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Oster-Oratorium BWV 249
General Discussions - Part 4

Continue from Part 3

Discussions in the Week of April 12, 2015 (4th round)

William Hoffman wrote (April 15, 2015):
Easter Oratorio
In the nearly two-month Lenten season of February and March 1725, Bach dramatically and unalterably changed his compositional schedule. He had just completed the last five of 40 new, consecutive chorale cantatas since June 1724, including two during Lent for the Marian feasts of Purification and Annunciation. He again was free to compose a new Passion for Good Friday and start on chorale cantatas for the Easter Festival and the beginning of the Easter season. Instead he primarily turned to composing non-church year works that would evolve into parody music with new text underlay for special sacred needs. He also revived his St. John Passion with the addition of five chorale-based choruses and arias aligned with the chorale cantata cycle, including three new compositions and two previously-composed compositions. At the same time, he renewed his interests in instrumental compositions and musical notebooks for family home use.

Bach considered continuing chorale cantatas in the early Easter season and retained elements of the chorale cantata. He eventually composed two pure-hymn works, BWV 112 (Der Herr is mein getreuer Hirt, Misericodias Domini, [Easter 2], ?1731) and 129 (Gelobet sei der Herr, mein Gott, Trinityfest, ?1727), as part of the cycle. Meanwhile, Bach presented his new Easter Oratorio (without chorales) and revived the old pure hymn Cantata 4, “Christ lag in Todesbanden” (Christ lies is death’s bondage) for the Easter Sunday as part of the cycle. The contrast between the two works, Oratorio BWV 249 and Cantata 4, both presented on Easter Sunday 1725, is amazing and draws comments (below) from John Eliot Gardiner, and Richard D. P. Jones).

It is possible that Bach also repeated Cantata 4 on the second and third days of the Easter Festival, beginning in 1725, since there were no designated chorales for the Walk to Emmaus and Christ’s appearance before the disciples. The Easter Oratorio, with its emphasis on John’s Gospel version of the Resurrection story, provided a link to the Easter/Pentecost season emphasis on John’s Gospel as the Sunday readings for the six Sundays after Easter, the three-day Pentecost Festival and Trinity Festival Sunday.

A connection with the Gospel of John and the pairing of the St. John Passion, BWV 245, and the Easter Oratorio, BWV 249, with its emphasis on John’s Gospel, is that late in his life Bach presented them in 1749 on Good Friday and Easter Sunday, respectively, April 4 and 6. This is more than a coincidence and marks the fourth performance of each work. Another connection between the two oratorios is the Johanine theme of love.

Complicating matters for the continued chorale cantata cycle, the Easter/Pentecost season has no designated chorales for the second and third days of the Easter and Pentecost festivals, and for the six Sundays after Easter. Further, some of the general Easter and Pentecost hymns are either too short (one to three verses) or to long (14 and 19 stanzas) to become chorale cantatas with paraphrased internal verses set by the still unknown cycle librettists. Consequently, Bach also composed fewer original works for the Easter and Pentecost Festivals as well as the early and late Sundays after Easter.

EASTER SUNDAY: BWV 249, “Kommt, eilet und laufet” [ORATORIUM, PARODY] 1

(1) April 1, 1725, ?before sermon, “Kommt gehet und eilet”; (2) c1738, (3) c1743, (4) April 6, 1749
BWV 249 Sources: (1) orig. score & parts (lost, ?WFB); (2) score (SPK P.34) and parts (SPK. St.355) copes, CPEB/copyist Johann Heinrich Michel, Hamburg; CPEB NV; (3) “Oratorium Festo Paschali” score, Berlin Singakadamie (P35); (4) set copy (11 parts [3 tp, ti, 2 ob, 2 vn, va, bn, bc], sinfonia only (St. 155), CPEB ?performed Frankfurt 1737.
Literature: BGA XXI3 (Rust 1774); Smend 1942, 1950; Hänssler (Hellmann,1962, w/BWV 249/(12) chorale, sub. BWV 130/6, Preface to “J.S. Bach Oster-Oratorium”, Carus Edition (Stuttgart, 1992); NBA KB II/7 (Brainard 1981); Terry Cantatas & Oratorios (London 1925); Daw 130f, Young 171f, Dürr (2005) 271-74.
Original/Parody: BWV 249a “Schäferkantate” [‘Pastoral Cantata’ or 'Shepherd Cantata'] for the Birthday of Duke Christian of Sachsen-Weißenfels [Drama per Musica], February 23, 1725; Weißenfels. BWV 249b, Verjaget, zerstreuet, zerrüttet, ihr Sterne (Dispel them, disperse them, you heavens), Birthday Cantata for the Count Joachim Friederich von Flemming [Die Feyer des Genius - Drama per Musica]; August 25, 1726; Leipzig.
Text: ?Picander (not published); BCW Francis Browne trans. [chorale interpolation (12), "Herr Gott, dich loben alle wir” (Eber 1554)]
Forces: SATB, 4 vv, 3 tp, timp, (fl) 2 rec. 2 ob (ob d’a), str, bc; 1725 parts: S=Mary the Mother of James, A=Magdalene, T=Peter, B=John the Evangelist

Movements: sinfonia, TB duet w/chs., 4 recits. (SATB, TBA, SA, B), 3 arias (STA), chorus
1. Sinfonia (tutti orch.): A (Allegro) 3/8 gigue (D),
2. B adagio ¾ (b);
3. Duet dc w.chs. (T, B, tutti), 3/8 gigue (D): “Kommt, eilet und laufet, ihr flüchtigen Füße” (Come, hurry and run, you swift feet, (=249a,b/3 orig. TB duet);
4. Rec. (SATB) (b-b): A. “O kalter Männer Sinn! / Wo ist die Liebe hin” (O cold minds of men / Where is the love gone, Jn. 20:1);
5. Aria dc (S, fl), gigue ¾ (b): “Seele, deine Spezereien / Sollen nicht mehr Myrrhen sein” (My soul, your spices / should no more be myrrh. (Mk. 15:23 & Jn. 19:39) (=249a,b/5);
6. Rec. (TBA) (D-b): T. “Hier ist die Gruft” (Here is the tomb) (Jn. 20:2-7);
7. Aria free dc 4/4 (T, rec. str) (G): “Sanfte soll mein Todeskummer” (Gentle should be the sorrow of my death) (“tears,” Rev. 21:4) (=249a,b/7);
8. Rec. (SA) (b-A): “Indessen seufzen wir” (Meanwhile we sigh);
9. Aria dc 4/4 (A, ob, str) (A): “Saget, wo ich Jesum finde” (Tell, where may I find Jesus) (“whom my soul loves,” Song of Songs 3:1-4) (=249a,b/9);
10. Rec. (B) (FG-A): “Wir sind erfreut, / Daß unser Jesus wieder lebt” (We are delighted that our Jesus lives once more);
11. Chorus (tutti), French Overture 4/4 adagio; 3/8 gigue (D), allegro: “Preis und Dank / Bleibe, Herr, dein Lobgesang” (Praise and thanks / remain your song of praise) (“Gates of hell,” Mat. 16:18; “redeemed,” Isaiah 35:10, “Lion of Judah,” Rev. 5:5) (=249a,b/11);
(12. Cle. tutti: “Herr Gott, dich loben alle wir” (Lord God, we all praise Thee) (?orig.lost, sub. 130/6 music).

Overview page, BCW:
Recent study: Julian Mincham, BCW
Uri Golomb, “Bach’s Oratorios”, BCW
John Eliot Gardiner, YouTube (2014),|
Masaaki Suzuki, YouTube (2006),
Easter Oratorio Sources: Version 1 (1725) with 4 solo parts named, score lost, parts survive; Version 2 (c.1738) “Oratorium” with a few extra measures of music and minor changes in scoring; Version 3 (c.1743-46) altered text (aria No. 5, B ending), changes in scoring (No. 2 Adagio oboe changed to flute, No 3 duet to SATB chorus) and smaller revisions. The fourth and final performance was on April 6, 1749, using the Version 3 with some text changes (see below)

A brief outline of the plot shows the basics of the Easter story and the reactions of the main participants, with the main biblical emphasis on the Gospel of John in the first half (John 19:39, 20:1-7) then other biblical allusions during the characters’ commentary in the second half. The opening dcapo chorus of people (No. 3) urges the Lutheran congregation to “Come, hasten and hurry” to the empty tomb and celebrate. These commands are similar to those of the opening SMP chorus (1727), “Come” “See ye.” The principal characters, who are collectively grieving and preparing to anoint the body, are introduced (No. 4) in recitative. Mary the Mother of James in a da capo aria (No. 5) addresses the “Soul” of the one who receives the Easter proclamation, substituting a laurel wreath or myrrh spices. In the succeeding recitative (No. 6) Peter, John and Mary Magdalene see the tomb and great tombstone opening and Mary gives the Easter proclamation, “He is raised from the dead.” Peter is pleased to see the sudarium “lying unwrapped.” Peter sings a da capo pastoral slumber song (No. 7) and the two Marys in an arioso (No. 8) express their desire to see Jesus. Mary Magdalene, who is more then just a casual observer, in a da capo aria (No. 9) personally pleads to be with Jesus. The Evangelist John proclaims (No. 10) the Resurrection and everyone joins in a canticle of praise and thanksgiving, with various biblical references.

Easter Oratorio Text

A deep understanding of the text is found in Michael Marissen’s recent study: Bach’s Oratorios: The Parallel German-English Texts with Annotations (Oxford Univ. Press, 2008), pp. 134-38). As he observes in his first footnote: “To try to reconcile the logical and chronological difficulties of this libretto would be fruitless. The text was designed not as a chronicle for all listeners to track from left to right but as a theological proclamation for 18th century Lutherans to identify with liturgically and apply to their lives spiritually. That is to say, to criticize the libretto for being unsatisfying by the dictates of formal reason would be historically uninformed.”

