Auf Christi Himmelfahrt allein (On Christ's ascension
into heaven alone), BWV 128, is a church cantata by
Johann Sebastian Bach. Bach composed it in Leipzig for
the Feast of the Ascension and first performed it on 10
Bach composed the cantata in his second year in Leipzig
for the feast of the Ascension. The prescribed readings
for the feast day were from the Acts of the Apostles,
Jesus telling his disciples to preach and baptize, and
his Ascension (Acts 1:111), and from the Gospel of
Mark (Mark 16:1420). In his second year in Leipzig,
Bach had composed chorale cantatas between the first
Sunday after Trinity and Palm Sunday, but for Easter
returned to cantatas on more varied texts, possibly
because he lost his librettist. Nine of his cantatas
for the period between Easter and Pentecost are based
on texts of Christiana Mariana von Ziegler, including
this cantata. Bach later inserted most of them in his
third annual cycle, but kept this one and BWV 68 for
Pentecost in his second annual cycle, possibly because
they both begin with a chorale fantasia like the
chorale cantatas, whereas many of the others begin with
a bass solo as the vox Christi.
The poetess, who has a tendency to express a personal
view, writing in the first person, took the theme of
the cantata from the first stanza of Ernst Sonnemann's
chorale after Josua Wegelin (1636): once Jesus ascended
to heaven, there is nothing left to keep me on earth,
as I am promised to see him "from face to face", a
paraphrase of 1 Corinthians 13. In movement 2 she
alludes to the Transfiguration of Jesus (Matthew 17:4),
movement 3 sees the incomprehensible power of Jesus
everywhere, not restricted to a certain location. He
will lift me to his right hand, according to Matthew
25:33, and judge me right, according to the closing
chorale, the fourth stanza of Matthäus Averius' "O
Jesu, meine Lust".
Ziegler's text in its printed version of 1728 and the
cantata text differ, possibly changed by Bach himself.
For example an aria and recitative are combined to one
movement by inserting "wo mein Erlöser lebt" (where my
redeemer lives) as a connection.
In the opening chorus the chorale on the melody of the
German Gloria "Allein Gott in der Höh sei Ehr" by
Nikolaus Decius is embedded in an orchestral concerto.
The cantus firmus is in the soprano in long notes,
whereas the lower voices engage in imitation. Bach
derived the highly figurative motifs of the instruments
from the chorale tune: both a signal played first by
the strings and oboes, then the two horns, then a fugue
subject. Both motifs contain notes from the first line
of the tune in the same order as in the tune, the
signal contains the first five notes, the fugue subject
all nine notes.
Bach uses the trumpet, the royal instrument of the
Baroque, only in movement 3 to symbolize the reign of
Jesus. The trumpet appears first in the ritornello,
which is repeated by the voice and again with the voice
embedded. After a middle section, the first part of the
aria is not repeated da capo; instead the added line is
set as a recitative accompanied by strings, followed
only by a repeat of the ritornello.
The following duet is of intimate character. The
obbligato instrument is the marked "organo" in the
score, but the part is written in the oboe part. Due to
the range, only an oboe d'amore can play it. Possibly
Bach changed his intentions already while writing the
part first, or he may have changed the marking later.
Max Reger used the movement's ritornello theme for his
Bach-Variationen Op. 81.
The cantata is closed by a four-part chorale, most
instruments playing colla parte, while the horns play
different parts because of their limited range.
The cantata in five movements is festively scored for
three vocal soloists, alto, tenor and bass, a four-part
choir, two horns, two oboes, oboe d'amore, oboe da
caccia, two violins, viola and basso continuo. The
instrumentation is especially rich and varied, Julian
Mincham observes: "As befits its importance, the
instrumental forces are relatively large and
impressive; two horns, oboes of every kind, strings and
continuo and latterly one trumpet"
I created the arrangement of the Arai & Recitative
"Auf, auf, mit hellem Schall" (I am ready, come, take
me!) for Flute, French Horn & Strings (2 Violins, Viola