Jauchzet, frohlocket! from Christmas Oratorio

Jauchzet, frohlocket! from Christmas Oratorio

BWV 248/1 performed by the Netherlands Bach Society
conducted by Shunske Sato
Muziekcentrum van de Omroep, Hilversum

  • Menu
  • 1. Jauchzet, frohlocket (Chor)
  • 2. Es begab sich aber zu der Zeit (Rezitativ)
  • 3. Nun wird mein liebster Bräutigam (Rezitativ)
  • 4. Bereite dich, Zion (Arie)
  • 5. Wie soll ich dich empfangen (Choral)
  • 6. Und sie gebar ihren ersten Sohn (Rezitativ)
  • 7. Er ist auf Erden kommen arm (Rezitativ)
  • 8. Großer Herr, o starker König (Arie)
  • 9. Ach mein herzliebes Jesulein (Choral)

Behind the music

Extra videos
Extra videos

Banging drums and sensual words

In the Christmas Oratorio, Bach attains a perfect balance

The Christmas Oratorio is one of Bach’s most famous works. It consists of six cantatas, covering all the days from Christmas Day to the Feast of the Epiphany on 6 January. Bach had written Christmas cantatas before, but never on this scale. Here, he saw an opportunity to immortalise music he had composed for one-off secular occasions, thus creating a moving, warm and dramatic narration of the Christmas story. Nowadays, the work is usually performed in its entirety, for practical reasons.

A special feature of the first cantata is the balance Bach attains between the jubilant celebration of the birth of Jesus and the serious, sad undertone that points to his fate on the cross. The opening chorus is like an orchestral firework show. Drum rolls, woodwind chirrups and trumpet blasts follow one another at a dizzying tempo. So it comes as no surprise that the original words of this chorus – then still part of a birthday cantata for the Electress of Saxony – were, “Resound, ye drums! Ring out, ye trumpets!” The rhythmical beats of the drums and the many repeated motoric motifs in the string and wind parts make it impossible to sit still. The words invite you to celebrate: shout, exult, arise, praise the days! It is eminently suitable for one of the most important and cheerful feast days in the Christian calendar. And it is exceptional that Bach’s music also gets today’s listeners into the Christmas mood.

A musical contrast is immediately introduced in the next movement: a minimal setting of a biblical text, in a solemn, dramatic minor key, in which the narrator explains that Joseph and Mary, who is with child, are journeying to Bethlehem for a census ordered by the emperor.

An expectant, melodious recitative for the alto leads to the first aria, which is undoubtedly one of the best-known in the Christmas Oratorio. In sensual words, the alto urges the believers in Jesus’s time to prepare for his birth. In doing so, Bach’s unknown librettist uses a metaphor that often appears in the Bible: the Messiah as bridegroom, with the believer as his bride. “Thy cheeks' beauty must today shine much more brightly” she sings in the middle part of the aria, “Hasten, the bridegroom to love with deep passion.”

This seductive text turns into a spiritual, melancholy chorale, accompanied by high flutes, to the melody of the well-known ‘O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden‘ from Bach’s St Matthew Passion. The words are milder, but the final chords sound just as ceremonial and stately. And then it happens: Mary gives birth in the stable to Jesus, her first-born son, who she swaddles and lays in a manger, as there is no room at the crowded inn. The next movement seems like an intimate, one-part chorale, until the bass enters with his own text, in which he emphasises the theological significance of Jesus’s birth.

The festive mood returns in the next movement; an aria for the bass. Bach’s original audience associated trumpets with monarchs and kings, as they were often heralded by a fanfare of trumpets. So Bach’s use of a solo trumpet in this part fits the text well. Once again, Bach’s text includes a nice contrast: the king of the world spends the night in a hard manger.

Then the work is closed by a simple chorale, once again with high flutes. The believers pray to take Jesus into their hearts and never forget him. In the pauses between the lines, the timpani and trumpets enter, lending a royal sound once more to the innocent, simple prayer.

Jauchzet, frohlocket, auf, preiset die Tage
Christmas Day
First performance
25 December 1734
Special notes
Bach reused parts from his cantatas BWV 213 and 214

Extra videos

Bach's Christmas Oratorio - Bridging the earthly and the heavenly

“In this background video on the Christmas Oratorio violinist and leader Shunske Sato takes the viewer back to eighteenth-century Germany and the Christmas traditions of the time. How does Bach's Christmas Oratorio fits within these traditions?”