In addition to citing the biblical references found in the movement summary above, Marissen offers important insights. He shows that the various New Testament gospel texts covering the Easter Sunday story have differing perspectives. The overall Easter Gospel story is complex and somewhat convoluted. These complexities include the significance and timely application of myrrh oil and the use of the burial sudarium (Schweißtuch, sweat-cloth) as found in John’s Gospel, the identities of the women, the perspective of the two women in the story going to anoint Jesus’ body, and the figure that speaks to Mary the Mother of James and Mary Magdalene at the empty tomb on Easter morning. In Bach’s libretto, it is an angel, based on Matthew 28, while it is a young man in Mark 16, two men in Luke 24, and two angels in John 20.

Bach relied on John’s Gospel account of the Resurrection with its Passion recollection of the anointing oil and the burial sweat-cloth covering the face of Christ after he literally sweated blood during his passion in the garden (Luke 22:44). John’s account begins with Mary Magdalene seeking the tomb and confronting Peter. Bach adds the two characters of Mary, the mother of James, and the disciple John. In the second half of the pastoral oratorio, all four characters have solos, in the Italian manner, without a narrator singing the biblical text but only the characters providing references with a sung plot.

“In any case, we do well to conceive the [BWV 249] plot as an ‘Easter play’ and not to question its theological substance, says Alfred Dürr in The Cantatas of JSB.2 “Even the arbitrary addition of a concluding chorale, which is found in one modern edition [Diethard Hellmann, Hänssler 1962], does not allow the work to be converted into a church cantata. Instead it reveals still more clearly the differences this and the cantata of the conventional type.” 3

While the Easter Oratorio text changes probably were devised by Bach, the identity of the libretto author is usually thought to be Picander, although the text never was published. Picander is the author of the text of the original Shepherds’ Cantata, BWV 249a, performed five weeks earlier, and is Bach’s librettist for almost all the succeeding vocal music parodies. Still, the Easter Oratorio text has numerous scholarly biblical references and some local dialect. Perhaps the oratorio parody text was a collaboration of Bach, Picander, and a Lutheran Pastor, possibly Dr. Christian Weiss Senior at St. Thomas Church.

Picander’s original arcadian images in the pastoral serenade are turned into sometimes graphic, pietistic sentiments in the Easter Oratorio. The text change in the final two lines of the da capo B section, Alto Aria No. 5, “Seele, deine Spezereinen” (Soul, your spices), which is now found in the published editions, appears in the third version, dating between 1743 and 1746. Like Bach’s changes in the 1749 version of the St. John Passion (No 9 aria and Nos. 19-20 and arioso-aria combination), these seem to reflect a more enlightened than pietistic language. Aria BWV 249/5 in the earlier wording: “Sich mit Lorberkränzen schmücken/Schicket sich vor dein Erquicken” (adorning yourself with laurel wreaths befits your being recalled to life); In the extant, later wording: “Mit dem Lorbeerkranze prangen, with the splendour of the laurel wreath Stillt dein ängstliches Verlangen. will your anxious longing be satisfied.”

Easter Oratorio Sinfonia

Another unresolved issue is the origin of the opening two-part instrumental sinfonia and succeeding opening vocal movement. The three movements have long been assumed to be from a lost concerto grosso (Smend: Bach in Köthen: 119) in the manner of the Brandenburg Concertos, or an instrumental collection. The view is questioned because “the internal structure of the three movements concerned is quite unlike that of other concertos,” says Dürr (Ibid: 274), citing Joshua Rifkin and others.

As Julian Mincham notes in a BCW Sinfonia posting, Bach in most cases doesn’t simply revive and tack-on a sinfonia to an already-composed cantata. “Rather it is an initial invention, an impetus and an integral part of the whole work. Meanwhile, I think Bach often resorts to models or examples, as in his parodies which often are not simply duplications with new text underlay but are transformations within a new context.” As Dürr (Ibid.) also notes: “The bipartite structure of the notably brief closing chorus [No. 11] is modeled in that of the Sanctus, BWV 232III , composed shortly beforehand (Christmas 1724) and later in the B minor Mass.”

Oratorio, Cantata 4 Contrasts

The contrast between the Easter Oratorio (no chorales) and pure-hymn Cantata 4, “Christ lag in Todesbanden” is quite striking, as John Eliot Gardiner observers in his musical biography, BACH: Music in the Castle of Heaven.4 On the same Easter Sunday (April 1, 1725). Cantata 4 was performed at the University Church, where Bach was still responsible for major Feast Day music, and described as “a worthy but now old-fashioned addition to the [chorale cantata] cycle,” “while at the two main churches [Niklaus and Thomas] he made a hast parody of a (lost) Weissenfels pastoral cantata . . . .” In the oratorio, “the meditative beauty of its slow second movement (with its aura of a Venetian oboe concerto) and its long soprano aria [Seele, deine Spezereien] with flute obbligato catches the sense of loss at Christ’s death and the feeling that the use of spices and embalming ointments could now be superseded by the power of musical prayer. Resurrection has not yet fully registered in the believer’s mind.”

A more detailed contrast between the two works is found in Richard D. P. Jones’ The Creative Development of JSB, Vol. 2, 1717-50.5 Martin Luther’s Reformation chorale-driven Cantata 4, “Christ lag in Todesbanden” (Christ lies in death’s bondage) for Easter “is composed in a conservative church style that Bach had largely abandoned in 1713,” Jones says. The Easter Oratorio “straightforward parody” “is written in an up-to-date, operatic style.” “No chorale or biblical text is added. It is “a sacred drama per musica with sung plot and dramatis personae. As “genuinely theatrical music” it differs from all other Bach sacred music and is like the style banned by the Town Council when they emplBach in 1723. Perhaps a “sign of his increasing boldness and independence,” it “could be justified by linking it with the old tradition of the Easter play, a dramatic representation of the events surrounding the Resurrection” (Ibid.).

