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.


    1. Darzu ist erschienen der Sohn Gottes
    2. Das Wort ward Fleisch und wont in der Welt
    3. Die Sund macht Leid
    4. Hòllische 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 Label Catalog #
    2018 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 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 98824