Süßer Trost, mein Jesus kömmt (Sweet comfort, my Jesus
comes), BWV 151, is a church cantata by Johann
Sebastian Bach. He composed it in Leipzig for the third
day of Christmas and first performed it on 27 December
Bach composed this solo cantata in late 1725 in
Leipzig. It was written for the church service for the
feast day of John the Evangelist, celebrated on the
third day of Christmas. The Thomanerchor was used only
for the final movement, as with other Bach works for a
third consecutive feast day.
The prescribed readings for the feast day were from the
Epistle to the Hebrews (Hebrews 1:1–14) and the
prologue of the Gospel of John, also called Hymn to the
Word (John 1:1–14). The text was written by Georg
Christian Lehms, a Darmstadt-based poet and court
librarian who was inspired by the epistle. He included
it as the fifth movement of the eighth and final stanza
of the carol "Lobt Gott, ihr Christen alle gleich",
with a text by Nikolaus Herman written in 1560.
The cantata was performed again between 1728 and 1731.
The autograph score and parts are now held by the
Kunstsammlungen der Veste Coburg in Germany.
Because of its intimate scoring and lack of large-scale
opening chorus, the work is a "treasureable miniature"
and "the most personal of Bach's Christmas
The opening aria begins with a lullaby-like molto
adagio in 12/8 time. This movement "dominates and casts
a glow over the entire work", with its "mood of
iridescent transparency". It is in G major and is
accompanied by obbligato flute and strings doubled by
oboe d'amore. The flute line is highly embellished,
almost an arabesque, and expands on the melodic arches
of the soprano. The da capo aria includes a sharply
contrasting middle section, "an ecstatic alla breve
dance of joy, part gavotte, part gigue", built on a
motif of "agile chains of triplets" forming a
"mellifluous melody". The opening section then recurs
to conclude the movement. John Eliot Gardiner suggests
that this movement includes "music pre-echoes of both
Gluck and Brahms" and "something authentically
Levantine or even Basque in origin". Craig Smith notes
that this is "the closest Bach gets to South German
rococo architecture. One can almost see the putti and
gold sunbursts of the many churches from this era in
Bavaria and Austria".
The second movement is a secco bass recitative. It
provides a dual transition, both harmonically – moving
from a major key to minor to prepare the third movement
– and thematically – "progressing (or retrogressing)
from the state of celebration to a recognition of the
humility of Christ's state".
The da capo alto aria is accompanied by unison oboe
d'amore and strings. It expands on the minor mode and
theme of privation established in the second movement.
The movement emphasizes the interval of the seventh and
the technique of inversion to support the meaning of
the text. It begins with a chromatic string line led by
solo violin, which when the vocal line begins "becomes
inextricably, even obsessively, intertwined" with the
The tenor recitative reverses the motion of the bass,
modulating from minor to major and changing the
emphasis of the text from humility to celebration. It
is secco, short, and simple in its melody.
The final movement is a four-part setting of Herman's
Although the work is scored for four vocal soloists
(soprano, alto, tenor, and bass), a four-part choir,
flute, oboe d'amore, two violins, viola, and basso
continuo, I created this arrangement for Double-Reed
Trio (Oboe, English Horn & Bassoon).