Johann Sebastian Bach

Cantata No. 172, "Erschallet, ihr Lieder," BWV 172 (BC A81)

    Description by Brian Robins

    Bach's appointment as organist to the ducal court at Weimar in 1708 made no formal demands on him to compose cantatas; during his early years there he produced only a few occasional works. Following his promotion to concertmaster in the spring of 1814, he was required to compose and perform one cantata each month. Cantata No. 172 ("Ring out, ye songs"), for Whit Sunday (the feast of Pentecost), was the third of these works, first performed in the ducal chapel on May 20, 1714. Although Bach composed three other cantatas for Pentecost (Nos. 59, 74, and 34), BWV 172 seems to have been a particular favorite of the composer's, being revived and revised by him several times after he took up his cantorship in Leipzig.

    The text, like those of the majority of the cantatas Bach composed in Weimar, is probably the work of the Weimar court librarian and poet Salomo Franck. Formally it departs from the older style of through-composed Biblical cantatas Bach had written in his pre-Weimar days, introducing closed forms such as the recitative and da capo aria.

    In keeping with the festive spirit of the day, the cantata opens with a brilliantly joyous four-part chorus with trumpets and timpani. A short bass recitative -- the only one in the cantata -- leads to a da capo aria in which the bass asks the Holy Trinity to "enter into us." The powerful plea is supported by three obligato trumpets; Bach takes this trinity symbolism a step further by writing the vocal part mainly in intervals of a third. This leads to another aria, this time for tenor, and in a completely contrasting mood. Here, gently flowing strings create a mood of tranquility, "wafting the soul" on the breath of the Holy Spirit. The following duet for soprano and alto takes the form of a dialogue between the impatient Soul and the Holy Spirit. It employs the kind of neo-erotic language often used in such duets, its "purified happiness" (as described by Albert Schweitzer) counterpointed by an ornamented version of Martin Luther's chorale "Veni creator Spiritus," heard first on the oboe, later on the organ. The cantata concludes with a strophe from Philip Nicolai's beautiful chorale "Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern."

    Parts/Movements

    1. Erschallet, ihr Lieder
    2. Wer mich liebet, der wird mein Wort ahlten
    3. Heiligste Dreieinigkeit
    4. O Seelenparadies
    5. Komm, laß mich nicht länger warten
    6. Von Gott kommt mir ein Freudenschein
    7. Erschallet, ihr Lieder

    Appears On

    Year Title / Performer Label / Catalog # AllMusic Rating
    2016
    BIS
    BIS 9055
    2015
    J.S. Bach-Stiftung
    B 237CD
    2013
    Warner Classics
    381159
    2013
    Teldec
    671897
    2012
    Rondeau
    ROP 4026
    2011
    Warner Classics
    674146
    2010
    Brilliant Classics
    94050
    2010
    Archiv Produktion
    477 873-5
    2010
    Archiv Produktion / Deutsche Grammophon
    4778735
    2009
    Challenge Classics
    72290
    2008
    Teldec
    69943-7
    2008
    Berlin Classics
    018421
    2008
    Chandos
    752
    2006
    Soli Deo Gloria
    121
    2006
    Brilliant Classics
    93102
    2006
    Brilliant Classics
    99697
    2006
    Berlin Classics
    8394
    2004
    Haenssler
    98837
    2003
    Challenge Records
    72202
    2002
    Haenssler
    94027
    2001
    Haenssler
    92563
    2001
    Dorian
    93231
    2000
    Haenssler
    92052
    2000
    BIS
    881
    2000
    Amati
    9802
    2000
    Deutsche Grammophon
    463584
    1999
    Teldec
    25704
    1999
    Various Artists
    Teldec
    3984-25709-2
    1996
    Erato
    12598
    1995
    Newport Classic
    85582
    1994
    Berlin Classics
    0021502
    1994
    Teldec
    4509-91763-2
    1994
    Teldec
    4509-91765-2
    Brilliant
    99703/11
    Brilliant Classics
    99703
    Brilliant
    93102/57
    Brilliant Classics
    93102-VOL3
    Haenssler
    Haenssler
    98864