Cantata BWV 131


2010, January 27

JS Bach Cantata BWV 131: Aus der Tiefe rufe ich, Herr, zu dir
(From the deep, Lord, I Cried to Thee)
Mühlhausen Penitential service? 1707?
Mühlhausen Cantatas
Scoring: Oboe, Violin, Viola I,II, Bassoon, Continuo
  Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bass
Bärenreiter vol 14; p 345
Words: Psalms 130
Bach Bibliography


After the holidays, back to the cantatas roughly in the order written. Cantata 131 is a through-composed piece, based on Psalms 130, with no recitatives or arias; the solos are sung in counterpoint to a chorale in another voice. There are no catchy tunes that keep running through my head. I especially love the bassoon in the final chorus. And I love the polyphony which sets a quick part against the slow notes of the chorale in parts two and four.

Leusink has doubled the organ bass line with a cello in the Tenor / Alto 131.4. This is very effective and the cello part adds substance. He also plays at a slower tempo, which is nice.

Whittaker, vol 1, p 35, offers a description of the second part: The second chorus consists of a short adagio, … chord passages separated by florid runs for alto and tenor, and a long Largo fugue, in which the waiting of the soul is contrasted with a repeated expression of hope, in subject and countersubject. Oboe and violin incessantly dovetail each other while the violas answer each other in groups of two notes, resulting in long stretches of eight part writing which show an early command over intricate polyphony.

Dürr, p 777-779, states that BWV 131 consists not of independent, self-contained movements but of various kinds of sections that run stright into each other. …the design of the choruses is largely analagous to the instrumental form of prelude and fugue. …Forms here still put together in a fresh and nonchalant fashion would later be more purposefully and consistently united. Nevertheless, we already sense the power of genius here, particularly in the fugal movements.

C.S. Terry (vol 2 p 389) states that the chorale melody "Herr Jesu Christ du hochstes Gut", below right, used in part two and part four is "the tenor (slightly altered) of a four-part setting of 'Wenn mein Stundlein vorhanden ist,'" below left. Unfortunately, he does not show us the four-part setting, only the top voice melody, from which he says the derivation is patent. Maybe to him.







Discussion of the chorale Herr Jesu Christ du hochstes Gut

Discussion of the chorale Wenn mein Stundlein vorhanden ist

Biblical references for each part

References for the text: Luther's German Bible

  Scripture Text Part
1 Psalms 130:1,2 Aus der Tiefe rufe ich, Herr, zu dir.
Herr, höre meine Stimme; laß deine
Ohren merken auf die Stimme meines Flehens!
2 Psalms 130:3,4
So du willst, Herr, Sünde zurechnen, Herr, wer wird bestehen?
Denn bei dir ist die Vergebung, daß man dich fürchte.
Erbarm dich mein in solcher Last, "Herr Jesu Christ, du höchstes Gut", vs 2
Bass solo

soprano chorale
3 Psalms 130:5 Ich harre des Herrn; meine Seele harret, und ich hoffe auf sein Wort Chorus
4 Psalms 130:6
Meine Seele wartet auf den Herrn von einer Morgenwache bis zur andern

Und weil ich denn in meinem Sinn, vs 5 "Herr Jesu Christ, du höchstes Gut" vs 5
Tenor solo

alto chorale
5 Psalms 130:7,8 Israel hoffe auf den Herrn; denn bei dem Herrn ist die Gnade und viel Erlösung bei ihm; und er wird Israel erlösen aus allen seinen Sünden. Chorus


References for the text: King James Bible

  Scripture Text Part
1 Psalms 130:1,2 Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O Lord.
Lord, hear my voice: let thine ears be
attentive to the voice of my supplications
2 Psalms 130:3,4
If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?
But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared.
Have mercy on me burdened so, "Herr Jesu Christ, du höchstes Gut", vs 2
Bass solo

soprano chorale
3 Psalms 130:5 I wait for the Lord, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope Chorus
4 Psalms 130:6
My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning

And since in my mind, as I lamented before, vs 5 "Herr Jesu Christ, du höchstes Gut" vs 5
Tenor aria

alto chorale
5 Psalms 130:7,8 Let Israel hope in the Lord: for with the Lord there is mercy, and with him is redemption. And he shall redeem Israel from all iniquities. Chorus


Instruments and voices for each part

Section Text Instruments, voices
1 Psalms 130:1,2 Oboe, Violin, Viola I,II, Bassoon, SATB and continuo (NBA: organ)
2 Psalms 130:3, 4 Oboe obbligato, Soprano chorale, Bass solo and continuo (NBA: organ)
3 Psalms 130:5 Oboe, Violin, Viola I,II, Bassoon, SATB and continuo (NBA: organ) with choral fugue
4 Psalms 130:6 Tenor solo, Alto chorale and continuo (NBA: organ)
5 Psalms 130:7, 8 Oboe obbligato, Violin, Viola I,II, Bassoon, SATB with choral fugue at close continuo (NBA: organ)

The music


Once again, my favorite recording is Rifkin's with one voice per part, organ continuo, no one part overbearing at any time.

BWV 131
Joshua Rifkin, conductor
The Bach Ensemble
Recorded: American Academy of Arts and Letters; New York, NY; October, 1985





BWV 131
Ton Koopman, conductor
Tenor: Guy de Mey
Bass: Klaus Mertens
The Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra and Choir




Links to BWV 131 by Ton Koopman on YouTube:
BWV 131.1 with commentary
BWV 131.2, 3
BWV 131.4, 5


Emmanuel Notes BWV 131
Emmanuel Translation BWV 131

Discussion from Bach Cantatas Website
Recordingsfrom Bach Cantatas Website Brian Robins

John Eliot Gardiner Cantatas Recording discussion, Simon Crouch

London Bach Society Database entry BWV 131
Article BWV 131


The Complete Cantatas
Barenreiter cat# TP 2004

Enter TP2004 in full text search box on the left.

This Website

This web site offers free midi, QT, MusicXML and PDF files of Bach's four-part harmonized chorales. They can be downloaded individually or in complete sets. Be aware that other sites offering files downloaded from this site in the past may not have current updates. Please see Chorale Editions, File Accuracy.


The revision is complete. Please read about tenor clef.

The old list of updates and corrections can be found in the Corrections Archive.


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