Johann Sebastian Bach

Cantata No. 159, "Sehet, wir gehn hinauf gen Jerusalem," BWV 159 (BC A50)

    Description by Erik Eriksson

    Intended for liturgical use only (the composer could scarcely have imagined otherwise), Bach's sacred cantatas came to serve two roles in the twentieth century. Even as they continued to sustain the faithful in numberless church services, these sublime works also began to inhabit the concert hall, heard as much for their musical genius as for their religious message. Bach's Cantata No. 159 is among his finest works in the genre. Composed (most likely) in 1729, it was intended for Quinquagesima Sunday, the Sunday that precedes Ash Wednesday. It invites preparation for the 40 days of Lent, urging the listener to enter upon a journey that culminates in Christ's Passion and Resurrection during Holy Week. Composed for three soloists (alto, tenor, and bass), chorus and orchestra, the work opens with the bass soloist exhorting "Sehet, wir gehn hinauf gen Jerusalem!" (Behold, we go up to Jerusalem!). Then, in an intertwining of bass arioso and alto recitative, the soloists describe the arduous path, anguishing over the upward climb. The alto soloist cries out "Ach, gehe night! (Oh, do not go!), describing a cross already prepared, a scourging to come. The alto aria "Ich Folge dir nach" (I follow thee) follows the anguished recitative, affirming the singer's resolve to stand by the cross, to enfold the Savior in her arms and bosom. The tenor soloist next voices his grief for his Jesus, vowing to wish for no joy until he sees the Savior in Glory. The bass aria "Es ist vollbracht" (It is fulfilled) is one of Bach's loveliest. An oboe introduces the aria, is heard in the middle, and concludes the six-minute meditation in which the singer observes that in God all are made righteous, freed from the temptations of sin. He will hasten and give thanks to Jesus, concluding, "Welt, gute Nacht!" (World, good night!). Flowing in utmost consolation, the contemplative mood is emboldened only when the singer vows to hasten to the Savior. The poignant sound of the oboe brings the aria to a close, leading to the concluding chorale, "Jesus, deine Passion ist mir lauter Freude" (Jesus your passion is my purest joy).

    Parts/Movements

    1. Sehet, wir geh'n hinauf gen Jerusalem
    2. Ich folge dir nach
    3. Nun will ich mich, mein Jesu
    4. Es ist vollbracht, das Leid ist alle
    5. Jesu, deine Passion ist mir aluter Freude

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2016 BIS BIS 9055
    2015 J.S. Bach-Stiftung B 033CD
    2013 Warner Classics 81162
    2013 Teldec 467189
    2011 BIS SACD 1891
    2011 Warner Classics 674464
    2010 Brilliant Classics 94050
    2010 Harmonia Mundi 5908351
    2009 Harmonia Mundi 901998
    2008 Teldec 69943-7
    2008 L'Oiseau-Lyre 4758726
    2006 Soli Deo Gloria 118
    2006 Brilliant 99697
    2006 Brilliant 93102
    2005 Challenge Records CC72219
    2004 Decca 4762684
    2003 Thorofon 2481/2
    2001 Haenssler 92563
    2000 Haenssler 92048
    1999 Teldec 25704
    1999 London 430260
    1999 Teldec 3984-25709-2
    1994 Teldec 4509-91762-2
    1994 Teldec 4509-91765-2
    1988 Teldec 35657
    Brilliant 99703/7
    Brilliant 99703
    Brilliant 93102/53
    Brilliant 99705/35
    Brilliant 99705
    Brilliant 93102-VOL3
    Accord 202652
    Haenssler
    Haenssler 98879
    Vocal Archives 1153