The cantata Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland BWV 61 is one of Johann Sebastian Bach’s early works. It was premiered on 2 December 1714 in Weimar, where the composer served as concertmaster at the court of Prince Wilhelm Ernst. His duties included writing one cantata a month for the liturgy in the prince’s chapel. It was a very turbulent time for Bach. He hoped that the prince would appoint him kapellmeister after the death of the composer who had held this position previously. When this did not happen, an angry Bach handed in his notice so furiously that the prince, enraged by his arrogance, threw him into prison for a month. However, as for Bach’s work at that time, the period was very fruitful, and this cantata is a perfect example. The title is incipit and means “Saviour of the heathen, come now”. Bach used in this work religious poetry by Erdmann Neumeister.
The music is full of splendour and sparkle, which is announced by the French overture-style chorus opening the work (first a slow episode, then a fast episode, and finally a slow one again). During performances at the French court, it was the moment when the king entered the venue; however, the composer had in mind the coming of another king. He went even further. In the bass recitation, along with the words sung by Christ, “Here I am, I stand at the door and knock” in the part of the strings, a pizzicato imitating knocking is heard. The combination of the panache associated with the operatic style, the illustrative elements that appeal to the imagination and the wealth of emotions have made this cantata survive in the repertoire and delight generations of listeners.