All of Bach: a project by the Netherlands Bach Society

Nun Komm, der Heiden Heiland

BWV 61 performed by the Netherlands Bach Society conducted by Jos van Veldhoven.

Conductor Jos van Veldhoven guides us through the dramaturgical structure of this cantata.

Peter Harvey talks about Bach's most remarkable recitatives.

The king is coming!

This is a cantata filled with special effects, which is probably due to the young age at which Bach composed the work.

In the daring opening section, he combines the ancient Advent melody Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland with a French royal overture that would have sounded at home in Louis XIV’s palace of Versailles. Such an overture was played as the king entered, which is very fitting for the reading on the first Sunday of Advent, when Jesus enters Jerusalem as a king riding on a donkey.
In an unusual bass recitative, Bach uses plucked strings to represent Christ knocking on the doors of the faithful. The soprano answers this call in her aria, opening her heart to Jesus. In the passage ‘Bin ich gleich nur Staub’ Bach indicates a slow tempo – an Adagio. This sort of tempo indication is unusual for Bach.
In the final chorus, Bach uses the melody from another Christmas song, Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern to rejoice in welcoming Christ. He ends the cantata with a unique radiant high note in the violin part.

In Bach’s day, both the Advent song Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland and the Christmas song Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern were well-known to all church-goers. So they would not have wondered why these songs appeared in Bach’s cantata for the first Sunday in Advent, but rather how and where they appeared.


Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland




Erdmann Neumeister

first Sunday in Advent

first performance
2 December 1714

Berlin, State Library (DB Mus. Ms. Bach P45, Faszikel 6)

Cast & Crew

release date 2 May 2014
recording date 30 November 2013
Location Walloon Church, Amsterdam
Conductor Jos van Veldhoven
soprano Zsuzsi Tóth
alto Barnabás Hegyi
tenor Nicholas Mulroy
bass Peter Harvey
ripieno soprano Lauren Armishaw, Annelies Brants
ripieno alto Victoria Cassano McDonald, Elsbeth Gerritsen, Barnabás Hegyi
ripieno tenor Robert Buckland, João Moreira
ripieno bass Jelle Draijer, Lionel Meunier
violin 1 Shunske Sato, Anneke van Haaften, Annelies van der Vegt
violin 2 Sayuri Yamagata, Paulien Kostense, Lidewij van der Voort
viola Staas Swierstra, Esther van der Eijk
cello Lucia Swarts, Richte van der Meer
double bass Maggie Urquhart
oboe Frank de Bruine, Peter Frankenberg
bassoon Benny Aghassi
horn Erwin Wieringa
harpsichord Siebe Henstra
positive organ Pieter-Jan Belder
church organ Leo van Doeselaar
organ registration Paul Meerwijk
concert Production Marco Meijdam, Imke Deters
PRODUCER Frank van der Weij
FILM DIRECTOR Lucas van Woerkum
CAMERA Sal Kroonenberg, Jorrit Garretsen, Robert Berger, Benjamin Sparschuh
FILM EDITORS Lucas van Woerkum & Frank van der Weij
GAFFER Alban Riphagen
Score reader Jan Van den Bossche
MAKE UP Marloes Bovenlander, Jamila el Bouch
CAMERA ASSISTaNT Chris Tjong Ayong
MUSIC RECORDING ASSISTANTS Jaap van Stenis, Jaap Firet, Bobby Verbakel, Luuk Hoogstraten
MUSIC EDIT AND MIX Leo de Klerk, Frank van der Weij
Colorist Ruud de Bruijn
interviews Onno van Ameijde

Vocal Texts


1. Chor

Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland,
der Jungfrauen Kind erkannt,
des sich wundert alle Welt,
Gott solch Geburt ihm bestellt.

2. Rezitativ (Tenor)

Der Heiland ist gekommen,
hat unser armes Fleisch und Blut
an sich genommen
und nimmet uns
zu Blutsverwandten an.
O allerhöchstes Gut,
was hast du nicht an uns getan?
Was tust du nicht
noch täglich an den Deinen?
Du kömmst und lässt dein Licht
mit vollem Segen scheinen.

3. Arie (Tenor)

Komm, Jesu, komm zu deiner Kirche
und gib ein selig neues Jahr!
Befördre deines Namens Ehre,
erhalte die gesunde Lehre
und segne Kanzel und Altar!

4. Rezitativ (Bass)

Siehe, ich stehe vor der Tür und klopfe an.
So jemand meine Stimme hören wird
und die Tür auftun,
zu dem werde ich eingehen
und das Abendmahl mit ihm halten
und er mit mir.

5. Arie (Sopran)

Öffne dich, mein ganzes Herze,
Jesus kömmt und ziehet ein.
Bin ich gleich nur Staub und Erde,
will er mich doch nicht verschmähn,
seine Lust an mir zu sehn,
dass ich seine Wohnung werde.
O wie selig werd ich sein!

6. Choral

Amen, amen!
Komm, du schöne Freudenkrone, bleib nicht lange!
Deiner wart ich mit Verlangen.


1. Chorus 

Come now, Saviour of the gentiles, 
recognised as the Virgin’s child,
all the world stands amazed
that God ordained Him such a birth. 

2. Recitative 

The Saviour is come,
he has assumed
our feeble flesh and blood
and accepts us as kinsmen 
of His blood. 
O goodness without compare,
what hast Thou not done for us?
What dost Thou not still do 
daily for Thy people?
Thou comest and bringest Thy light 
to shine with full blessing. 

3. Aria 

Come, Jesus, come to Thy church 
and grant a blessed New Year! 
Promote the honour of Thy name, 
maintain the wholesome doctrine 
and bless the pulpit and the altar! 

4. Recitative 

Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear 
my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and 
will sup with him 
and he with me. 

5. Aria 

Open up, my whole heart, 
Jesus comes and enters in. 
Though I be but dust and earth, 
He shall not despise me,
but takes delight
to see that I become His dwelling. 
Oh how blessèd shall I be! 

6. Chorale 

Amen, amen!
Come, thou joyous crown, 
come quickly! 
I await thee with great longing.


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