Background Information
Performer Bios

Poet/Composer Bios

Additional Information

References: Main Page | Cantatas BWV 1-50 | Cantatas BWV 51-100 | Cantatas BWV 101-150 | Cantatas BWV 151-200 | Cantatas BWV 201-224 | Other Vocal BWV 225-249 | Chorales BWV 250-300 | Chorales BWV 301-350 | Chorales BWV 351-400 | Chorales BWV 401-438 | Geistliche Lieder BWV 439-507 | AMN BWV 508-524 | Vocal Works BWV Anh
BGA | NBA | BC: A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | Sources
Discussions of BWV Numbering System: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Cantata BWV 124
Meinen Jesum laß ich nicht

BWV 124 Provenance + Time Line

Thomas Braatz wrote (February 9, 2007):
BWV 124 Meinen Jesum lass ich nicht


We are fortunate to still have in existence both the autograph score and the original set of parts for this cantata.

1. The Autograph Score:

As a score for one of the chorale cantatas, this manuscript belongs to the entire chorale cantata cycle which was inherited by Wilhelm Friedemann Bach. Along with a number of other autograph scores, it also appears to have been returned to Leipzig soon after J.S. Bach's death. One batch (BWV 8, BWV 33, BWV 41, BWV 78, BWV 94, BWV 99, BWV 101, BWV 113, BWV 114, BWV 129, BWV 133, BWV 137, BWV 140, BWV 140, BWV 177, and BWV 178 served as the source from which Christian Friedrich Penzel (1737-1801) and another copyist, who had previously been mistaken to be Johann Friedrich Doles (1715-1797), made copies of the scores and sometimes even an extra set of parts in 1755-1756. The NBA editors conjecture that Penzel must have had a personal relationship with W. F. Bach that made this arrangement possible. In a similar fashion, Johann Georg Nacke (1718-1804) also succeeded in procuring, perhaps through purchase, an autograph score of a chorale cantata from W. F. Bach; in this case, it was BWV 124. From this Nacke made a new set of parts for his own use. According to his own notes on the autograph score, he performed this cantata on the First Sunday after Epiphany, 1760. Having a direct connection with Nacke as his private music student, Christian Friedrich Penzel acquired this score from him, a score which later came into the possession of his nephew Johann Gottlob Schuster (1765-1839). It next appeared in the Bach manuscript collection of Franz Hauser (1794-1870). The Staatsbibliothek Berlin, where it is still located today, acquired it from this collection in 1904.


The autograph score is accompanied by a set of doublet parts that were probably never separated from the score after the distribution of the cantatas in 1750.

Bach's title on the cover page:

Dominica 1 post Epiphan: | Meinen Jesum laß ich nicht | à |4 Voci | 1 Hautb: Conc: d'Amour | 2 Violini | Viola | e | Continuo | di | J: S: Bach.

On top of the 1st page of the score:

J. J. Dom. 1 post Epiphanias Meinen Jesum laß ich nicht.

The designation of voices and instruments is missing.
There is no separate staff for a ,Corno' part.
Only the oboe part is indicated with "Hautb. concert. d'Amour".
Mvt. 2 is marked: "Recit."; Mvt. 3 with "Aria."; Mvt. 4 with "Recit."; at the bottom of the page before the next aria begins: "Sequitur Aria"; Mvt. 5 with "Duetto." and Mvt. 6 with "Choral."
At the right of the final measure appears: "Fine SDG."

2. The Original Set of Parts:

After Bach's death, Anna Magdalena Bach presented this set of parts (along with many other sets of parts) to the St. Thomas School in Leipzig. Although this set of parts still belongs to the school, it is on continual loan to the Leipzig Bach-Archive where these parts are located today.

The parts and their copyists are as follows:

1. Canto.
Mvt. 1: Christian Gottlob Meißner (1707-1760)
Mvt. 5 & Mvt. 6: J.S. Bach

2. Alto.
Mvt. 1: Christian Gottlob Meißner
Mvt. 5 & Mvt. 6: J.S. Bach

3. Tenore
Mvt. 1: Christian Gottlob Meißner
Mvt. 2 & Mvt. 3: Johann Andreas Kuhnau (1703-17??)
Mvt. 6: J. S. Bach

4. Basso.
Mvt. 1: Christian Gottlob Meißner
Mvt. 4: Johann Andreas Kuhnau
Mvt. 6: J.S. Bach

5. Corno. (This part has a later marking of "Tromba da tirarsi" - perhaps for a repeat performance)
Mvts. 1 & 6: J.S. Bach

