Johann Sebastian Bach

Cantata No. 85, "Ich bin ein guter Hirt," BWV 85 (BC A66)

    Description by James Leonard

    Composed for the Misericordias Domini Sunday, which fell on April 15, 1725, Bach's Cantata No. 85 "Ich bin ein guter Hirt" (I am the faithful shepherd) (BWV 85) sets John 10:12 as its first movement, a chorale by Kornelius Becker from 1598 as its third movement, a chorale by Ernst Christoph Homburg from 1658 as its sixth movement, and a text by an unknown poet for its second, fourth, and fifth movements. The cantata is scored for bass, alto, soprano, and tenor soloists; chorus; a pair of oboes; strings; and basso continuo; and a solo piccolo and cello in its second movement. "Ich bin ein guter Hirt" is in C minor with its first and final movements in the tonic, its second and third movements in the minor subdominant of G minor, its fourth movement in the major submediant of A flat major, and its fifth in the relative major of E flat major. The first movement is a doleful bass aria with an obbligato oboe, lush string counterpoint, and continuo. The second movement is an aria in the form of a trio sonata for acrobatic alto soloist, virtuoso piccolo, cello, and continuo. The third is a unique fusion of a trio sonata movement for a pair of oboes plus continuo with the soprano soloist intoning lines from Becker's chorale. The fourth is a secco recitative for tenor soloist accompanied by continuo and strings that comment on the text the tenor sings. The fifth movement is a gracious aria in 9/8 time for tenor soloist, all the upper strings in unison, and continuo. "Ich bin ein guter Hirt" concludes with a stark harmonization of Homburg's chorale for chorus and full orchestra colla parte.


    1. Ich bin ein guter Hirt
    2. Jesus ist ein guter Hirt
    3. Der Herr ist mein getreuer Hirt
    4. Wenn die Mietlinge schlafen, da wachet dieser Hirt
    5. Seht! was die Liebe tut!
    6. Ist Gott mein Schutz und treuer Hirt

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2016 BIS BIS 9055
    2013 Teldec 671905
    2010 Accent 25311
    2010 Brilliant Classics 94050
    2008 BIS 1641
    2008 Teldec 69943-7
    2007 Soli Deo Gloria 131
    2007 Naïve E 8911
    2007 Warner Classics
    2007 Teldec Classics 8573811845
    2006 Brilliant Classics 99697
    2006 Brilliant Classics 93102
    2004 Erato 4614012
    2004 Challenge Records 72215
    2001 Haenssler 92562
    1999 Teldec 25704
    1999 Haenssler 92027
    1999 Teldec 3984-25707-2
    1996 Astree 8597
    1995 Astree 8544
    1994 Teldec 4509-91759-2
    1994 Teldec 4509-91765-2
    Brilliant 99703/10
    Brilliant Classics 99703
    Brilliant 93102/56
    Brilliant 99705/33
    Brilliant Classics 99705
    Brilliant Classics 93102-VOL3
    Haenssler 98864