Es erhub sich ein Streit (There arose a war), BWV
19,[a] is a church cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach. He
composed it in Leipzig in 1726 for the Feast of Saint
Michael and first performed it on 29 September 1726.
The chorale theme is Freu dich sehr, o meine Seele,
which was codified by Louis Bourgeois when setting the
Geneva Psalm 42 in his collection of Pseaumes octante
trios de David (Geneva, 1551). Bourgeois seems to have
been influenced by the secular song "Ne l'oseray je
dire" contained in the Manuscrit de Bayeux published
As with other Bach cantatas written for the Feast of
St. Michael, this work opens with an "imposing" chorus.
The opening and closing section of this da capo
movement focuses on a single line of text describing
the battle against the forces of evil. The middle
section sets the remaining five lines of the text. The
movement includes no instrumental introduction,
creating an "immediate dramatic effect". Craig Smith
suggests that the "vaulting high-energy fugue theme is
the perfect illustration of the heroic struggle".
The bass recitative in E minor describes the importance
of the victory over Satan, but exudes a sombre mood,
suggesting the continued difficulties of mankind.
The third movement is a soprano aria with obbligato
oboes, "an oasis of protective tranquillity" in the
major mode. However, elements of the music disturb the
peace conveyed by the text: the extended ritornello
begins with an "odd three-bar phrasing", leading into a
passage of constant momentum between the two oboes.
The tenor recitative is again in the minor mode, this
time to describe the fragility of man. This movement
moves into a striking tenor aria, describing a personal
response to the text. The aria is the longest movement
of the cantata, representing a third of the total
length of the work. The trumpet plays the full chorale
melody of "Herzlich lieb hab ich dich, o Herr",
probably with the third stanza mentioning angels in
mind, over a siciliano rhythm in the strings and
The penultimate movement is a brief secco soprano
recitative that returns to the major mode to prepare
the closing chorale. The chorale has the feel of a
minuet, although there is some tension because of the
changing phrase lengths employed by the melody.
The piece is scored for three vocal soloists (soprano,
tenor, and bass) and four-part choir, three trombe,
timpani, two oboes, oboe da caccia, two oboes d'amore,
two violins, viola, and basso continuo. Traditionally
in Leipzig during Bach's time the Feast of St Michael
celebrations used the largest orchestra available. All
known complete Bach cantatas for this occasion include
trumpet and timpani.
I created this arrangement of the opening Chorus: "Es
erhub sich ein Streit" (A struggle arose) for Small
Orchestra (Piccolo Trumpet, Bb Trumpet, Flugelhorn,
Flute, Oboe, English Horn, French Horn, Bassoon,
Timpani, 2 Violins, Viola & Cello).