6. Hautbois Concert d'Amour.
Mvts. 1 & 3: Johann Andreas Kuhnau
Mvt. 6: J.S. Bach

7. Violino 1mo
Mvts. 1 & 3: Johann Andreas Kuhau
Mvt. 6: J.S. Bach

8. Violino 1mo. (Doublet)
Mvts. 1, 3, 6: Anna Magdalena Bach (1701-1760)

9. Violino 2do
Mvts. 1 & 3: Johann Andreas Kuhnau
Mvt. 6: J.S. Bach

10. Violino 2do. (Doublet)
Mvts. 1, 3, 6: Anna Magdalena Bach

11. Viola
Mvts. 1 & 3 Johann Andreas Kuhnau
Mvt. 6: J.S. Bach

12. Continuo (figured mvts. 1-5)
Mvts. 1 - 4: Johann Andreas Kuhnau
Mvt. 5 & Mvt. 6: J. S. Bach
Figured bass: Mvt. 1 to m 60, also Mvt. 2 & Mvt. 4: J.S. Bach
the remainder by an unknown copyist's hand

13. Continuo. (Doublet)
Mvt. 1: unknown copyist
Mvts. 2 - 6 : Wilhelm Friedemann Bach (1710-1784)

14. Organo. (transposed, figured)
Mvts. 1 - 6: J.S. Bach

3. Date of 1st Performance: January 7, 1725

Time Line:

Date: January 6, 1725

Possible scenario following the time line that can be hypothetically established from a careful examination of the autograph score and original set of parts:

Main Characters:

Johann Sebastian Bach [JSB], who is completing his 2nd year as the Cantor of St. Thomas School and Church in Leipzig (not to mention all his other titles and duties of which he was justifiably very proud); he is almost 40 years old.

Anna Magdalena Bach (AMB), JSB's 2nd wife who has been married to him for over 3 years; she turned 23 about 3 months ago and is now 6 months pregnant with a child, Christian Gottlieb, to be born in mid April. She already has had two children by JSB: Christiane Sophie Henrietta (mid 1723) and Gottfried Heinrich (February 26, 1724) and is responsible for Bach's other children from his first marriage: Wilhelm Friedemann (WFB) (15 years old), Carl Philipp Emanuel (10), and Johann Gottfried Bernhard (9).

Two private music students (apprentices?) who have been studying music privately with Bach since his arrival in Leipzig in 1723 and who may have a more intimate connection with the Bach family (possibly as apprentices who, although probably not living directly in the Bach apartment, might at least be present for meals):

1. Johann Andreas Kuhnau (JAK), related to Bach's predecessor Johann Kuhnau; JAK turned 21 a month ago and is perhapsthe most reliable and productive copyist that Bach ever used.

2. Christian Gottlob Meißner (CGM) turned 18 about two weeks ago.

An anonymous copyist that has not yet been identified.

Likely Scenario:

'Twas the night before the First Sunday after Epiphany when the first performance of BWV 124 was to take place early on Sunday morning on January 7, 1725. JSB, as usual, had not yet quite finished composing all the music for the cantata to be performed early the next morning and none of the parts had been copied as yet since he has, during the last few days, been busy composing the score. Yet there was no need for unusual concern since this situation was fairly common and the score and parts had always been prepared in time for the first performance.

After the Bach family's evening meal, at which the two copyists, JAK and CGM were also present, the table was cleared and made ready for an evening devoted primarily to one activity: copying out the new parts from the score which was being finished right before the eyes of all who were present. While AMB cleared the table, washed and dried the dishes, and put the two babies (ages 1 and 2) to bed, JAK, using a rastral, has already begun creating the staffs on the blank sheets of paper that JSB had brought to the table for this purpose.

After quickly finishing this task and while JSB is still working on finishing the final mvt., the 4-pt. chorale, on the final page of the score, both JAK and CGM place themselves strategically on the long edge of the table with the fresh score of the first movement between them. As one less experienced and adept at copying, CGM copies more slowly than JAK does; also, JAK is able to quickly help CGM with any problems he might encounter as they work their way through Mvt. 1. This makes it possible for JAK to copy out an entire instrumental part while CGM simultaneously concentrates on one vocal part. Of course, there may be times when CGM must patiently wait for JAK to finish the instrumental interludes. In essence, what happens is: while JAK does the oboe d'amore part for Mvt. 1, CGM copies out the soprano part; while JAK does the 1st violin part, CGM copies out the alto part; while JAK does the 2nd violin part, CGM copies out the tenor part; and while JAK does the viola part, CGM copies out the bass part. [It is also conceivable that JAK and CGM could be seated across from each other and would have exchanged, as needed, pages of the score of Mvt. 1 which is distributed over four
separate pages.]

