Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ (Praise be to You, Jesus
Christ), BWV 91, is a church cantata by Johann
Sebastian Bach. He wrote the Christmas cantata in
Leipzig in 1724 for Christmas Day and first performed
it on 25 December 1724. The chorale cantata is based on
the hymn "Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ" (1524) by
The chorale cantata from Bach's second annual cycle is
based on the main chorale for Christmas Day, "Gelobet
seist du, Jesu Christ" (1524) by Martin Luther. The
beginning summarizes Christmas in two lines: "Gelobet
seist du, Jesu Christ, daß du Mensch geboren bist"
(Praise be to You, Jesus Christ, since You were born a
man). All stanzas end with the acclamation Kyrieleis.
The cantata was Bach's first composed for Christmas Day
in Leipzig; in his first year in Leipzig 1723 he had
chosen to perform again Christen, ätzet diesen Tag, BWV
63, written before in Weimar.
The prescribed readings for the feast day were from the
Epistle of Titus, "God's mercy appeared" (Titus
2:1114) or from Isaiah, "Unto us a child is born"
(Isaiah 9:27), and from the Gospel of Luke, the
Nativity, Annunciation to the shepherds and the angels'
song (Luke 2:114). The unknown poet of the cantata
text kept the first and the last stanza, expanded verse
2 by recitatives, transformed stanzas 3 and 4 to
movement 3, an aria, stanza 5 to a recitative, and
stanza 6 again to an aria.
Bach performed the cantata again four more times on 25
December, in 1731, in 1732 or 1733, and twice in the
1740s, even after his Christmas Oratorio had been first
performed in 1734, which also uses two stanzas of
The opening chorus makes use of four choirs: the
voices, the horns, the oboes and the strings. The
material from the ritornellos is present also in
interludes between the five lines and as accompaniment
for the vocal parts. The choral melody is sung by the
soprano. The lower voices are set in imitation for the
first and the last line, in chords for the second and
fourth line, and in a combination in the central line
"Von einer Jungfrau, das ist wahr" (from a virgin, this
In movement 2, the recitative is contrasted with
chorale phrases, which are accompanied by a repetition
of the first line of the chorale in double tempo. The
tenor aria is accompanied by three oboes, whereas the
strings illuminate the following recitative. The last
aria is a duet, contrasting "Armut" (poverty) and
"Überfluss" (abundance), "Menschlich Wesen" (human
being), rendered in chromatic upward lines, and
"Engelsherrlichkeiten" (angelic splendours), shown in
coloraturas and triadic melodies.
At times the horns have independent parts in the
closing chorale and embellish especially the final
Although originally scored for soprano, alto, tenor,
and bass, a four-part choir, two horns, timpani, three
oboes, two violins, viola and basso continuo, I created
this arrangement for Wind Quintet (Flute, Oboe, Bb
Clarinet, French Horn & Bassoon).