De Tempore Festival Oratorios

In 1735, Bach completed and presented two additional oratorios, for Christmas and Ascension Day, in the traditional style of the Oratorio Passion, using narrator with biblical text. With the Easter Oratorio, the “three compositions would then amount to a closely knit trilogy based on the life of Christ (hence the absence of a Whit oratorio),” says Jones (Ibid.: 319). “Much of the music is parodied form drammi per musica, which are essentially dramatic in character, each resembling a single act from an opera. The use of parody is no mere convenient device but a reflection of the character if oratorio as sacred opera.” “Finally, with regard to the entirely non-biblical text of the Easter Oratorio, on Good Friday 1734, Bach had performed G. H. Stözel’s Passion-oratorio Ein Lämmlein geht und trägt die Schuld [in the Niklaus church], which likewise dispenses with the Gospel narrative. Perhaps there was a new climate of opinion in Leipzig church circles around this time according to which the spirit matters more than the letter.”

Easter/Pentecost Season: Great Fifty Days

Bach in Leipzig was acutely aware of the pitfalls of attempting to create a new Passion drama for Good Friday, followed by “The Great Fifty Days” from Easter Sunday to Pentecost with their dual three-day festivals as well as the Ascension Feast and the closing Trinity Feast, totaling 12 cantatas, all the while completing the academic term at the Thomas School, ending at the same time as the church year. In his first year, 1723-24,

Bach fortuitously had on hand previously-composed works which he could repeat, expand and adjust, or parody, as was the case in 1724 for the Easter and Pentecost Mondays and Tuesdays feast days and Trinity Sunday with celebratory Köthen serenades, using new texts from Cantatas 66a, 134a, 173a, 184a, and 194a. In 1725, two movements from BWV 66a (sinfonia and Fama aria (No. 6) not used in Cantata 66 for Easter Monday were parodied in the Quasimodogeneti Sunday (Easter 1) Cantata BWV 42, “Am Abend aber deslbigen Sabatts” (On the evening of the same Sabbath; Nos. 1 and 3), according to Jones (Ibid.: 163). Further in 1725, for Pentecost Tuesday in Cantata 175, “Er rufet seinen Schafen mit Namen” (He calls his own sheep by name), Bach borrowed and expanded the remaining aria not parodied in Cantata 173, “Erhöhtes Fleisch und Blut” (Exhalted flesh and blood) for Pentecost Monday 1724, for tenor (No. 4) to a parody text of Christiane Mariane von Ziegler.

Unlike Schütz’s Resurrection oratorio which covers the three-day Easter feast of Resurrection, Walk to Emmaus, and Christ’s appearance before the Disciples, Bach only was interested in the Resurrection story.

Perhaps, by that time there was little interest in a musical three-day setting, particularly with the specified use of particular Easter hymns. At any rate Bach was content to use parodied music for the Easter Monday and Tuesday in 1724 and again in 1725.

Bach’s use of Easter chorales in Leipzig is quite flexible, observes Günther Stiller in <JSB & Liturgical Life in Leipzig>: 239f. He notes that for the entire three-day Easter Festival (Sunday to Tuesday), Bach used various familiar hymns. Meanwhile, the three hymns for Easter festival are “Ach, bleib bei uns, Herr Jesu Christ,” “Erschienen ist der herrlich Tag” and “Wenn mein stündlein vorhanden ist.” At the same time, “Ach, bleib bei uns,” is a main service hymn for Easter Monday in Leipzig (BCW: Terry/Cowling), while “Erschienen ist der herrlich Tag” is an Easter chorale and “Wenn mein Stündlein vorhanden ist” is an omnes tempore hymn (Death & Dying). Stiller details Bach’s unorthodox use of certain chorale melodies and stanzas in various cantatas for the Easter Festival. “Only in one case did Bach use an Easter hymn that was not so common and yet not unknown in certain Leipzig hymnbooks, namely, “Auf, men Herz! Des Herren Tag” at the beginning of Cantata BWV 145 (Easter Tuesday 1729, Picander text).

Beyond the repeat of the St. John Passion to be compatible with the chorale cantata cycle, Chafe in his new book, J. S. Bach’s Johannine Theology: The St. John Passion and the Cantatas for the Spring of 1725,6 shows the profound influence of John’s theology of Christus Victor on the works of Bach at this time. This happens from the Holy Week-Passiontide and Easter Season to Pentecost/Trinity (“Great Fifty Days”), from the John Passion to the Jesus Farewell Discourse to the disciples in the Gospel of John (Chapter 16). It is found in the Easter Season gospels as treated in the cantatas for this period that are not in chorale form, particularly the nine final works with new texts of Leipzig poetess Ziegler, “that project a striking indebtedness to the Gospel of John.” The total 59 days from Ascension to Pentecost represents Christ’s final days (end times) and the second most intense period of music the church year in Leipzig, rivaled only by Christmas to Epiphany with the beginning times. The greater John connection of this Eschatological times “is not only unified in its theological character, but it is also the oldest and most fundamental part of the Christian Liturgy, embodying the very core of Christian belief,” says Chafe (Ibid.: 11).