Vocal texts


1. Chor
Jauchzet, frohlocket, auf, preiset die Tage,
rühmet, was heute der Höchste getan!
Lasset das Zagen, verbannet die Klage,
stimmet voll Jauchzen und Fröhlichkeit an!
Dienet dem Höchsten mit herrlichen Chören,
laßt uns den Namen des Herrschers verehren!

2. Rezitativ (Evangelist)
Es begab sich aber zu der Zeit,
daß ein Gebot von dem Kaiser Augusto ausging,
daß alle Welt geschätzet würde.
Und jedermann ging, daß er sich schätzen ließe,
ein jeglicher in seine Stadt.
Da machte sich auch auf Joseph aus Galiläa,
aus der Stadt Nazareth,
in das jüdische Land zur Stadt David,
die da heißet Bethlehem; darum,
daß er von dem Hause und Geschlechte David war:
auf daß er sich schätzen ließe
mit Maria, seinem vertrauten Weibe,
die war schwanger.
Und als sie daselbst waren,
kam die Zeit, daß sie gebären sollte.

3. Rezitativ (Alt)
Nun wird mein liebster Bräutigam,
nun wird der Held aus Davids Stamm
zum Trost, zum Heil der Erden
einmal geboren werden.
Nun wird der Stern aus Jakob scheinen,
sein Strahl bricht schon hervor.
Auf, Zion, und verlasse nun das Weinen,
dein Wohl steigt hoch empor!

4. Arie (Alt)
Bereite dich, Zion, mit zärtlichen Trieben,
den Schönsten, den Liebsten
bald bei dir zu sehn!
Deine Wangen müssen heut viel schöner prangen,
eile, den Bräutigam sehnlichst zu lieben!

5. Choral
Wie soll ich dich empfangen
und wie begegn’ ich dir?
O aller Welt Verlangen,
o meiner Seelen Zier!
O Jesu, Jesu, setze
mir selbst die Fackel bei,
damit, was dich ergötze,
mir kund und wissend sei!

6. Rezitativ (Evangelist)
Und sie gebar ihren ersten Sohn
und wickelte ihn in Windeln
und legte ihn in eine Krippen,
denn sie hatten sonst keinen Raum in der Herberge.

7. Rezitativ (Bass) / Choral (Sopran)
Er ist auf Erden kommen arm,
Wer will die Liebe recht erhöhn,
die unser Heiland vor uns hegt?
daß er unser sich erbarm
Ja, wer vermag es einzusehen,
wie ihn der Menschen Leid bewegt?
und in dem Himmel mache reich
Des Höchsten Sohn kömmt in die Welt,
weil ihm ihr Heil so wohl gefällt,
und seinen lieben Engeln gleich.
so will er selbst als Mensch geboren werden.

8. Arie (Bass)
Großer Herr, o starker König,
liebster Heiland, o wie wenig
achtest du der Erden Pracht!
Der die ganze Welt erhält,
ihre Pracht und Zier erschaffen,
muß in harten Krippen schlafen.

9. Choral
Ach mein herzliebes Jesulein,
mach dir ein rein sanft Bettelein,
zu ruhn in meines Herzens Schrein,
daß ich nimmer vergesse dein!


1. Chorus
Shout, exult, arise, praise the days [of Christmas],
Glorify what the Most High this day has done!
Leave off faintheartedness, ban lamenting;
Break forth into song, full of shouting and rejoicing!
Serve the Most High with glorious choirs;
Let us revere the ruler’s name!

2. Recitative (Evangelist)
But it happened at that time that a
commandment went out from the emperor Augustus
that all the [Roman] world be appraised.
And everyone [from Judea] went, that he might have himself appraised, each one to his [ancestral] city.
Then Joseph too made out to go up from Galilee,
from the city of Nazareth,
into the Jewish region to the city of David,
which is called Bethlehem, this,
because he was of the house and lineage of David,
so that he might have himself appraised
with Mary, his betrothed wife,
who was pregnant.
And while they were there,
the time came that she should give birth.

