Sunday, April 17, 2011

Himmelskönig, sei willkommen

J.S. Bach: Cantata BWV.182, Chorus 'Himmelskönig, sei willkommen'

Himmelskönig, sei willkommen,
King of heaven, welcome,
Laß auch uns dein Zion sein!
let us also be your Zion!
Komm herein,
Come within,
Du hast uns das Herz genommen.
You have taken our hearts from us.

More information on this cantata via

Not nearly as famous as No. 140, "Wachet auf. . ." this cantata too is a glorious and vivid depiction of great multitude of people.  Here the scene is the throng greeting Christ as He enters Jerusalem and the chorus is open and airy in G major. The fugal form is a naturally fine fit to depict such a scene, the entrances of the voices providing a perfectly appropriate structure for Christ's procession. Too the counterpoint provides a structure for the busyness, though the fugal subject itself contributes to the sense of liveliness with its shift into semiquavers:
BWV.182, Chorus I, m.1-2
After the theme enters in all of the solo voices it enters in canon in the strings and at last up high in the flute, which proceeds to elaborate on it. Then a shorter fugal subject on "Laß auch uns dein Zion sein! Let us also be your Zion!" enters in the soprano and alto, gently lifting the fervor of the expression and excitement of the scene without it becoming garrulous.

BWV.182, Chorus 1, m.12-14
As the flute continues on over the crowd the rising and falling gestures of its figures now seem to give them a palmy character as the choir repeats, "let us also be your Zion." The flute and violin then treat the first subject in canon as the choir exclaims together "welcome" and is answered by the violas and cellos.  They conclude together, "Komm herein, Come within." Bach then treats the second and last lines of the text with a series of four short canons at the octave and only a crotchet apart, all beginning S. A. T. B., a treatment which emphasizes that two lines both ask for unity with Christ.

A joyous, moving piece and a concise example of Bach's profound unity of style, structure, and expression.

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