The Johanine theme of love, often “associated with Mary Magdalene,” says Café (Ibid.: 395), is found in Bach’s setting of the St. John Passion and the Easter Oratorio. He points out the first chorale in the John Passion, “O grosse Lieb” (O great love), “is the response of the faithful to Jesus’ protection of the disciples.” In the Easter Oratorio, “love is associated particularly with the two female characters, Mary Magdalene, and Maria Jacobi (daughter of James). In the initial four-character recitative, Mary Magdelene pronounces love a debt “owed to Jesus by the two male disciples (Peter and John), “to which Maria Jacobi adds,” “a weak woman puts you to shame.” Then after arias of Maria Jacobi and Peter, the two women sing a short arioso, “Meanwhile, we sigh with burning longing.” Chafe points out.

Gardiner suggests (Ibid.: 293) that originally in 1724, Bach may have intended to follow the St. John Passion with cantatas emphasizing the Gospel of John (possibly Cantatas 6, 42, 85, and the nine von Ziegler Cantatas 103, 107, 87. 128, 183, 74, 68, 175, and 176), but was postponed for a year until 1725. Cantatas 6, 42, and 85 “are structurally identical to cantatas composed in the February of the previous year [1724] and could therefore be considered casualties of a crisis associated with the first performance of his St. John Passion, on 7 April 1724.”

“An equivalent disruption to his plans for Good Friday the following year could be linked to the abandonment of the chorale-based cantata cycle after Palm Sunday 1725 and may account for the inclusion of a revival (BWV 4) and a parody (BWV 249) on Easter Sunday; it may also have contributed to the realization of a new sequence for the ‘Great Fifty Days’ between Easter and Pentecost.” “It seems, then, that Bach planned this new sequence as a way of completing his first cycle in a more satisfactory way than had been possible in the spring of 1724, this time mirroring the liturgical character of the ‘Great Fifty Days,’ unified by the preponderance of texts drawn from St. John’s Gospel.”

Easter Festival7

Bach’s Easter Sunday Performance Calendar involves only three original works, BWV 4, 31, and 249, composed, respectively in Mülhausen as a pure-hymn chorale cantata, in Weimar as an extended, celebratory work, and the joyous Easter Oratorio in Leipzig. Cantata 4 was repeated at least twice, 1724 and 1725 and may have repeated during Easter Monday and Tuesday as part of the three-day Easter Festival. Cantata 31 was repeated twice, and the Easter Oratorio three times. Meanwhile, Bach was pleased to present various Easter works of his colleagues Telemann, J. L Bach, and G.H. Stölzel.

EASTER SUNDA (NBA KB I/1, Dürr 1986, BWV 4, BWV 31) Gospel, Mark 16:1-8 (Resurrection); Epistle, I Cor. 5:7-8 (Christ our Passover). Bach’s Easter Sunday performance calendar shows:

Date(cycle)/ BWV/ Title/ Type (Note)
?4/24/1707 or 4/4/1708 BWV 4 Christ lag in Todesbanden chorale (Luther)
4/21/1715 BWV 31 Der Himmel lacht! die Erde Jubilieret chorus (Franck)
4/9/1724 (BWV 4) Christ lag in Todesbanden (repeat, revisedf)
and (BWV 31) Der Himmel lacht! die Erde Jubilieret (repeat, rev., ?excerpts)
4/1/1725 BWV 249 Kommt, eilet & laufet, ihr flüchtigen Füße ("cantata," parody)
4/3/1725 (2) (BWV 4) Christ lag in Todesbanden (repeat, ?partial
and? (TWV 8:15) Der Herr ist König Telemann motet
?1725-6 BWV 160 (TWV 1:877) Ich weiß, daß nmein Erlöster lebt Telemann cantata
4/21/1726(3) BWV 15(JLB-21) Denn du wirst meine Seele J.L. Bach cantata
4/15/1729 (P-28) Es hat überwunden der Löwe (Picander, text only)
3/25/1731 (BWV 31) Der Himmel lacht! die Erde Jubilieret repeat
4/10/1735 ? BWV 249 BC D8 Kommt, eilet & laufet, ihr flüchtigen Füße Oratorio (?interim)
4/10/1735 ? BWV 160 & JLB-21 Denn du wirst meine Seele (?repeat)
1736-04-01 - G.H. Stölzel: Ich bin die Auferstehung und das Leben, Mus. A 15:141
4/6/1738 BWV 249 (c) BC D8 Kommt, eilet& laufet, ihr flüchtigen Füße (repeat)
c1743-46 BWV 249 (c) BC D8 Kommt, eilet& laufet, ihr flüchtigen Füße (repeat)
4/6/1749 BWV 249 (c) BC D8 Kommt, eilet& laufet, ihr flüchtigen Füße (repeat)

For Easter Monday, April 2, 1725, Bach presented Cantata BWV 6, “Bleib bei uns, denn ist will Abend werden,” a non-chorale cantata. It is in the same form as the cantatas composed in the Easter Season 1724 for the First through the Sixth Sundays After Easter (BWV 67, 104, 166, 86, 37, 44): biblical words, aria, chorale, recitative, aria, chorale -- possibly set to texts of Christian Weiss Sr. In addition, the 1725 cantatas for the First and Second Sunday After Easter (Qusimodogeneti and Miswricordia Domini), BWV 42 and 85, also have the same form.

