All of Bach: a project by the Netherlands Bach Society

Aus der Tiefen rufe ich, Herr, zu dir

BWV 131 performed by the Netherlands Bach Society conducted by Jos van Veldhoven
Oostkerk, Middelburg

Oboist Martin Stadler, conductor Jos van Veldhoven, tenor Charles Daniels tell how they use the text to make music.

According to the book

Waiting for salvation can take a long time. But halfway, a ray of hope glimmers.

It is already clear from the opening line that this is not just about slight misfortune, but deep misery. At the word ‘depth’, the voices literally plummet. The piece comes from the very beginning of Bach’s career, during his time as organist in Mühlhausen. He was then in his early twenties and trying his hand at vocal church music for the first time. He did so properly, according to the book, and in stylistic line with his seventeenth-century fellow musicians. There are no recitatives as yet and the movements run into one another more or less without interruption. They begin with a slow section, and then usually end quickly – like a sort of prelude and fugue. Like most early cantatas, this one too is symmetrical, with the chorus ‘Ich harre des Herrn’ as the central point. This is also where the mood changes. The beginning focuses mainly on the misery, whereas the third movement holds out a ray of hope. In the tenor’s aria, Bach goes on to illustrate quite literally that waiting can take a long time – listen out for the word ‘wartet’. The piece feels long even for the singer, as Charles Daniels explains in the interview.

We do not know for which occasion the piece was intended. In view of the text – a penitential psalm combined with a penitential chorale – it would have fitted very well in a ‘penitential service’. It is not known whether this sort of service was held regularly in Mühlhausen or only on special occasions. Just before Bach arrived in Mühlhausen, there had been a big fire, so there was cause for such a service.

It is interesting that Bach himself wrote at the bottom of the score that the cantata was composed at the request of Georg Christian Eilmar. He was the preacher in St Mary’s Church in Mühlhausen, although Bach himself worked at St Blaise’s Church. Eilmar was to become a good friend and later became godfather to Bach’s eldest daughter.


Aus der Tiefen rufe ich, Herr, zu dir


ca. 1707-08


Psalm 130 and two chorale verses. Compiler unknown


First performance
unknown, but possibly Bach’s first cantata.

The fugue from the final movement also exists as an organ work: the Fugue in G minor, BWV 131a/Anh. II 42. The authorship and dating of this piece have not been established.

Cast & Crew

Release date 3 June 2016
Recording date 16 May 2015
Location Oostkerk, Middelburg
Conductor Jos van Veldhoven
Soprano Dorothee Mields
alto Alex Potter
tenor Charles Daniels
bass Tobias Berndt
ripieno soprano Marjon Strijk
ripieno alto Barnabás Hegyi
ripieno tenor Immo Schröder
ripieno bass Jelle Draijer
VIOLIN 1 Shunske Sato
cello Lucia Swarts
viola da gamba Mieneke van der Velden, Ricardo Rodriguez Miranda
oboe Martin Stadler
BASSOON Benny Aghassi
theorbo Mike Fentross
organ Siebe Henstra
MUSIC RECORDING Guido Tichelman, Bastiaan Kuijt, Micha de Kanter
Music producer and editor Guido Tichelman
CAMERA Maarten van Rossem, Paul Caspers, Jorrit Garretsen, Rieks Soepenberg
GAFFER Daan de Boer, Denny Schoute
Make-up Erica Stuyfzand
Colorist Daphne Maierna
concert Production Erik van Lith, Marco Meijdam
ProducER Jessie Verbrugh

Vocal Texts


1. Chor

Aus der Tiefen rufe ich, Herr, zu dir.
Herr, höre meine Stimme,
lass deine Ohren merken
auf die Stimme meines Flehens!

2. Arioso (Bass), Choral (Sopran)

So du willst, Herr, Sünde zurechnen,
Herr, wer wird bestehen?
Erbarm dich mein in solcher Last,
nimm sie aus meinem Herzen,
dieweil du sie gebüsset hast
am Holz mit Todesschmerzen,
Denn bei dir ist die Vergebung,
dass man dich fürchte.
auf dass ich nicht mit grossem Weh
in meinen Sünden untergeh,
noch ewiglich verzage.

3. Chor 

Ich harre des Herrn,
meine Seele harret, und ich
hoffe auf sein Wort.

4. Arie (Tenor)

Meine Seele wartet auf den Herrn
von einer Morgenwache
bis zu der andern.
Und weil ich denn in meinem Sinn,
wie ich zuvor geklaget,
auch ein betrübter Sünder bin,
den sein Gewissen naget,
und wollte gern im Blute dein
von Sünden abgewaschen sein
wie David und Manasse.

5. Chor 

Israel hoffe auf den Herrn;
denn bei dem Herrn ist
die Gnade und viel Erlösung bei ihm.
Und er wird Israel erlösen
aus allen seinen Sünden.


1. Chorus

Out of the depths have I cried unto Thee, 
O Lord. Lord, hear my voice:
let Thine ears be attentive to
the voice of my supplications.

2. Arioso, Chorale

If Thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities,
O Lord,
who shall stand?
Have mercy on me in such torment,

remove it from my heart,

for Thou hast atoned for it

with pains of death upon the cross, 

But there is forgiveness with Thee, 

that Thou mayest be feared. 

so that I might not with grievous
perish in my sins,
or despair for evermore.

3. Chorus

I wait for the Lord,
my soul doth wait,
and in His word 
do I hope.

4. Aria 

My soul waiteth for the Lord
more than 
they that watch
for the morning. 

Because I in my heart,

as I have hitherto lamented,

am also a troubled sinner, 

gnawed at by his conscience,

and would gladly in
Thy blood 
be washed clean of sin,

like David and Manasseh.

5. Chorus

Let Israel hope in the Lord:
for with the Lord there 
is mercy, and with Him is plenteous redemption. 

And He shall redeem Israel
from all her iniquities.


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