Mache dich, mein Geist, bereit

BWV 115 // For the Twenty-second Sunday after Trinity

(Get thyself, my soul, prepared) for soprano, alto, tenor and bass, vocal ensemble, transverse flute, oboe d’amore, horn, violoncello piccolo, strings and basso continuo

J.S. Bach-Stiftung Kantate BWV 115


Experience the introductory workshop, concert and reflective lecture in full length.

Would you like to enjoy our videos ad-free? Subscribe to YouTube Premium now...


By loading the video, you agree to YouTube's privacy policy.
Learn more

Load video


By loading the video, you agree to YouTube's privacy policy.
Learn more

Load video

Reflective lecture

By loading the video, you agree to YouTube's privacy policy.
Learn more

Load video

«Lutzogram» for the introductory workshop

Rudolf Lutz’s manuscript for the workshop
Download (PDF)


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






Julia Doyle

Elvira Bill

Julius Pfeifer

Sebastian Noack


Jennifer Ribeiro Rudin, Simone Schwark, Susanne Seitter, Noëmi Sohn Nad, Olivia Fündeling, Anna Walker

Jan Börner, Antonia Frey, Katharina Jud, Misa Jäggin, Lea Scherer

Clemens Flämig, Achim Glatz, Raphael Höhn, Walter Siegel

Fabrice Hayoz, Daniel Pérez, Philippe Rayot, Oliver Rudin, Tobias Wicky


Rudolf Lutz

Plamena Nikitassova, Lenka Torgersen, Christine Baumann, Dorothee Mühleisen, Ildikó Sajgó, Christoph Rudolf

Martina Bischof, Sarah Krone, Katya Polin

Maya Amrein, Daniel Rosin

Violoncello piccolo
Balázs Máté

Markus Bernhard

Oboe d’amore
Katharina Arfken

Dana Karmon

Transverse flute
Marc Hantaï

Olivier Picon

Nicola Cumer

Jörg Andreas Bötticher

Musical director & conductor

Rudolf Lutz


Karl Graf, Rudolf Lutz

Reflective lecture


Markus Wild

Recording & editing

Recording date

Recording location
Trogen AR (Schweiz) // Evangelische Kirche

Sound engineer
Stefan Ritzenthaler

Meinrad Keel

Production manager
Johannes Widmer

GALLUS MEDIA AG, Switzerland

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

About the work


Text No. 1, 6 and beginning of No. 4
Johann Burchard Freystein, 1695

Text No. 2–5
Arranger unknown

First performance
Twenty-second Sunday after Trinity,
5 November 1724

In-depth analysis

The chorale cantata “Mache dich, mein Geist, bereit” (Get thyself, my soul, prepared) BWV 115 was composed for the 22nd Sunday after Trinity in 1724 and thus forms part of Bach’s second Leipzig cantata cycle. Surviving transcripts and partial copies of the work from after 1800 indicate that August Eberhard Müller (Thomascantor from 1800/04 until 1810) continued to use the cantatas in church music, a decision motivated in equal parts by practicality and respect. It should be noted, however, that these performances are not an early form of a “Bach renaissance” but rather represent a swansong in baroque church-music practice.

The introductory chorus opens with a twovoice continuo part and unison strings, whose admonitory figure of repeated notes and erratically circling gestures serve to caution humankind against the unforeseen “evil day” of judgement. Although the unexpected entry of the woodwinds, transverse flute and oboe d’amore somewhat brightens the timbre of this gruff, stringent music, it does little to soften its motivic rigour. Amid this setting – hampered as it seems by a theological handbrake – the choir, supported by horns, enters with the first chorale line, whose block-like presentation nonetheless features some fine timbral effects, such as on the words “Bete” (pray) and “Versuchung” (temptation). Within the confines of this efficiently constructed movement, Bach also skilfully distinguishes certain passages in the orchestral writing. For instance, at the transition to the final chorale line, the unison string passage appears as a lifeline tossed dramatically to save the choristers from the treacherous swamp of a heedless life.

