Cantata BWV 147


2010, July 28

JS Bach Cantata BWV 147: Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben
(Heart and mouth and deed and life)
Fourth Sunday of Advent 12/1716 (147a)
Visitation of Mary 7/2/1723
Weimar Cantatas
Scoring: Trumpet, oboe I, II, bassoon, violin I, II, viola, violoncello, continuo
  Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bass
Key: C Major
Bärenreiter vol 11 p 499
Reading: Epistle Isaiah 11:1-5
Reading: Gospel Luke 1:39-56

Words: Salomo Franck
Bach Bibliography


Six Favorite Cantatas
Conductor: Joshua Rifkin
Ensemble: Bach Ensemble
Soprano: Jane Bryden
Countertenor: Drew Minter
Tenor: Jeffrey Thomas
Bass: Jan Opalach
Decca Classics 4557062
Date: 10/14/1997


Eric Milnes Bach Cantatas 147 82 1
Conductor: Eric Milnes
Soprano: Monika Mauch
Alto: Matthew White
Tenor: Charles Daniels
Bass: Stephan Macleod
Orchestra/Ensemble: Montreal Baroque Orchestra
Label: Atma Classique 22402
Date: 03/13/2007


Harnoncourt BWV 147
Conductor: Nikolaus Harnoncourt
Soprano: Alan Bergius
Alto: Stephan Rampf
Tenor: Kurt Equiluz
Bass: Thomas Hampson
Orchestra/Ensemble: Vienna Concentus Musicus, Tölz Boys Choir
Label: Teldec Das Alte Werk 4509-91762-2
Date: 1985


Bach Edition (out of print)
Conductor: Pieter Jan Leusink
Ensemble: Holland Boys Choir, Netherlands Bach Collegium
Soprano: Ruth Holton
Alto: Sytse Buwalda
Tenor: Knut Schloch
Bass: Bas Ramsclaar
Label Brilliant Classics 93102/102
Date: 1999


Bach Cantatas vol 7
Conductor: Ton Koopman
Ensemble: Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra, Amsterdam Baroque Choir
Soprano: Lisa Larsson
Alto: Bogna Bartosz
Tenor: Gerd Türk
Bass: Klaus Mertens
Label: Challenge 72207
Venue: Waalse Church, Amsterdam, Netherlands 09/1997 - 10/1997
Release date: 08/09/2005


Volume 12
Conductor: Masaaki Suzuki
Ensemble: Bach Collegium Japan
Soprano: Yukari Nonoshita
Alto: Robin Blaze
Tenor: Gerd Türk
Bass: Peter Kooy
Label Bis 1031
Date: 3/15/2000




I am jumping ahead to get some relief, and some fun, after the sombre music I have been listening to for about a month. BWV 147a was originally performed in 1716 on the Fourth Sunday of Advent, so it is preparing for the Christmas celebration. Only sections 1, 3, 5, 7, and 9 were used, concluded by a different chorale, Dein Wort laß mich bekennen. Thomas Braatz at Bach gives us the history of the cantata, including a discussion of the chorales used in both versions. The German text of the original version is also presented. Here is C.S. Terry's discussion of the chorale in BWV 147. The cantata was changed and used in Leipzig for the Feast of the Visitation.

This cantata is the source of the famous Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring, known to so many in a multitude of permutations and arrangements. I think this cantata should be one of the favorites for everyone.

Dürr p 670
Whittaker vol 1 p 134
C.S. Terry vol 2 p 415
Boyd p 219

1 Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben: Chorus

Right away, we know we are here for a celebration. The chorus is made up of two fugal sections, with entrance of the voices S A T B in the first section, then reversed B T A S in the second section. Nicholas Anderson in the Oxford Companion, p 220, says: The technique is masterly and the taut construction is a splendid example of the composer's skill in sensitive, affective deployment of vocal and instrumental resources to create a unified ensemble.

2 Gebenedeiter Mund: Tenor recitative

A tenor editorial, with strings, decries people's resistance to salvation.

3 Schäme dich, o Seele, nicht: Alto aria

Nicholas Anderson comments on the vacillating rhythmic patterns and the warm tones of the oboe d'amore. Dürr says this piece is notable for its suspended rhythms in which normal 3/4 time and disguised 3/2 alternate in an irregular order and sometimes in different layers in the various parts. This rhythm, heard at the very outset on obbligato oboe d'amore, is taken up at the vocal entry to the words 'Schäe dich, O Seele, nicht' (Do not be ashamed O soul) and later to other lines of text.