Cantata 6 shows the remnant of a planned chorale cantata. The third movement is a soprano trio aria with the chorale melody, “Ach, bleib bei uns, Herr Jesu Christ,” set to the first two stanzas of Nicolaus Selnecker’s nine-stanza chorale. This soprano chorale aria was adapted as a Schubler organ chorale, BWV 649, and is similar in trio form with obbligato instrument and basso continuo as four other Schubler chorales (BWV 645, 647, 648 and 650) which are transcriptions of chorale cantata arias (unaltered stanzas), respectively, BWV 140/4, 93/4, 10/5, and 137/2). Coincidentally, three of the four cantatas (BWV 140, 10 and 137) have pure-hymn texts and two were not composed in 1724-25 as part of the chorale cantata cycle: Cantata 140 for the 27th Sunday After Trinity, 1731, and Cantata 137, for the 12th Sunday After Trinity, 1725, and possibly for the adjacent Town Council installation in late August 1725. The exception was chorale Cantata 10, for the Feast of the Purification, 1724, the penultimate of 40 chorale cantatas composed as part of the second cycle.

Besides Aria BWV 6/3, there are five chorale cantatas composed earlier in the 1724-25 second cycle with internal movements which are unaltered pure-hymn texts instead of being paraphrased by Bach’s librettist: BWV 92/4, 107/3-6 (in the only pure-hymn cantata composed in the 1724-25 cycle), 113/2, 114/4, and 178/4. The chorale aria “Ach, blein bei uns” is the only setting which has two stanzas, the other four have one. If aria BWV 6/3 was originally composed in 1725 as part of a standard chorale cantata, the movement in question would not have used the opening stanza unaltered, always used as the text of the opening chorale fantasia chorus. Bach would have set the Selnecker melody to another unaltered stanza later in the cantata.

“Ach, bleib bei uns, Herr Jesu Christ,” is listed as a Leipzig Easter Tuesday chorale (Günther Stiller: JSB & Liturgical Life in Leipzig: 240), with “Erschienen ist der herrlich Tag” and “Wenn meinstündlein vorhanden ist.” “Ach, bleib bei uns,” is a main service hymn for Easter Monday in Leipzig (BCW: Terry/Cowling). Bach also set the hymn as a four-part chorale, BWV 253 in A Major; used the melody in BWV 414, “Uns ist ein Kindlein heut’ gebor’n” for Christmas; and in the Schubler Chorale, BWV 649, setting of chorale aria BWV 6/3; and the first two stanzas of Cantata BWV Anh. 4/6, for the Augsburg Confession Jubilee, 1730. It is possible that chorale BWV 253 was composed in 1725 to close a projected chorale cantata for Easter Monday and was used in 1730 for the now-unextant Jubilee Cantata.

Bach may have considered using the Easter Season Leipzig pulpit hymn, “Christ ist Erstanden,” Luther’s three-stanza setting of the Latin Easter sequence< Victimae paschali> (1200 Leise) transformed into 3-part chorale. This unusual chorale setting has there stanzas each of different poetic meter and different tunes. Bach’s definitive setting (1712-13) is found in the Orgelbüchlein No. 36 (BWV 627) and was set in three distinct movements, unlike any other composer’s treatment in a single work (Stinson,< Bach Ob.> p. 113f. Bach also composed two four-voice plain-chorale settings: the closing chorale in Cantata BWV 66, for Easter Monday 1724, which uses only the third, “Allelujah” “verse,” and the full four-part plain chorale, BWV 276, which appears to have been composed later in Leipzig because of its tonal shifts, opening in D Minor and Closing in F-Sharp Major, and intricate and wide-ranging voicing.

The Miscellaneous Organ Chorale Prelude setting, BWV 746, is attributed to J.K.F. Fischer (Peter Williams, <Organ Music of JSB>: 491)
Easter Monday plain chorale settings used by Bach:
1724: BWV 66/6, Klug “Christ ist erstanden” (S.3)
1725: BWV 6/6, Luther “Erhalt uns, Herr” (S.2)
1726: JLB10/7 ?chorale
1729: BWV Anh. 190/6=P-29, “Heut triumphiret Gottes Sohn” (S.3) (Wustmann text sub.)

For Easter Tuesday, Bach’s puzzling use of Easter chorales on Easter Tuesday in Leipzig seems to reflect a lack of interest. In 1724, he used no chorale to close the dialogue parody from Köthen, BWV 66. In 1725, Bach composed no new work, either a chorale cantata or a repeat of the traditional cantata form (biblical dictum/internal chorale) of the day before, Easter Monday, Cantata 6. Instead, he began the first repeat of a previous Leipzig service cantata, BWV 4, “Christ lag in Todesbanden,” and probably paired it with a hybrid old-new Cantata BWV 158, “Der Freide sei mit dir” (Peace be with you, Luke 24:36), Christ’s greeting to his disciples in the Gospel for Easter Tuesday), Cantata 158 blends old music from a Weimer Purification work with newly-composed music, ending with a new setting of Stanza 5, “Here is the true Easter Lamb, “ from “Christ lag in Todesbanden.”

