Christian Ludwig Boxberg (1670-1729): Bestelle Dein Haus

Boxberg isn’t terribly well known today and this is one of the few pieces of his music that’s been recorded. He was born on April 24th 1670 in Sondershausen´and was a student under Johann Schelle at Leipzig’s Thomasschule between 1682 and 1686. He had a solid rather than a spectacular career with a ten year stint as organist in Grossenhain, (north of Dresden) between 1692 and 1702. He had two musical careers a religious one and a secular one, the secular being defined by his association with Leipzig where he studied under the Leipzig Opera’s director Nikolaus A. Strungk for four years between 1688 and 1692 as well being active as a singer, librettist, and composer of operas in his own right. He was evidently well thought of as a composer because his operas were performed at the court of Ansbach. However he renounced his operatic career in 1702 to take up an appointment as  organist at the church of Ss Peter und Paul in Görlitz where he remained until his death twenty-seven years later. While in Görlitz he wrote a number of cantatas  in a variety of forms including both choral works and solo cantatas for soprano and trio sonata accompaniment.

Bestelle Dein Haus (Set thy house in order) is a funerary cantata, I don’t know whether it was written for a particular occasion or for general use, it’s an interesting and worthwhile piece of music that makes good use of the chorale. The text makes use of Isaiah 38:1 and Psalm 39:4. If in places it’s reminiscent of the Actus Tragicus that’s because Bach made made use of the same texts and the same musical rhetoric. (He was also by no means averse to quoting other composers). But the approach Boxberg adopted is on the whole very different from Bach’s. For a start Isaiah’s injunction to "set thy house in order" comes before the psalmic commentary which Boxberg develops further by combining it with a somewhat terse movement that contrasts the bass with the choir (Herr, lehre doch mich … (psalm 39)).  In fact terseness is perhaps the defining characteristic of this cantata – Boxberg made use of the musical rhetoric expected in a funerary cantata such as the tremolo repeated notes on the stringed instruments which in baroque sacred music by convention represents the Christian soul’s dread of condemnation and awe of God. He made use of it and it’s a competent piece of music that repays the time spent listening and helps place Bach’s music in perspective of the music of his time. Bach took up where Boxberg left off and in BWV 106 brought the rhetoric to as close to musical perfection as we’re likely to hear in this life.


Video & Commentary Source: ▶ Christian Ludwig Boxberg (1670-1729): Bestelle Dein Haus – YouTube Published on 26 Jan 2015 by markfromireland.

Text & Translation: Bestelle Dein Haus


Bestelle dein Haus
denn du wirst sterben
Herr, lehre doch mich
dass es ein Ende mit mir haben muss,
und mein Leben ein Ziel hat.
den du wirst sterben
und nicht lebendig bleiben
und ich davon muss.

Set thy house in order
for thou shalt die.
Lord teach me
that I also must have an ending
and that my life has a purpose.
For thou shalt die
and remain no more alive.
And I must pass hence.


Herzlich tut mich verlangen
nach einem selgen End,
weil ich hier bin umfangen
mit Trübsal und Elend.
Ich hab Lust, abzuscheiden
von dieser argen Welt,
sehn mich nach ewgen Freuden:
O jesu, komm nur bald!

My most heartfelt desire
is for a blessed end,
for here I am beset about
with afflictions and distress.
I wish to cut myself off
from this evil world
and I long for eternal joy.
Lord Jesus, come for me soon


Christus is mein Leben
Sterben ist mein Gewinn,
Ich hab Lust abzuscheiden,
unf bei Christo zu sein.

Christ is my life,
and death is but my gain.
I wish to cut myself off
and to be with Christ.


Wenn gleich süss ist das Leben
der Tod sehr bitter mir,
will ich mich doch ergeben,
zu sterben willig dir.
Ich weiss ein besser Leben
da meine Seel fährt hin
das freu ich mir gar eben:
Sterben is mein Gewinn.

Although my life is sweet
and death is bitter,
I will surrender myself willingly
to die for Thee.
I know that there shall be a better life
as my soul passeth beyond
and in this do I rejoice.
Death is but my gain.

Series Navigation<< Franz Tunder (1614-1667): Salve mi JesuDietrich Buxtehude (1637-1707): Wenn ich, Herr Jesu, habe dich (BuxWV 102) >>

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