BWV 194
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BWV 194

BWV 194
Hildebrandt-Orgel Störmthal.jpg
The organ at Störmthal, where the cantata was first performed
Relatedbased on BWV 194a
OccasionInauguration of church and organ
Performed2 November 1723 (1723-11-02): Störmthal
  • SATB choir
  • soprano, tenor and bass soloists
  • 3 oboes
  • bassoon
  • 2 violins
  • viola
  • continuo

Höchsterwünschtes Freudenfest (Most highly desired festival of joy),[1],[a] is a church cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach. He composed it in Leipzig for dedication of the church and organ at Störmthal on 2 November 1723.

The cantata text was written by an anonymous poet, including two stanzas of Johann Heermann's hymn "Treuer Gott, ich muß dir klagen" (1630) and two stanzas of Paul Gerhardt's "Wach auf, mein Herz, und singe" (1647). Bach used an earlier secular cantata as a base for a structure in two parts of six movements each, beginning with an extended choral movement and concluding both parts with chorale stanzas. The inner movements are alternating recitatives and arias. The chorales are the only movements which were certainly newly composed for the occasion. Bach scored the work for three vocal soloists, a four-part choir and a Baroque instrumental ensemble of three oboes, bassoon, strings and continuo. After the first performance in Störmthal, Bach performed the cantata again in Leipzig for Trinity Sunday, first on 4 June 1724, a shortened version in 1726, and the complete version in 1731.

History and text

The first known performance of the cantata was at Störmthal, a village near Leipzig. The church there had been rebuilt, and a new organ been built on a commission by Statz Friedrich von Fullen. The organ was an early work by Zacharias Hildebrandt. Von Fullen requested an approval of the instrument from Johann Sebastian Bach, who was then Thomaskantor in Leipzig. Bach was satisfied and composed this cantata for the dedication service for the church and the organ on 2 November 1723.[2] The text deals with the inauguration of the church. The organ has no solo function in the cantata.[3]

The cantata text was written by an anonymous poet, who took Solomon's prayer for the dedication of the temple as a starting point to reflect the church as the house of God. Frequent Biblical references throughout the text suggest that the author was a theologian.[3] He included as movement 6, ending Part I, stanzas 6 and 7 of Johann Heermann's hymn "Treuer Gott, ich muß dir klagen" (1630), and as the closing chorale, stanzas 9 and 10 of Paul Gerhardt's "Wach auf, mein Herz, und singe" (1647).[4][5]

Scholars such as John Eliot Gardiner assume that Bach based the cantata on a lost work , probably composed at Köthen for an unknown occasion.[6] The music of movements 2, 4, 6, 7, 8 and 10 is lost, and only instrumental parts of the other movements are extant. Bach added the chorales for the 1723 dedication service. Höchsterwünschtes Freudenfest shows musical similarities also to Preise, Jerusalem, den Herrn, BWV 119, written for the inauguration of the Leipzig town council a few weeks earlier.[3]

Bach led the first performance at the dedication service in Störmthal.[2] The printed text mentions Bach as "Hochfürstl. Anhalt-Cöthenischen Capell-Meister, auch Directore Chori musici Lipsiensis" (Kapellmeister to the Prince of Anhalt-Köthen and Director of the Choir at Leipzig), referring to his appointments in the service of Leopold, Prince of Anhalt-Köthen.[5] The organ of Störmthal is notable as one of few such instruments still mostly unaltered since Bach's time.[2] A restorer in 1934 remarked that it was tuned about a whole tone lower than 440, which may account for the unusually high vocal ranges.[3] Bach demanded "top Cs" from the sopranos, which is unique in his sacred cantatas.[6] The organ part prepared for the Leipzig revival is notated a minor third lower than the other instruments.[3]

Bach revived the cantata for performances in Leipzig for Trinity Sunday. The prescribed readings for Trinity were Romans 11:33-36, and John 3:1-15, the meeting of Jesus and Nicodemus.[4] The general topic and even an "invocation of the Trinity" in movement 6 made for an easy transition. On 4 June 1724, Bach concluded his first cantata cycle with this work. On 16 June 1726, he presented a shortened version, with movements appearing in the order 12, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 10. The 12-movement version was again performed on 20 May 1731.[7]

Structure and scoring

Bach structured the cantata in two parts of six movements each. It is scored for three vocal soloists (soprano (S), tenor (T) and bass (B)), a four-part choir (SATB), and a Baroque instrumental ensemble of three oboes (Ob), bassoon (Fg), two violins (Vl), viola (Va) and basso continuo.[8]

In the following table of the movements, the scoring follows the Neue Bach-Ausgabe. The keys and time signatures are taken from the Bach scholar Alfred Dürr, using the symbol for common time (4/4). The instruments are shown separately for winds and strings, while the continuo, playing throughout, is not shown.

