Preise, Jerusalem, den Herrn (Praise the Lord, o
Jerusalem), BWV 119, is a sacred cantata by Johann
Sebastian Bach. He composed it in Leipzig for
Ratswechsel, the inauguration of a new town council,
and first performed it on 30 August 1723.
Bach composed the cantata during his first year in
Leipzig for a service at St Nicholas Church to
celebrate the change of council or Ratswechsel. Early
in his career he had written at least one cantata for
the equivalent service at Mühlhausen. There are five
surviving cantatas for the Ratswechsel at Leipzig.
The text of the cantata consists of verses from psalms
147, 85 and 126, lines from Martin Luther's "German Te
Deum" and poems by unknown writers. To suit the event
for which it was written, these are all turned into
hymns of thanking and praising God for Leipzig's
prosperity and asking him to protect the city in the
Even among other festive music written by Bach, this
work's scoring for four trumpets is unusual. It is
characterised by a very solemn character and the
attributes of courtly homage music, such as the opening
chorus in the form of a French overture or fanfare-like
trumpet interjections in the bass recitative. Bach
created a work that in musical terms corresponds less
to sacred music and more to the type of secular music
for a princely court, as had been required of him
during his time in office in Köthen. Only in its final
two movements does Bach again use simple forms to
emphasize the work's character of a church cantata,
implying that earthly powers do not last, but God – the
supreme ruler – is entitled to have the last word.
In addition to its dotted rhythms, the opening chorus
is remarkable for the musical opposition between the
trumpets and the rest of the instrumental parts. The
middle section is faster, incorporating both fugal
techniques and paired entries. The coda is an
adaptation of the first section.
After a secco recitative, the oboes da caccia present
the dotted-rhythm ritornello to introduce the tenor
aria. The vocal entry is before the ritornello cadence.
The following bass recitative is introduced and
concluded with a fanfare-like trumpet and timpani
The fifth movement is an alto aria with two obbligato
recorders, the only minor-mode movement. The obbligato
presents high repeated notes beginning midway through
the ritornello theme, which recurs as episodes and at
the conclusion of the movement. The movement is, in
effect, a trio sonata.
A soprano recitative precedes the second chorus, which
is introduced by a long ritornello theme featuring an
"imperious" trumpet melody. This theme plays four times
during the da capo movement, which also includes
elements of fugue. A very short yet harmonically
adventurous alto recitative serves as the penultimate
movement. The cantata ends "with the subtlest touches
of flamboyance" in a chorale.
Although originally scored for four soloists—soprano,
alto, tenor and bass—a four-part choir, four trumpets,
timpani, two recorders, three oboes, two oboes da
caccia, two violins, viola, and basso continuo, I
created this arrangement for Small Orchestra (3 Bb
Trumpets, 2 Flutes, 2 Oboes, Bb Clarinet, French Horn,
F Tuba, Timpani, 2 Volins, Violas & Cellos).