Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott (A mighty fortress is our
God), BWV 80, is a church cantata by Johann Sebastian
Bach. He composed the chorale cantata in Leipzig for
Reformation Day, 31 October, first performed between
1727 and 1731. It is based on Martin Luther's hymn "Ein
feste Burg ist unser Gott".
Bach wrote the cantata in Leipzig for Reformation Day.
The cantata's inception is largely unknown. It was
probably composed in 1723 or between 1728 and 1731. It
is a simplified version of Ein feste Burg ist unser
Gott, BWV 80b. It is based on the earlier Alles, was
von Gott geboren, BWV 80a – all the music for BWV 80a
is lost, but it is known that it was based on a text by
Salomo Franck (1659–1725) and produced in Weimar in
1715 or 1716. BWV 80 includes all four stanzas of
The cantata opens with a chorale fantasia "with
contrapuntal devices of awe-inspiring complexity". It
adopts the motet technique of having the instrument and
vocal lines follow each other closely. Structurally,
the movement repeats the first two phrases, adds four
new shorter phrases, then concludes with another
iteration of the second phrase, all performed on oboe.
All four voices "discuss each phrase imitatively as a
prelude to its instrumental entry", using fugal
devices. Craig Smith suggests that "in a genre in which
Bach was the absolute master, this is probably the
greatest motet chorus". Wilhelm Friedemann Bach later
added trumpet parts to this movement.
In the second movement, the oboe and soprano perform an
embellished version of the chorale while the bass sings
an aria. The accompanying string ritornello is agitated
and "relentless", in a form reminiscent of a concerto
grosso. Simon Crouch compares it to a machine gun. Like
the first movement, the duet is in D major and common
The bass next sings a secco recitative and arioso, the
only components of the cantata in a minor key. It
adopts canonic imitation between the voice and continuo
The fourth movement is a soprano aria with a continuo
ritornello. It is characterized by extensive melismas
and a "floating and ethereal" melody.
The central chorale presents the chorale theme in
unison voices, an unusual practice for Bach. The melody
is unadorned and in 6/8 time. The orchestral
accompaniment becomes more agitated and complex as the
The tenor recitative is secco; like the earlier bass,
it concludes with an arioso. The movement includes
"occasional furious melismas".
The alto and tenor duet is accompanied by continuo and
obbligato violin with oboe da caccia. The movement is
"submissive" in character with a texture that becomes
more complex as the duet progresses, at one point
including five simultaneous melodic lines. Bach uses a
juxtaposition of "flowing, largely semi-quaver"
instrumental parts with the vocal "crotchet/quaver
rhythms" to depict the shield of the faithful.
The final movement is a four-part setting of the
Although originally written for four vocal soloists
(soprano, alto, tenor, and bass), a four-part choir,
two oboes, two oboe d'amore, oboe da caccia, two
violins, viola, violoncello and basso continuo, I
created this arrangement for String Quartet (2 Violins,
Viola & Cello).