Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme

Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme

BWV 140 performed by the Netherlands Bach Society
conducted by Jos van Veldhoven
Walloon Church, Amsterdam

  • Menu
  • 1. Wachet auf (Choral)
  • 2. Er kommt (Rezitativ)
  • 3. Wenn kömmst du (Duett)
  • 4. Zion hört (Choral)
  • 5. So geh herein (Rezitativ)
  • 6. Mein Freund (Duett)
  • 7. Gloria sei dir gesungen (Choral)

Behind the music

Extra videos
Extra videos

Full of symbolism

The crux is in the middle

In Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme, everything revolves around the parable of the wise and foolish virgins. They wait throughout the night with burning lamps for the arrival of the bridegroom. Five of them have brought along extra oil to keep their lamp burning. The others run out of oil and go off to buy some more. The bridegroom arrives while they are away. In Bach’s annotated bible, this story from the Gospel of Matthew is explained as an allegory. The wise virgins symbolise burning faith and vigilance. The arrival of the bridegroom stands for the return of Christ. This moment comes at the precise middle of the cantata, in the famous chorale sung by the tenors, which Bach later transcribed for organ.

In the notes on this parable, Bach’s bible also refers to the Songs of Songs, the wedding book of the Old Testament, and to Hebrew comments and wedding practices. In Jewish tradition, too, the bridegroom and bride were defined as the soul and God of Israel and God. If a Jewish inhabitant of Leipzig had been sitting in the Nicolaikirche on the 25th of November 1731, he would have recognised much of the symbolism. The opening chorus where the chorale melody is doubled by a horn may even have reminded him of the shofar, the traditional ram’s horn, which would have sounded at the Jewish New Year at the beginning of October to symbolically shake everyone awake.

Although a nice idea, it is rather improbable, as Jews were not very welcome in the Leipzig of Bach’s day. A couple of weeks before the first performance of BWV 140, merchants from Leipzig had complained fiercely about Jews in the city. Actually, the shared Jewish-Christian symbolism of this cantata is better suited to Naarden, where there was a lively Jewish community and a new synagogue had come into use precisely in 1730. So the Grote Kerk in Naarden is an inspiring setting for this special cantata.

Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme
bass, soprano, tenor
unknown, probably Picander, 1st, 2nd and 3rd strophe of chorale of the same name by Philipp Nicolai (1599), supplemented by the Song of Songs
twenty-seventh Sunday after Trinity
First performance
25 November 1731
Special notes
The fourth movement, the tenor aria, was transcribed by Bach for organ in the Schübler-Choräle, BWV 645

With support from

The Miller Family Charitable Foundation

Extra videos

Conductor Jos van Veldhoven

“The chorale is the foundation of this composition.”

Vocal texts


1. Choral
Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme,
der Wächter sehr hoch auf der Zinne,
wach auf, du Stadt Jerusalem!
Mitternacht heisst diese Stunde,
sie rufen uns mit hellem Munde,
wo seid ihr klugen Jungfrauen?
Wohlauf, der Bräutgam kömmt,
steht auf, die Lampen nehmt!
Alleluja! Macht euch bereit
zu der Hochzeit,
ihr müsset ihm entgegen gehn!

2. Rezitativ (Tenor)
Er kommt, er kommt,
der Bräut’gam kommt!
Ihr Töchter Zions, kommt heraus,
sein Ausgang eilet aus der Höhe
in euer Mutter Haus.
Der Bräutgam kommt, der einen Rehe
und jungen Hirsche gleich
auf denen Hügeln springt
und euch das Mahl der Hochzeit
bringt. Wacht auf, ermuntert euch!
den Bräutgam zu empfangen!
Dort, sehet, kommt er hergegangen.

3. Duett (Sopran - Seele, Bass - Jesus)
Wenn kömmst du, mein Heil?
Ich komme, dein Teil.
Ich warte mit brennenden Öle.
Eröffne den Saal.
Ich öffne den Saal
(Seele, Jesus) zum himmlischen Mahl.
Komm, Jesu!
Ich komme, komm, liebliche Seele!

4. Choral (Tenor)
Zion hört die Wächter singen,
das Herz tut ihr vor Freuden springen,
sie wachet und steht eilend auf.
Ihr Freund kommt von Himmel prächtig,
von Gnaden stark,
von Wahrheit mächtig,
ihr Licht wird hell,
ihr Stern geht auf.
Nun komm, du werte Kron,
Herr Jesu, Gottes Sohn!
Wir folgen all
zum Freudensaal
und halten mit das Abendmahl.

5. Rezitativ (Bass)
So geh herein zu mir,
du mir erwählte Braut!
Ich habe mich mit dir von Ewigkeit vertraut.
Dich will ich auf mein Herz,
auf meinen Arm gleich wie ein Sigel setzen,
und dein betrübtes Aug’ ergötzen.
Vergiss, o Seele, nun die Angst, den Schmerz,
den du erdulden müssen;
auf meiner Linken sollst du ruhn,
und meine Rechte soll dich küssen.

6. Duett (Sopran - Seele, Bass - Jesus)
Mein Freund ist mein,
und ich bin sein,
(Seele, Jesus) die Liebe soll nichts scheiden.
Ich will mit dir
du sollst mit mir
(Seele, Jesus) im Himmels Rosen weiden,
da Freude die Fülle,
da Wonne wird sein.

