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Bwv 77

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Bwv 77

Du sollt Gott, deinen Herren, lieben (You shall love God, your Lord), BWV 77, is a church cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach. He composed it in Leipzig for the thirteenth Sunday after Trinity and first performed it on 22 August 1723.

History and words

Bach wrote the cantata in 1723 in his first year in Leipzig for the 13th Sunday after Trinity and first performed it on 22 August 1723. The prescribed readings for the Sunday were from the Epistle to the Galatians, Paul's teaching on law and promise (Galatians 3:15–22), and from the Gospel of Luke, the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:23–37).[1] According to Christoph Wolff, the cantata text of Johann Oswald Knauer appeared in Gotha in 1720 in Gott-geheiligtes Singen und Spielen (Holy singing and playing to God).[2] The text relates closely to the readings, even to the situation in which the parable was told, referring to the question of a lawyer what needs to be done to achieve eternal life. The answer, which the lawyer had to give himself, was the commandment to love God and your neighbour. This, the Great Commandment, is the text of the first movement. Accordingly, the following text is divided in two parts, one recitative and aria dealing with the love of God, and a symmetrical part handling the love of the neighbour.

The text of the closing chorale is lost. Karl Friedrich Zelter suggested the eighth stanza of David Denicke's chorale "Wenn einer alle Ding verstünd" (1657) with the first line "Du stellst, Herr Jesu, selber dich",[3] which appears in the edition of the Bach-Gesellschaft. Werner Neumann suggested the eighth stanza of Denicke's "O Gottes Sohn, Herr Jesu Christ" (1657) with the first line "Herr, durch den Glauben wohn in mir",[4] which appears in the Neue Bach-Ausgabe.

Bach first performed the cantata on 22 August 1723.[1]

Scoring and structure

The cantata in six movements is scored for four soloists, soprano, alto, tenor and bass soloists, four part choir, tromba da tirarsi (Baroque slide trumpet), two oboes, two violins, viola, and basso continuo including bassoon.[1]

  1. Choral: Du sollt Gott, deinen Herren, lieben
  2. Recitativo (bass): So muss es sein!
  3. Aria (soprano): Mein Gott, ich liebe dich von Herzen
  4. Recitativo (tenor): Gib mir dabei, mein Gott! ein Samariterherz
  5. Aria (alto): Ach, es bleibt in meiner Liebe
  6. Choral: Du stellst, Herr Jesu, selber dich or Herr, durch den Glauben wohn in mir


The first movement carries Bach's statement on the most important law, on which, according to the parallel Matthew 22:34–40, "hang all the law and the prophets".[1][5] The words translate to "You shall love God, your Lord, with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself". Bach had enlarged on the "dualism of love of God and brotherly love" already in his monumental cantata in 14 movements, Die Himmel erzählen die Ehre Gottes, BWV 76, at the beginning of his first cycle.[5] In order to show the law's universality, Bach introduces Martin Luther's chorale "Dies sind die heilgen zehn Gebot" (These are the holy ten commandments), referring to the commandments of the Old Testament, as a foundation of the movement's structure.[2][5] The tune is played in a strict canon,[2] the most rigid musical law as one more symbol. The canon is performed by the trumpet in the highest range, and the continuo, representing the lowest range. The tempo of the trumpet is twice as fast as the tempo of the continuo, therefore the trumpet has time to repeat first single lines and finally the complete melody of the chorale. The trumpet enters ten times, to symbolize once more the completeness of the law.[1] The voices, representing the law of the New Testament, engage in imitation of a theme which is derived from the chorale tune and first played by the instruments.[5] John Eliot Gardiner, who provides an extended analysis of the movement, concludes: "The end result is a potent mixture of modal and diatonic harmonies, one which leaves an unforgettable impression in the mind's ear, and in context propels one forward to the world of Brahms' German Requiem and beyond, to Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time".[5]

A short secco recitative leads to an aria, accompanied by two obbligato oboes which frequently play in tender third parallels. The second recitative is a prayer, intensified by the strings.[1]

In the last aria for alto, taking the form of a Sarabande, Bach conveys the "Unvollkommenheit" (imperfection) of human attempt to live by the law of love, by choosing an obbligato trumpet and composing "awkward intervals" and "wildly unstable notes" which would sound imperfect on the period's valveless instruments.[5] In contrast, Bach wrote in the middle section a long trumpet solo of "ineffable beauty", as a "glorious glimpse of God's realm".[5]

The closing chorale is a four-part setting of the tune of "Ach Gott, vom Himmel sieh darein" (1524).[1]

Selected recordings



The first source is the score.

Several data bases provide additional information on each cantata:

  • Cantata BWV 77 Du sollt Gott, deinen Herren, lieben history, scoring, sources for text and music, translations to various languages, discography, discussion, bach-cantatas website
  • Emmanuel Music
  • Du sollt Gott, deinen Herren, lieben history, scoring, Bach website (German)
  • University of Vermont
  • University of Alberta
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