All of Bach: a project by the Netherlands Bach Society

Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme

BWV 140 performed by the Netherlands Bach Society
conducted by Jos van Veldhoven
Walloon Church, Amsterdam

"The chorale is the foundation of this composition."

Full of symbolism

The crux is in the middle.

In Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme, everything revolves around the parable of the wise and foolish virgins. They wait throughout the night with burning lamps for the arrival of the bridegroom. Five of them have brought along extra oil to keep their lamp burning. The others run out of oil and go off to buy some more. The bridegroom arrives while they are away. In Bach’s annotated bible, this story from the Gospel of Matthew is explained as an allegory. The wise virgins symbolise burning faith and vigilance. The arrival of the bridegroom stands for the return of Christ. This moment comes at the precise middle of the cantata, in the famous chorale sung by the tenors, which Bach later transcribed for organ.

In the notes on this parable, Bach’s bible also refers to the Songs of Songs, the wedding book of the Old Testament, and to Hebrew comments and wedding practices. In Jewish tradition, too, the bridegroom and bride were defined as the soul and God of Israel and God. If a Jewish inhabitant of Leipzig had been sitting in the Nicolaikirche on the 25th of November 1731, he would have recognised much of the symbolism. The opening chorus where the chorale melody is doubled by a horn may even have reminded him of the shofar, the traditional ram’s horn, which would have sounded at the Jewish New Year at the beginning of October to symbolically shake everyone awake.

Although a nice idea, it is rather improbable, as Jews were not very welcome in the Leipzig of Bach’s day. A couple of weeks before the first performance of BWV 140, merchants from Leipzig had complained fiercely about Jews in the city. Actually, the shared Jewish-Christian symbolism of this cantata is better suited to Naarden, where there was a lively Jewish community and a new synagogue had come into use precisely in 1730. So the Grote Kerk in Naarden is an inspiring setting for this special cantata.


Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme




unknown, probably Picander, 1st, 2nd and 3rd strophe of chorale of the same name by Philipp Nicolai (1599), supplemented by the Song of Songs

twenty-seventh Sunday after Trinity

First performance
25 November 1731

Special notes
The fourth movement, the tenor aria, was transcribed by Bach for organ in the Schübler-Choräle, BWV 645

Cast & Crew

Release date 8 March 2019
Recording date 11 February 2018
Location Walloon Church, Amsterdam
conductor Jos van Veldhoven
soprano Maria Keohane
alto Tim Mead
tenor Daniel Johannsen
bass Matthew Brook
Ripieno soprano Hilde Van Ruymbeke, Marjon Strijk
Ripieno alto Barnabás Hegyi, Marleene Goldstein
Ripieno tenor Kevin Skelton, Guy Cutting
Ripieno bas Drew Santini, Matthew Baker
violin 1 Shunske Sato, Anneke van Haaften, Pieter Affourtit
violin 2 Sayuri Yamagata, Lidewij van der Voort, Paulien Kostense
viola Staas Swierstra, Jan Willem Vis
cello Lucia Swarts, Richte van der Meer
double bass Robert Franenberg
oboe Martin Stadler, Peter Frankenberg
oboe da caccia Yongcheon Shin
bassoon Benny Aghassi
tromba da tirarsi Robert Vanryne
organ Leo van Doeselaar
harpsichord Siebe Henstra
Director and editor Bas Wielenga
Music recording Guido Tichelman, Bastiaan Kuijt, Pim van der Lee
Music edit and mix Guido Tichelman
Camera Merijn Vrieling, Ivo Palmen, Martin Struijf, Bjorn Tiebout
Lights Zen Bloot, Henry Rodgers, Patrick Galvin
Assistant director Ferenc Soeteman
Video engineer Vincent Nugteren
Set technique Dennis van Hoek
Data handling Jesper Blok
Project manager NEP Peter Ribbens
Interview Onno van Ameijde, Marloes Biermans
Producer concert Imke Deters
Producer film Jessie Verbrugh

Vocal Texts


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 Bräutgam kömmt,
steht auf, die Lampen nehmt!
Alleluja! Macht euch bereit
zu der Hochzeit, ihr müsset ihm
entgegen gehn!