This gesture of warning is taken up again in the alto aria, in which neither the soothing 3/8 - metre nor the warm timbre of the oboe d’amore can mask the underlying gravitas of the music, which echoes the bittersweet tone of a Passion setting. Here, the endangered soul must be woken from the sinful slumber so temptingly portrayed by the rocking quaver line – what the loving calls of the alto fail to do, the threats of the allegro middle section, whipped on by cracking lightning, are quite able to manage. Indeed, it is audibly clear that no human can escape God’s triumphant justice, and thus sleep as a symbol of eternal death can – despite the lulling tones of the music – no longer be seen as a source of consolation.

This punishment, while deferred for now, hangs like the sword of Damocles over the following bass recitative. Although the setting speaks of God as the loyal watchman of the soul, his disappointment in a world debauched by Satan pervades almost every bar. The movement portrays more a resigned King Lear than a dazzling Lord on High who castigates the “false brothers”.

In keeping with this theme, the soprano aria, a poignant molto adagio setting, projects a funereal tone from the very first note. In an expressive duo of transverse flute and violoncello piccolo, a fragile, enticing soundscape emerges with a barely audible continuo line of inimitable subtlety. Bach’s true object, however, is first revealed with entry of the soloist, who speaks of prayer as the fundamental expression of the human condition – the music is radical in its very stillness and transforms the sincere pleas of the vocalist into a provocative chastisement of a loud and egotistical world. Why precisely this heartfelt simplicity can serve as a path to mercy and new strength is explained in the following tenor recitative: God opens his ears when we call to him with sincerity, which is also why he selflessly gave the world his only son, whose vital help is portrayed in the arioso closing phrase as encouragement that accompanies humankind every step of the way.

The closing chorale, a verse from Johann Burchard Freystein’s hymn of warning, thus serves to decisively fortify the reformed congregation of singers. With its unadorned progression and culmination in a glaring major chord, the setting mirrors the eschatological gravitas of Freystein’s theologising verse, which is not only resigned to the impending destruction of the world, but even emphatically welcomes it.


1. Choral

Mache dich, mein Geist, bereit,
wache, fleh und bete,
daß dich nicht die böse Zeit
unverhofft betrete;
denn es ist
Satans List
über viele Frommen
zur Versuchung kommen.

2. Arie (Alt)

Ach schläfrige Seele, wie? ruhest du noch?
Ermuntre dich doch!
Es möchte die Strafe dich plötzlich erwecken
und, wo du nicht wachest,
im Schlafe des ewigen Todes bedecken.

3. Rezitativ (Bass)

Gott, so vor deine Seele wacht,
hat Abscheu an der Sünden Nacht;
Er sendet dir sein Gnadenlicht
und will vor diese Gaben,
die er so reichlich dir verspricht,

nur offne Geistesaugen haben.
Des Satans List ist ohne Grund,
die Sünder zu bestricken;
brichst du nun selbst den Gnadenbund,
wirst du die Hilfe nie erblicken.
Die ganze Welt und ihre Glieder
sind nichts als falsche Brüder;
doch macht dein Fleisch und Blut hiebei
sich lauter Schmeichelei.

4. Arie (Sopran)

Bete aber auch dabei
mitten in dem Wachen!

Bitte bei der großen Schuld
deinen Richter um Geduld,
soll er dich von Sünden frei
und gereinigt machen!

5. Rezitativ (Tenor)

Er sehnet sich nach unserm Schreien,
er neigt sein gnädig Ohr hierauf;
wenn Feinde sich auf unsern Schaden freuen,
so siegen wir in seiner Kraft:
indem sein Sohn, in dem wir beten,
uns Mut und Kräfte schafft
und will als Helfer zu uns treten.

6. Choral

Drum so laßt uns immerdar
wachen, flehen, beten,
weil die Angst, Not und Gefahr
immer näher treten;
denn die Zeit
ist nicht weit,
da uns Gott wird richten
und die Welt vernichten.

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.

Support us

Support the Bachipedia project as a donor – in order to raise the profile of Bach's vocal oeuvre worldwide and improve access to his works, especially for the young. Thank you very much!

JSB Newsletter

Follow us on: