OK, cheap pun. But couldn’t resist!



I’ve been listening over and over this Christmas season to possibly the loveliest oratorio ever, J. S. Bach’s Christmas Oratorio (Weihnachtsoratorium BWV 248). This particular recording, featuring the Münchener Bach-Chor and the Bach-Collegium München under the direction of Peter Schreier, is a gem.

I couldn’t help noting similarities between the aria Ich will nur dir zu Ehren leben, the  penultimate movement in Cantata IV:

and the first movement (Vivace) of his Double Concerto for two violins (BWV 1043).


Both are in D minor; both are in more or less the same tempo. Both give prominence to the interwoven melody created by two violins), supported by continuo. The aria obviously also has a vocal (tenor) line superimposed upon everything else as well. The melodies in both have a lot in common, with a similar forward propulsive energy.

They were written not so far apart from each other: The double violin concerto between 1730 and 1731; whereas the Weihnachtsoratorium was written for the Christmas season of 1734.

The aria  Ich will nur dir zu Ehren leben (I just want Thee to live in honour) has its basis the secular cantata  Auf meinen Flügeln sollst du schweben BWV 213 from “Die Wahl des Herkules”

first performed in 1733. This work is scored for tenor, oboe, violin and continuo.

All three works were written while Bach was Cantor of Thomasschule in Leipzig. The Thomasschule was adjacent to the Thomaskirche (St. Thomas’s Lutheran Church) where the Weihnachtsoratorium was first performed.

It is perhaps inevitable that some of his compositions should rub off against others. After all, the Weihnachtsoratorium is widely considered to be a particularly sophisticated example of parody music.

But I have not come across any literature that documents this particular similarity. I would be grateful if someone who reads this points me in the direction of anything that sheds more light on this.