This cantata is at the highest pinnacle of cantata composition. It is significant from the beginning to the very end.
– Bach scholar Woldemar Voigt
Cantata 140 is deservedly recognised as one of Bach’s best known and loved pieces and surely stands among the greatest of his works.
– Bach scholar Simon Crouch
The Cantata No. 140 was the final performance in our day-long celebration of Bach’s music from 9 am to 9 pm, our sixth annual Bach Around The Clock celebration presented in conjunction with Christ Lutheran Church in Staunton, VA. Check out the entire program here.
Listen for Heifetz Ensemble in Residence violinist Liana Branscome‘s beautiful solos in this Cantata!
Bach Around the Clock Music Director Paul D. Weber writes:
Cantata 140 is based on Matthew 25:1-13, which dramatically depicts the story of the wise and foolish bridesmaids. The libretto relates to the end of time when Christ will come as a bridegroom to his bride, the church, represented by ten maidens. Some of these bridesmaids were prepared for his final coming by having their lamps ready for lighting, and some of them were not. The entire story forms the gospel reading for the Twenty-seventh Sunday after Trinity–the last Sunday in Bach’s church year calendar–when the return of Christ and God’s final judgment were highlighted.
The backbone of the cantata is the poetry of the Hymn of the Day for that Sunday, “Wake, Awake, for Night Is Flying.” This hymn, one of the most famous of Lutheran chorales, is called “The King of Chorales.” Its text and tune depict the gospel account and appear in movements 1, 4, and 7. The lyrics in the other movements describe the coming of the bridegroom and his welcoming reception. Two movements cast as love-duets between Christ and the church are as passionate as any others composed by Bach.
The drama of the cantata is enhanced by the tradition of the hymn itself. Both its text and tune were composed by Lutheran pastor and poet Philipp Nicolai (1556−1608) and appended to his set of pastoral reflections on heaven entitled Mirror of Joy. In 1597 Pastor Nicolai ministered to his parishioners during a plague and buried 1,400 members of his congregation, with funerals for over three hundred during the month of July alone. Despite facing death and devastation, Nicolai’s resilient hymn mirrors the hope of believers in a time of great suffering and transports us to heaven’s gate and the joy of eternal life.
From Bach Around The Clock 2022, soprano Sheila Dietrich, tenor Brian Thorsett, and bass Adrian Smith are the soloists with the BATC Chamber Choir and Orchestra in a complete performance of the radiant Cantata BWV 140, Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme. (Literally, “Wake up, the voice calls us”). The violin soloist is our Heifetz Ensemble in Residence Liana Branscome, and oboe soloist is Jeanette Zyko. You’ll also spot in the orchestra our Artistic Director Nicholas Kitchen and cellist Yeesun Kim, of the Borremeo Quartet, along with our HEIRees and fellow Heifetz alums Strauss Shi, Isabella Gorman (violins), Steven Baloue (viola), Ben Fried (cello), and Misha Bjerken (doublebass). Paul Weber conducts. For the text, translations, and more background notes, download our Bach Around The Clock 2022 Digital Program Book!