Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern

BWV 001 // For the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

(How beauteous beams the morning star) for soprano, tenor and bass, vocal ensemble, corno I+II, oboe da caccia I+II, strings and continuo

The cantata “Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern” (How beauteous beams the morning star), written for the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in 1725, completes Bach’s chorale cantata cycle of 1724. As it was the first work featured in the inaugural version of the Complete Works of Bach in 1851, it was later given the number BWV 1. The orchestration of this cantata is particularly exquisite: aside from four voices and the obligatory strings, it includes two concertante violins, two oboes da caccia and two horns – three uncommon pairings of solo instruments. The addition of brass instruments, however, was not necessarily unconventional for the orchestration of a celebratory hymn – Bach’s predecessor in Leipzig, Johann Kuhnau, also composed a “morning star” cantata with two obbligato horns.

J.S. Bach-Stiftung Kantate BWV 1

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Workshop
Reflective lecture

«Lutzogram» for the introductory workshop

Rudolf Lutz’s manuscript for the workshop
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Audio

The sound recording of this work is available on several streaming and download platforms.

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Performers

Soloists

Soprano
Eva Oltivànyi

Tenor
Makoto Sakurada

Bass
Manuel Walser

Choir

Soprano
Mirjam Berli, Susanne Frei, Guro Hjemli, Noëmi Sohn, Noëmi Tran Rediger

Alto
Antonia Frey, Olivia Heiniger, Damaris Nussbaumer, Lea Scherer

Tenor
Marcel Fässler, Clemens Flämig, Nicolas Savoy

Bass
Philippe Rayot, Oliver Rudin, William Wood

Orchestra

Conductor
Rudolf Lutz

Violin
Renate Steinmann, Plamena Nikitassova, Martin Korrodi, Christoph Rudolf, Ildiko Sajgo, Olivia Schenkel, Fanny Tschanz, Livia Wiersich

Viola
Susanna Hefti, Martina Bischof

Violoncello
Maya Amrein

Violone
Iris Finkbeiner

Bassoon
Susann Landert

Oboe da caccia
Kerstin Kramp, Ingo Müller

Corno
Olivier Picon, Ella Vala Armansdottir

Organ
Norbert Zeilberger

Harpsichord
Nicola Cumer

Musical director & conductor

Rudolf Lutz

Workshop

Participants
Karl Graf, Rudolf Lutz

Reflective lecture

Speaker

Elisabeth Bronfen

Recording & editing

Recording date
03/26/2010

Recording location
Trogen

Sound engineer
Stefan Ritzenthaler

Director
Meinrad Keel

Production manager
Johannes Widmer

Production
GALLUS MEDIA AG, Switzerland

Producer
J.S. Bach Foundation of St. Gallen, Switzerland

About the work

Librettist

Text No. 1, 6
Philipp Nicolai, 1599

Text No. 2–5
Arranger unknown

First performance
The Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary,
25 March 1725

In-depth analysis

The opening choir, whose character sets the tone for the entire work, makes both effective and sensitive use of the rich orchestration. Written in a swaying 12⁄8 time, the concertante violins – effectively capturing the essence of the shining morning star – provide a decidedly gentle and decorative introduction. Inspired by the first lines of the chorale, their dance-like motif pervades the development of the entire movement. In the process, the individual instruments are not restricted to their own idiomatic material; instead, the various motifs roam through the entire orchestra – the typical long tones of the horns, for example, are first heard in the strings. In keeping with his approach for chorale cantatas, Bach weaves the lines of the hymn into this soundscape, intertwining the soprano melody with particularly imaginative pre-imitation in the lower voices. The obvious shift in the verse upon the words “lovely, kindly” is underscored by a change in the musical structure. Here, the initial chordal construction passes over to hymn-like rising figures that beautifully express the closing line “high and most richly exalted”.
Following this movement of heavenly sphere and peace is an equally enchanting recitative that textually bridges the events between the Annunciation and Christmas. The ensuing aria, an elegantly flowing movement, features a solo soprano voice over a pizzicato bass – the contrasting use of these two extreme registers is particularly striking. The addition of an oboe da caccia lends the movement a singularly intimate character, its warm and mellow tone translating perfectly the textual “flames both celestial and divine” that blaze only in the hearts of the faithful.
After the joyful and open-minded atmosphere of the bass recitative, the tenor aria, composed in a minuet-like 12⁄8 time, is reminiscent of a final movement of a double concerto for two violins and orchestra. The scoring for strings and voice is hardly surprising considering the wording of the text: “let our voice and strings resound”. Here, the tenor voice functions more as a third concertante part than as a soloist, and it is only in the extended middle section which speaks of “bringing honour with song” that the tenor voice comes clearly to the fore.
In the closing chorale, the sixth verse of Philipp Nicolais’s famous hymn from 1599, both horns figure again prominently. While the first horn doubles the soprano voice, the second horn sounds a magnificent countermotif – fittingly jubilant for the cantata’s finale.

