Johann Sebastian Bach: Cantata 61

Duccio di Buoninsegna, Descent into Hell, Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, Siena, 1308

Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland

Now come, Saviour of the Gentiles

Event: 1st Sunday in Advent
1st Performance: December 2, 1714 - Weimar
: Epistle:
Romans 13: 11-14; Gospel: Matthew 21: 1-9
Text: Martin Luther (Mvt. 1); Erdmann Neumeister (Mvts. 2-3, 5); Revelation 3:20 (Mvt. 4); Philipp Nicolai (Mvt. 6)
Chorale Texts:
Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland
Use According to the Revised Common Lectionary:
Sundays of Advent

Click to read brief commentaries by Simon Crouch for Classical Net, Timothy Dickey for All Music and Craig Smith for Emmanuel Music.

Cantata 61 performed by Soprano: Sibylla Rubens; Tenor: Christoph Prégardien; Bass: Peter Kooy; Collegium Vocale Gent; Philippe Herreweghe conducting.

Library Access: Those with online library access to Classical Music Library, for the Rilling version, search: Cantata 61; for the Naxos Music Library, search: BWV 61, then select desired available version.

Cantata 61

1) Chorus [S, A, T, B] Violino I/II all' unisono, Viola I/II, Fagotto, Continuo

Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland ,
Now come, saviour of the gentiles,

Der Jungfrauen Kind erkannt,
recognised as the child of the Virgin,
Des sich wundert alle Welt,
at whom all the world is amazed
Gott solch Geburt ihm bestellt.
that God decreed such a birth for him.

2) Recitative [Tenor] Continuo

Der Heiland ist gekommen,
The saviour has come,

Hat unser armes Fleisch und Blut
and has our humble flesh and blood
An sich genommen
taken on himself
Und nimmet uns zu Blutsverwandten an.
and accepts us as his blood relations
O allerhöchstes Gut,
O highest goodness of all,
Was hast du nicht an uns getan?
what have you not done for us ?
Was tust du nicht
What do you not do
Noch täglich an den Deinen?
still every day for your people?
Du kömmst und läßt dein Licht
You come and let your light
Mit vollem Segen scheinen.
shine with full blessing.

3) Aria [Tenor] Violino I/II, Viola I/II all' unisono, Continuo

Komm, Jesu, komm zu deiner Kirche
Come, Jesus, come to your church

Und gib ein selig neues Jahr!
and grant us a blessed new year!
Befördre deines Namens Ehre,
Increase the honour of your name,
Erhalte die gesunde Lehre
Preserve sound teaching
Und segne Kanzel und Altar!
and bless pulpit and altar!

4) Recitative [Bass] Violino I/II, Viola I/II, Continuo

Siehe, ich stehe vor der Tür und klopfe an.
See, I stand before the door and knock.

So jemand meine Stimme hören wird
If anyone will hear my voice
und die Tür auftun,
and open the door
zu dem werde ich eingehen
I shall go in
und das Abendmahl mit ihm halten und er mit mir.
and have supper with him and he with me.

5) Aria [Soprano] Violoncelli, Continuo

Öffne dich, mein ganzes Herze,
Open, my whole heart

Jesus kömmt und ziehet ein.
Jesus comes and enters within
Bin ich gleich nur Staub und Erde,
Though I am only like dust and earth,
Will er mich doch nicht verschmähn,
he does not want to scorn me
Seine Lust an mir zu sehn,
but to see his pleasure in me
Daß ich seine Wohnung werde.
so that I become his dwelling.

O wie selig werd ich sein!
Oh how blessed I shall be!

6) Chorale [S, A, T, B] Viola I coll'Alto, Viola II col Tenore, Fagotto col Basso, Violino I/II all' unisono, Continuo

Amen, amen! Komm, du schöne Freudenkrone, bleib nicht lange!
Come, you beautiful crown of joy, do not delay for a long time!
Deiner wart ich mit Verlangen.
I wait for you with longing.

Note on the text:

This, one of the best known of all Bach's cantatas, was composed at the end of 1714 and first performed in the Weimar court chapel on Advent Sunday, 2 December 1714. The libretto is by Erdmann Neumeister, pastor in Hamburg and the main architect of the reform cantata incorporating simple recitative and da capo arias characteristic of Italian opera. The text was published three years later in Neumeister's Fünffache Kirchen-Andachten (Leipzig, 1717). The cantata is therefore one of Bach's earliest expositions in the new cantata form, and the first one he is known to have composed to a libretto by Neumeister.

The introductory movement uses the first verse of the ancient church hymn Veni, redemptor gentium in the German version by
Martin Luther (1524). For many years this hymn was used in the Lutheran church at the beginning of Advent. The recitative of the fourth movement is a quotation from Revelation 3 : 20. The concluding chorale uses the Abgesang of the last verse of Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern by Philipp Nicolai (1599).

In the freely composed movements
Neumeister develops a train of thought in the manner of a sermon: the Saviour’s coming brings us new blessings each day( movement 2); this is connected to the prayer that Jesus may come to the church as to his own community (movement 3) . After the biblical quotation of the fourth movement Jesus is requested to enter also into the hearts of individual Christians and not to treat them with the scorn deserved by their sinfulness. In both arias therefore communal and individual prayers for the Saviour’s coming are the theme of the poetry.

(information based on Oxford Composer Companion and Dürr Die Kantaten)

The German Text: The English Translation is by Francis Browne: Both used by permission.