Du wahrer Gott und Davids Sohn (You true God and Son of
David), BWV 23,[a] is a church cantata by Johann
Sebastian Bach. He composed it in Köthen between 1717
and 1723 for the Sunday Estomihi and performed it as an
audition piece for the position of Thomaskantor in
Leipzig on 7 February 1723.
Bach probably composed the cantata in Köthen between
1717 and 1723 for Quinquagesima Sunday (also known as
Estomihi), but it was revised to be included as Bach's
other test piece (with Jesus nahm zu sich die Zwölfe,
BWV 22) for the position of Thomaskantor in Leipzig.
The work was performed there on 7 February 1723 (after
the sermon), and performed again on 20 February 1724.
It is unclear whether a "test" performance of the 1723
revised version took place in Köthen before Bach's
audition at the Thomaskirche.
The chorale theme Christe, du Lamm Gottes first
appeared in print in Johannes Bugenhagen's Braunschweig
church order, published in Wittenberg in 1525. The
theme is an adaptation of Luther's setting of the Kyrie
eleison in his 1525 Deutsche Messe.
In this cantata, Bach combines elements of ritornello
and concerto writing to expand his range of structural
experimentation. Although the chorale was a later
addition, its melody is incorporated earlier in the
piece. The text's theme is optimistic, but the music
throughout has a sense of underlying sadness. Craig
Smith describes the cantata as "one of the densest and
The opening movement is "a sinewy and somewhat
enigmatic quintet" for soprano and alto voices
(assuming the role of the blind man addressing Jesus)
with low active oboes and continuo. The movement is in
adapted ternary form with an opening and closing
"Italianate" ritornello. The soprano line includes a
"drooping" motive, hinting at later harmonic and
emotional development. There is a "thorny, even awkward
juxtaposition of triple and duple meters" throughout
The tenor recitative is quite similar to that for bass
in BWV 22: they are in major and use chordal strings
underlying the vocal line. This movement adds an
instrumental rendition of the melody of the closing
chorale in oboe and violin.
The chorus is "dance-like but not toe-tapping, major
but not ebulliently so, employing the full chorus but
restrained throughout". The form is free rondo with
interspersed extended episodes of tenor and bass duet.
The opening includes the BACH motif.
The closing chorale sets the same verse three times,
likely representing the Trinity and drawing the
listener's attention to the Passion narrative. It opens
with "some of the weightiest and most ponderous music
that Bach ever composed". The instrumental introduction
varies between settings: the first and second begin
with an oboe figure in G minor, the third with
imitative counterpoint above the continuo. The harmonic
structure of the movement is unsettled, ending on a C
major chord that does not resolve. There is a
concluding coda of Amens, heralded by a syncopated
The cantata is scored for three vocal soloists
(soprano, alto, and tenor), four-part choir, cornett,
three trombones (or trombe), two oboes, two violins,
viola, and basso continuo. The piece has four
I created this arrangement of the final Chorale:
"Christe, du Lamm Gottes" (Christ, Lamb of God) for
Flute, Oboe & Strings (2 Violins, Viola & Cello).