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Am Abend aber desselbigen Sabbats, BWV 42

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Title: Am Abend aber desselbigen Sabbats, BWV 42  
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Subject: List of Bach cantatas by liturgical function, Monteverdi Choir, Bach cantata, La Chapelle Royale, Peter Kooy
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Am Abend aber desselbigen Sabbats, BWV 42

Am Abend aber desselbigen Sabbats ("On the evening of that very same Sabbath"), BWV 42, is a church cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach. He composed it for the first Sunday after Easter in Leipzig and first performed it on 8 April 1725.

History and words

Bach composed the cantata in Leipzig for the First Sunday after Easter, called Quasimodogeniti, and first performed it on 8 April 1725.[1] He composed it in his second annual cycle, which consisted of chorale cantatas since the first Sunday after Trinity of 1724. But this cantata is the first cantata of the cycle which is not a chorale cantata, it is also the only cantata in the second cycle to begin with an extended Sinfonia.[2]

The prescribed readings for the Sunday were from the

After the quote from the Matthew 18:20, "Wo zwei oder drei versammelt sind in meinem Namen, da bin ich mitten unter ihnen" (For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them).

Bach performed the cantata again in Leipzig at least twice, on 1 April 1731 and either on 1 April 1742 or on 7 April 1743.

Scoring and structure

The cantata is scored for soprano, alto, tenor, and bass soloists, a four-part choir only in the closing chorale, two oboes, bassoon, two violins, viola and basso continuo.[1] The reason for the choir appearing only in the closing chorale may have been, that the Thomanerchor had been in high demand during the Holy Week and Easter, performing Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern, BWV 1, the St John Passion and Christ lag in Todes Banden, BWV 4, among others.[2]

  1. Sinfonia
  2. Recitativo (tenor, bassoon): Am Abend aber desselbigen Sabbats
  3. Aria (alto, oboes, bassoon): Wo zwei und drei versammlet sind
  4. Aria (soprano, tenor, bassoon): Verzage nicht, o Häuflein klein
  5. Recitativo (bass, bassoon): Man kann hiervon ein schön Exempel sehen
  6. Aria (bass, violins, bassoon): Jesus ist ein Schild der Seinen
  7. Chorale: Verleih uns Frieden gnädiglich


Possibly Bach took the opening Sinfonia from earlier music. Dürr believes that it is a movement from an instrumental concerto. It is a kind of "concerto a due cori", the strings interacting with a concertino of the woodwinds, oboes and bassoon. The two group first introduce their own lively themes, which are distinct but related to each other. Then they also exchange their themes and play together. The middle section begins with a surprising new motif for oboe and bassoon, which Bach himself marked "cantabile".[1] Julian Mincham sees a close resemblance to the opening movements to concerti such as those for violin, BWV 1042, and keyboard, BWV 1053.[2] According to John Eliot Gardiner, this movement and the first aria are both taken from Bach's congratulatory cantata Der Himmel dacht auf Anhalts Ruhm und Glück, BWV 66a, celebrating the 24th birthday of Leopold, Prince of Anhalt-Köthen on 10 December 1718.[5]

The Bible quote is sung in recitative by the tenor as the Evangelist, accompanied by the continuo in repeated fast notes, possibly illustrating the anxious heart beat of the disciples, when Jesus appears, "On the evening, however, of the same Sabbath, when the disciples had gathered and the door was locked out of fear of the Jews, Jesus came and walked among them".

In movement 3, an aria marked adagio, the repetition is kept in the bassoon, but the strings hold long chords and the oboes play extended melodic lines. According to Dürr, it may have been another movement from the same concerto movement 1 relies on.

Bach composed the chorale text of movement 4, "Do not despair, o little flock", as a duet, accompanied only by the continuo including bassoon. Fragments of the usual chorale theme, Kommt her zu mir, spricht Gottes Sohn, can be detected occasionally. Terry interprets that the bassoon obbligato was intended to accompany a chorale melody which "never actually sounded", conveying the "hiddenness" of the church in the world.[5]

The bass prepares in a recitative, ending as an Arioso, the last aria, which is accompanied by the divided violins and the continuo. The theme is again a contrast between the "Unruhe der Welt" (restlessness of "the world") and "Friede bei Jesus" (peace with Jesus). Whereas the instruments play in wild motion, the bass sings a calm expressive melody, only accenting the word "Verfolgung" (persecution) by faster motion in long melismas.[1] According to Mincham, this aria might go back to a different movement from the same concerto as the Sinfonia.[2]

The chorale theme of Luther's chorale was published by Martin Luther in the Kirchē gesenge, mit vil schönen Psalmen unnd Melodey (edited by Johann Walter), published in Nürnberg (1531), and then in the Geistliche Lieder by Joseph Klug (Wittenberg, 1535).[6] The melody of the additional stanza (Gieb unsern Fürsten) was first published in Das christlich Kinderlied D. Martini Lutheri in Wittenberg, 1566. Bach set it for four parts.[1]




The first source is the score.

Several databases provide additional information on each cantata:

  • Cantata BWV 42 Am Abend aber desselbigen Sabbats history, scoring, sources for text and music, translations to various languages, discography, discussion, bach-cantatas website
  • Emmanuel Music
  • Am Abend aber desselbigen Sabbats history, scoring, Bach website (German)
  • University of Vermont
  • University of Alberta
  • Brian Robins: Cantata No. 42, "Am Abend aber desselbigen Sabbaths," BWV 42 Allmusic
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