note affixed to a copy of the score prepared by Bach’s frequent copyist, Johann Andreas Kuhnau, states, “This is the audition composition for Leipzig.” From this one can conclude that Bach prepared 2 cantatas, just as Christoph Graupner, a few weeks earlier had done, one to be performed before the sermon (BWV 22) and the other after it (BWV 23.) There is even another performance documented by a printing of the text for Estomihi (February 20th) of the following year 1724.

The text of this cantata, written by an unknown librettist, actually creates a unit (is completed by) the text of BWV 23 which treats the healing of the blind man. The text for BWV 22 treats the journey to Jerusalem. As if to provide a caption/title for the cantata, the librettist has the verses from Luke 18:31&34 precede everything. Here we learn of Christ’s announcement of his imminent suffering as well as the disciple’s inability to understand Christ’s message. The mvts. that follow attempt to place the focus upon the contemporary Christian who wishes now that Jesus would take him along on his path of suffering, so that he/she may better understand this event and find comfort in it. The Christian is compared with the disciples, who do not understand the need for Christ’s suffering, nor do they want to be part of it, although they do wish to partake of Christ’s transfiguration on Mt. Tabor. The libretto ends with the request to bring about desire and courage to renounce the way of the flesh, so that Jesus will be able to draw the deceased Christian after him. The final chorale is the 5th vs. of the chorale “Herr Christ, der einig Gotts Sohn” by Elisabeth Creutziger (1524) allows the entire congregation to join in the request already stated.

The 1st mvt. is bipartite. The 1st half, covering Luke 18:31, is introduced with an orchestral ritornello (oboe, strings, and bc.) The tenor begins as an evangelist as he reports: “Jesus nahm zu sich die Zwölfe und sprach:” [“Jesus took onto himself the twelve and spoke:”] whereupon the bass, as the ‘vox Christi’ announces his imminent suffering. The musical material presented by the bass is a ‘Vokaleinbau’ which repeats material already in the orchestral ritornello. Sometimes longer sections are repeated, at other times only parts thereof. The 1st section concludes with an instrumental ritornello. Then the report from the gospel continues: “Sie aber vernahmen der keines….” [“Neither knew they the things which were spoken…”] (Luke 18:34.) This is conveyed not by an evangelist, but rather by a choral fugue, at first only by solo voices and continuo, then increased to a tutti that adds the ripieno choir and colla parte instruments, after which a short instrumental postlude concludes the mvt.

The 1st aria (mvt. 1) requires an obbligato oboe, which underlines by means of expressive gestures the requests indicated by the text. It is interesting to observe how Bach treats the words “ich will von hier und nach Jerusalem zu deinen Leiden gehn” [“I want to go from here and to Jerusalem where your suffering takes place.”] First Bach has a scale passage moving upwards, but then, on the word “Leiden” [“Suffering”] ms. 68, he uses a related (by the interval of a 3rd) C# major harmony above which movement of the oboe seems to be held up and unable to move forward properly. The 2nd aria (mvt. 4) is a dance-like mvt. for strings that is more reminiscent of the Cöthen period than of the Leipzig Bach. But there are two noteworthy passages: one is in the middle section (ms. 61-64: on “Friede” [“peace”] and the other on “ewiges” [“eternal”] (ms. 100-107) where the orchestral parts continue to move while the singer is holding a long note.

Between both arias, there is a bass recitative accompanied by the strings (mvt. 3) which approaches an arioso because the vocal part has a lyrical declamation of the text and the bc is very actively accompanying the voice at the end.

The final chorale is given a richer treatment than usual with an independent instrumental section in which the oboe + 1st violin dominate the m. with running 16th notes. Into this texture a plain 4-pt. chorale is embedded.

Wolff/Koopman (“The World of the Bach Cantatas” - 1999):

The type of chorale setting in mvt. 5 is very much like Graupner’s. Evident is a standardized repertoire of formulas for word painting: “wir gehen hinauf” [“we’re going up”] = upward moving passages; “ziehen” [“pull”] = extended note values; “laufen” [“run”] = many 32nd notes; “Niedrigkeit” [“lowliness”] = notes going down; and “Friede” [“peace”] = very long, tied note.

Little & Jenne:

The tenor aria (mvt. 4) is considered to be ‚minuet-like.’

Here are the characteristics of a minuet-like mvt. in Bach’s music:

1) Triple meter with one unequal beat per measure, usually 3/8 time signature, occasionally ¾

2) Moderate affect, intimate, nonchalant; simple joy or peace

3) Moderate tempo

4) Balanced 4 & 4 phrases or multiples thereof – with extensions

5) Characteristic rhythmic patterns

6) Simple harmonies, usually 2 chord changes per measure

In this tenor aria (mvt. 4), the tenor asks Jesus to transform our hearts and finally bring us in peace to heaven. The balanced phrases and moderate minuet temp showcase a highly ornamental 1st violin part as well as word painting in the vocal line – a sustained note (ms. 6-63) on the word “Friede” [“peace”] and descending and ascending passaggi on the words “ewiges Gut” (“eternal good.”]


Cantata BWV 22: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

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 13:30