All of Bach: a project by the Netherlands Bach Society

O ewiges Feuer, o Ursprung der Liebe

BWV 34 performed by the Netherlands Bach Society conducted by Jos van Veldhoven
Walloon Church, Amsterdam

"In the key aria Bach creates new instruments."


How wedding music was easy to transform into a Whitsun cantata.

Until recently, it was thought that this Whitsun cantata was one of the last cantatas in Bach’s oeuvre. The manuscript of the score, largely in Bach’s own handwriting, dates from a few years before his death. However, a libretto discovered recently in St Petersburg shows that the cantata is much older and was performed for the first time on 1 June 1727. The work was presented in Leipzig on Whit Sunday, at the Nikolaikirche during the morning service and at the Thomaskirche during vespers. Even then, the work was not totally new. The chorus sections and the alto aria, the most essential parts, reuse material originating from a wedding cantata of the same name but much more extensive (BWV 34a), which Bach had composed at an earlier stage.

Although the happy couple has never been identified, the bridegroom was probably a preacher. This is indicated by the alto aria in the wedding version, which refers to a flock of sheep (the congregation), the shepherd Jacob (the preacher) and his love Rachel (the bride). This metaphor also explains the sweet pastoral character of the music, with two ‘shepherd’s’ pipes and strings that play con sordino (muted). The wedding cantata makes allusions to the Holy Spirit, so it could easily be transformed into a Whitsun cantata. From fiery love it is just a small step to the flames of the Holy Spirit.

O ewiges Feuer, o Ursprung der Liebe is one of the few cantatas in Bach’s oeuvre without a chorale. In the wedding cantata, the final chorus, ‘Friede über Israel’, was not the ending, but the introduction to the solemnisation of the marriage. The solemnity is stylistically reminiscent of Bach’s contemporary, Georg Friedrich Handel.


O ewiges Feuer, o Ursprung der Liebe


1727, originally a wedding cantata 1726



Whit Sunday

First performance
1 June 1727

Special notes
This Whitsun cantata is an arrangement of a wedding cantata written in 1726.

Cast & Crew

Release date 18 May 2018
Recording date 13 May 2017
Location Walloon Church, Amsterdam
Conductor Jos van Veldhoven
soprano Maria Keohane
alto Damien Guillon
tenor Thomas Hobbs
bass Sebastian Myrus
Ripieno soprano Marjon Strijk, Kristen Witmer
Ripieno alto Marleene Goldstein, Barnabás Hegyi
Ripieno tenor Yves Van Handenhove, David Lee
Ripieno bass Drew Santini, Matthew Baker
violin 1 Shunske Sato, Anneke van Haaften, Annelies van der Vegt
violin 2 Sayuri Yamagata, Pieter Affourtit, Paulien Kostense
viola Staas Swierstra, Jan Willem Vis
cello Lucia Swarts, Richte van der Meer
double bass Hen Goldsobel
Traverso Marten Root, Doretthe Janssens
oboe Martin Stadler, Peter Frankenberg
Bassoon Benny Aghassi
trumpet Robert Vanryne, Fruzsina Hara, Mark Geelen
timpani Robert Kendell
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 Jochem Timmerman, Thijs Struick, Martin Struijf
Lights Zen Bloot, Henry Rodgers, Patrick Galvin
Assistant director Ferenc Soeteman
Video engineer Robert-Jan Neijland
Set technique Justin Mutsaers
Data handling Jesper Blok
Project manager NEP Peter Ribbens
Interview Onno van Ameijde, Marloes Biermans
Producer concert Marco Meijdam, Imke Deters
Producer film Jessie Verbrugh

Vocal Texts


1. Chor

O ewiges Feuer,
O Ursprung der Liebe,
entzünde die Herzen
und weihe sie ein.
Lass himmlische Flammen
durchdringen und wallen,
wir wünschen, o Höchster,
dein Tempel zu sein,
Ach, lass dir die Seelen
im Glauben gefallen.

2. Rezitativ (Tenor)

Herr, unsre Herzen halten dir
dein Wort der Wahrheit für:
Du willst bei Menschen gerne sein,
drum sei das Herze dein;
Herr, ziehe gnädig ein.
Ein solch erwähltes Heiligtum
Hat selbst den grössten Ruhm.

3. Arie (Alt)

Wohl euch, ihr auserwählten Seelen,
die Gott zur Wohnung ausersehn.
Wer kann ein grösser Heil erwählen?
Wer kann des Segens Menge zählen?
Und dieses ist vom Herrn geschehn.

4. Rezitativ (Bass)

Erwählt sich Gott
die Heilgen Hütten,
die er mit Heil bewohnt,
so muss er auch den Segen
auf sie schütten,
so wird der Sitz
des Heiligtums belohnt.
Der Herr ruft über
sein geweihtes Haus
das Wort des Segens aus:

5. Chor

Friede über Israel.
Dankt den höchsten Wunderhänden,
dankt, Gott hat an euch gedacht.
Ja, sein Segen wirkt mit Macht,
Friede über Israel,
Friede über euch zu senden.


1. Chorus

O eternal fire,
O source of love,
kindle our hearts
and consecrate them.
Let heavenly flames
flare and pierce them,
we wish, O Lord,
to be Thy temple,
ah, may our souls please
Thee in their faith.

2. Recitative

Lord, our hearts keep
Thy Word of truth.
Thou wouldst be with mankind,
let our hearts, therefore, be Thine;
Lord, enter in mercy!
Such a chosen sanctuary
has the very greatest renown.

3. Aria

Happy are you, you chosen souls,
elected by God as His dwelling-place.
Who could choose a greater glory?
Who could number the countless blessings? And this the Lord has done.

4. Recitative

If God chooses
the holy dwellings
in which to dwell with grace,
He must lavish
His blessing on them,
and thus reward the site
of His sanctuary.
The Lord pronounces
on His hallowed house
these words of blessing:

5. Chorus

Peace upon Israel!
Give thanks to the Almighty’s wondrous hands, give thanks that God has been mindful of you. Yea, the might of His blessing casts peace upon Israel,
and peace upon you.


You might also like these works