Wachet! betet! betet! wachet! (Watch! Pray! Pray!
Watch!) is the title of two church cantatas by Johann
Sebastian Bach. He composed a first version, BWV 70a,
in Weimar for the second Sunday in Advent of 1716 and
expanded it in 1723 in Leipzig to BWV 70, a cantata in
two parts for the 26th Sunday after Trinity.
On 2 March 1714 Bach was appointed concertmaster of the
Weimar court capelle of the co-reigning dukes Wilhelm
Ernst and Ernst August of Saxe-Weimar. As
concertmaster, he assumed the principal responsibility
for composing new works, specifically cantatas for the
Schlosskirche (palace church), on a monthly schedule.
Bach originally wrote this cantata in his last year
there, for the Second Sunday of Advent.
In Leipzig, Advent was a quiet time (tempus clausum),
thus no cantata music was performed in services from
Advent II to Advent IV. In order to use the music
again, Bach had to dedicate it to a different
liturgical event and chose the 26th Sunday after
Trinity with a similar theme. The prescribed readings
for this Sunday were from the The Second Epistle of
Peter, "look for new heavens and a new earth" (2 Peter
3:3–13), and from the Gospel of Matthew, the Second
Coming of Christ, also called Second Advent (Matthew
25:31–46). An unknown poet kept the existing movements
and added recitatives and a chorale to end part 1 of
the new cantata, the final verse of "Freu dich sehr, o
meine Seele" by Christoph Demantius.
The instrumentation of the Weimar cantata is lost. The
cantata in two parts of 7 and 4 movements was
originally scored in Leipzig for soprano, alto, tenor,
and bass soloists, a four-part choir, trumpet, oboe,
bassoon, two violins, two violas, and basso continuo.
Although originally scored for tenor soloist, oboe, two
violins, viola, and basso continuo, I created this
arrangement of the 3rd Aria "Hebt euer Haupt empor"
(Lift up your heads) for French Horn & Strings (2
Violins, Viola & Cello).