Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme

BWV 140 // For the Twenty-seventh Sunday after Trinity

(Wake, arise, the voice calls us) for soprano, tenor and bass, vocal ensemble, horn, oboe I+II, taille, bassoon, strings and continuo.

Through their interpretations of the ancient bible stories and parables, baroque church cantatas – almost as a second sermon – strove to provide guidance and instruction that was relevant to the daily lives of the congregations of the time. This was achieved in part by using well-known chorale melodies, but also new librettos for recitatives and arias that were inspired by biblical ideas. Indeed, in Bach’s time the entire Holy Scriptures were considered one entity, and the individual books and passages served to complement and illuminate each other.

J.S. Bach-Stiftung Kantate BWV 140


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«Lutzogram» for the introductory workshop

Rudolf Lutz’s manuscript for the workshop
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The sound recording of this work is available on several streaming and download platforms.






Nuria Rial

Bernhard Berchtold

Markus Volpert


Susanne Frei, Leonie Gloor, Madeline Trösch, Jennifer Rudin

Jan Börner, Antonia Frey, Olivia Heiniger, Lea Scherer

Marcel Fässler, Nicolas Savoy, Walter Siegel

Fabrice Hayoz, Philippe Rayot, William Wood


Rudolf Lutz

Renate Steinmann, Sylvia Gmür, Sabine Hochstrasser, Martin Korrodi, Olivia Schenkel

Violino piccolo
Chiara Banchini (special Guest)

Susanna Hefti, Martina Bischof

Maya Amrein

Iris Finkbeiner

Martin Stadler, Luise Baumgartl

Oboe da caccia
Esther Fluor

Esther Fluor

Susann Landert

Ella Vala Armannsdottir

Norbert Zeilberger

Musical director & conductor

Rudolf Lutz


Karl Graf, Rudolf Lutz

Reflective lecture


Beatrice Von Matt

Recording & editing

Recording date

Recording location

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, 4, 7
Philipp Nicolai, 1599

Text No. 2, 3, 5, 6
Poet unknown

First performance
Twenty-seventh Sunday after Trinity,
25 November 1731

In-depth analysis

Cantata BWV 140 is a perfect example of this type of compositional approach. Three verses of Philipp Nicolai’s hymn of 1599 “Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme” (Wake, arise, the voices call us) function as the underpinnings of the entire work by marking the vibrant E flat major introductory, middle and closing movements respectively. Of particular effect is the monumental introductory chorus, richly scored with four vocal parts, three oboes, strings, horn and continuo. Its chorale melody is sustained in long tones by the soprano voice over a hive of activity in the remaining parts. This creates an effect often described as a musical “awakening”, but that is equally characteristic of a processional (“go forth to meet him as he comes!”). In the same vein, it is possible to interpret the juxtaposed oboe and string parts as representing the ten wise and foolish virgins, or alternatively, as the midnight call and answer recalled in the text. A moment of rapture then emerges in the virtuosic setting of the hallelujah lines – a mood that likewise pervades the cantata’s solo movements.
The tenor recitative “He comes, he comes, the bridegroom comes!” brings the work from biblical times into the present and the world of Christian bridal theology inspired by the Song of Solomon. Bach musically interprets this book of the Bible as a dialogue between Jesus (bass) and the faithful soul (soprano). Nonetheless, their two aria duets (movements 3 and 6) could hardly be more at variance. In a dark C minor, the first aria (“When com’st thou, my Saviour? I’m coming, thy share”) is shaped by questioning pauses and a fragile cantilena from the violino piccolo (which sounds a third higher than a violin) to create a nocturnal adagio serenade pregnant with doubt and uncertainty. In contrast, the second aria, “My friend is mine/And I am thine” – in a bright B flat major and with an obbligato oboe accompaniment – revels in sumptuous consonances and recounts an all-enduring love with infectious joy. It is precluded by a bass recitative (“So come within to me”) that presents the promise of the Highest not as a worn, dogmatic statement, but as a tender avowal of love. As such, the accompanying strings do not impart the glory of the Passion, but rather the glow of enchantment in the eyes of the beloved.
In the chorale trio no. 4, the tenor embodies the veritable “watchman”, who – supported by the lower unison strings – employs the hymn’s simple triadic motive to express the daughter of Zion’s joy about her bridegroom. It is a festive movement that enjoys enduring popularity, particularly in its arrangement for organ (BWV 645) published by Johann Georg Schübler around 1748.
The closing chorale no. 7, “Gloria to thee be sung now”, numbers among those sublime Bach chorale settings which are so genuinely inspiring it seems unthinkable that the congregation could have resisted joining in the singing.


Seele (Sopran)
Jesus (Bass)

1. Choral

Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme
der Wächter sehr hoch auf der Zinne,
wach auf, du Stadt Jerusalem!
Mitternacht heisst diese Stunde;
sie rufen uns mit hellem Munde:
wo seid ihr klugen Jungfrauen?
Wohl auf, der Bräutgam kömmt;
steht auf, die Lampen nehmt!
Macht euch bereit
zu der Hochzeit,
ihr müsset ihm entgegen gehn!

2. Rezitativ (Tenor)

Er kommt, er kommt,
der Bräutgam kommt!
Ihr Töchter Zions, kommt heraus,
sein Ausgang eilet aus der Höhe
in euer Mutter Haus.
Der Bräutgam kommt, der einem Rehe
und jungen Hirsche gleich
auf denen Hügeln springt
und euch das Mahl der Hochzeit bringt.
Wacht auf, ermuntert euch!
den Bräutgam zu empfangen!
Dort, sehet, kommt er hergegangen.

3. Arie (Duett Sopran, Bass)

Wenn kömmst du, mein Heil?
Ich komme, dein Teil.
Ich warte mit brennendem Öle.
Eröffne, den Saal zum himmlischen Mahl.
Ich öffne den Saal zum himmlischen Mahl.
Komm, Jesu!
Komm, liebliche Seele!

4. Choral (Tenor)

Zion hört die Wächter singen,
das Herz tut ihr vor Freuden springen,
sie wachet und steht eilend auf.
Ihr Freund kommt vom Himmel prächtig,
von Gnaden stark, von Wahrheit mächtig,
ihr Licht wird hell, ihr Stern geht auf.
Nun komm, du werte Kron,
Herr Jesu, Gottes Sohn!
Wir folgen all
zum Freudensaal
und halten mit das Abendmahl.

5. Rezitativ (Bass)

So geh herein zu mir,
du mir erwählte Braut!
Ich habe mich mit dir
von Ewigkeit vertraut.
Dich will ich auf mein Herz,
auf meinen Arm gleich wie ein Siegel setzen
und dein betrübtes Aug ergötzen.
Vergiss, o Seele,
nun die Angst, den Schmerz,
den du erdulden müssen;
auf meiner Linken sollst du ruhn,
und meine Rechte soll dich küssen.

6. Arie (Duett Sopran, Bass)

Mein Freund ist mein,
Und ich bin sein,
die Liebe soll nichts scheiden.
Ich will mit dir in Himmels Rosen weiden,
Du sollst mit mir in Himmels Rosen weiden,
da Freude die Fülle, da Wonne wird sein.

7. Choral

Gloria sei dir gesungen
mit Menschen- und englischen Zungen,
mit Harfen und mit Zimbeln schon.
Von zwölf Perlen sind die Pforten,
an deiner Stadt sind wir Konsorten
der Engel hoch um deinen Thron.
Kein Aug hat je gespürt,
kein Ohr hat je gehört
solche Freude.
Des sind wir froh,
io, io!
ewig in dulci jubilo.

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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