At this point CGM, who has learned much from JAK who offered help whenever needed, leaves the copy session, perhaps to go home. JAK, JSB's true workhorse in these sessions, now turns his full attention to the important primary (untransposed) continuo part which must be prepared before the doublet and the transposed continuo parts can be prepared. JAK now prepares mvts. 1 through 4 of this continuo part, after which he turns his attention to the missing mvts. in the tenor and bass parts (Mvt. 2 & Mvt. 3 for tenor; Mvt. 4 for bass), and Mvt. 3 in the oboe, both violin and viola parts. In all of these parts that JAK has been copying, the complete final chorale for Mvt. 6 is still unavailable in the score and could not be included.

While JAK finishes these tasks, JSB has begun copying Mvt. 5 and Mvt. 6 into the primary continuo for which he supplies the figured bass for Mvt. 1 to m 60 and also Mvt. 2 & Mvt. 4. At this point JAK leaves the copy session, but not before JSB asks him to stop by Gottfried Reiche's house to inform him that he will be needed for the cantata performance early tomorrow morning. This comes as somewhat of a surprise to JAK since there is no indication anywhere in the score or on the separate title page that a brass instrument would be playing along. Bach explains that there is only one soprano who has been paid not to sing in the Currende, a group that has been singing itself hoarse all during the Christmas and New Year's season. This means that the other sopranos will probably not be able to sing with their full voices as needed for this cantata. Exit JAK.

An unknown copyist now begins creating the Primary Continuo doublet but copies his material from the unrevised score and only finishes Mvt. 1. Since there is more room at the table now, JSB now calls upon his eldest son, WFB, and gives him the job of finishing this copy project (which involves only reproducing the notes of the already completed Primary Continuo part verbatim, a part that JSB has just revised).

Having finally finished the composition of the last movement of the score, JSB now begins filling in Mvt. 5 which had been inaccessible to the copyists since a portion of it is on the back side of the same page of the score which also has the final chorale. Both Mvt. 5 and Mvt. 6 are added by JSB to the Soprano, Alto, and Primary Continuo parts and Mvt. 6 to the Tenor, Bass, Oboe d'amore, 1st and 2nd Violins, and Viola parts.

Having completed this task while having a watchful eye over WFB's progress with the Continuo doublet, JSB now begins the process of the correction of the other parts and the addition of marks or words to indicate articulation, embellishment, dynamics, tempi, etc. most of which were not in the score. Having finished the continuo doublet for which he receives praise from his father, WFB asks to be excused.

Now, all alone, and motivated by the fact that the sopranos may not be strong enough (have sufficient volume) to ensure the clear and certain delivery of the cantus firmus as he had explained to JAK, JSB now prepares an entirely new part for a brass instrument, Corno, playing colla parte as needed to give the required support for the sopranos who, in all likelihood, will not be singing up to their usual high standard. Instead of looking at the Soprano part in the score, JSB takes the newly created Soprano part prepared by CGM and repeats the same mistake CGM made when he miscounted the number of rests for mm 117-123 in Mvt. 1. Now, of course, JSB can add the final mvt. to the Corno part as well.

With this completed, there is a slight interruption: AMB, who has already put the children to bed, is beginning to wonder when her husband will come to bed as well. He informs her that he still needs to prepare the Organo part (with transposition and figures needed to be added) and "BTW, the Violin doublets still need to be copied." To help things move along a little faster, AMB offers to copy the Violin doublets which already have all of Bach's corrections and additions included. Meanwhile JSB completes the last important element needed for the performance tomorrow morning: the transposed and figured Organo parts for all of the mvts. of this cantata.

JSB and AMB both finish their tasks at about the same time. Before extinguishing the candles, JSB writes at the end of the Organo part: "Fine SDG", the same conclusion he had used after finishing the composition of the final chorale earlier that same evening.


Cantata BWV 124: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

References: Main Page | Cantatas BWV 1-50 | Cantatas BWV 51-100 | Cantatas BWV 101-150 | Cantatas BWV 151-200 | Cantatas BWV 201-224 | Other Vocal BWV 225-249 | Chorales BWV 250-300 | Chorales BWV 301-350 | Chorales BWV 351-400 | Chorales BWV 401-438 | Geistliche Lieder BWV 439-507 | AMN BWV 508-524 | Vocal Works BWV Anh
BGA | NBA | BC: A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | Sources
Discussions of BWV Numbering System: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3


Back to the Top

Last update: Thursday, June 01, 2017 11:34