Movements of Höchsterwünschtes Freudenfest
No. Title Text Type Vocal Winds Strings Key Time
1 Höchsterwünschtes Freudenfest anon. Chorus SATB 3Ob Fg 2Vl Va
  • common time
  • 3/4
  • common time
2 Unendlich großer Gott, ach wende dich anon. Recitative B common time
3 Was des Höchsten Glanz erfüllt anon. Aria B Ob 2Vl Va B-flat major 12/8
4 Wie könnte dir, du höchstes Angesicht anon. Recitative S common time
5 Hilf, Gott, dass es uns gelingt anon. Aria S 2Vl Va E-flat major common time
6 Heilger Geist ins Himmels Throne Heermann Chorale SATB 3Ob 2Vl Va B-flat major common time
7 Ihr Heiligen, erfreuet euch anon. Recitative T common time
8 Des Höchsten Gegenwart allein anon. Aria T common time
9 Kann wohl ein Mensch zu Gott im Himmel steigen anon. Recitative (Duetto) S B common time
10 O wie wohl ist uns geschehn anon. Aria (Duetto) S B 2Ob F major 3/4
11 Wohlan demnach, du heilige Gemeine anon. Recitative B common time
12 Sprich Ja zu meinen Taten Paul Gerhardt Chorale SATB 3Ob 2Vl Va B-flat major 3/4


The music has an often dance-like character. All recitatives, the majority of the solo movements, are secco, accompanied only by the continuo.[3] Most of them are followed by an aria performed by the same voice type.

Part I begins with a chorus in the style of a French overture with a solemn opening and a fast fugal central section.[3] The bass sings a recitative and an aria, accompanied by solo oboe and strings. The soprano sings a modulating recitative and an aria in the style of a gavotte. A four-part harmonization of the chorale ends the first part.[9]

Part II begins with the tenor singing a recitative and a da capo aria in a minor mode, characterized by its extensive use of dotted rhythms. A dialogue recitative for bass and soprano leads to a duet aria with oboes and continuo. After a declamatory bass recitative, the work ends with another four-part chorale setting.[9]


The entries are taken from the listing on the Bach Cantatas Website.[4] Ensembles with period instruments in historically informed performance are marked by green background.

Recordings of Höchsterwünschtes Freudenfest
Title Conductor / Choir / Orchestra Soloists Label Year Orch. type
Die Bach Kantate Vol. 65 Helmuth Rilling
Gächinger Kantorei
Bach-Collegium Stuttgart
Hänssler 1977 (1977)
J. S. Bach: Das Kantatenwerk (Complete Cantatas). Folge / Vol. 44 - BWV 192, 194-195 Nikolaus Harnoncourt|Nikolaus Harnoncourt]]]]
Tölzer Knabenchor
Concentus Musicus Wien
Teldec 1997 (1997) Period
J. S. Bach: Complete Cantatas Vol. 9 Ton Koopman
Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra & Choir
Erato 1998 (1998) Period
Bach Edition Vol. 15 - Cantatas Vol. 8 Pieter Jan Leusink
Holland Boys Choir
Netherlands Bach Collegium
Brilliant Classics 2000 (2000) Period
Bach Cantatas Vol. 27: Blythburgh/Kirkwall / For Whit Tuesday / For Trinity Sunday John Eliot Gardiner
Monteverdi Choir
English Baroque Soloists
Soli Deo Gloria 2000 (2000) Period
J. S. Bach: Cantatas Vol. 16 - Cantatas from Leipzig 1723 - BWV 119, 194 Masaaki Suzuki
Bach Collegium Japan
BIS 2000 (2000) Period


  1. ^ "BWV" is Bach-Werke-Verzeichnis, a thematic catalogue of Bach's works.


  1. ^ Dellal, Pamela. "BWV 194 - Höchsterwünschtes Freudenfest". Emmanuel Music. Retrieved 2016.
  2. ^ a b c "Recording sessions at the / Hildebrandt organ of Störmthal, Germany (1723)". Retrieved 2015.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Hofmann, Klaus (2001). "Höchsterwünschtes Freudenfest. BWV 194" (PDF). Bach Cantatas Website. pp. 5-6, 9. Retrieved 2016.
  4. ^ a b c Oron, Aryeh. "Cantata BWV 194 Höchsterwünschtes Freudenfest". Bach Cantatas Website. Retrieved 2012.
  5. ^ a b Wolff, Christoph (2001). "The first annual cycle (1723-1724) of Bach's church cantatas (IV)" (PDF). Bach Cantatas Website. pp. 9-10. Retrieved 2016.
  6. ^ a b Gardiner, John Eliot (2008). "Cantatas for Trinity Sunday / St Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall" (PDF). Bach Cantatas Website. pp. 7-9. Retrieved 2016.
  7. ^ Dürr, Alfred (2006). The Cantatas of J. S. Bach: With Their Librettos in German-English Parallel Text. Translated by Richard D. P. Jones. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-929776-4.
  8. ^ Bischof, Walter F. "BWV 194 Höchsterwünschtes Freudenfest". University of Alberta. Retrieved 2013.
  9. ^ a b Mincham, Julian. "Chapter 61 BWV 194 Höchsterwünschtes Freudenfest / Greatly desired feast of joy". jsbachcantatas. Retrieved 2013.


  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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