Lobe den Herren, den mächtigen König der Ehren (Praise
the Lord, the mighty King of honor), BWV 137, is a
church cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach. He composed
the chorale cantata in Leipzig for the twelfth Sunday
after Trinity and first performed it on 19 August 1725.
It is based on the hymn by Joachim Neander (1680).
Bach composed the cantata for the Twelfth Sunday after
Trinity. It forms part of a cycle of chorale cantatas
which Bach composed in Leipzig over a period of two
years 1724–25. In 1724, his second year in the city,
Bach had composed chorale cantatas between the first
Sunday after Trinity of 1724 and Palm Sunday, but for
Easter had returned to cantatas on more varied texts,
possibly because he lost his librettist. Later Bach
composed again chorale cantatas to complete his second
annual cycle. This cantata is one of the completing
works. It is based entirely on the unchanged words on
the hymn "Lobe den Herren, den mächtigen König der
Ehren" (1680) by Joachim Neander.
The prescribed readings for the Sunday were from the
Second Epistle to the Corinthians, the ministry of the
Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:4–11), and from the Gospel of
Mark, the healing of a deaf mute man (Mark 7:31–37).
Unlike most chorale cantatas of the second cycle, but
similar to the early Christ lag in Todes Banden, BWV 4,
Bach left the chorale text unchanged, thus without a
reference to the readings.
John Eliot Gardiner assumes, looking at the festive
instrumentation and the general content of praise and
thanksgiving, that the cantata was also performed that
year to celebrate Ratswahl, the inauguration of the
town council. Bach used in 1729 the setting of the
final chorale, transposed to D major, to conclude the
wedding cantata Herr Gott, Beherrscher aller Dinge, BWV
120a with the last two stanzas of the hymn.
As Alfred Dürr and Gardiner observed, the text as well
as the chorale melody is present in all movements. The
cantata is constructed in symmetry: the soprano carries
the melody in the outer movements, in movement 2 it is
sung by the alto, and in movement 4 played by the
trumpet. In the central movement, the beginning of both
the vocal and the instrumental theme are derived from
it in the most intimate setting of the work. The melody
in bar form has a Stollen of unusual five measures and
reaches a climax at the beginning of the Abgesang,
which Bach also stresses in a variety of means in the
In the opening chorus the trumpets, oboes and strings
play a concerto; the soprano sings the cantus firmus
while the lower voices prepare the entries by imitation
on the instrumental motifs. For the words "Kommet zu
Hauf, Psalter und Harfen, wacht auf" (Come join the
crowd, psaltery and harps, awake!), the setting is
homophonic and accented.
In movement 2, a violin accompanies the embellished
melody of the chorale. Bach included this movement in
his Schübler Chorales, but on a text for Advent,
"Kommst du nun, Jesu, vom Himmel herunter auf
In great contrast to C major and G major, the central
duet is in E minor. Two obbligato oboes take part in
the setting. In an unusual way, the first vocal section
is repeated three times; only the words "In wieviel
Not" (in how much suffering) are set differently in
"grinding chromatic descent".
Movement 4 is in A minor, but the cantus firmus of the
trumpet is nonetheless in C major, in "a battle for
harmonic supremacy". In the final movement of his
Christmas Oratorio Bach would later embed the chorale
in doric mode in a concerto in D major. The independent
vocal line "quotes" parts of the chorale melody several
times. The words "Denke daran" (consider this) are
accented to a different meter.
Bach set the closing chorale for four vocal parts and
three independent trumpet parts, for an affirmative
conclusion. Gardiner notes: "He knew exactly how best
to use the resources of the ceremonial trumpet-led
orchestra and choir of his day to convey unbridled joy
Although originally scored for four soloists, soprano,
alto, tenor and bass, a four-part choir, three
trumpets, timpani, two oboes, two violins, viola, and
basso continuo, I created this arrangement for String
Trio (Violin, Viola & Cello).