Libretto

1. Chor

Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern
voll Gnad und Wahrheit von dem Herrn,
die süsse Wurzel Jesse.
Du Sohn David aus Jakobs Stamm,
mein König und mein Bräutigam,
hast mir mein Herz besessen,
lieblich, freundlich,
schön und herrlich, gross und ehrlich,
reich von Gaben,
hoch und sehr prächtig erhaben.

2. Rezitativ (Tenor)

Du wahrer Gottes und Marien Sohn,
du König derer Auserwählten,
wie süss ist uns dies Lebenswort,

nach dem die ersten Väter schon
so Jahr’ als Tage zählten,
das Gabriel mit Freuden dort
in Bethlehem verheissen;
o Süssigkeit, o Himmelbrot,
das weder Grab, Gefahr noch Tod
aus unsern Herzen reissen!

3. Arie (Sopran)

Erfüllet, ihr himmlischen, göttlichen Flammen,
die nach euch verlangende gläubige Brust!
Die Seelen empfinden die kräftigsten Triebe
der brünstigsten Liebe
und schmecken auf Erden die himmlische Lust.

4. Rezitativ (Bass)

Ein ird’scher Glanz, ein leiblich Licht
rührt meine Seele nicht;
ein Freudenschein ist mir von Gott entstanden,
denn ein vollkommnes Gut,
des Heilands Leib und Blut,
ist zur Erquickung da.
So muss uns ja
der überreiche Segen,
der uns von Ewigkeit bestimmt
und unser Glaube zu sich nimmt,
zum Dank und Preis bewegen.

5. Arie (Tenor)

Unser Mund und Ton der Saiten
sollen dir
für und für
Dank und Opfer zubereiten.
Herz und Sinnen sind erhoben,
lebenslang
mit Gesang,
grosser König, dich zu loben.

6. Choral

Wie bin ich doch so herzlich froh,
dass mein Schatz ist das A und O,
der Anfang und das Ende;
er wird mich doch zu seinem Preis
aufnehmen in das paradeis,
des klopf ich in die Hände.
Amen!
Amen!
Komm, du schöne Freudenkrone, bleib nicht lange,
deiner wart ich mit Verlangen.

Bibliographical references

All libretti sourced from Neue Bach-Ausgabe. Johann Sebastian Bach. Neue Ausgabe sämtlicher Werke, published by the Johann-Sebastian-Bach-Institut Göttingen and the Bach-Archiv Leipzig, Series I (Cantatas), vol. 1–41, Kassel and Leipzig, 1954–2000.
All in-depth analyses by Anselm Hartinger (English translations/editing by Alice Noger-Gradon/Mary Carozza) based on the following sources:  Hans-Joachim Schulze, Die Bach-Kantaten. Einführungen zu sämtlichen Kantaten Johann Sebastian Bachs, Leipzig, 2nd edition, 2007; Alfred Dürr, Johann Sebastian Bach. Die Kantaten, Kassel, 9th edition, 2009, and Martin Petzoldt, Bach-Kommentar. Die geistlichen Kantaten, Stuttgart, vol. 1, 2nd edition, 2005 and vol. 2, 1st edition, 2007.

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