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 Sleepers awake! Johann Sebastian Bach

It has been my absolute joy of late, to discover that J. S. Bach (1685-1750)Christian composer, clearly shows in his Cantata 140 - Sleepers Awake - "Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme", that he considered it to be for this life and not for the end of time. His musical interpretation of the event - baptism of the Spirit sends chills down my spine, it being so perfectly depicted.

Here is one version of it though I think Sir John Gardiner does the best albeit without German choristers which is an annoyance with their pronunciation :

This one is quite good

I just pray that it will be a blessing to someone. Here are the words in German and English.

BWV 140 -

Cantata for the Twenty-Seventh Sunday after Trinity

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?
Wohlauf, der Bräut’gam kömmt,
steht auf, die Lampen nehmt,
Macht euch bereit
zu der Hochzeit,
ihr müsset ihm entgegengehn.
(" Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme,"

verse 1) 1. Chorus
Awake, calls the voice to us
of the watchmen high up in the tower;
awake, you city of Jerusalem.
Midnight the hour is named;
they call to us with bright voices;
where are you, wise virgins?
Indeed, the Bridegroom comes;
rise up and take your lamps,
Make yourselves ready
for the wedding,
you must go to meet Him.

2. Rezitativ T
Er kommt, er kommt,
der Bräut’gam kommt,
ihr Töchter Zions, kommt heraus,
Sein Ausgang eilet aus der Höhe
in euer Mutter Haus.
Der Bräut’gam kommt, der einen Rehe
und jungen Hirschen gleich
auf denen Hügeln springt
und euch das Mahl der Hochzeit bringt.
Wacht auf, ermuntert euch,
den Bräut’gam zu empfangen;
dort, sehet, kommt er hergegangen.

2. Recitative T
He comes, He comes,
the Bridegroom comes,
O Zion's daughters, come out,
his course runs from the heights
into your mother's house.
The Bridegroom comes, who like a roe
and young stag
leaps upon the hills;
to you He brings the wedding feast.
Rise up, take heart,
to embrace the bridegroom;
there, look, He comes this way.

3. Arie- Duett S B (Dialog - Seele, Jesus)
Wenn kömmst du, mein Heil?
- Ich komme, dein Teil. -
Ich warte mit brennenden Öle.
Eröffne den Saal
- Ich öffne den Saal -
zum himmlischen Mahl.
Komm, Jesu.
- Ich komme, komm, liebliche Seele. -

3 Aria - Duet S B (Dialogue - Soul, Jesus)
When will You come, my Savior?
- I come, as Your portion. -
I wait with burning oil.
Now open the hall
- I open the hall -
for the heavenly meal.
Come, Jesus!
- I come, come, lovely soul! -

4. Choral T
Zion hört die Wächter singen,
das Herz tut ihr vor Freuden springen,
sie wachet und steht eilend auf.
Ihr Freund kommt von 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.
(" Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme,"

verse 2) 4. Chorale T
Zion hears the watchmen sing,
her heart leaps for joy within her,
she wakens and hastily arises.
Her glorious Friend comes from heaven,
strong in mercy, powerful in truth,
her light becomes bright, her star rises.
Now come, precious crown,
Lord Jesus, the Son of God!
We all follow
to the hall of joy
and hold the evening meal together.

5. Rezitativ B
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 Sigel 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.

5. Recitative B
So come in to Me,
you My chosen bride!
I have to you
eternally betrothed Myself.
I will set you upon My heart,
upon My arm as a seal,
and delight your troubled eye.
Forget, O soul, now
the fear, the pain
which you have had to suffer;
upon My left hand you shall rest,
and My right hand shall kiss you.

6. Arie - Duett S B (Dialog - Seele, Jesus)
Mein Freund ist mein,
-und ich bin sein,-
die Liebe soll nichts scheiden.
Ich will mit dir
-du sollst mit mir-
im Himmels Rosen weiden,
da Freude die Fülle, da Wonne wird sein.

6. Aria - Duet S B (Dialogue - Soul, Jesus)
My Friend is mine,
- and I am yours, -
love will never part us.
I will with You
- you will with Me -
graze among heaven’s roses,
where complete pleasure and delight will be.

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 deine Thron.
Kein Aug’ hat je gespürt,
kein Ohr hat je gehört
solche Freude,
des sind wir froh,
ewig in dulci jubilo.
("Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme," verse 3)

7. Chorale
Let Gloria be sung to You
with mortal and angelic tongues,
with harps and even with cymbals.
Of twelve pearls the portals are made,
In Your city we are companions
Of the angels high around Your throne.
No eye has ever perceived,
no ear has ever heard
such joy
like our happiness,
Io, io,
eternally in dulci jubilo!

"Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme," Philipp Nicolai (mov'ts. 1, 4, & 7)
©Pamela Dellal

Emmanuel Music is the Ensemble-in-Residence at Emmanuel Church
15 Newbury Street • Boston, MA 02116 • 617.536.3356 • [email protected]

 2013/8/20 2:45

Joined: 2008/10/25
Posts: 3417
This world is not my home anymore.

 Re: Sleepers awake! Johann Sebastian Bach

I wanted to hear it and would this be it? the audio is 28 minutes long... It's beautiful.

