Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit 'Actus tragicus'

Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit 'Actus tragicus'

BWV 106 performed by the Netherlands Bach Society
conducted by Jos van Veldhoven
Oostkerk, Middelburg

  • Menu
  • 1. Sonatina
  • 2. Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit (Chor)
  • 3. Ach, Herr, lehre uns bedenken (Arioso)
  • 4. Bestelle dein Haus (Arie)
  • 5. Es ist der alte Bund (Chor und Arioso)
  • 6. In deine Hände (Arie)
  • 7. Heute wirst du mit mir (Arioso und Choral)
  • 8. Glorie, Lob, Ehr und Herrlichkeit (Chor)

Behind the music

Extra videos
Extra videos

Musical and theological tour de force

Unusual instrumentation produces unearthly sounds

The combination of instruments Bach uses here can be described in many ways – famous, idiosyncratic, exceptionally beautiful and meaningful. In any case, the instrumentation is an unusual one. The violins are conspicuous by their absence, but there are two recorders and two viola da gambas, which provide a soft, comforting and sometimes almost heavenly sound. The recorders seem to symbolise earthly suffering with their sharp seconds and unisons, which recorder player Heiko ter Schegget says should not be ‘too beautiful’. He explains why in the interview.

Eternal life lies at the heart of the ingenious construction of this cantata. Bach makes a stark contrast between the earthly death of the Old Testament (everyone must die) and the redemption of the New Testament. The text cites various books of the Bible, in accordance with the Lutheran view that God’s plan for our salvation covers the whole Bible. The chorus ‘Es ist der alte Bund’ functions as a dramatic climax and axis of symmetry, in which Bach spectacularly combines the familiar memento mori warning (remember that you have to die) with the soprano’s proclamation of the coming of Jesus. This discussion grows into a musical and theological tour de force when at the end of the movement Bach no longer juxtaposes the two ideas, but sets them above and below one another.

This is one of Bach’s earliest cantatas and the music was undoubtedly intended for a funeral. So of course historians have searched for a fitting occasion for it, such as the funeral of the brother of Bach’s mother, Tobias Lämmerhirt, who died in Erfurt on 10 August 1707. The funeral was four days later. As Erfurt is about 60 kilometres away from Mühlhausen, this hypothesis should be taken with a pinch of salt, unless of course Bach could have started on the composition earlier. Incidentally, it is not clear who thought up the epithet ‘Actus Tragicus’, which first appeared in a manuscript dating from after Bach’s death.

Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit
Actus Tragicus
alto, bass, viola da gamba, soprano, tenor, recorder
funeral music
First performance

Extra videos

Mieneke van der Velden, Jos van Veldhoven en Heiko ter Schegget

“Viola da gamba player Mieneke van der Velden, conductor Jos van Veldhoven and recorder player Heiko ter Schegget discuss the combination of instruments of this cantata.”

Vocal texts


1. Sonatina

2. Chor
Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit.
In ihm leben, weben und sind wir,
solange er will.
In ihm sterben wir zur rechten Zeit,
wenn er will.

3. Arioso (Tenor)
Ach, Herr, lehre uns bedenken,
dass wir sterben müssen,
auf dass wir klug werden.

4. Arie (Bass)
Bestelle dein Haus;
denn du wirst sterben
und nicht lebendig bleiben!

5. Chor und Arioso (Sopran)
Es ist der alte Bund:
Mensch, du musst sterben!
Ja, komm, Herr Jesu!

6. Arie (Alt)
In deine Hände
befehl ich meinen Geist;
du hast mich erlöset,
Herr, du getreuer Gott.

7. Arioso (Bass) und Choral (Alt)
Heute wirst du mit mir
im Paradies sein.

Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin
in Gottes Willen,
getrost ist mir mein Herz und Sinn,
sanft und stille.
Wie Gott mir verheissen hat:
der Tod ist mein Schlaf worden.

8. Chor  
Glorie, Lob, Ehr und Herrlichkeit
sei dir, Gott Vater und Sohn bereit’,
dem Heilgen Geist mit Namen!
Die göttlich Kraft
mach uns sieghaft
durch Jesum Christum, amen.


1. Sonatina

2. Chorus
God’s time is the very best time.
In him we live, move, and are,
as long as he wills.
In him we die at the proper time,
when he wills.

3. Arioso (Tenor)
Ah, Lord, so that we may become wise,
teach us to ponder
that we must die.

4. Aria (Bass)
Put your house in order;
for you will die
and not remain living.

5. Chorus and Arioso (Soprano)
It is the old covenant:
Humankind, you must die.
Yes, come, Lord Jesus, come.

6. Aria (Alto)
Into your hands
I commend my spirit;
you have redeemed me,
Lord, you faithful God.

7. Arioso (Bass) and Chorale (Alto)
Today you will be with me
in paradise.

With peace and joy I go there [to heaven],
According to God’s will;
I am consoled, my heart and mind;
Gentle and quiet.
As God has promised me:
Death has become my sleep.

8. Chorus
Radiance, praise, honor, and glory
Be bestowed upon you, by name God Father, and Son, [And] Holy Spirit.
The divine power
Makes us victorious
Through Jesus Christ. Amen.

transl. © Daniel R. Melamed and Michael Marissen
For the annotated version of the text and translation, see here.


  • Release date
    4 March 2016
  • Recording date
    16 May 2015
  • Location
    Oostkerk, Middelburg
  • Conductor
    Jos van Veldhoven
  • Soprano
    Dorothee Mields
  • Alto
    Alex Potter
  • Tenor
    Charles Daniels
  • Bass
    Tobias Berndt
  • Ripieno soprano
    Marjon Strijk
  • Ripieno alto
    Barnabás Hegyi
  • Ripieno tenor
    Immo Schröder
  • Ripieno bass
    Jelle Draijer
  • Recorder
    Heiko ter Schegget, Benny Aghassi
  • Viola da gamba
    Mieneke van der Velden, Ricardo Rodriguez Miranda
  • Cello
    Lucia Swarts
  • Double bass
    James Munro
  • Organ
    Siebe Henstra
  • Theorbo
    Mike Fentross
  • Film directors and editors
    Jasper Verkaart, Manoj Kamps
  • Music recording producers
    Guido Tichelman, Bastiaan Kuijt, Micha de Kanter
  • Camera
    Maarten van Rossem, Paul Caspers, Jorrit Garretsen, Rieks Soepenberg
  • Gaffer
    Daan de Boer, Denny Schoute
  • Make-up
    Erica Stuyfzand
  • Colorist
    Daphne Maierna
  • Interview
    Jasper Verkaart, Manoj Kamps
  • Producer concert
    Erik van Lith, Marco Meijdam
  • Producer film
    Jessie Verbrugh

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