Johann Sebastian Bach

Cantata No. 60, "O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort," BWV 60 (BC A161)

    Description by James Leonard

    Composed for the Twenty-fourth Sunday after Trinity, which fell on November 7, 1723, Bach's Cantata No. 60 "O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort" (O Eternity, you thunderous word) (BWV 60) sets an anonymous text in the central movements flanked by a chorale by Johann Rist from 1642 and a chorale by Joachim Burmeister from 1662. Like "Selig ist der Mann" (BWV 57), "Ach Gott, wie manches Herzelied" (BWV 58), and only a handful of other cantatas, "O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort," essentially, is a duet cantata in which the alto and tenor soloists take the parts of Fear (alto) and Hope (tenor). However, "O Ewigkeit" adds a bass soloist in the fourth movement as the Voice of the Holy Ghost. The cantata is thus scored for alto, tenor, and bass soloists with a mixed chorus for the final chorale and an orchestra consisting of natural horn, a pair of oboe d'amore, strings, and basso continuo. "O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort" starts in D major for its first movement, turns to B minor modulating to G major for its second movement, reverts to B minor for its central third movement, alternates an agonizingly chromatic E minor with a serene D major for its fourth movement, and ends with bright but intensely chromatic A major for its fifth movement. The first movement of the cantata is a brilliant concerto for concertante oboes against agitated ripeno strings, while the alto soloist doubled by the natural horn intones Rist's chorale that is later joined by a more-animated tenor soloist. The second movement is highly a chromatic recitative for alto and tenor over an anguished organ continuo. The third movement is a duet aria for alto and tenor soloists with obbligato oboe d'amore and concertante violin. The fourth movement alternates between an agonized recitative for alto soloist and an arioso for bass soloist over an organ continuo. The fifth movement is a chromatic setting of Burmeister's chorale for chorus and full orchestra. Alban Berg incorporated Bach's setting of Burmeister's chorale as the closing section of his violin concerto 212 years later.


    1. O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort
    2. O schwerer Gang zum letzten Kampf und Streite!
    3. Mein letztes Lager will mich schrecken
    4. Der Tod bleibt doch der menchlichen Natur verhasst
    5. Selig sind die Todten
    6. Es ist genug: Herr, wenn es dir gefällt

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2016 BIS BIS 9055
    2015 J.S. Bach-Stiftung A 910CD
    2012 Accent ACC 25315
    2011 Warner Classics 671365
    2010 Soli Deo Gloria SDG 141
    2010 Deutsche Grammophon
    2010 Brilliant Classics 94050
    2008 Brilliant Classics 93668
    2008 Teldec 69943-7
    2008 Challenge Classics 72288
    2006 Brilliant 99697
    2006 Brilliant 93102
    2006 Teldec Classics 8573812085
    2006 Warner Classics 381197
    2006 Teldec Classics 8573811975
    2005 Challenge Records CC72208
    2004 Brilliant 92391
    2001 Haenssler 92561
    2001 BIS 1111
    1999 Teldec 25704
    1999 Haenssler 92019
    1999 Erato 3984-25488-2
    1999 Teldec 3984-25707-2
    1994 Archiv Produktion 439 368-2AX26
    1994 Archiv Produktion 439 394-2AX5
    1994 Teldec 4509-91757-2
    1994 Teldec 4509-91765-2
    Brilliant 99703
    Brilliant 93102-VOL3
    Brilliant 93102/73
    Brilliant 92391/38
    Brilliant 99703/27
    Brilliant Classics 93668/38
    Haenssler 98821