Wer mich liebet, der wird mein Wort halten (Whoever
loves me will keep my word), BWV 59, is a church
cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach. Bach composed the
cantata for Pentecost and probably first performed it
in Leipzig on 28 May 1724, but an earlier performance
on 16 May 1723 at the Paulinerkirche, the University
Church of Leipzig, is possible.
Bach wrote the cantata for Pentecost Sunday. The
prescribed readings for the feast day were from the
Acts of the Apostles, the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1–13),
and from the Gospel of John, Jesus announcing in his
Farewell discourse the Spirit who will teach (John
14:23–31). The cantata is based on a text of Erdmann
Neumeister, published in 1714. Bach composed only four
movements of the seven of the poetry. The cantata
begins with the first verse of the gospel, which Bach
had set already as a recitative for bass in his cantata
for Pentecost Erschallet, ihr Lieder, erklinget, ihr
Saiten! BWV 172, composed in Weimar in 1714 on a text
of Salomon Franck. In movement 2 the poet praises the
great love of God. Movement 3 is the first stanza of
Martin Luther's hymn for Pentecost, "Komm, Heiliger
Geist, Herre Gott", asking for the coming of the Holy
Spirit. In an unusual closing aria the poet deals with
the expected greater bliss in heaven.
Bach performed the cantata on 28 May 1724, which was
probably the first performance. The score dates from
1723, but the parts were written in 1724. Pentecost of
1723 occurred before Bach officially started his tenure
as Thomaskantor in Leipzig on the first Sunday after
Trinity. The possibility of a performance already on 16
May 1723, perhaps in a service of the university, as
Arnold Schering suggested, has been discussed. Bach
used and expanded parts of the cantata in Wer mich
liebet, der wird mein Wort halten, BWV 74, for
Pentecost of 1725.
The first movement is an extended duet, which repeats
the text five times. In four sections, the voices
imitate each other, using different intervals and
various keys; in the final section they sing united in
parallels of sixths. The instruments begin with a short
prelude, which introduces a motif later sung on the
words "Wer mich liebet" with a short melisma on mich
(me). This motif begins every section.
Movement 2 begins as a recitative with string
accompaniment, but ends as an arioso with continuo on
the final lines Ach, daß doch, wie er wollte ihn auch
ein jeder lieben sollte (Ah, that only, as he wishes,
everyone might also love him).
In the chorale, two violins play partly independent
parts, achieving a full sound. The chorale is followed
by an aria with an obbligato violin. Scholars have
discussed if this unusual ending of the cantata was
Bach's intention or if he had planned to conclude the
work with Neumeister's fifth movement, another chorale.
John Eliot Gardiner chose to repeat the chorale,
performing its third stanza.
Although originally scored for two soloists, soprano
and bass, a four-part choir only in the chorale, two
trumpets, timpani, two violins, viola and basso
continuo, I created this arrangement for Winds (Flute,
Oboe, Bb Clarinet & French Horn) & Strings (2 Violins,
Viola & Cello).