Johann Sebastian Bach

Cantata No. 78, "Jesu, der du meine Seele," BWV 78 (BC A130)

    Description by Brian Robins

    One of the greatest of the so-called "chorale cantatas" that dominate Bach's second annual cycle of Leipzig cantatas, BWV 78 ("Jesus, Thou of my soul"), was composed for the 14th Sunday after Trinity in 1724, and first performed on September 10 of that year. The anonymous librettist based his text on the Johann Rist hymn (1641) from which the cantata takes its name. Deeply penitential in nature, the text bears little relationship to the appointed Gospel of the day (Luke 17:11-19), the story of the healing of the ten lepers. The scoring is for horn, flute, two oboes, strings, and continuo in addition to four-part chorus and soloists.

    The cantata opens with a choral passacaglia that unfolds with majestic spaciousness over a descending chromatic bass line; Bach often used this device to illustrate sin -- or, in the words of the chorus, "grievous spiritual woe." The chorale melody is heard in the soprano line, which is supported by the horn and flute; only in the central section is the darkly expressive mood alleviated. The succeeding duet for soprano and alto is a wonderful example of Bach's word painting; the canonic vocal writing and forward-pressing continuo accompaniment provide a vivid illustration of hastening "with feeble but eager steps." The following recitative for tenor is long and dramatic, and the acute anguish of the text is sustained throughout; at times the recitative gives way to arioso. With the following tenor aria, the mood of the cantata starts to change, and the text begins to focus on the cleansing properties of Christ's blood. The final solo numbers, a recitative and aria for bass, take up this theme of redemption; the aria is a virtuosic movement that includes a demanding obbligato part for solo oboe. The final stanza of Rist's hymn forms the text of the concluding chorale, the hymn melody now treated to a simple, but moving four-part harmonization.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Jesu, der du meine Seele
    2. Wir eilen mit schwachen, doch emsigen Schritten
    3. Ach, ich bin ein Kind der Sünden
    4. Dein Blut, so meine Schuld durchstreicht
    5. Die Wunden, Nägel, Kron', und Grab
    6. Nun, du wirst mein Gewissen stillen
    7. Herr, ich glaube, hilf mire Schwachen

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2017 Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler PH 16010
    2016 BIS BIS 9055
    2015 J.S. Bach-Stiftung A 912CD
    2014 Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler PH 13054
    2014 L'Oiseau-Lyre / Decca 4786753
    2013 Archiv Produktion 002894791045AB55
    2013 Teldec 671863
    2011 Warner Classics
    2010 Deutsche Grammophon
    2010 Brilliant Classics 94050
    2010 Harmonia Mundi 5908363
    2009 Zig Zag Territoires ZZT090502
    2008 Harmonia Mundi 501270
    2008 Brilliant Classics 93668
    2008 Teldec 69943-7
    2007 Virgin Classics 0946389585
    2007 Warner Classics
    2007 Teldec Classics 8573811875
    2006 Soli Deo Gloria 124
    2006 Brilliant Classics 99697
    2006 Brilliant Classics 93102
    2006 Challenge Records 72212
    2006 Berlin Classics 8394
    2005 Children's Group 84401
    2004 BIS 1361
    2004 Brilliant Classics 92391
    2002 Erato 85842
    2001 Haenssler 92562
    2001 Harmonia Mundi 2908116/18
    2000 Gloriae Dei Cantores 028
    1999 Teldec 25704
    1999 Haenssler 92025
    1999 Omega Music Poland 2009
    1999 Harmonia Mundi 2951270
    1999 Teldec 3984-25707-2
    1999 Harmonia Mundi 2908091/95
    1998 Harmonia Mundi 595001
    1997 L'Oiseau-Lyre 455706
    1996 Koch 7234
    1994 Archiv Produktion 439 368-2AX26
    1994 Archiv Produktion 439387
    1994 Teldec 4509-91758-2
    1994 Teldec 4509-91765-2
    1994 Claves 500711
    1993 BMG 84207
    1992 Harmonia Mundi 901270
    Brilliant Classics 99703
    Brilliant 99705/37
    Brilliant Classics 99705
    Brilliant Classics 93102-VOL3
    Brilliant Classics 92391/38
    Brilliant 93102/73
    Brilliant Classics 99703/27
    Brilliant Classics 93668/38
    Haenssler
    American Bach Soloists
    Haenssler 98861