Christum wir sollen loben schon (We should already be
praising Christ), BWV 121, is a church cantata by
Johann Sebastian Bach. He composed this Christmas
cantata in Leipzig in 1724 for the second day of
Christmas and first performed it on 26 December 1724.
The chorale cantata is based on the hymn by Martin
Luther, and the librettist is unknown.
The source for the melody is Martin Luther's setting of
the hymn "Christum wir sollen loben schon", a German
translation of the Latin "A solis ortus cardine" (c.
430). The opening chorus is its first verse and the
closing chorale is its eighth verse, both unchanged.
The hymn's other verses are freely adapted as
madrigalian recitatives and arias.
The opening choral motet is built on a quasi-church
mode cantus firmus in the soprano, with an archaic
effect underscored by a full four-part brass
accompaniment. The instruments, other than the
continuo, largely double the vocal lines; these and the
continuo assume a contrapuntal role. Bach uses fugal
techniques and an extended final cadence. It begins in
E minor and, unusually, closes a tone higher in F-sharp
The tenor aria is composed as a modern da capo aria, in
which the symmetrical scheme is broken up by irregular
periodising and harmonization. It includes a very
prominent oboe d'amore part. The movement is largely in
B minor. Craig Smith remarks that the aria is
The third movement is an alto recitative. It ends with
a "startling enharmonic progression – a symbolic
transformation" to C major.
The bass aria is almost dance-like, playing with the
harmony and portraying jumps, reflecting the movement's
text's references to John the Baptist's jumping in his
mother's womb during the Visitation of Mary. The
binary-form string ritornello repeats four times during
the aria, framing three separate vocal sections of the
da capo aria.
The penultimate movement is a soprano recitative, short
and arioso-like. It is remarkable for its extended
The closing chorale movement presents the doxology in a
four-part setting, illuminating the early-church melody
in a modern major-minor tonality. Unusually, the piece
ends on a B minor imperfect cadence.
The piece is scored for alto, tenor and bass vocal
soloists with four-part choir. The instrumental parts
are cornett, three trombones, oboe d'amore, two
violins, viola, and basso continuo.
I created this arrangement of the closing Chorale:
"Lob, Ehr und Dank sei dir gesagt" (Praise, honor, and
thanks be said to You) for Brass Quartet (Bb Trumpet,
Flugelhorn, French Horn & Euphonium).