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Liebster Gott, wenn werd ich sterben? BWV 8

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Title: Liebster Gott, wenn werd ich sterben? BWV 8  
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Subject: Chorale cantata (Bach), Church cantata (Bach), Violin Concerto movement, BWV 1045, Vergnügte Ruh, beliebte Seelenlust, BWV 170, Mein Herze schwimmt im Blut, BWV 199
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Liebster Gott, wenn werd ich sterben? BWV 8

Liebster Gott, wenn werd ich sterben? (Dearest God, when will I die?), BWV 8,[1] is a church cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach. He composed the chorale cantata in Leipzig for the 16th Sunday after Trinity and first performed it on 24 September 1724.


  • History and text 1
  • Scoring and structure 2
  • Music 3
  • Other version 4
  • Recordings 5
  • Notes 6
  • References 7
  • Sources 8

History and text

Bach composed the cantata in Leipzig for the 16th Sunday after Trinity. It is based on a chorale of the same name by Caspar Neumann.

The prescribed readings for the Sunday were from the Epistle to the Ephesians, praying for the strengthening of faith in the congregation of Ephesus (Ephesians 3:13–21), and from the Gospel of Luke, the raising from the dead of the young man from Nain (Luke 7:11–17).

Bach first performed the cantata on 24 September 1724.

Scoring and structure

The piece is scored for horn, flauto traverso, two oboes d'amore, strings (violins, violas and basso continuo), vocal soloists and choir.[1] It is in six movements, in E major unless otherwise noted:

  1. Chorus: Liebster Gott, wenn werd ich sterben?
  2. Aria: Was willst du dich, mein Geist, entsetzen (Why should you recoil, my spirit)
  3. Recitative: Zwar fühlt mein schwaches Herz (Indeed, my weak heart feels)
  4. Aria: Doch weichet, ihr tollen, vergeblichen Sorgen! (But hence, you foolish, useless worries!)
  5. Recitative: Behalte nur, o Welt, das Meine! (Keep then, o world, my possessions!)
  6. Chorale: Herrscher über Tod und Leben (Sovereign over death and life) – the last verse of the chorale


The opening chorus is a gapped chorale setting of the tune. The alto, tenor, and bass voices sing free counterpoint, while the sopranos sing the chorale unadorned in long notes. Philipp Spitta described the sound of this movement as a "church-yard full of flowers in the springtime". The setting has a "popular" sound because of the use of 12/8 time and the unique nature of the accompaniment figures: plucked arpeggios, bell tones, and "sinuous" or "lazy" patterns.[2]

The tenor aria is characterized by continued bell tones and string pizzicato in the accompaniment, and a duet with oboe for the vocal line. The following alto recitative "brings forth a bit of the terror of death", in contrast with the "amazingly jolly" aria in "jig tempo" that follows. The soprano recitative leads into a "marching" chorale setting to end the cantata.[2]

Other version

An alternative version of the cantata in D major is also extant, believed to be from 1746–47. Several minor changes to the instrumentation were also implemented; for example, in the first movement the two oboe parts are given to concertante violins, and in the bass aria, the oboe d'amore is used colla parte with the flute. Both variants have been recorded: the aria by Ton Koopman with Klaus Mertens as the bass soloist and the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra, and the chorus by Koopman's pupil Masaaki Suzuki and the Bach Collegium Japan in addition to the full cantata in E.



  1. ^ "BWV" is Bach-Werke-Verzeichnis, a thematic catalogue of Bach's works.


  1. ^ "BWV 8 Liebster Gott, wenn werd ich sterben?".  
  2. ^ a b Smith, Craig. "BWV 8". Emmanuel Music. Retrieved 28 May 2013. 


  • Liebster Gott, wenn werd ich sterben?, BWV 8: Scores at the International Music Score Library Project
  • Liebster Gott, wann werd ich sterben (1st version) BWV 8; BC A 137a / Chorale cantata (16th Sunday after Trinity) Leipzig University
  • Liebster Gott, wann werd ich sterben (2nd version) BWV 8; BC A 137b / Chorale cantata (16th Sunday after Trinity) Leipzig University
  • Cantata BWV 8 Liebster Gott, wenn werd ich sterben? history, scoring, sources for text and music, translations to various languages, discography, discussion, Bach Cantatas Website
  • BWV 8 – "Liebster Gott, wenn werd ich sterben?", English translation, discussion, Emmanuel Music
  • Liebster Gott, wenn werd ich sterben? history, scoring, Bach website (German)
  • BWV 8 Liebster Gott, wenn werd ich sterben? English translation, University of Vermont
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