First performed on the third day of Pentecost (Whit Tuesday), May 22, 1725, BWV 175 ("He calleth his sheep by name") belongs to a group of nine cantatas composed that year to texts by Christiane Marianne von Ziegler (1695-1760). She was a Leipzig-born poet who enjoyed the support of the literary reformer Johann Christoph Gottsched. The series marks the end of the so-called "chorale cantatas" that dominate Bach's second annual cantata cycle (Jahrgang) composed during 1724-1725. Each of Ziegler's texts follows the same structure: a Biblical text followed by alternating recitatives and arias and a concluding chorale. The instrumental scoring is unusual; it includes two trumpets, three recorders, violoncello piccolo (a smaller cello with range and sonority somewhere between a viola and cello), strings and basso continuo.
The cantata opens with a short accompanied recitative for tenor, the text drawn from the Gospel of the day, the parable of the good shepherd (John 10:3). The pastoral sentiment is underlined by the lyrical accompaniment provided by the three recorders. The beautiful da capo alto aria that follows retains both the recorders and the mood, the gently rocking continuo line of the first part mirroring the spirit's desire to be led by the shepherd to green pastures. In the central section, the yearning of the "languishing heart" is supported by the first recorder's chromatic lines.
The following tenor recitative brings a greater sense of drama as the singer agitatedly asks "Where do I find thee?" The answer comes in the succeeding lively aria (also for tenor) with its ornamental obligato part for violoncello piccolo. This aria is a parody, having originally been composed for a cantata written in honor of the birthday of Prince Leopold of Cöthen during the period Bach was employed there (1717-1723).
The third aria, for bass, follows a simple alto recitative taken from the Gospel of John (10:6). The text of the aria is Ziegler's commentary on the foregoing recitative, "Open your ears"; the singer is given the support of two trumpets in a sturdy movement that stands in marked contrast to the pastoral peacefulness of most of the cantata. The final chorale, a four-part setting of "Komm, heiliger geist," was borrowed from Cantata No. 59, with new words taken from Johann Rist's hymn "O Gottes Geist, mein Trost und Rath" (1651).