Krzysztof Penderecki

Krzysztof Penderecki
Krzysztof Penderecki (1933-2020) conducting his oratorio "Seven Gates of Jerusalem" at the Winter Palace, St Petersburg, in 2001. Photo by Dmitry Lovetsky

Friday, February 07, 2020

Johann Sebastian Bach: Cantata BWV 78, “Jesu, der du meine Seele” – Maria Keohane, Tim Mead, Daniel Johannsen, Matthew Brook, Netherlands Bach Society, Jos van Veldhoven (HD 1080p)

Under Jos van Veldhoven's baton, the Netherlands Bach Society, the oldest ensemble for Baroque music in the Netherlands, and possibly in the world, and the soloists Maria Keohane (soprano), Tim Mead (alto), Daniel Johannsen (tenor) and Matthew Brook (bass) perform the church cantata of Johann Sebastian Bach "Jesu, der du meine Seele", BWV 78. Recorded for the project All of Bach, at the Walloon Church, Amsterdam, on February 10, 2018.

"Jesu, der du meine Seele", BWV 78, belongs to a group of chorale cantatas composed during Bach's second year in Leipzig. Composed for the fourteenth Sunday after Trinity in the Lutheran liturgical calendar, it probably received its first performance on September 10, 1724. The text is based upon a 1641 hymn by Johann Rist and also contains some material from the Gospel of St Luke. The author of the text in its present form is unknown.

As is the case in most of Bach's chorale cantatas, the first and last movements are choral and feature the hymn tune. The inner movements take a variety of different forms. The first movement is by far the most elaborate, and is in the form of a G minor passacaglia, a form defined by recurrence of a basic four-measure theme. The theme in this case is a chromatically descending lamento figure, so named because musical phrases of this ilk were often used in the Baroque era as bass lines to vocal laments. The inner movements of the cantata are strikingly different settings of text, with a duet for soprano and alto in B flat Major, a tenor recitative and aria in G minor, followed by a bass recitative and aria in C minor. Jesu, der du meine Seele concludes with a chorale setting of the hymn tune in G minor, ultimately cadencing in G Major with a Picardy third.

In this cantata, through his use of the chromatic lamento figure, Bach's concept of death comes with impassioned anticipation. This essence of spiritual reflection, central to all of Bach's church cantatas, is manifested throughout Jesu, der du meine Seele, BWV 78.

Source: Sean Burton (

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

♪ Cantata BWV 78, "Jesu, der du meine Seele" (1724, Leipzig)

i. Chorus: Jesu, der du meine Seele [0:08]*
ii. Aria (soprano, alto): Wir eilen mit schwachen, doch emsigen Schritten [6:41]
iii. Recitativo (tenor): Ach! ich bin ein Kind der Sünden [11:50]
iv. Aria (tenor): Das Blut, so meine Schuld durchstreicht [14:00]
v. Recitativo (bass): Die Wunden, Nägel, Kron und Grab [17:22]
vi. Aria (bass): Nur du wirst mein Gewissen stillen [20:04]
vii. Chorale: Herr, ich glaube, hilf mir Schwachen [22:57]

Maria Keohane, soprano
Tim Mead, alto
Daniel Johannsen, tenor
Matthew Brook, bass

Netherlands Bach Society
Conductor: Jos van Veldhoven

Walloon Church, Amsterdam, February 10, 2018

(HD 1080p)

* Start time of each movement

The opening chorus of this cantata resembles a chaconne. Actually, we should listen more often to the underside of Bach's music. In 1756, Johann Daube wrote in his tract on basso continuo (the constant bass in Baroque music) that Bach had mastered this art "to the highest degree", and that his accompaniment could bring life to an upper voice even if it had none of its own. The opening chorus of this cantata invites you to train your ear more towards the lower orchestral voices: the cello and double bass, and also the organ and harpsichord, as their part in this first movement is constructed on a single chromatically descending line. This means it resembles a chaconne; a musical form in which a short bass line is continually repeated, serving as a foundation for a string of new variations in the upper voices. In this case, Bach takes a slightly freer approach. The bass line recurs very often at various pitches, not only in the bass instruments, but also in the oboes, the singers, and subsequently in the violins. In fact, this whole movement is an ode to the bass.

Afterwards, the lower voices suddenly attract attention in all sorts of ways. In the duet for soprano and alto, Bach has separated the cello and keyboard instruments, for example, from the double bass. The first group is more active, while the double bass plays a calmer, plucked variation. This creates a many-hued bass sound. In the despairing recitative for the tenor, the basso continuo sounds like a harmonic labyrinth. After the tenor aria (once again with a plucked bass part!), Bach actually turns the whole string orchestra in the recitative for bass into a direct derivative of the basso continuo. After all this, our attention in the final aria and the chorale is probably more evenly distributed between the melody and the bass part. And for those who can't get enough of the bass – take a look at the background report, in which singer and bass soloist Matthew Brook talks about his part in this cantata.


Jos van Veldhoven

Maria Keohane

Tim Mead

Daniel Johannsen

Matthew Brook

More photos

See also

Johann Sebastian Bach: Cantata BWV 29, “Wir danken dir, Gott, wir danken dir” – Maria Keohane, Damien Guillon, Valerio Contaldo, Lionel Meunier, Netherlands Bach Society, Jos van Veldhoven (HD 1080p)

Johann Sebastian Bach: St Matthew Passion, BWV 244 – Benjamin Hulett, Griet De Geyter, Lore Binon, Tim Mead, Alex Potter, Thomas Hobbs, Charles Daniels, Andreas Wolf, Sebastian Noack – Kampen Boys Choir, Netherlands Bach Society, Jos van Veldhoven

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