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We’re back to Bach!
The Lenten season was a time when no cantatas were sung in worship in Lutheran churches, so today we return to Bach’s music on Palm Sunday. BWV 182, “King of Heaven, be Thou welcome,” is the only Bach Palm Sunday cantata we have. It is early, extensive, and delightfully hopeful, even as it anticipates the coming of Holy Week and Jesus’ pilgrimage to the cross.
In March 1714, Bach, who had been organist at the ducal chapel in Weimar since 1708, was promoted to the post of concertmaster. Among the additional duties that came with the new post was the obligation to provide a church cantata each month. The Cantata, BWV 182 (“King of heaven, be thou welcome”), was composed for the Feast of the Annunciation or Palm Sunday, which in 1714 fell on March 25.
Given that the Lutheran church did not allow cantatas during Lent (the exception being when, as in 1714, the Annunciation fell on a Sunday), it is almost certain that BWV 182 represents the first work Bach composed as part of his new post [emphasis mine]. Compared to most of the composer’s earlier cantatas, it is particularly extensive (comprising eight sections) and elaborate, suggesting that the composer set out to provide something special for his first effort in the service of Duke Wilhlem Ernst.
The author of the texts has not been positively identified, but was most likely Salomo Franck, the Weimar court librarian and poet whose texts Bach is known to have begun to setting upon assuming his new duties. The text has three sources: Psalm 40:8-9, the Palm Sunday Gospel (Matthew 21:1-9) recounting Christ’s entry into Jerusalem, and a strophe from the hymn “Jesu Leiden, Pein und Tod” (1633) by Paul Stockmann.
Today’s sample includes movements 1-2, and the concluding chorus.
King of heaven, welcome,
let us also be your Zion !
You have taken our hearts from us.
So let us go in the Salem of joy,
accompany the king in love and in sorrows
he goes before
and opens the way.