2. Rezitativ (Tenor)

Er kommt, er kommt,
der Bräut’gam kommt!
Ihr Töchter Zions, kommt heraus,
sein Ausgang eilet aus der Höhe
in euer Mutter Haus.
Der Bräutgam kommt, der einen Rehe
und jungen Hirsche gleich
auf denen Hügeln springt
und euch das Mahl der Hochzeit
bringt. Wacht auf, ermuntert euch!
den Bräutgam zu empfangen!
Dort, sehet, kommt er hergegangen.

3. Duett (Sopran - ziel, Bass - Jesus)

Wenn kömmst du, mein Heil?
Ich komme, dein Teil.
Ich warte mit brennenden Öle.
Eröffne den Saal.
Ich öffne den Saal
Seele, Jesus
zum himmlischen Mahl.
Komm, Jesu!
Ich komme, komm, liebliche Seele!

4. Choral (Tenor)

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.

5. Rezitativ (Bass)

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.

6. Duett (Sopran - ziel, Bass - Jesus)

Mein Freund ist mein,
und ich bin sein,
Seele, Jesus
die Liebe soll nichts scheiden.

Ich will mit dir
du sollst mit mir
Seele, Jesus
im Himmels Rosen weiden,
da Freude die Fülle, da Wonne wird sein.

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,
io, io!
ewig in dulci jubilo.


1. Chorus

Wake up, cries the watchmen’s voice
high up on the battlements;
wake up, city of Jerusalem!
This is the midnight hour;
they call to us with ringing voices:
where are you, wise virgins?
Make haste, the Bridegroom comes;
rise up, and take your lamps!
Alleluia! Prepare yourselves
for the wedding,
you must set out to meet Him!

2. Recitative

He comes, He comes,
the Bridegroom comes!
Go forth, O ye daughters of Zion,
the dayspring hastens from on high
into your mother’s house.
The Bridegroom comes, like a roe
or a young hart,
skipping upon the hills
and bringing you the wedding feast.
Awaken, be of good cheer,
to welcome the Bridegroom here!
There, see, behold Him coming!

3. Duet

When wilt thou come, my Salvation?
I am coming, a part of you.
I wait, my lamp lit with burning oil.
Open the hall
I open the hall
Soul, Jesus
for the heavenly feast!
Come, Jesus!
I come; come, beloved soul!

4. Chorale

Zion hears the watchmen singing,
her heart throbs with joy,
she wakens and rises with haste.
Her friend descends from heaven in splendour, strong in mercy,
mighty in truth,
her light grows bright,
her star ascends.
Come, now, Thou worthy crown,
Lord Jesus, the Son of God!
We shall all follow
to the hall of rejoicing
and join the Lord’s Supper.

5. Recitative

So, enter in to me,
you, my chosen bride!
I have wedded myself to you
for all eternity!
I would set you on my heart
and on my arm
as a seal
and gladden once more your troubled eye.
Forget now, O soul,
the fear and grief
you have had to bear;
on my left hand shall you rest,
and my right hand shall embrace you.

6. Duet

My friend is mine,
and I am his!
Soul, Jesus
Nothing shall divide this love.

I shall partake with Thee of Heaven’s rosy pastures,
You shall partake with me of Heaven’s rosy pastures, where there will be joy in abundance, and bliss!

7. Chorale

Glory now be sung to Thee
with tongues of angels and mankind,
with harps and with cymbals.
The portals are made of twelve pearls,
in Thy city we are consorts
of the angels high about Thy throne.
No eye has ever seen,
no ear has ever heard
such joy!
Therefore we are glad,
io, io,
eternally in dulci jubilo.


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