Johann Sebastian Bach

Cantata No. 68, "Also hat Gott die Welt geliebt," BWV 68 (BC A86)

    Description by John Keillor

    Johann Sebastian Bach completed his Cantata No. 68, "Also hat Gott die Welt geliebt," BWV 68, in 1725. It was composed for Whit-Monday, and it was part of the second cycle of cantatas that Bach wrote as the cantor for the School of Saint Thomas in Leipzig. The cantata uses different movement forms to create an effective palindrome: chorus, aria, recitative, aria, and chorus. Its texts are from disparate sources, including the local poet Christiane Mariane von Ziegler; this cantata is one of nine by Bach to feature her words prominently.

    Ziegler took John 3:16-21 as her point of departure to create a text specifically intended for the occasion of Whit-Monday, demonstrating the possibility of redemption through faith, opening with "God so Loved the World." A hymn by Salamo Liscow from 1675 opens with the same words, and Bach weaves this into the opening chorus as well, as well as the cantus firmus hymn melody by Gottfried Vopelius (1682). The orchestration of this opening chorale is rich, featuring a four-part chorus with the upper parts thickened with doubling oboes and oboe da caccia.

    The soprano melody of the first aria is among the most popular melodies of Bach's catalog. It is airy and well-proportioned, enough so to be reminiscent of the period phrasing style of melodic writing to come into its own later in the century. The cello answers the soprano; the two are effectively paired. In the second aria, the bass is coupled with answering oboes and oboe da caccia. Bach actually wrote both of these arias years before this cantata, while he was still working at Weimar. They were originally presented to Duke Christian of Saxe-Weissenfels. Other than a few adjustments, they are the same pieces.

    The final movement is a double-fugue motet. In addition to the already bountiful textures of the opening movement, trombones are added to strengthen the lines of the altos, tenors, and basses. The symmetry of this work is delightful for its understatement. It is strikingly cohesive for a work that draws from earlier work by the composer and others, as well as scripture and the words of other poets. This is one of the cantatas that listeners should go out of their way to become acquainted with; it is invulnerable to exhaustion.


    1. Also hat Gott die Welt geliebt
    2. Mein gläubiges Herze
    3. Ich bin mit Petro nicht vermessen
    4. Du bist geboren mit zugute
    5. Wer an ihn gläubet, der wird nicht gerichtet

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2016 Warner Classics 0190295975135
    2016 ATMA Classique ACD 22405
    2016 BIS BIS 9055
    2013 Teldec 671863
    2011 Warner Classics
    2010 Deutsche Grammophon
    2010 Brilliant Classics 94050
    2009 Challenge Classics 72290
    2008 Naïve E 8918
    2008 BIS 1641
    2008 Archiv Produktion 439380
    2008 Teldec 69943-7
    2008 Berlin Classics 018421
    2007 Teldec Classics 8573811945
    2007 Warner Classics
    2006 Soli Deo Gloria 121
    2006 Brilliant 99697
    2006 Brilliant 93102
    2006 Berlin Classics 8394
    2004 Erato 4614012
    2004 Challenge Records 72214
    2001 Haenssler 92562
    2000 Amati 9802
    1999 Teldec 25704
    1999 Haenssler 92022
    1999 Leipzig 1812
    1999 Teldec 3984-25707-2
    1996 Astree 8597
    1996 Astree 8555
    1994 Archiv Produktion 439 368-2AX26
    1994 Berlin Classics 0021502
    1994 Teldec 4509-91758-2
    1994 Teldec 4509-91765-2
    Brilliant 99704/27
    Brilliant 99704
    Brilliant 93102/103
    Brilliant 93102-VOL4
    Edel Records 1813
    Haenssler 98890