7. Choral
Gloria sei dir gesungen,
mit Menschen- und englischen Zungen,
mit Harfen und mit Zimbeln schon.
Von zwölf Perlen sind die Pforten,
an deiner Stadt sind wir Konsorten
der Engel hoch um deine Thron.
Kein Aug’ hat je gespürt,
kein Ohr hat je gehört
solche Freude!
Des sind wir froh,
io, io!
ewig in dulci jubilo.


1. Chorus
“Wake up,” the voice of the watchmen calls to us
Very high on the pinnacle [of the city wall];
“Wake up, you city of Jerusalem.”
This hour is named midnight;
They call to us, declaiming brightly:
“Where are you, Wise Virgins?"
Cheer up, the bridegroom is coming;
Stand up, take your lamps.
Hallelujah. Make yourselves ready
For the wedding;
You must go to meet him.

2. Recitative (Tenor)
He comes, he comes,
The bridegroom comes!
You Daughters of Zion, come forth;
His exodus hastens from on high,
Into your mother’s house.
The bridegroom comes, who like a roe
And like a young stag
Leaps upon the mountains,
And brings you the wedding meal.
Wake up, rouse yourselves
To receive the bridegroom.
Look, there he comes along.

3. Duet (Soprano - Soul, Bass - Jesus)
When will you come, my salvation?
I am coming, your portion [bestowed by God].
I wait with burning oil [in my lamp].
Open up the hall
I open the hall
(Soul, Jesus) For the heavenly meal;
Come, Jesus.
I am coming; come, lovely Soul.

4. Chorale (Tenor)
Zion hears the watchmen singing;
Her heart takes to leaping for joy;
She wakes and hurriedly stands up.
Her beloved comes from heaven: magnificent,
Strong in grace,
mighty in truth;
Her light becomes bright,
her star rises.
Now come, you valuable crown,
Lord Jesus, God’s Son!
We all follow [God’s Son]
To the hall of joy
And join in keeping the Lord’s Supper.

5. Recitative (Bass)
So go in, unto me [for the heavenly meal],
You, my chosen bride.
I have betrothed myself to you out of eternity.
I will place you just like a seal upon my heart,
Just like a seal upon my arm;
And your sad eye I will make joyful.
Forget now, o Soul, the fear, the agony
That you have to endure;
Upon my left [hand] shall you rest [your head],
And my right [hand] shall cushion you.

6. Duet (Soprano - Soul, Bass - Jesus)
My beloved is mine,
And I am his [ — God the Father’s];
(Soul, Jesus) Nothing shall separate the love [of God from us]. I will revel with you
You shall revel with me
(Soul, Jesus) in [the beloved’s garden of] roses-of-heaven, where fullness of joy,
where gladness will be.

7. Chorale
Let “Gloria” be sung to you
With the tongues of men and of angels,
Even with harps and with cymbals.
Of twelve pearls are the gates
In your city [where] we are consorts
Of the angels high around your throne.
No eye has ever perceived,
No ear has ever heard
Such joy.
Of this, we are glad;
“Io, io!” [we exclaim]
In sweet jubilation, eternally.

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


  • Release date
    8 March 2019
  • Recording date
    11 February 2018
  • Location
    Walloon Church, Amsterdam
  • Conductor
    Jos van Veldhoven
  • Soprano
    Maria Keohane
  • Alto
    Tim Mead
  • Tenor
    Daniel Johannsen
  • Bass
    Matthew Brook
  • Ripieno soprano
    Hilde Van Ruymbeke, Marjon Strijk
  • Ripieno alto
    Barnabás Hegyi, Marleene Goldstein
  • Ripieno tenor
    Kevin Skelton, Guy Cutting
  • Ripieno bass
    Drew Santini, Matthew Baker
  • Violin 1
    Shunske Sato, Anneke van Haaften, Pieter Affourtit
  • Violin 2
    Sayuri Yamagata, Lidewij van der Voort, Paulien Kostense
  • Viola
    Staas Swierstra, Jan Willem Vis
  • Cello
    Lucia Swarts, Richte van der Meer
  • Double bass
    Robert Franenberg
  • Oboe
    Martin Stadler, Peter Frankenberg
  • Oboe da caccia
    Yongcheon Shin
  • Bassoon
    Benny Aghassi
  • Tromba da tirarsi
    Robert Vanryne
  • Organ
    Leo van Doeselaar
  • Harpsichord
    Siebe Henstra
  • Director and editor
    Bas Wielenga
  • Music recording
    Guido Tichelman, Bastiaan Kuijt, Pim van der Lee
  • Music edit and mix
    Guido Tichelman
  • Camera
    Merijn Vrieling, Ivo Palmen, Martin Struijf, Bjorn Tiebout
  • Lights
    Zen Bloot, Henry Rodgers, Patrick Galvin
  • Assistant director
    Ferenc Soeteman
  • Video engineer
    Vincent Nugteren
  • Set technique
    Dennis van Hoek
  • Data handling
    Jesper Blok
  • Project manager nep
    Peter Ribbens
  • Interview
    Onno van Ameijde, Marloes Biermans
  • Producer concert
    Imke Deters
  • Producer film
    Jessie Verbrugh
  • With support from
    The Miller Family Charitable Foundation

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