Cantata BWV 71


2010, February 2

JS Bach Cantata BWV 71: Gott ist mein König
(God is my king)
Mühlhausen Installation of the town council, from 1708; Bach was 23 years old.
Mühlhausen Cantatas
Scoring: Orchestra devided into four 'choirs', voices form a fifth choir
1. Trumpet I,II,III, timpani
2. Flauto dolce (recorders) I,II, violoncello
3. Oboe I,II, bassoon
4. Violin I,II, viola, violone
5. Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bass
Organ obbligato
Bärenreiter vol 13; p 23
Words: Bible verses, chorale verse
Bach Bibliography


Modern Mühlhausen town hall
Photo from Wikipedia

In Mühlhausen, Bach worked at the "Divi Blasii" church, but had much better conections to the nearby St. Mary's Church, where the preacher Georg Christian Eilmar was a great admirer of Bach's music. St. Mary's, Thuringia's second biggest church (a fünfschiffige Hallenkirche), was built at the turn of the 14th and 15th centuries and was made famous through the activities of Thomas Müntzer in 1525.

Bach's working life in the Reichs city of Mühlhausen in 1707-08 - brief though it was - yielded important church music compositions. To mark the Council Election he composed this cantata, which was performed in St. Mary's Church on 4th February 1708. This is the only cantata printed in Bach's lifetime.


C.S. Terry vol 2 p 278: Terry discusses the chorale used in the second part of the cantata, O Gott, du frommer Gott. The version below is sung by the soprano, while the tenor sings an independent melody. This chorale melody also appears in Cantatas BWV 24 and BWV 164 and chorale BWV 399.

From the Bach Cantatas Website, the chorale as it appears in BWV 71-2.

Short and attractive to the ear, complex in analysis. I see the difficulty in balancing the voices and instruments to which Whittaker refers (vol one, p 38), especially in parts six and seven, where it would be very easy for the instruments to become overpowering. Trumpets and timpani, used with restraint, open and close the cantata with emphasis and ceremony and add their weight to the short alto solo in section five.

Carol Traupman-Carr gives a succinct definition of a permutation fugue; Alfred Dürr (p 12) gives a lengthy analysis:

Alfred Dürr (p 12)
Definition of permutation fugue

Alfred Dürr (p 64)
Example of permutation fugue p1

Alfred Dürr (p 65)
Example of permutation fugue p2

Alfred Dürr (p 66)
Example of permutation fugue p3


*permutation: any of the total number of changes in position or order possible within a group, hence, a change in grouping

Instruments and voices for each part

Section Text Instruments, voices
1 Psalm 74:12 SATB, all instruments and continuo (NBA: violone or violoncello and organ)
2 2 Samuel 19:35, 37 Soprano chorale, tenor air, organ obbligato
3 Deuteronomy 33:25 Genesis 21:22 Permutation fugue: SATB, continuo (NBA: organ)
4 Psalm 74:16, 17 Bass arioso, oboes and basson, recorders and cello, continuo (NBA: organ)
5 Alto solo, trumpets I,II,III and timpani and continuo (NBA: organ)
6 Psalm 74:19 SATB, strings, oboes and bassoon, recorders and cello and continuo (NBA: organ)
7 SATB, trumpets and timpani, strings, oboes and bassoon, recorders and cello and continuo (NBA: and organ), permutation fugue in one section

Biblical references for each part

References for the text: Luther's German Bible

Part Scripture Text
1 Psalms 74:12 Aber Gott ist mein König von alters her, der alle Hilfe tut, so auf Erden geschieht
2 2 Samuel 19:35-37
Chorale: Soll ich auf dieser Welt
Ich bin heute achtzig Jahre alt. Wie sollte ich kennen, was gut oder böse ist, oder schmecken, was ich esse oder trinke, oder hären, was die Sänger oder Sängerinnen singen? Warum sollte dein Knecht meinen Herrn König fürder beschweren? Dein Knecht soll ein wenig gehen mit dem Könige über den Jordan. Warum will mir der König eine solche Vergeltung tun? Laß deinen Knecht umkehren, daß ich sterbe in meiner Stadt bei meines Vaters und meiner Mutter Grab. Siehe, da ist dein Knecht Chimeham, den laß mit meinem Herrn Könige hinüberziehen und tue ihm, was dir wohlgefällt.
3 Deuteronomy 33:25 Genesis 21:22 Eisen und Erz sei an seinen Schuhen; dein Alter sei wie deine Jugend
Zu derselbigen Zeit redete Abimelech und Phichol, sein Feldhauptmann, mit Abraham und sprach: Gott ist mit dir in allem, das du tust.
4 Psalms 74:16, 17 Tag und Nacht ist dein; du machest, daß beide Sonn und Gestirn ihren gewissen Lauf haben. Du setzest einem jeglichen Lande seine Grenze; Sommer und Winter machest du.
6 Psalms 74:19 Du wollest nicht dem Tier geben die Seele deiner Turteltaube und deiner elenden Tiere nicht so gar vergessen.


References for the text: King James Bible

Part Scripture Text
1 Psalms 74:12 For God is my King of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth.
2 2 Samuel 19:35-37
Chorale: Should I upon this earth
I am this day fourscore years old: and can I discern between good and evil? can thy servant taste what I eat or what I drink? can I hear any more the voice of singing men and singing women? wherefore then should thy servant be yet a burden unto my lord the king? Thy servant will go a little way over Jordan with the king: and why should the king recompense it me with such a reward? Let thy servant, I pray thee, turn back again, that I may die in mine own city, and be buried by the grave of my father and of my mother. But behold thy servant Chimham; let him go over with my lord the king; and do to him what shall seem good unto thee.
3 Deuteronomy 33:25 Genesis 21:22 Thy shoes shall be iron and brass; and as thy days, so shall thy strength be.
And it came to pass at that time, that Abimelech and Phichol the chief captain of his host spake unto Abraham, saying, God is with thee in all that thou doest:
4 Psalms 74:16, 17 The day is thine, the night also is thine: thou hast prepared the light and the sun. Thou hast set all the borders of the earth: thou hast made summer and winter.
6 Psalms 74:19 O deliver not the soul of thy turtledove unto the multitude of the wicked: forget not the congregation of thy poor for ever

The music

BWV 71.1, 2, 3 and 4 and BWV 71.5, 6 and 7

BWV 71.1 2 3 and 4

Michaelstein Telemann Chamber Orchestra
Organ: Gottfried Preller
Harpsichord, Organ: Christine Schornsheim
Thomanerchor Leipzig
Dresdner Streichtrio
St. Mary's Church, Mühlhausen


BWV 71.5 6 and 7
The Michaelstein Telemann Chamber Orchestra was founded in 1952 by Eitelfriedrich Thom. In 1995, for lack of funds, the full Telemann Chamber Orchestra was wound up, but the Baroque Ensemble continued, playing on historical instruments, and took over the name of the Telemann Chamber Orchestra. It devotes itself chiefly to performing works by unknown composers of the 16th to 18th centuries in the middle German region. The orchestra uses historical instruments.



DVD from Organ Historical Society







Emmanuel Translation BWV 71
Discussion by Dr. Carol Traupman-Carr, for the Bach Choir of Bethlehem

Article BWV 71
London Bach Society Database entry BWV 71

Discussion from Bach Cantatas Website
Recordingsfrom Bach Cantatas Website from Wikipedia

John Eliot Gardiner Cantatas Recording discussion, Simon Crouch


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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