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Erschallet, ihr Lieder, erklinget, ihr Saiten! BWV 172

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Title: Erschallet, ihr Lieder, erklinget, ihr Saiten! BWV 172  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Pentecost, Peter Schreier, Jehan Alain, List of Bach cantatas by liturgical function, Monteverdi Choir, Bach cantata, Salomon Franck
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Erschallet, ihr Lieder, erklinget, ihr Saiten! BWV 172

Erschallet, ihr Lieder, erklinget, ihr Saiten! (Resound, ye songs, ring out, ye strings!), BWV 172, is a church cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach. He composed it for Pentecost Sunday in Weimar and first performed it there in the Schloßkirche (court chapel) on 20 May 1714.

History and words

On 25 June 1708, Bach was appointed organist and chamber musician at the court of the co-reigning Dukes Wilhelm Ernst and Ernst August of Saxe-Weimar. On 2 March 1714, he was promoted to Konzertmeister, an honour which included a monthly performance of a church cantata in the Schloßkirche.[1] Erschallet, ihr Lieder is the third of the series, following Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen, BWV 12.[2] The prescribed readings for the feast day were from the Acts of the Apostles, the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1–13), and from the Gospel of John, Jesus announcing in his Farewell discourse the Spirit who will teach (John 14:23–31). The poetry is attributed to Salomon Franck, although the work is not found in his printed editions; his known preferences in style – such as Biblical words in a recitative second movement rather than in a first choral movement, arias following each other without a recitative in between, and dialog in duets – all appear here.[3] The words for the recitative are taken from the Gospel of John, Wer mich liebet, der wird mein Wort halten (Whoever loves Me will keep My Word, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our dwelling with himJohn 14:23). Movement 5 is a duet of the Soul (soprano) and the Spirit (alto), underlined by an instrumental quote of the Martin Luther chorale Komm, Heiliger Geist, Herre Gott, based on Veni Creator Spiritus. The final chorale is verse four of Philipp Nicolai's Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern.[3]

Bach first performed the cantata on 20 May 1714. Performing material has survived and shows that the cantata was performed again in Leipzig in 1724 where the instrumentation was slightly changed and the work transposed from C Major to D Major.[4] Bach revised it in 1731, again in C Major. A part for obbligato organ replacing oboe and cello in movement 5 exists for an even later performance.

Scoring and structure

The cantata in seven movements is scored for four soloists, soprano, alto, tenor and bass, a four-part choir and a festive orchestra of three trumpets and timpani, oboe (or, in later versions, oboe d'amore or organ), bassoon, two violins, two violas, cello, and basso continuo.[3]

  1. Coro: Erschallet, ihr Lieder, erklinget, ihr Saiten
  2. Recitativo (bass): Wer mich liebet, der wird mein Wort halten
  3. Aria (bass, trumpets & timpani): Heiligste Dreieinigkeit
  4. Aria (tenor, strings): O Seelenparadies
  5. Aria (soprano – Soul, alto – Spirit, oboe, cello): Komm, laß mich nicht länger warten
  6. Chorale (violin): Von Gott kömmt mir ein Freudenschein
  7. optional: repeat of the opening chorus


The first movement is a festive concerto, words and music possibly based on an earlier lost secular Glückwunschkantate (congratulatory cantata). A print of Franck's works contains a cantata for New Year's Day Erschallet nun wieder, glückwünschende Lieder (Sound again, congratulating songs) that may have served as a model.[5] The movement is in da capo form. The first part is opened by trumpet fanfares, alternating with flowing coloraturas in the strings. The voices enter as a third homophonic choir, repeating the fanfare motives, echoed by the trumpets, and imitating the string lines, culminating in the long first syllable of "seligste Zeiten" (blessed times) during which the instruments play the fanfares. In the middle section the trumpets rest, the voices expand in polyphonic imitation the idea that God will prepare the souls to be his temple, starting from the lowest to the highest voice in the first sequence with entrances after two or three measures, from the highest to the lowest in the second, the entrances in faster succession after one or two measures.

The first recitative refers to the gospel reading of the day and expands the idea of "making dwelling with him" in melismatic lines, counterpointed by motives in the cello similar to motives in movement five. Bach gave the words of Jesus to the bass as the vox Christi (voice of Christ). He describes the final rest in God by ending the solo line on a whole note low C (C2), the lowest note he demanded of a soloist.

The aria about the Holy Trinity is accompanied by a choir of three trumpets and basso continuo, a rare combination expressing the idea of the words. The theme is composed of the three notes of the major chord.

In great contrast, in the tenor aria O Seelenparadies (O paradise of the soul) has flowing continuous waves in the unison strings which illustrate the spirit that was present at the Creation, worded O Seelenparadies, das Gottes Geist durchwehet, der bei der Schöpfung blies (O paradise of the soul, fanned by the Spirit of God, which blew at creation).

The last solo movement, termed Aria by Bach, is a complex structure uniting four "voices", two singers, solo oboe and solo cello. Soprano and alto are singing of their unity ("I shall die, if I have to be without you" the one; "I am yours, and you are mine!" the other), the oboe plays the richly ornamented melody of a chorale for Pentecost Komm, Heiliger Geist, Herre Gott[6] ("Come, Holy Spirit, Lord God, fill with the goodness of Your grace the hearts, wills, and minds of Your faithful. Ignite Your burning love in them"), and the cello plays an intricate counterpoint line throughout.

The words of the final chorale, translated "A joyful radiance reaches me from God", are illustrated by an added lively violin part to the four-part choir.[3]

In the first performances until 1724 the opening chorus was repeated after the chorale, marked "chorus repetatur ab initio" in the manuscript.[7]




The first source is the score.

Several databases provide additional information on each cantata:

  • Cantata BWV 172 Erschallet, ihr Lieder, erklinget, ihr Saiten! history, scoring, sources for text and music, translations to various languages, discography, discussion, bach-cantatas website
  • Emmanuel Music
  • Erschallet, ihr Lieder history, scoring, Bach website (German)
  • University of Vermont
  • University of Alberta
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