There is only a slight possibility that Bach considered Stolzhagen’s six-verse “Heut triumphiret Gottes Sohn” as a chorale cantata for Easter Tuesday. In Leipzig it was the Introit Hymn for the Easter Festival and the Vespers Hymn for Ascension Day. Bach first set the chorale as an< Orgelbüchlein> prelude, BWV 630(a) (Ob. No. 39) in its earliest Easter setting (1708-12, Stinson). The third stanza is found closing the lost Easter Monday Cantata BWV Anh. 190, Ich bin ein Pilgrim auf der Welt (Sieber, Werner), 1729 Picander text only suervives) and is quite possibly the four-part setting, BWV 342. The full six-verse German hymn text is found in This may be the so-called “Lost Emmaus Cantata,” sought by Bach scholars.

Easter Tuesday Bach plain chorale settings:
1724: BWV 134 (no chorale),
1725: BWV 158/2, Welt ade, ich bin dein müde; 158/4 Luther “Christ lag” (S.5) (new), ?repeat of BWV 4
1726: JLB-11 no chorale
1729: BWV 145=P-30/a, C. Neumann “Auf, mein Herz” (S.1); 5, Hermann “Erschienen ist (S.14)

Chorale Cantata Settings for the Easter Season8

Chorale settings were essential to Bach’s well-regulated and -appointed church music to the glory of God. The diversity of his treatment in both the musical form embracing chorales and the range of sacred song use is withouparallel. In particular, Bach focused on the <de tempore> or seasonal settings for the main Sunday and festival services, particularly the principal chorale, called gradual hymn, sung between the two biblical readings of the Epistle and the Gospel. The< omnes temporary> or timeless hymns were appropriate for any season, particularly the half-year Trinity season of the thematic teachings and works of Jesus Christ, and were most appropriate for evening vesper services.

Beginning with his settings of both types of chorales in his organ prelude collection, the <Orgelbüchlein> or “Little Organ Book,” Bach favored the <de tempore> chorales for Christmas and Easter, two main festivals in the church year. Composed almost entirely in Weimar, the <Orgelbüchlein> sets only three of the nine Pentecost chorales Bach listed and neither for Ascension Day. “It is hard to explain why,” says Russell Stinson in <Bach, the Orgelbüchlein> (Oxford Univ. Press 1999: 27). A close examination (below) suggests reasons Bach may not have set well-known Pentecost chorales.

Emphasis on Easter is apparent in Bach’s later cantata settings using seasonal chorales found in Bach’s hymnbook with music and text, Das neu Leipziger Gesangbuch of 1682.9 For Easter, Bach composed 23 cantatas using Easter chorales and only six set as either organ preludes or four-part unattached chorales. Meanwhile, for Ascension Day and Pentecost, only eight cantatas or oratorios have appropriate chorales while 12 are set as individual preludes or hymns. Of the 17 <omnes tempore> (anytime) chorales Bach used in cantatas for the Easter season, only three are for Ascension Day and one, “Du, o schones Weltgebaude,” is appropriate for Pentecost, another major festival.

Given this record during the Easter season, it seems problematic whether Bach in 1725 could have set chorale cantatas for all 13 Easter season services, including seven feast days, if he had available, appropriate texts for internal arias and recitatives paraphrasing all but the first and last stanzas. The record shows that during the previous Easter season of 1724, Bach already had used major Easter Season chorales, with notable exceptions. For the Third Day (Tuesday) of the Easter Festival in 1724, Bach had used no chorale in Cantata 134 and none for Pentecost Monday in Cantata 173. Bach also omitted chorales in the Easter Oratorio, BWV 149, in 1725.

The record also shows that for the projected 1725 13 Easter Season chorale cantatas, Bach did provided chorale settings involving at least five cantatas:

*Two pure-hymn chorale cantatas, Cantata 4, “Christ lag in Todesbanden,” for the Easter Festival, and Cantata 112, “Der Herr ist meine getreue Hirt,” for the Second Sunday After Easter 1725, completed about 1731.
*Two chorale opening choruses, BWV 128/1, “Aus Christi Himmelfahrt Allein,” for Ascension Day 1725, and BWV 68/1, “Also hat Gott die Welt geliebt,” for Pentecost Tuesday in 1725;
*A chorale aria, “Ach bleib bei uns,” BWV 6/3, for Easter Monday 1725;
*Possibly later three pure-hymn chorale works: Cantata 100, “Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan,” for the Third Sunday After Easter; Cantata 117, “Sei Lob und Her dem Höchsten Gut,” for the Fifth Sunday After Easter; and Cantata 97, “In Allen meinen Taten,” for the Sixth Sunday After Easter, which Bach apparently began about 1725.

