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April 1, 2012

Bach Cantatas (17): Palm Sunday (April 1)

Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Easter, commemorates Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem, an event mentioned in all four canonical Gospels.

Although Palm Sunday was tempus clausum, a Sunday without music, in Leipzig, we have one cantata for this Sunday from Bach's previous period in Weimar. In March 1714 Bach was appointed Konzertmeister to the Duke of Weimar and his new tasks included the provision of cantatas for the ducal chapel. In Leipzig, Bach used this same cantata on March 25, the Feast of Annunciation.

Epistle: Philippians 2: 5-11 / 1 Corinthians 11: 23-32 (Christ humbles Himself even unto death);
Gospel: Matthew 21: 1-9


  • Himmelskönig, sei willkommen, BWV 182, first on Palm Sunday 25 March 1714

    1. Sonata
    2. Coro: Himmelskönig, sei willkommen
    3. Recitativo (bass): Siehe, ich komme, im Buch ist von mir geschrieben
    4. Aria (bass, violin, two violas): Starkes Lieben
    5. Aria (alto, recorder): Leget euch dem Heiland unter
    6. Aria (tenor): Jesu, laß durch Wohl und Weh
    7. Chorale: Jesu, deine Passion ist mir lauter Freude
    8. Coro: So lasset uns gehen in Salem der Freuden

    ("King of Heaven, be thou welcome"). One of Bach's earliest cantatas, with a charming chamber-sized orchestration. The text describes the joyous Entry in Jerusalem followed by a meditation on the Passion. The Entry is compared to Jesus' entry into the heart of the believer, who will reap heavenly joy in return. The opening sonata is in the French style and depicts the arrival of the King. The da capo chorus begins with a permutation fugue. After a short recitative, follows a (for Bach unusual) sequence of three arias, by bass, alto and tenor. The bass reflects on divine love. The alto - accompanied by treble recorder - urges Christians to have Faith in the Savior. "Lay yourselves beneath the Savior, hearts that are Christian" - these phrases have been aptly set to a descending melody, symbolizing the prostration before Christ. The tenor expresses the agony of the via crucis, accompanied by a cello continuo. The cantata concludes with two choruses, an elaborate fugal choral and a lighter, almost dancing choral fantasia that resembles a 17th c. German motet. Overall, this is a light and joyful cantata.  (***)

(1) New Year's Day (2) New Year I (3) Epiphany (4) Epiphany I (5) Epiphany II (6) Epiphany III (7) Epiphany IV (8) Feast of Purification of Mary (9) Septuagesima (10) Sexagesima (11) Quinquagesima (Estomihi) (12) The Consecration of a New Organ (13) The Inauguration of the Town Council (14) Oculi (15) Wedding Cantatas (16) Feast of Annunciation (17) Palm Sunday (18) Easter Sunday (19) Easter Monday (20) Easter Tuesday (21) Easter I (Quasimodogeniti) (22) Easter II (23) Easter III (24) Easter IV (25) Easter V (26) Ascension Day (27) Ascension I (28) Pentecost Sunday (29) Pentecost Monday (30) Pentecost Tuesday (31) Trinity Sunday (32) Trinity I (33) Trinity II (34) Trinity III (35) St. John's Day (36) Trinity IV (37) Visitation (38) Trinity V (39) Trinity VI (40) Trinity VII (41) Trinity VIII (42) Trinity IX (43) Trinity X (44) Trinity XI (45) Trinity XII (46) Trinity XIII (47) Trinity XIV (48) Trinity XV (49) Trinity XVI (50) Trinity XVII (51) Trinity XVIII (52) Trinity XIX (53) Trinity XX (54) Trinity XXI (55) Trinity XXII (56) Trinity XXIII (57) Trinity XXIV (58) Trinity XXV-XXVII (59) Advent I-IV (60) Christmas Day (61) Second Day of Christmas (62) Third Day of Christmas (63) Sunday after Christmas