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Cantata BWV 135
Ach Herr, mich armen Sünder
Discussions - Part 3

Continue from Part 2

Discussions in the Week of June 5, 2011

Ed Myskowski wrote (June 6, 2011):
Introduction to BWV 135 -- Ach Herr, mich armen Sünder

Weekly reminder

This week we continue the Trinity season with BWV 135, the second of two works for the 3rd Sunday after Trinity.

Details of text, commentary, recordings, and previous discussion are accessible via: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV135.htm

The link to commentary by Julian [Mincham] is especially recommended as an introduction to listening.

The BWV 135 page also has convenient access to notes from the Gardiner and Koopman (notes by Christoph Wolff) CD issues, via links beneath the cover photos.

Chorale texts are accessible via the BWV 135 home page, and the chorale melody is accessible via the chorale text page.

Note ongoing commentary by Will Hoffman regarding chorale references, and comments by Neil H. regarding sparse chorale inclusions (plain harmonizations) in the the early Leipzig cantatas.

Douglas Cowling wrote (June 6, 2011):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< Introduction to BWV 135 -- Ach Herr, mich armen Sünder >
The chorale in this cantata presents us with an interesting opportunity to study the discontinuity between Bach's contemporary and modern audiences. Today, "Befiehl du deine Wege"/"Herzlich Thut" is almost exclusively considered a hymn for Good Friday because of its prominence in the St. Matthew Passion. So strong is the connection that it is frequently referred to as "THE Passion Chorale." If you sang the tune at any other time of the year, people would be very surprised. It is an aural icon of Good Friday.

And yet it clearly was not to Bach and his listeners, for he uses it on many occasions which are not connected with the Passion. The most striking is of course is the Christmas Oratorio in which he wonderfully exploits the modal ambiguities to present it in a minor key harmonization as the first chorale in the work and then gloriously transfigured in the major key for the finale. Many a program note writer has laboured to suggest that Bach is trying to present a prefiguring of the Passion and Resurrection in the Christmas narrative.

The hymn is the also basis of this cantata for Trinity 3, so what did it "mean" to Bach's listeners? There is no obvious allusion to the Passion that would have reminded them of Good Friday. A comparable example for modern audiences would be the appearance of the "La Marseillaise" in the 1812 Overture which even the uninitiated would recognize as a symbol of France.

The key to this chorale may be in Bach's hymnbook where the hymns for Trinity 3 are listed with the following note: "and others from [the] Confession and Pentinence [section]" It would appear that the chorale would have been an aural signal to Bach's listeners as a chorale associated with acts of penitence which were enjoined on Trinity 3. That is certainly consonant with the cantata's libretto. So too in the St. Matthew Passion where the all the chorales have a penitential theme.

The Christmas Oratorio is a much more subtle and allusive example. Most of the lyrical texts ask the good evangelical question, "How do I accept Jesus into my heart?" Bach seems to answer the question, "Through repentance"

And to that answer he sets the first chorale to a familiar penitential tune:

"How shall I then receive thee
And how thy presence find?"

And the sinner's joy is that Christ will forgive with a D major absolution with fanfares:

"Death, devil, hell and error
To nothing are reduced;"

 

Cantata BWV 135: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Recordings & Discussions of Cantatas: Cantatas BWV 1-50 | Cantatas BWV 51-100 | Cantatas BWV 101-150 | Cantatas BWV 151-200 | Cantatas BWV 201-224 | Cantatas BWV Anh | Order of Discussion

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Last update: ýSeptember 27, 2011 ý20:07:24