Advent II

Sunday 10 December 2023

Advent II or Populus Sion

10 December 2023 – There is no original Bach cantata for this day, the 3rd Sunday before Christmas. Unfortunately, the musical score of the original Wachet! Betet! Betet! Wachet!, BWV 70a, created in Weimar on December 6th 1716, is lost.

Bach expanded on this original cantata, and created BWV 70 on November 21st 1723 in Leipzig for Trinitatis XXVI (the 26th Sunday after Trinitas, the Sunday after Pentecost). In Leipzig the Advent was a quiet period (Tempus Clausum - without music in mass), so he had to re-use the music for another occasion.

Since Trinitatis XXVI does not occur very often (you need to have a year with a very early Easter and even then the start of Advent needs to fall just right, next time is in 2024) I'm glad that I can propose this beautiful cantata as a substitute for the original BWV 70a from Weimar.

I've also added another cantata that can be heard even less if you would strictly observe the liturgical calendar: Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme, BWV 140, written for Trinitatis XXVII.

Trinitatis XXVII only occurs if Easter falls between March 22nd and 26th, and Advent doesn't start too early (this depends on the weekday of Christmas). Bach wrote the cantata in 1731, which is rather late for his liturgical cantatas. The reason is simple: it was the first year in his tenure as Thomaskantor that Trinitatis XXVII occured. He performed this cantata again in 1742, another year with Trinitatis XXVII in the calendar.

The next time there is a Trinitatis XXVII in our future is in... 2035. Well, I don't know about you, but I can't wait that long to hear this magnificent cantata, one of Bach's most popular and most performed. It is a choral cantata, completing his second cantata cycle of 1724-1725. It is based on the hymn "Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme" written by the preacher Philipp Nicolai in 1599 as a way to keep good morale in his community during a heavy pestilence epidemic.

Music for today

  • Wachet! betet! betet! wachet!, BWV 70a
    (first performance 6 December 1716, expanded in 1723 to BWV 170 for Trinity XXVI, Weimar period)
  • Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme, BWV 140
    (first performance 25 November 1731, Leipzig period)


WBC02-Advent II or Populus Sion

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Image of the day

View of the Weimar Stadtschloss. Several Bach cantatas were premiered in the church of the schloss.

View of the Weimar Stadtschloss. Several Bach cantatas were premiered in the church of the schloss.