Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme, BWV 140

Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme, BWV 140, also known as Sleepers Wake, is a church cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach, written in Leipzig for the 27th Sunday after Trinity and first performed on November 25, 1731.[1]

Contents


History and text

The chorale cantata is based on the Lutheran chorale, Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme of Philipp Nicolai. This Lutheran hymn remains popular today both in its original German and in a variety of English translations. The text on which it is based is the parable of the ten virgins in Matthew 25:1–13, a reading that was scheduled in the Lutheran lectionary of the time for the 27th Sunday after Trinity.[2] Because this Sunday only occurred in the church year when Easter was very early, the cantata was rarely performed.[3] The infrequency of the occasion for which it was composed makes it one of the few cantatas whose date of composition is definitively known.

In the modern three-year Revised Common Lectionary, however, the reading is scheduled for Proper 27, or the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, in the first year of the three-year cycle of lessons.[4] Thus, the hymn or the cantata are commonly performed in churches on that Sunday. The text and its eschatological themes are also commonly associated with the early Sundays of the season of Advent, and so the cantata is also commonly performed during that season.

Scoring and structure

The cantata is scored for horn, 2 oboes, taille (an instrument similar to the oboe da caccia, today often replaced by an English horn), violino piccolo, violin, viola, basso continuo, and choir with soprano, tenor, and bass soloists.

  • I. Chorus: Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme (Wake up, the voice calls to us)
  • II. Recitative: Er kommt (He comes)
  • III. Aria (duet): Wann kommst du, mein Heil? (When will you come, my salvation?)
  • IV. Chorale: Zion hört die Wächter singen (Zion hears the watchmen singing)
  • V. Recitative: So geh herein zu mir (So come in with me)
  • VI. Aria (duet): Mein Freund ist mein! (My friend is mine!)
  • VII. Chorale: Gloria sei dir gesungen (May Gloria be sung to you)

Music

The first movement is a chorale fantasia based on the first verse of the chorale, which is a common feature of Bach's chorale cantatas.[5] The second movement is a recitative for tenor that precedes the third movement, a duet for soprano and bass with obbligato violin. In the duet, the soprano represents the soul and the bass represents Jesus as the Vox Christi (voice of Jesus). The fourth movement, based on the second verse of the chorale, is written in a trio sonata-like texture for the tenors of the chorus, oboe da caccia, and continuo. Bach later transcribed this movement for organ (BWV 645), and it was subsequently published along with five other transcriptions Bach made of his cantata movements as the Schübler Chorales. The fifth movement is a recitative for bass, preceding the sixth movement, which is another duet for soprano and bass with obbligato oboe. This duet, like the third movement, is a love duet between the soprano soul and the bass Jesus.[6] The final movement is a four-part setting of the final verse of the chorale.

Recordings

Media

Cantata 140, 1st movement
Performed by the MIT Chamber Chorus
Cantata 140, 2nd movement
Performed by the MIT Chamber Chorus
Cantata 140, 3rd movement
Performed by the MIT Chamber Chorus
Cantata 140, 4th movement
Performed by the MIT Chamber Chorus
Cantata 140, 5th movement
Performed by the MIT Chamber Chorus
Cantata 140, 6th movement
Performed by the MIT Chamber Chorus
Cantata 140, 7th movement
Performed by the MIT Chamber Chorus
  • Problems listening to the files? See media help.

  • References

    1. Christoph Wolff, Johann Sebastian Bach: The Learned Musician (W. W. Norton & Company, 2000), 280. ISBN 0-393-04825-X
    2. The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, Lutheran Service Book (Concordia Publishing House, 2006), xxi. ISBN 0-7586-1217-6
    3. According to Wolff (p. 280), the cantata was only performed once (November 25, 1731) during Bach's tenure at the Thomaskirche in Leipzig, though the 27th Sunday after Trinity occurred again 1742.
    4. Lutheran Service Book, xv.
    5. See also Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern, BWV 1, Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland, BWV 61, Sie werden aus Saba alle kommen, BWV 65, and Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott, BWV 80, among many others.
    6. Donald Grout and Claude Palisca, Norton Anthology of Western Music: Volume 1 – Ancient to Baroque, 4th ed. (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2001), 547. ISBN 0-393-97690-4
    7. a b Fritz Werner & Heinrich-Schütz-Chor Heilbronn & Pforzheim Chamber Orchestra Bach Cantatas & Other Vocal Works