The youtube description says:
A church cantata by German composer Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750), with the cantata chorale based on the Lutheran hymn "Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme" ("Sleepers awake, the voice is calling") by Philipp Nicolai. The text is based on the Parable of the Ten Virgins in Matthew 25:1-13, the reading of which is scheduled for the 27th Sunday after Trinity in the Lutheran lectionary. This cantata was first performed in Leipzig on November 25, 1731. Bach later transcribed the fourth movement chorale for organ (BWV 645) and published it along with the Schübler Chorales.


 2013/8/20 10:05Profile


Yes indeed Lisa beautiful though I like the Sir John Gardiner conducted performance with the Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists best. The tempo seems perfect to me and the crispness of it. Many versions of it sound too 'soft'. The refrain in the first movement with Gardiner - da-dadada-da-dadada to me is the sound of the heartbeat of excitement when one comes into the presence of God.

I am a great Bach fan.

 2013/8/20 10:31

Joined: 2005/1/9
Posts: 1100
Germany NRW


Very beautiful indeed, especially the German original. God gave us a man with exceptional musical talent and his music still bares witness of God today.

Sadly, we are unaccustomed to such depth of Christian lyrics nowadays.

 2013/8/20 17:42Profile


Yes I agree. When we have this as our heritage, it seems criminal to me that it is not used much or not at all in the church.

 2013/8/21 1:48

Joined: 2006/6/28
Posts: 3405
Dallas, Texas


Bach actually did not write the texts to the cantatas. His job was to set them to music. They were written by poets and other librettists. Most of the 200 plus extant liturgical cantatas of JS Bach require superior instrumental skill and vocal agility to perform even satisfactorily. Things are not the same in church settings today as they were back in the 1720's and 30's. Bach's Lutheran church cantatas are considered the crowning musical achievement of man, even by the estimation of atheistic musicologists. Many of the arias and solo obbligati violin and oboe lines demand a virtuostic skill that far surpasses anything a "normal" worship ensemble is able to reproduce today. Musicians and singers who lived in Bach's day were pretty much all virtuosi. People took music a lot more serious back then and were expected to be highly disciplined. This sort of skill today is found only in Conservatories and in other secular and professional settings, but hardly ever in a church. Another sad instance of artistic degradation, of the integrity of what was once designated to be for the glory of God redesignated to the glory of man and the esteem of the world.

Paul Frederick West

 2013/8/21 8:58Profile


Anyone attending a junior school concert in Germany today, would be amazed at the highly trained musical skills of the children playing classical pieces. Listening to them, it is easy to imagine what took place in churches in Bach's day. They still take music very seriously indeed. In public libraries, there are sections named 'Classical music for babies' containing sizeable collections of cd's, a lot of them produced just for that purpose,and mothers are encouraged to introduce babies to it very early. Every neighbourhood, has frequent public performances for adults and Beethoven is very popular indeed. It is quite a different world.

I think it is a shame that we cannot have more recorded performances of Bach's sacred works in our gatherings as part of worship. Even atheists who love and perform Bach's works come to believe that there is likely to be a God. I was listening to Sir John Gardiner who said that very thing. I find the works very spiritually uplifting myself.

It's a bit disappointing to hear that Bach did not write the cantatas but nevertheless, they were written by believers and Bach's beliefs do come across though in the way he set those texts to music.

 2013/8/22 1:35

Joined: 2006/6/28
Posts: 3405
Dallas, Texas


I don't think people have the attention span today to sit through an entire cantata. The music is too magnificent to be appreciated by contemporary listeners. The public requires undemanding repetition; anything more would result in mass boredom. The German would need to be translated and put on a projector. Charles Wesley and Isaac Watts have a hard enough time as it is getting "airtime" in a church without ommiting entire stanzas for the sake of attention preservaton.

I collect the Bach cantatas. I believe they are the greatest miracle in all of music. I have a recording of BWV 4 "Christ Lag in Todesbanden" by Gardiner and also "Aus der Tiefen Rufe Ich Herr Zu Dir" by him. The best versions in my opinion! But I prefer the modem instrumentation by Rilling for most others. It's nice to find something we can finally agree on.

Paul Frederick West

 2013/8/22 8:04Profile


I too am pleased that we have found something to agree on and am of the same opinion regarding Bach's cantatas being the greatest musical miracles of all.

I have the Masaaki Suzuki version of BWV 4 "Christ Lag in Todesbanden" and also "Aus der Tiefen Rufe Ich Herr Zu Dir" but I do like the Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists. I have not listened yet to Rilling but will now look for him on you tube. Can you get the BBC documentaries in the US on you tube? There are some very good ones on Bach.

I recently obtained a boxed set by Gardiner, including St Matthews and St Johns Passion which was quite a bargain.

Although whole cantatas would as you say be too much, the most famous movements could be played, and appreciated I am sure, and after all, nothing is required but to sit and listen even without English interpretation, whereas using Wesley and Watts hymns in the service require one to participate.

It looks like the devil does indeed get the best music.

 2013/8/23 2:24

Joined: 2005/1/9
Posts: 1100
Germany NRW


I play some Bach pieces on the classical guitar, though the guitar was not invented in his time. These are transcriptions from the lute suites or violincello solo suites. Very challanging and enriching for the soul.

 2013/8/23 7:18Profile

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