Wachet! betet! betet! wachet! BWV 70 – FREE Concert

SATURDAY DECEMBER 7TH AT, 5:30pm at Trinity Mission Campus – Free!
One on a part performances
Trinity Chamber Artists

Wachet! betet! betet! wachet! (Watch! Pray! Pray! Watch!) is the title of two church cantatas written by Johann Sebastian Bach. He composed a first version, BWV 70a, in Weimar for the second Sunday in Advent of 1716 and expanded it in 1723 in Leipzig to BWV 70, a cantata in two parts for the 26th Sunday after Trinity.

History and Words

On 2 March 1714 Bach was appointed concertmaster of the Weimar court capelle of the co-reigning dukes Wilhelm Ernst and Ernst August of Saxe-Weimar. As concertmaster, he assumed the principal responsibility for composing new works, specifically cantatas for the Schloßkirche (palace church), on a monthly schedule. Bach wrote the cantata originally in his last year there, for the Second Sunday of Advent, and first performed it on 6 December 1716.

The prescribed readings for the Sunday were from the Epistle to the Romans, call of the Gentiles (Romans 15:4–13), and from the Gospel of Luke, the Second Coming of Christ, also called Second Advent (Luke 21:25–36). The cantata text was provided by the court poet Salomon Franck, published in Evangelische Sonn- und Fest-Tages-Andachten in 1717. Bach wrote five movements, a chorus and four arias, and concluded with the fifth verse of the chorale “Meinen Jesum laß ich nicht” by Christian Keymann.

In Leipzig, Advent was a quiet time (tempus clausum), thus no cantata music was performed in services from Advent II to Advent IV. In order to use the music again, Bach had to dedicate it to a different liturgical event and chose the 26th Sunday after Trinity with a similar theme. The prescribed readings for this Sunday were from the The Second Epistle of Peter, “look for new heavens and a new earth” (2 Peter 3:3–13), and from the Gospel of Matthew, the Second Coming of Christ, also called Second Advent (Matthew 25:31–46). An unknown poet kept the existing movements and added recitatives and a chorale to end part 1 of the new cantata, the final verse of “Freu dich sehr, o meine Seele” by Christoph Demantius.Bach performed the extended cantata first on 21 November 1723, and a second time on 18 November 1731.

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