Cantata for the Sexagesima Sunday
Bach composed this choral cantata for the Sexagesima Sunday and performed it for the first time on 4th of february 1725. The cantata is based on Martin Luthers choral „Erhalt uns Herr, bei Deinem Wort“, a song with an eventful history. In 1541 the turks started another war on middle europe, the french king allied with the turks against the german king and the pope was supposedly to support this alliance.
The Kurfürst Johann Friedrich ordered Martin Luther to pray with his people and Luther wrote some papers on this subject („Vom Kriege wider die Türken“ & „Vermahnung zum Gebet wider die Türken“) and the choral „Erhalt uns Herr, bei Deinem Wort“ - subtitled “Ein Kinderlied, zu singen wider die zween Ertzfeinde Christi und seiner heiligen Kirchen, den Bapst und Türcken” (a children’s song to sing against the two sworn enemies of Christ and his holy churches, the Pope and the Turks). Obviously this song was a huge insult to the catholic church and all its members. For a long time this song was the protestant battle song. Bach stuck with Luthers original first verse:
Erhalt uns, Herr, bei deinem Wort,
Und steur’ des Papsts und Türken Mord,
Die Jesum Christum, deinen Sohn,
Stürzen wollen von seinem Thron.
Today this verse is not sung anymore and was changed to „und steure deiner Feinde Mord“.
The score has the second movement, an aria for tenor, two oboes and basso continuo on an anonymous text, however related to Luthers theme:
Sende deine Macht von oben,
Herr der Herren, starker Gott!
Deine Kirche zu erfreuen
Und der Feinde bittern Spott
Augenblicklich zu zerstreuen.
It is based on the autograph parts, Bachs complete score of this cantata is unfortunately lost.