All of Bach: a project by the Netherlands Bach Society

Nun Komm, der Heiden Heiland

BWV 62 performed by the Netherlands Bach Society conducted by Jos van Veldhoven.

"The instrumental introduction to the cantata is more an impression of an atmosphere than a treatment of the chorale melody" - Jos van Veldhoven

Bass Peter Harvey on the militant aria "Streite, siege, starker Held!".

Subdued festivity

In this Advent cantata, Bach juxtaposes the militancy and the vulnerability of the Messiah.

For Lutherans, the festive start to the liturgical year on the first Sunday of Advent had a hopeful character. After all, it was almost Christmas time. But this Sunday also heralded a period of austerity and reflection, which lasted until Christmas Day. Bach therefore orchestrated the enthusiastic and expectant opening of this cantata quite modestly. The festive timpani and trumpets are saved for the Nativity, although the chorale melody in the soprano is accompanied by a horn. The words of the cantata are derived from Luther’s Advent chorale Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland, which was well-known at the time. The first and the last movement follow Luther’s text literally, and the middle movements are based on it.
The worldly joy in anticipating the birth of Jesus is underlined by an extensive tenor aria in a dancing rhythm. Bach juxtaposes the militancy and the vulnerability of the Messiah. The bass sings a militant aria, whereby the strings play along with the continuo in fiery unison. However, this warlike idiom is immediately softened by a recitative, in which the soprano and alto shyly approach the crib hand in hand.

On his score, Bach wrote down all the elements of the service on the first Sunday of Advent in Leipzig: when the organist had to play what, when there were readings and prayers, and when it was the cantata’s turn, etc. He did the same on his score for BWV 61, which was also a cantata for the first Sunday of Advent. That would seem logical, as he wrote the piece in Weimar, and it was the first Advent cantata that he performed in Leipzig. In that case, it could well have served as a personal prompt. One year later, he was completely at home in the liturgical practice of Leipzig, so he probably no longer needed prompts. Maybe the notes were meant for someone who played the organ and conducted in Bach’s absence. That may have been the case, for instance, when the cantata was revived in 1736 and Bach was away giving an organ recital at the Church of our Lady in Dresden as the newly appointed court composer. 


Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland




Based on Luther’s Advent chorale 'Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland', 1524 – the first and last movement literally, and the rest in an adaptation by an anonymous lyricist

first Sunday in Advent

first performance
3 December 1724, further performances in the years 1732-35 and 1736?

Cast & Crew

release date 5 December 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
interviews Onno van Ameijde
Colorist Jef Grosfeld

Vocal Texts


1. Chor

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

2. Arie (Tenor)

Bewundert, o Menschen,
dies grosse Geheimnis:
der höchste Beherrscher
erscheinet der Welt.
Hier werden die Schätze
des Himmels entdecket,
hier wird uns ein göttliches Manna bestellt,
o Wunder!
die Keuschheit wird gar nicht beflecket.

3. Rezitativ (Bass)

So geht aus Gottes Herrlichkeit und Thron
sein eingeborner Sohn.
Der Held aus Juda bricht herein,
den Weg mit Freudigkeit zu laufen
und uns Gefallne zu erkaufen.
O heller Glanz, o wunderbarer Segensschein!

4. Arie (Bass)

Streite, siege, starker Held!
Sei vor uns im Fleische kräftig!
Sei geschäftig, das Vermögen
in uns Schwachen
stark zu machen!

5. Rezitativ (Sopran, Alt)

Wir ehren diese Herrlichkeit
und nahen nun zu deiner Krippen
und preisen mit erfreuten Lippen,
was du uns zubereit';
die Dunkelheit verstört' uns nicht
und sahen dein unendlich Licht.

6. Choral

Lob sei Gott, dem Vater, g'ton,
lob sei Gott, sein'm eingen Sohn,
lob sei Gott, dem Heilgen Geist,
immer und in Ewigkeit!


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. Aria 

Marvel, O men, 
at this great mystery: 
the greatest Ruler appears 
to the world. 
The treasures of heaven 
are revealed here, 
divine manna is ordained for us here, 
O wonder! 
Chasteness is quite unblemished. 


From God’s great majesty and throne, 
His only-begotten Son goes forth. 
The hero from Judah appears, 
to run His course with gladness 
and to redeem us fallen ones. 
O bright gleam! 
O wondrous sign of grace! 


Fight, conquer, mighty hero! 
Be strong for us in the flesh! 
Strive to strengthen 
the power 
in us feeble ones! 


We honour this glory 
and now draw near Thy cradle 
and praise with voices of gladness 
what Thou hast brought us; 
darkness did not trouble us, 
and we saw Thy undying light. 

6. Chorale 

Praise be to God, the Father, 
praise be to God, His only Son, 
praise be to God, the Holy Ghost, 
always and eternally!


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