3. Recitative (Alt)
Now will my most beloved bridegroom,
Now will the champion from the tribe of David—
For the consolation, for the salvation of the earth—
At last be born.
Now will the star out of Jacob shine;
Its stream of light is already breaking forth.
Arise, Zion, and forsake weeping now;
Your well-being lifts on high!

4. Aria (Alt)
Make yourself ready, Zion, with tender desires,
to see the Most Handsome, the Most Beloved,
soon at your side! 
This day your cheeks must sparkle much lovelier; 
Hurry on, to love the bridegroom most ardently!

5. Chorale
How shall I receive you,
And how shall I meet you,
O desire of all the world,
O decoration of my soul?
O Jesus; Jesus, set
The torch next to me yourself,
So that whatever brings you enjoyment
May be manifest and known to me.

6. Recitative (Evangelist)
And she gave birth to her firstborn son
and wrapped him in bands of cloth
and laid him in a manger,
for they otherwise had no space in the lodgings.

7. Recitative (Bass) / Chorale (Sopran)
He has come on earth poor,
Who will properly extol the love
That our savior feels for us?
That he might have mercy on us,
Indeed, who is capable of perceiving it,
How human suffering moves him?
And might make [us] rich, in heaven,
The son of the Most High comes into the world
Because its salvation pleases him so well
And [might make us] equal to his dear angels.
That he himself wants to be born as man.
Lord have mercy.

8. Aria (Bass)
Great Lord, o mighty king,
Most beloved savior, o how little
Do you regard the earth’s splendor!
He, who upholds the entire world,
[Who] has created its splendor and decoration,
Must sleep in harsh mangers.

9. Chorale
Oh my beloved little Jesus,
Make for yourself a perfectly soft little bed,
To rest in the shrine of my heart,
That I may never forget you!

transl. © Daniel R. Melamed and Michael Marissen


  • Release date
    14 December 2023
  • Recording date
    3 January 2023
  • Location
    Muziekcentrum van de Omroep, Hilversum
  • Violin and direction
    Shunske Sato
  • Soprano
    Viola Blache
  • Alto
    Ulrike Malotta
  • Tenor
    Daniel Johannsen
  • Bass
    Matthias Helm
  • Ripieno soprano
    Marta Paklar, Anna Bachleitner, Amelia Berridge, Monica Monteiro
  • Ripieno alto
    Bernadett Nagy, Sofia Gvirts, Georgia Burashko
  • Ripieno tenor
    João Moreira, Adriaan de Koster, Immo Schröder
  • Ripieno bass
    Matthew Baker, Donald Bentvelsen, Samuel Wong
  • Violin 1
    Pieter Affourtit, Anneke van Haaften, Lidewij van der Voort
  • Violin 2
    Lucia Giraudo, Annelies van der Vegt, Iris Kengen
  • Viola
    Deirdre Dowling, Ivan Saez Schwartz
  • Cello
    Lucia Swarts, Barbara Kernig
  • Double bass
    Robert Franenberg
  • Traverso
    Marten Root, Doretthe Janssens
  • Oboe
    Rodrigo Lopez Paz, Katharina Verhaar
  • Bassoon
    Benny Aghassi
  • Trumpet
    Robert Vanryne, Mark Geelen, Nicholas Emmerson
  • Timpani
    Robert Kendell
  • Organ
    Leo van Doeselaar
  • Harpsichord
    Siebe Henstra
  • Theorbo
    Fred Jacobs
  • Director and editor
    Onno van Ameijde
  • Music recording
    Guido Tichelman, Lilita Dunsk, Pim van der Lee
  • Music edit and mix
    Guido Tichelman
  • Camera
    Rieks Soepenberg, Jorne Tielemans, Maria Smeets, Jasper Verkaart
  • Lights
    Ernst-Jan Thieme, Tino Schoeber, Jordi Kooij, Patrick Galvin
  • Assistant director
    Marieke Donker Kaat
  • Data handling
    Jasper Verkaart
  • Assistant music recording
    Marloes Biermans
  • Documentary
    Onno van Ameijde, Marloes Biermans
  • Producer concert
    Imke Deters
  • Producer film
    Marieke de Blaay, Laura Jonker

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