Johann Sebastian Bach

Cantata No. 36, "Schwingt freudig euch empor," BWV 36 (BC A3)

    Description by Brian Robins

    BWV 36 ("Soar joyfully aloft") has a particularly complex history. The version under consideration here represents Bach's reworking of a work that started life in 1725 as a secular cantata of the same name (BWV 36c). Composed to a libretto by the Leipzig civil servant and poet Picander (the pseudonym of the poet Christian Friedrich Henrici), the cantata was written as a birthday tribute to an unidentified Leipzig academic. The following year, Bach revived the work with a new text by Picander for the birthday of the wife of his old employer, Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Cöthen, with whom he maintained close contact after moving to Leipzig. This version, now lost, bears the name Steigt freudig in die Luft, BWV 36a. At some point between this second secular version and 1730, Bach decided to turn the work into a sacred cantata for Advent Sunday, adding a chorale and adapting it to a new text by an unknown author. In 1731, he returned to the work yet again, expanding it from five numbers to eight, while further restructuring and revising the existing numbers. Finally, in 1735, Bach returned the work to its secular origins using yet another new text, Die Freude reget sich (BWV 36b), probably also by Picander. According to the Bach scholar Christoph Wolff the occasion may have been the inauguration of the Leipzig professor Andreas Florens Rivinius as rector of the Thomasschule. The whole history of BWV 36 provides an interesting insight into the working methods of Bach, who, throughout his composing life, constantly reworked and refined material he considered to be of value.

    The 1731 sacred cantata is a large-scale work divided into two parts, the first of which would have been performed before the sermon, the second afterwards.

    The scoring of the cantata is the usual SATB vocal disposition, with solo arias for soprano, tenor, and bass; the instrumental forces are a pair of oboes d'amores, strings, and continuo. A particular feature of the 1731 version was the addition of three stanzas of Martin Luther's great Advent hymn "Nun komm der Heiden Heiland" (Nos. 2, 4, and 6), previously used in the two Advent cantatas which bear its name, BWV 61 and 62. For the final chorale Bach retained a strophe he had added in 1730 from another beautiful Advent hymn, Philip Nicolai's "Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern" (1599).

    The opening chorus, as befits the season and its original secular celebratory origins, is a joyous affair; each part enters in imitation, but the writing involves both contrapuntal and homophonic passages. The only aria in the first part is for tenor; it is a dance-like movement in da capo form with an obbligato part for oboe d'amore, the text casting Jesus in the familiar role of bridegroom of the enraptured soul. Part two opens with a spirited aria for bass ("Welcome precious treasure"), the text calling on Jesus to enter the "pure heart." The final soprano aria is a delicately textured movement with muted string accompaniment.


    1. Schwingt freudig euch empor
    2. Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland
    3. Die Liebe zieht mit sanften Schritten
    4. Zwingt die Saiten in Cythara
    5. Willkommen, wlldommen, werter Schatz!
    6. Der du bist dem Vater gleich
    7. Auch mit gedampften, schwachen Stimmen
    8. Lob sei Gott, dem Vater, g'ton

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2016 Warner Classics 0190295975135
    2016 J.S. Bach-Stiftung B 348
    2016 BIS BIS 9055
    2016 Sony Classical / Sony Music Distribution 88875173752
    2016 Sony Classical 88985320832
    2013 Rondeau ROP 6058
    2012 Rondeau ROP 4040
    2011 Warner Classics 671866
    2010 Soli Deo Gloria 162
    2010 BIS 1861
    2010 Brilliant Classics 94050
    2010 Archiv Produktion 477 873-5
    2010 Archiv Produktion / Deutsche Grammophon 4778735
    2009 Accent 25309
    2008 Teldec 69943-7
    2008 Berlin Classics 018421
    2006 Brilliant 93102
    2006 Brilliant 99697
    2006 Teldec Classics 8573812035
    2005 Berlin Classics 0020992
    2005 Challenge Records 72218
    2005 Berlin Classics 0032912BC
    2004 Haenssler 98836
    2003 Leipzig 1800
    2003 Harmonia Mundi 2908135/39
    2001 Haenssler 92561
    2000 Deutsche Grammophon 463588
    2000 Thorofon 2369
    2000 Naxos 8554825
    1999 Teldec 25705
    1999 Teldec 25704
    1999 Haenssler 92012
    1999 Teldec 3984-25706-2
    1997 Harmonia Mundi 901605
    1994 Teldec 4509-91756-2
    1994 Teldec 4509-91765-2
    1992 Archiv Produktion 437327
    1988 Teldec 35036
    Brilliant 99704/5
    Brilliant 99704
    Brilliant 93102/81
    Brilliant 93102-VOL4
    Edel Records 1801
    Teldec 242506
    Haenssler 98823