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Jesus nahm zu sich die Zwölfe, BWV 22

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Title: Jesus nahm zu sich die Zwölfe, BWV 22  
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Subject: List of Bach cantatas by liturgical function, Monteverdi Choir, Bach cantata, Du wahrer Gott und Davids Sohn, BWV 23
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Jesus nahm zu sich die Zwölfe, BWV 22

Jesus nahm zu sich die Zwölfe (Jesus gathered the twelve to Himself), BWV 22, is a cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach, a church cantata for the Sunday Estomihi within the liturgical year. Bach composed the cantata as an audition piece for the position of Thomaskantor in Leipzig and first performed it there on 7 February 1723.

The work, which is in five movements, begins with a scene from the Gospel reading in which Jesus foretells his suffering in Jerusalem. The unknown poet of the cantata text took the scene as a starting point for a sequence of aria, recitative and aria, in which the contemporary Christian takes the place of the disciples, who do not understand what Jesus is telling them about the events soon to unfold, but follow him nevertheless. The closing chorale is a stanza from Elisabeth Cruciger's hymn "Herr Christ, der einig Gotts Sohn". The music is scored for three vocal soloists, a four-part choir, oboe, strings and basso continuo.

Bach performed the cantata first on 7 February 1723, together with another audition piece, Du wahrer Gott und Davids Sohn, BWV 23. Bach performed the two cantatas again for the same occasion a year later when he was in office.

History and words

Bach composed the cantata in 1723 for the Sunday Estomihi or Quinquagesima, the last Sunday before Lent. It was part of his application for the position of Thomaskantor in Leipzig,[1] director of music of the city's main churches, the Thomaskirche, the Nikolaikirche and the Paulinerkirche as the church of the University of Leipzig.[2] In Leipzig, tempus clausum was observed during Lent, therefore Estomihi was the last Sunday with a cantata performance before a vespers service on Good Friday and Easter.[3] The prescribed readings for the Sunday were taken from the First Epistle to the Corinthians, "praise of love" (1 Corinthians 13:1–13), and from the Gospel of Luke, healing the blind near Jericho (Luke 18:31–43). The Gospel also contains the announcement by Jesus of his future suffering in Jerusalem, which the disciples do not understand. Bach had prepared a cantata for the audition in Köthen, Du wahrer Gott und Davids Sohn, BWV 23, on the topic of the healing.[2] The theme of Jesus nahm zu sich die Zwölfe is the other topic from the Gospel, the announcement of suffering and the disciples' lack of understanding.[4] An unknown poet chose text from the Gospel for the first movement (specifically, verses 31 and 34), and wrote a sequence of aria, recitative and aria for the following movements. After quoting the Gospel, the text places the Christian in general in the situation of the disciples: he is pictured as wanting to follow Jesus even in suffering, although he does not comprehend.[2] The poetry ends on a prayer for "denial of the flesh". The closing chorale is stanza 5 of Elisabeth Cruciger's "Herr Christ, der einig Gotts Sohn",[5] intensifying the prayer.[6] Its melody is based on one from Wolflein Lochamer's Lochamer-Liederbuch, printed in Nürnberg around 1455. It first appears as a sacred tune in Johann Walter's Geystliche gesangk Buchleyn (de) printed in Wittenberg in 1524.[7]

Bach first performed both audition cantatas on 7 February 1723, this cantata before the sermon,[1] and Du wahrer Gott und Davids Sohn after the sermon. The score and the parts are extant; the score bears the note "This is the Leipzig audition piece".[8] The score shows that Bach composed BWV 23 already in Köthen, but BWV 22 largely in Leipzig. Musicologist Tadashi Isoyama notes that the paper was manufactured in Leipzig, and students of the Thomasschule copied some of the parts. He points out the contrast between the two works: "BWV 22 incorporates dance rhythms, and is written with a modern elegance."[4] Musicologist Julian Mincham interprets Bach's approach as "... a fair example of the range of music which is suitable for worship and from which others might learn", explaining the "sheer range of forms and musical expression in these two cantatas".[9]

Bach assumed the position of Thomaskantor on 30 May 1723, the first Sunday after Trinity, with the cantata Die Himmel erzählen die Ehre Gottes, BWV 76. He performed BWV 22 again on 20 February 1724, without changes, and likely again in later years.[8]

Scoring and structure

The cantata is in five movements and is scored for three vocal soloists, alto, tenor and bass, a four-part choir, oboe, two violins, viola, and basso continuo.[6]

