Bach wrote the chorale cantata in his second year in
Leipzig for the First Sunday after Epiphany. A year
earlier, on the same occasion, Bach had reflected Mein
liebster Jesus ist verloren, BWV 154, from the point of
view of a person who had lost Jesus. This cantata text
is based on the chorale in six stanzas by Christian
Keymann (1658). The text of the hymn begins, as in the
former work, with an idea close to the gospel: the
Christian does not want to let go of Jesus, as his
parents had wished not to lose their 12-year-old boy,
but then the chorale pursues the thought of being
united with Jesus after death. An unknown poet kept the
first and the last stanza, and paraphrased the inner
stanzas to a sequence of as many recitatives and arias.
Bach first performed the cantata on 7 January 1725, one
day after Liebster Immanuel, Herzog der Frommen, BWV
123, for Epiphany.
In the opening chorus the soprano and the horn present
line by line the cantus firmus, a melody by Andreas
Hammerschmidt, who collaborated with Keymann on
chorales. The lower voices are set mostly in homophony,
while the orchestra plays its own themes in
introduction, interludes and accompaniment. The
character of the movement is a minuet, and the oboe
d'amore takes a virtuosic concertante leading part. The
phrase "klettenweis an ihm zu kleben" (cling to him
like a burr) is illustrated by all three lower voices
holding a note for three measures as if clinging to it.
John Eliot Gardiner notes the "gentle, almost naļve
tone of voice to reflect the submissive character of
the text". A short secco recitative leads to a tenor
aria, which is accompanied by the oboe, while the
strings play "a persistent four-note drumming" to
express "Furcht und Schrecken" (fear and terror).
Alfred Dürr compares these repetitions to similar
figures in the alto recitative "Warum wollt ihr
erschrecken", movement 49 of Bach's Christmas Oratorio,
Part V. In another secco recitative the term "nach
vollbrachtem Lauf" (after my completed course) is
pictured by a scale spanning an octave. A duet of
soprano and alto, only accompanied by the continuo,
moves like a dance in simple periods of four measures.
The cantata is closed by the final stanza in a
The cantata in six movements is scored for three vocal
soloists (alto, tenor, and bass), a four-part choir,
two flauto traverso, two oboes d'amore, two violins,
viola, and basso continuo.
I created this arrangement of the first Aria: "Auch die
harte Kreuzesreise" (Even the harsh journey of the
Cross) for Flute, Oboe, French Horn & Cello.