Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) – The Motets: Lobet den Herrn

bach signature My final posting in this series dealing with Bach’s motets deals with "Lobet den Herrn" (BWV 230). It’s distinguished from the other motets by the fact that it’s one of the two motets by Bach in which the entire text comes from the Bible, specifically the first two verses of Psalm 117 and is the only motet he set for four voice parts 1 Not much is known about it. There’s considerable doubt both about when it was written and the occasion for which it was written, although given the nature of the text I think it’s fair to say that it’s very unlikely it was written for a funeral. The facts that the earliest source for it is a Breitkopf & Härtel edition dating from 1821 and that its nature is highly virtuosic nature have led some musicologists to doubt its authenticity. I find neither of these notions persuasive early Breitkopf & Härtel editions aren’t particularly unreliable and Bach was eminently capable of bending and breaking the rules whenever he felt it was warranted.

Structurally it consists of a fugue which works its way down from high voices to low with roulades on ‘preiset ihn’ (praise Him). This fugue is followed by homophonic writing which is followed by more fugal material. He ends with a delightful dance-like Alleluia. It’s sung below by the Thomanerchor Leipzig, conducted by Thomaskantor Georg Christoph Biller. Enjoy :-)


Lobet den Herrn, alle Heiden BWV230


Lobet den Hernn, alle Heiden, und preiset ihn, alle Volker!

Denn seine Gnade und Wahrheit

waltet über uns in Ewigkeit.

Oh praise the Lord, all ye nations. Praise him, all ye people.

For his merciful kindness is great toward us

and the truth of the Lord endureth for ever.

  1. SATB choir and continuo.
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