Johann Sebastian Bach

Cantata No. 40, "Dazu ist erschienen der Sohn Gottes," BWV 40 (BC A12)

    Description by John Keillor

    The frightfully successful collection of balances in this 40th cantata, Darzu ist erschienen der Sohn Gottes ("For this purpose the Son of God was made visible') was premiered 26 December1723 in Leipzig. It features a unique distribution of movements that strike a compelling balance: chorus, recitative, chorale (chorus), aria, recitative, chorale (chorus), aria, and chorale. This sort of inverted palindrome breaks from a more conventional style of two recitative and aria pairs, each begun with a chorus, with the work concluded by a final chorale. Part of the reason Bach's legacy is so enduring is his ability to make music simple more interesting, the form more compelling, such as is heard here. The instrumentation continually varies, as does the range of the singer taking on the next solo section. Everything keeps changing, yet affirming the basic material of this single, cohesive work. The opening chorus draws text from I John 3: 8, but it is not known who wrote the poetry. In tone and in musical treatment, this cantata is an aggressive denunciation of the devil. In the first chorus horn, oboes, strings and continuo perform a ritornello that accompanies the chorus' announcement that the destruction of Satan and his works is at hand. This is a martial statement, and there is an implicit challenge in the general atmosphere of the cantata. Later in the bass' aria, the downfall of Satan is further elaborated on with text drawn from Genesis 3: 15, wherein the dark angel is portrayed as a snake. Other references to the bible then go on to compare Jesus to hen protecting her chicks (Matt. 23: 34-9) and other, comparatively pleasant metaphors. Some work painting exists as well, as is heard in the tenor aria with the word erschrecken (‘terrible'), which is heard as an extended melisma to suggest the breathlessness of fear. In all, there is an incredible wealth of musical beauty to comment on in the 40th cantata. Readers would do well to make a first hand investigation.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Darzu ist erschienen der Sohn Gottes
    2. Das Wort ward Fleisch und wont in der Welt
    3. Die Sünd macht Leid
    4. Höllische Schlange, wird dir nicht bange?
    5. Die Schlange, so im Paradies
    6. Schüttle deinen Kopf und sprich
    7. Christenkinder, freuet euch!
    8. Jesu, nimm dich deiner Glieder ferner in Genaden an

    Appears On

    Year Title / Performer Label / Catalog # AllMusic Rating
    2018
    Various Artists
    Brilliant Classics
    95853
    2016
    BIS
    BIS 9055
    2012
    SDG (Soli Deo Gloria) / Soli Deo Gloria
    SDG 718
    2011
    Warner Classics
    671365
    2010
    Brilliant Classics
    94050
    2008
    Teldec
    69943-7
    2008
    Berlin Classics
    018421
    2007
    Berlin Classics
    0149262
    2006
    Brilliant Classics
    99697
    2006
    Brilliant Classics
    93102
    2006
    Teldec Classics
    8573812025
    2005
    Soli Deo Gloria
    113
    2005
    Challenge Records
    CC72208
    2004
    Erato
    4614012
    2004
    Challenge Records
    72230
    2001
    Haenssler
    92561
    2001
    BIS
    1111
    1999
    Teldec
    25704
    1999
    Koch International Classics
    374622
    1999
    Haenssler
    92013
    1999
    Erato
    3984-25488-2
    1999
    Various Artists
    Teldec
    3984-25706-2
    1994
    Teldec
    4509-91757-2
    1994
    Teldec
    4509-91765-2
    1988
    Teldec
    35269
    Brilliant
    99704/9
    Brilliant Classics
    99704
    Brilliant
    93102/85
    Brilliant Classics
    93102-VOL4
    Haenssler
    Haenssler
    98824
    Teldec