Johann Sebastian Bach

Cantata No. 79, "Gott der Herr ist Sonn und Schild," BWV 79 (BC A184)

    Description by Brian Robins

    BWV 79 ("God is a light and a shield") is one of two cantatas Bach composed for the Reformation Festival, an important event in the Lutheran calendar celebrated annually on October 31. It dates from 1725 and, although less well-known than its companion, BWV 80, "Ein fest Burg," it is a work whose splendor befits the ceremonial occasion. It is lavishly scored for two horns, timpani, two flutes (added for a later performance which took place at some time between 1728 and 1731), two oboes, strings, and continuo in addition to the normal four-part chorus and vocal soloists. The text is anonymous, but may be the work of Erdmann Neumeister, an important figure in the development of the Lutheran cantata.

    The cantata opens with a resplendent sinfonia; its pounding drum beats and obbligato horn parts lead directly into the choral entry, a setting of a verse from Psalm 84. The second part of this magnificent opening chorus is a dynamic four-part fugue. The alto aria which follows is a paraphrase of the same psalm verse, but the triumphant mood of the chorus is here replaced one of devotion. The third movement is an elaborate chorale setting of the famous hymn "Nun danket alle Gott" by Martin Rinkart (1636); both the timpani and the horn join their voices with that of the chorus. The succeeding bass recitative introduces an animated duet for the soprano and bass soloists calling on God to maintain his support. The cantata concludes with a simple four-part choral harmonization of the hymn "Nun lasst uns Gott, dem Herrn" by Gustav Helmbold. Three of the movements were later parodied in Bach's Lutheran Masses -- BWV 234 (the alto aria) and BWV 236 (the opening chorus and the duet).


    1. Gott, der Herr, ist Sonn' und Schild
    2. Gott ist unser Sonn' und Schild!
    3. Nun danket alle Gott
    4. Gott Lob! wir wissen den rechten Weg zur Seligkeit
    5. Gott, ach Gott, verlass die Deinen nimmermehr
    6. Erhalt' uns in der Wahrheit

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2018 ATMA Classique ACD 22407
    2018 J.S. Bach-Stiftung B 617CD
    2018 Phi LPH 030
    2017 Carus CV 83311
    2017 Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler PH 16010
    2017 Harmonia Mundi HMM 902265
    2016 BIS BIS 9055
    2014 Coro CRO 16120
    2014 Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler PH 13054
    2013 Archiv Produktion 002894791045AB55
    2013 Teldec 671905
    2012 Rondeau ROP 4031
    2011 Warner Classics
    2010 Brilliant Classics 94050
    2008 BIS 1671
    2008 Teldec 69943-7
    2008 Berlin Classics 018421
    2007 Warner Classics
    2007 Teldec Classics 8573811855
    2006 Brilliant Classics 99697
    2006 Brilliant Classics 93102
    2005 Soli Deo Gloria 110
    2005 Berlin Classics 0032912BC
    2004 Haenssler 98838
    2004 Challenge Records 72216
    2003 Leipzig 1800
    2003 Haenssler 98459
    2002 Haenssler 94028
    2001 Haenssler 92562
    1999 Teldec 25704
    1999 Haenssler 92025
    1999 Teldec 3984-25707-2
    1994 Teldec 4509-91759-2
    1994 Teldec 4509-91765-2
    1987 Accord 22079
    Brilliant 99704/6
    Brilliant Classics 99704
    Brilliant 93102/82
    Brilliant Classics 93102-VOL4
    Edel Records 1808
    Haenssler 98866