Sketches for the beginning of opening instrumental sinfonias for possibly chorale cantata fantasias for both the first and sixth Sundays after Easter (Quasimodogeniti and Exaudi) exist, suggesting that Bach at least considered the possibility of other chorale cantatas for the Easter season without selecting the particular hymn to be paraphrased and soliciting a libretto.

It is possible that Bach in the1725 Easter Season had no appropriate chorale choices for chorale cantatas for the First and Fourth Sundays After Easter and was limited in the possibilities for Easter and Pentecost Tuesdays, and the Third Sunday After Easter.

Complicating matters, various Easter chorales were challenging to set as chorale cantatas. Three lacked sufficient stanzas: Luther’s famous “Christ ist erstanden,” which has one three-part stanza (AAB), Luther’s “Jesus Christus, unser Heiland, der den” has only 3 verses, and the popular Pentecost chorale “Also hat Gott die Welt geliebt” has only one stanza. Other chorales that have too many stanzas to paraphrase include “Erschienen ist der herrlich Tag,” ¾ time 14 verses, and “Erstanden ist der Heil’ge Christ, der den Tod,” ¾ time which has varying numbers of stanzas, 19 in one version, and intersperses four “Hallelujahs” in each stanza. “Komm, heiliger Geist, erfülle die Herzen deiner Glaübigen” listed as Orgelbüchlein OB 42 but not set, is a vespers litany response and is not found as a congregational hymn in later Lutheran hymn books.

Further complicating matters, in Leipzig service and Bach usage, certain Easter chorales could be sung throughout the season, later Easter Sundays had no designated chorales, and some were used to anticipate the succeeding Feasts of Ascension and Pentecost, as Bach had done with Epiphany chorales anticipating the three pre-Lenten “Gesima” Sundays. Cantata BWV 108, for the Fourth Sunday After Easter 1725 in the von Ziegler text, closes (No. 6) with Gerhardt’s Pentecost chorale, “Gott Vater, sende deinen Geist.” The chorale “Heut triumphiret Gottes Sohn” was the Introit hymn for the Easter Festival and the vespers hymn for Ascension Day. Beyond designated chorales for the three-day Pentecost festival, the second and third days have no dedicated chorales only for those two days.


1 Original material found in “Oster-Oratorium BWV 249, BCML General Discussions - Part 2”:, scroll down to “Discussions in the Week of June 13, 2010.”
2 Dürr, Alfred. Cantatas of J. S. Bach, revised and translated by Richard D. P. Jones (Oxford University Press, New York, 2005)
3 The chorale is recording concluding the LP of Wolfgang Goennenwein; Ameling, Fassbaender, Equiluz, Altmeyer, Nimsgern, Crass, Moll; Consortium SW German Chamber Orch. & Madrigal Choir; Angel 36322, and is available at
4 Gardiner, BACH: Music in the Castle of Heaven (Alfred A, Knopf: New York, 2013: 333).
5 Jones, The Creative Development of Johann Sebastian Bach, Volume II: 1717-1750. “Music to Delight the Spirit” (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013: 162f).
6 Chafe, J. S. Bach’s Johannine Theology (New York: Oxford University Press: 2014:).
7 Original material is found in Cantata 4, BCML Discussion 5,
8 Original material is found at Cantata 104, BCML Discussions Parts 3,
9 NLGB, BACH'S HYMN BOOK: Jürgen Grimm, "Das neu [?] Leipziger Gesangbuch des Gottfried Vopelius (Leipzig 1682),"Berlin: Merseburger, 1969. ML 3168 G75.

Aryeh Oron wrote (April 21, 2015):
Oster-Oratorium BWV 249 - Revised & updated Discography

The discography page of the Oster-Oratorium (Easter Oratorio) BWV 249 "Kommet, eilet und laufet" on the BCW have been revised and updated.
The oratorio is scored for soprano, tenor & bass soloists; 4-part chorus; and orchestra of 3 trumpets, timpani, 2 oboes, oboe d'amore, bassoon, 2 recorders, transverse flute, 2 violins, viola & basso continuo. See:
Complete Recordings (38):
The revised discography includes many listening/watching options to recordings directly from the discography page, just below the recording details.

I also put at the BCW Home Page:
2 audios and 2 video of the oratorio. A short description below the audio/video image is linked to the full details at the discography page.

I believe this ithe most comprehensive and detailed discography of this oratorio. If you are aware of a recording missing from this page, or want to correct/add details of a recording already presented on the BCW, please do not hesitate to inform me.


Continue in Part 5

Oster-Oratorium 249: Kommt, eilet und laufer for Easter Sunday (1725)
Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements
Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

Recordings & Discussions of Other Vocal Works: Main Page | Motets BWV 225-231 | Mass in B minor BWV 232 | Missae Breves & Sanctus BWV 233-242 | Magnificat BWV 243 | Matthäus-Passion BWV 244 | Johannes-Passion BWV 245 | Lukas-Passion BWV 246 | Markus-Passion BWV 247 | Weihnachts-Oratorium BWV 248 | Oster-Oratorium BWV 249 | Chorales BWV 250-438 | Geistliche Lieder BWV 439-507 | AMN BWV 508-523 | Quodlibet BWV 524 | Aria BWV 1127


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Last update: Friday, August 04, 2017 13:02