J.S.Bach:カンタータ BWV 57

Selig ist der Mann (Blessed is the man), BWV 57, is a church cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach. He wrote the Christmas cantata in Leipzig in 1725 for the Second Day of Christmas, which was celebrated that year as St. Stephen's Day, and first performed it on 26 December 1725.

History and text

Bach wrote the cantata in his third year in Leipzig for the Second Day of Christmas. That year, as every other year in Leipzig, the day was the feast of the martyr St. Stephanus (Stephen). The prescribed readings for the day are from the Acts, the Martyrdom of Stephen (Acts 6:8-7,22, Acts 7:51-59), and from the Gospel of Matthew, Jerusalem killing her prophets (Matthew 23:35-39). The cantata text was written by Georg Christian Lehms, who drew on all the readings and connected them to more biblical allusions. The first line is taken from James 1:12, the crown mentioned is in Greek "stephanos". Lehms set the development as a dialogue of "Jesus" and the Soul ("Anima"). He intended to use as a closing chorale a verse from Johann Heermann's "Gott Lob, die Stund ist kommen", but Bach instead chose the 6th verse of Ahasverus Fritsch's "Hast du denn, Jesus, dein Angesicht ganzlich verborgen", called Seelengesprach mit Christus (Talk of the soul with Christ), in order to continue the dialogue.
Bach first performed the cantata on 26 December 1725.

Scoring and structure

The setting for the cantata in seven movements is intimate: soprano and bass soloists, two oboes, oboe da caccia, two violins, viola, and continuo. The Anima is sung by the soprano, the bass is the vox Christi, the voice of Jesus. A four-part choir is only needed for the closing chorale, if at all. The oboes play only in the first and last movement, doubling the strings.


The music for the dialogue of Jesus and the Soul is more dramatic than in other church cantatas by Bach. Most of the recitatives are secco, as in the opera of the time, driving the action. John Eliot Gardiner sees Bach here as the "best writer of dramatic declamation (recitative in other words) since Monteverdi". The first aria is dominated by long vocal phrases. In the second aria the longing for death is expressed by an upwards line followed by a wide interval down. The third aria shows Jesus as the victor by fanfare-like broken triads. In the last aria the line of the solo violin can be interpreted as the passionate movement of the Anima into the arms of Jesus. After a mystical union is reached in the second part of the aria, "Mein Heiland, ich sterbe mit hochster Begier" ("My Savior, I die with the greatest eagerness"), no da capo is possible; the aria ends on the question "was schenkest du mir?" ("what will You give me?"), answered by the final four-part chorale on the tune of "Lobe den Herren, den machtigen Konig der Ehren".


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