  1. Arioso (tenor, bass, choir): Jesus nahm zu sich die Zwölfe
  2. Aria (alto): Mein Jesu, ziehe mich nach dir
  3. Recitativo (bass): Mein Jesu, ziehe mich, so werd ich laufen
  4. Aria (tenor): Mein alles in allem, mein ewiges Gut
  5. Chorale: Ertöt uns durch dein Güte


The first movement renders the Gospel scene. An "ever-ascending" ritornello "evokes the image of the road of suffering embodied by going up to Jerusalem".[4] The tenor, as the Evangelist, begins the narration from the Gospel's verse 31, Jesus nahm zu sich die Zwölfe (Jesus gathered the twelve to Himself). The words of the announcement of the suffering in Jerusalem, Sehet, wir gehn hinauf gen Jerusalem (Behold, we go up to Jerusalem) are assigned to the bass as the vox Christi (voice of Christ). He sings them to several repeats of the ritornello.[2] After another repeat of the ritornello, a choral fugue illustrates the reaction of the disciples, following verse 34 from the Gospel, Sie aber vernahmen der keines (However they understood nothing).[2][8] The voices are first accompanied only by the continuo, then doubled by instruments. Bach distinguishes in the autograph score "concertists" for the first section and "ripienists" when the instruments come in.[8] The movement is concluded by an instrumental postlude.[6] Mincham notes that the fugue deviates from the "traditional alternating of tonic and dominant entries ... as a rather abstruse indication of the lack of clarity and expectation amongst the disciples, Bach is hinting at this in musical terms by having each voice enter on a different note, B-flat, F, C and G and briefly touching upon various related keys. The music is, as always, lucid and focussed but the departure from traditional fugal procedure sends a fleeting message to those who appreciate the subtleties of the musical processes".[9]

John Eliot Gardiner, who conducted the Bach Cantata Pilgrimage with the Monteverdi Choir and wrote a diary on the project, comments on the disciples' reaction ("and they understood none of these things, neither knew they the things which were spoken"): "One could read into this an ironic prophecy of the way Bach's new Leipzig audience would react to his creative outpourings over the next twenty-six years – in the absence, that is, of any tangible or proven signs of appreciation: neither wild enthusiasm, deep understanding nor overt dissatisfaction".[10]

In the first aria, Mein Jesu, ziehe mich nach dir (My Jesus, draw me after You), the alto voice is accompanied by an obbligato oboe, which intensifies the text expressively.[6]

The recitative Mein Jesu, ziehe mich, so werd ich laufen (My Jesus, draw me, then I will run) is accompanied by the strings and leans towards an arioso, especially near the end.[6]

The second aria, Mein alles in allem, mein ewiges Gut (My all in all, my eternal good), again with the strings, is a dance-like movement in free da capo form. In the modified repeat of the first section, the voice holds a long note on the word Friede (peace), after which the same theme appears in the orchestra and again in the continuo.[6] Isoyama notes the passepied character of the music, reminiscent of secular Köthen cantatas.[4] Mincham describes: "Bach's expression of the joy of union with Christ can often seem quite worldly and uninhibited".[9]

In the closing chorale, Ertöt uns durch dein Güte (Kill us through your goodness), a four-part setting of the voices is enriched by continuous runs of the oboe and violin I. Isoyama thinks that Bach may have intentionally imitated the style of his predecessor Johann Kuhnau in the "elegantly flowing obbligato for oboe and first violin".[11] Gardiner describes the movement's bass line as a "walking bass as a symbol of the disciples' journey to fulfilment.[10] Mincham comments:
It would seem that Bach had not yet reached a conclusion, if indeed he ever did, as to the most appropriate way of utilising the chorales in his cantatas. Certainly the quiet, closing moments of reflection and introspection became the norm, particularly in the second cycle. But the chorale could, as here, act as a focus of bounding energy and positivity.[9]






Online sources

Several databases provide additional information on each single cantata, such as history, scoring, sources for text and music, translations to various languages, discography, discussion (bach-cantatas), English translation, discussion (Emmanuel Music), history, scoring (Bach), English translation (University of Vermont), text, scoring (University of Alberta), musical analysis (Julian Mincham).

The complete recordings of Bach's cantatas are accompanied by liner notes from musicians and musicologists, John Eliot Gardiner commented his Bach Cantata Pilgrimage, Klaus Hofmann and Tadashi Isoyama wrote for Masaaki Suzuki, Christoph Wolff for Ton Koopman.

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