Der Herr ist mein getreuer Hirt (The Lord is my
faithful shepherd), BWV 112, is a cantata by Johann
Sebastian Bach, a church cantata for the second Sunday
after Easter. Bach composed the chorale cantata in
Leipzig and first performed it on 8 April 1731. It is
based on the hymn by Wolfgang Meuslin, a paraphrase of
Psalm 23 (1530), sung to a melody by Nikolaus Decius
Bach composed the cantata in Leipzig for the second
Sunday after Easter, called Misericordias Domini. The
prescribed readings for that Sunday were from the First
Epistle of Peter (Christ as a model – 1 Peter 2:21–25),
and from the Gospel of John, (the Good Shepherd – John
In his second year in Leipzig, Bach composed chorale
cantatas between the first Sunday after Trinity of 1724
and Palm Sunday, but for Easter he returned to cantatas
on more varied texts. He later composed further chorale
cantatas to complete his second annual cycle, and this
cantata is one of them. The text consists of the
unchanged words of a 1530 hymn by Wolfgang Meuslin, a
paraphrase of Psalm 23, sung to the melody of "Allein
Gott in der Höh sei Ehr" by Nikolaus Decius (1522).
This hymn is different from the one with the same
opening line by Cornelius Becker, sung to the same
melody, which Bach had used in his other two cantatas
for the same occasion, Du Hirte Israel, höre, BWV 104
and Ich bin ein guter Hirt, BWV 85. Its topic, the Lord
as the good shepherd, has traditionally been used for
Jesus and is thus related to the Gospel.
In the opening chorus, a chorale fantasia, the melody
of the German Gloria "Allein Gott in der Höh sei Ehr"
is embedded in an orchestral concerto. The movement
opens with calls derived from the chorale tune played
on the two horns, leading to a free concerto with the
strings and oboes. The cantus firmus is sung by the
soprano in long notes, while the lower voices engage in
imitation. John Eliot Gardiner compares the movement to
the openings of the two former cantatas for the same
occasion: "The presence of two horns ... reveals a much
more regal portrait of the good shepherd than we have
previously met." Both Alfred Dürr and Klaus Hofmann
assume that the music was not originally composed for
this pastoral text, but previously, for the Gloria.
Bach had composed a different chorale fantasia on the
same melody in Auf Christi Himmelfahrt allein, BWV 128,
with similar instrumentation.
The inner three movements quote the text of the hymn
without change, but their music is not related to the
hymn tune. The alto aria is accompanied by an obbligato
oboe. It is structured in two similar parts, and is in
pastoral 6/8 time. The steady flow of the oboe can be
seen as depicting the "pure water" mentioned in the
text, the steps in the continuo as "the steps made on
this significant journey" "on the pathway of the
righteousness of His commandments".
The central movement begins as an arioso, accompanied
by the continuo, illustrating the walk through the
"valley of darkness". The second part is a dramatic
recitative with strings, first expressing "Verfolgung,
Leiden, Trübsal" (persecution, sorrow, trouble) in a
broken melodic line against sustained string chords,
then "Thy rod and Thy staff comfort me", where the
"first violins weave a comforting little melody".
The following duet expresses enjoyment at God's table
in a dance, a bourrée.
The cantata closes with a four-part chorale, most
instruments playing colla parte, while the horns play
different parts because of their limited range.
Bach structured the cantata in five movements. The text
and tune of the hymn are kept in the outer choral
movements, a chorale fantasia and a four-part closing
chorale, which frame a alternating arias and a
recitative. Bach scored the work for four vocal
soloists (soprano, alto, tenor, bass), a four-part
choir and a Baroque instrumental ensemble of two horns
(Co), two oboes d'amore (Oa), two violins (Vl), viola
(Va) and basso continuo.
I created this arrangement of the opening Chorale: "Der
Herr ist mein getreuer Hirt" (The Lord is my faithful
Shepherd) for Bb Trumpet, Flugelhorn & Strings (2
Violins, Viola & Cello).