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Liebster Jesu, mein Verlangen, BWV 32

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Title: Liebster Jesu, mein Verlangen, BWV 32  
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Subject: List of Bach cantatas by liturgical function, Monteverdi Choir, Bach cantata
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Liebster Jesu, mein Verlangen, BWV 32

Liebster Jesu, mein Verlangen (Dearest Jesus, my desire), BWV 32, is a church cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach. He composed the dialogue cantata in Leipzig for the first Sunday after Epiphany and first performed it on 13 January 1726.

History and words

Bach composed the cantata in his third year in Leipzig for the First Sunday after Epiphany. The prescribed readings for the Sunday were taken from the Epistle to the Romans, speaking of the duties of a Christian (Romans 12:1–6), and from the Gospel of Luke, the finding in the Temple (Luke 2:41–52).[1] Bach composed a text written by Georg Christian Lehms, court poet in Darmstadt, who published it in 1711. Lehms treated the Gospel to an allegorical dialogue of Jesus and the Soul, staying close to the Gospel.[2] Bach had set a similar work by Lehms a few weeks earlier, Selig ist der Mann, BWV 57 for the second day of Christmas. In the Concerto in Dialogo (Concerto in dialogue),[3] Bach assigned the Soul to the soprano voice and gave the words of Jesus to the bass as the vox Christi, the voice of Christ, disregarding that the Jesus in the Gospel is still a boy.[4] As Klaus Hofmann notes, the poet "takes up the general motifs of the story: the loss, the search for Jesus and his rediscovery, and places them in the context of the believer’s relationship with Jesus". The dialogue also refers to medieval mysticism and to imagery of the Song of Songs.[4] Bach added as a closing chorale the twelfth and final stanza of Paul Gerhardt's hymn "Weg, mein Herz, mit den Gedanken" (1647).[2][5] It is sung to the melody of "Freu dich sehr, o meine Seele", which was codified by Louis Bourgeois when setting the Geneva Psalm 42 in his collection of Pseaumes octante trios de David (Geneva, 1551). Bourgeois seems to have been influenced by the secular song Ne l’oseray je dire contained in the Manuscrit de Bayeux published around 1510.[6]

Scoring and structure

The cantata is intimately scored for soprano and bass soloists, a four-part choir only in the chorale, oboe, two violins, viola, and basso continuo.[1]

  1. Aria (soprano): Liebster Jesu, mein Verlangen
  2. Recitativo (bass): Was ist's, daß du mich gesuchet
  3. Aria (bass): Hier, in meines Vaters Stätte
  4. Recitativo (soprano, bass): Ach! heiliger und großer Gott
  5. Aria Duetto (soprano, bass): Nun verschwinden alle Plagen
  6. Chorale: Mein Gott, öffne mir die Pforten


The dialogue is opened by the soprano as the Soul in an aria in E minor, accompanied by an obbligato oboe,[7] described by John Eliot Gardiner as "a solo oboe as her accomplice in spinning the most ravishing cantilena in the manner of one of Bach’s concerto slow movements".[3] Julian Mincham distinguishes in the oboe line two different "ideas", in the first five measures a "sense of striving, effort and stretching upwards", then "garlands" of content in achieving a union, as the last lines of the text say "Ach! mein Hort, erfreue mich, laß dich höchst vergnügt umfangen" (Ah! My treasure, bring me joy, let me embrace You with greatest delight.).[7] The bass answers in a short recitative and a da capo aria in B minor, embellished by a solo violin, which "encircles the voice with triplets and trills".[3] The words "betrübter Geist (troubled spirit) appear whenever mentioned in "minor-mode colourings in the melody and harmony".[7] In the following dialogue recitative, the soul answers with a paraphrase of the opening line of Psalm 84, "Wie lieblich ist doch deine Wohnung" (How amiable is Thy dwelling), which both Heinrich Schütz and Johannes Brahms set to music, Brahms as the central movement of Ein deutsches Requiem. Bach sets the text as an "evocative arioso with a pulsating string accompaniment".[3] The two voices never sing at the same time.[7] A duet finally unites both voices and also their "associated obbligato instruments (oboe and violin), so far heard only separately". Gardiner writes: "It is one of those duets ... in which he seems to throw caution to the winds, rivalling the lieto fine conclusions to the operas of his day, but with far more skill, substance and even panache".[3] A four-part setting of Paul Gerhardt's hymn "returns the cantata – also in terms of style – to the sphere of reverence appropriate for a church service".[4]

Selected recordings

Additional recordings are listed on the bach-cantatas entry of the cantata.



The first source is the score.

General sources are found for the Bach cantatas. Several databases provide additional information on each single cantata:

  • Cantata BWV 32 Liebster Jesu, mein Verlangen history, scoring, sources for text and music, translations to various languages, discography, discussion, bach-cantatas website
  • Emmanuel Music
  • Liebster Jesu, mein Verlangen history, scoring, Bach website (German)
  • University of Vermont
  • University of Alberta
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