I love the way the oboe opens the piece, then proceeds to wend its way through the music seeming very independent of the voice of the alto. Certainly they are connected, but they have a life of their own. This piece is quiet, meditative.

4 Verstockung kann Gewaltige: Bass recitative

Only twenty-one measures, very short on paper, but very dramatic, a sudden wake-up after the aria, and for a recitative, very melodic. I love the continuo part.

5 Bereite dir, Jesu: Soprano aria

The best violin obbligato, Whittaker finds a parallel to the d minor prelude in WTC I





6 Wohl mir, dass ich Jesum habe: Chorale

Dürr p 676 shows how the violin obbligato is derived from the chorale melody. I wonder why Bach did not include this chorale with the Schübler chorales. Perhaps because the vocal part is not a solo, but a four part setting. This piece is always included in Bach's greatest hits, nearly to the point of becoming a cliche. My favorite measures are 16 (31) and 59; this is a spot where the 9/8 time against 16th notes in the chorale make a very interesting rhythm which is more apparent if the piece is played on the piano.

7 Hilf, Jesu, hilf: Tenor aria

A wonderful cello part counterpoints the tenor.

8 Der höchsten Allmacht Wunderhand: Alto recitative

Two oboes, frequently playing in parallel thirds and sixths, counterpoint the alto as she sings of the pregnant Mary's visit to the pregnant Elizabeth.

9 Ich will von Jesu Wundern singen: Bass aria

A trumpet opens this aria, with strings and oboes playing together as the bass sings in praise of the savior.

10 Jesus bleibet meine Freude: Chorale

A repeat of the chorale in movement 6 on a different stanza of the hymn.

The tempo of this piece varies widely in the different performances I have, from 2min 18sec (Rifkin), to 3min 14sec (Koopman). I like the tempo of Harnoncourt's recording best, he clocks in at 2min 34sec.

The music

Here is a PDF of the cantata in old clefs.

1. Chorus: Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben
2. Recitative tenor: Gebenedeiter Mund
3. Aria alto: Schäme dich, o Seele, nicht
4. Recitative bass: Verstockung kann Gewaltige
5. Aria soprano: Bereite dir, Jesu
6. Chorale: Wohl mir, dass ich Jesum habe
7. Aria tenor: Hilf, Jesu, hilf
8. Recitative alto: Der höchsten Allmacht Wunderhand
9. Aria bass: Ich will von Jesu Wundern singen
10. Chorale: Jesus bleibet meine Freude

Instruments and voices for each part

Section Instruments, voices
1 Chorus SATB, trumpet, oboes I, II, violin I, II, viola and continuo (NBA: bassoon, violone or violoncello and organ)
2 Tenor recitative Tenor, violin I, II, viola and continuo (NBA: bassoon, violone or violoncello and organ)
3 Alto aria Alto, oboe d'amore and continuo (NBA: bassoon, violone or violoncello and organ)
4 Bass recitative Bass and continuo (NBA: bassoon, violone or violoncello and organ)
5 Soprano aria Soprano, violin and continuo (NBA: violone or violoncello and organ)
6 Chorale SATB, trumpet, oboes I, II, violin I, II, viola and continuo (NBA: bassoon, violone or violoncello and organ)
7 Tenor aria Tenor, violoncello or bassoon or violone and continuo (NBA: organ)
8 Alto aria Alto, oboe da caccia or oboe d'amore I,II and continuo (NBA: bassoon, violone or violoncello and organ)
9 Bass aria Bass, trumpet, oboes I, II, violin I, II, viola and continuo (NBA: bassoon, violone or violoncello and organ)
10 Chorale SATB, trumpet, oboes I, II, violin I, II, viola and continuo (NBA: bassoon, violone or violoncello and organ)



Excellent discussion by Carol Traupman-Carr
Emmanuel Notes BWV 147
Emmanuel Translation BWV 147

Discussion from Bach Cantatas Website
Recordingsfrom Bach Cantatas Website discussion, Simon Crouch
From Julian Mincham

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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