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Cantata BWV 203
Amore traditore
Discussions - Part 3

Continue from Part 2

Discussions in the Week of December 22, 2013 (3rd round)

William Hoffman wrote (December 23, 2013):
Cantata 203, Amore traditore: Intro. & Italian music

Italian musical styles and genres constitute the foundation of Bach’s compositions and are found throughout his vocal and instrumental works. In the vocal field, Bach’s music usually observes the Italian cantata genre of arias, recitatives, choruses, and ariosi. This is called “madrigalian” music with movements of varying poetic or free-verse (recitative) structures, in the so-called Erdmann Neumeister format involving both sacred and secular works. Within the secular realm Bach composed cantatas classified variously as drammi per musica, as well as two chamber cantatas in the Italian language for solo voice, BWV 203, “Amore traditore” (Treacherous love) for bass, and Cantata 209, “Non sa che sia dolore” (He does not know what sorrow is) for soprano. Each came during a period when Bach actively pursued Italian styles and forms to satisfy particular audiences, Cantata 203 at the Köthen Court and Cantata 209 in Leipzig probably as part of the weekly concerts of the Collegium musicum at Zimmermann’s Coffee House and Garden. Italian Chamber Cantata 203, “Amore traditore” (Treacherous love), is classified as a secular cantata for an unknown event, composed ?1718-23 (by J.S. Bach?); first performance, unknown date & place, possibly Köthen Court entertainment. Repeats are possible in Leipzig at Zimmermann’s, 1729-1742. Italian text (author unknown) and Francis Browne English translation are found at BCW The scoring is bass soloist, harpsichord accompaniment; movements, two da-capo arias, one recitative (playing time 15 minutes); Score Vocal & Piano [0.83],; Score BGA [0.95 MB],; References are: BGA XI2 (Secular Cantatas 201-205, Wilhelm Rust, 1862); NBA KB I/41 (Cantatas for various secular occasions, Andreas Glöckner, 2000; BC: G 51 | Zwang: W 2 | First Published: BG, 1862 | Autograph score (?Facsimile). Here is a brief description of Cantata 203: “In accordance with almost universal tradition, the text is a love poem,” says Alfred Dürr, Cantatas of JSB (Oxford Univ. Press, 2005: 922). “The unknown poet bewails the chains and painful wounds that accompany love and resolves to be ensnarled by it no longer so that he may live henceforth in freedom.” The movements are: 1. Aria, “Amore traditore, / Tu non m'inganni più” (Treacherous love / you will not deceive me any more). 2. Recitative, “Voglio provar, / Se posso sanar / L'anima mia dalla piaga fatale” (I want to try to see / if I can cure / my soul from the fatal wound). 3. “Chi in amore ha nemica la sorte, / È follia, se non lascia d'amar” (If someone has destiny for his enemy in love / it is madness, not to cease from loving). Audio-video YouTube recordings of Cantata 203 are found at BCW Details and Recordings,], scroll down to recordings and click the icon at the bottom of the individual listings: No. 13, Ton Koopman audio recording (see Christoph Wolff liner notes below), No. 14, Helmut Rilling audio; No. 15, Koopman video; and five other audio-video tapings: Nos. 18, 19, and 21-23.

An introduction to Cantata 203 is found in Julian Mincham’s 2012 commentary: <
Each is scored for a chamber group suggesting domestic performance, although no one has been able to pinpoint definite occasions for which they might have been written. The most probable period of composition is during Bach's years at Cöthen, where Italian cantatas were a part of the repertoire, although it is possible that they may have been commissions from German towns where the culture of Mediterranean music had become strong. Such works as these may have been produced, not necessarily for particular events, but as a part of the regular Cöthen entertainment programme. Of the two, C 203 is the smaller work consisting of only three movements and requiring a minimum of two performers, a singer and a harpsichordist. It is, however, more probable that a gamba or cello would have added to the bass line, particularly in the first two movements. The left hand part of the harpsichord in the second aria is highly idiomatic in its keyboard writing and was probably not doubled. And if Bach intended that only the harpsichord should be used throughout, why write out the full part in one aria and not the other?>> []

Cantata 203 Italian elements and Cöthen origin are discussed in Christoph Wolff’s liner notes to the Koopman-Erato Recording. “Amor e traditore” BWV 203 is a setting of words by an unknown poet for an unknown occasion. The three movement structure (aria-recitative-aria) is typical of the Italian solo cantata. None of the original sources has survived, and even the oldest known copy is no longer extant, although we know that it dated from the first half of the 18th century and that it bore the title “Cantata a Voce solo e Cembalo obbligato di Giov. Seb. Bach”. It is also possible to conclude on the basis of what we know about this copy that the work itself was written before 1723, a dating confirmed by internal evidence, inasmuch as the writing for the obbligato harpsichord points stylistically to Bach’s period as Kapellmeister in Cöthen. It may not be unimportant in this context that Bach’s predecessor in Cöthen, Augustin Reinhard Stricker [d. c1719], wrote and published Italian solo cantatas, suggesting that the genre enjoyed a certain popularity in Cöthen. Italian singers were not normally available during Bach’s incumbency in Cöthen, but one could perhaps imagine him writing BWV 203 for a guest appearance in some other centre such as Karlsbad [Bohemia; court visits, summer 1718 and 1720].1

In 1715 Stricker published his collection of six Italian chamber cantatas for bass and continuo, with a dedication to Prince Leopold. Three works are extant: “Se vuoi, saper mio ben,” “E pur dolce amare,” and Uscitemi dal seno.” Strickler had come to the Köthen Court in 1714 with other noted musicians dismissed by the Prussian Court in Berlin, says Christoph Wolff in JSB: The Learned Musician: 201f).) Two specific elements also found in Bach, Wolff observes, were the basic three-movement "prototype," aria-recitative-aria, and the obbligato violin or oboe, here the harpsichord in the second aria.

Wolff speculates (Ibid.) that bass virtuoso J. G. Riemenschneder might have sung the three-movement Cantata 203 in Cöthen, “another hint at the incalculable riches we are missing from Bach’s musical oeuvre” Court records show singer Riemenschneider was paid on April 8, 1719. During that time, the same records show (Friedrich Smend, Bach in Köthen, 1985 Eng. ed., p. 190) that guest instrumentalists (violinists, a lutenist, horn players) were employed, as well as “Diskantists” (falsettists) and “The Castrato Ginacini” (paid March 21, 1719). Bach may have engaged Ginacini to sing Francesco Conti’s “operatic” solo devotional c, “Languet anima mea,” during Holy Week 1719 in the Köthen castle chapel. Bach replaced Stricker, whose date of death in Heidelberg was between 14 December 1718 [Bach arrived on 10 December and the Prince’s birthday was on 12 December] and the end of April 1719, says Andreas Glöckner in the Stricker biography in Musik in Geschicht und Gegenwart (MGG) (2nd ed., 1994-2007: 173f). It is possible that in Köthen bass Riemenschneider also may have performed some of the Stricker cantatas and that Ginacini’s Holy Week performance of cantata “Languet anima mea” (My soul languishes),2 arranged by Bach, was dedicated to Strickler, who converted to Catholicism just before he died.

Information on Stricker’s death is vague. Glöckner citing Mattheson says he died in Heidelberg in 1719.3 Dorothea Schröder’s article on Stricker in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicans (2nd ed., 200l: 574), that contains most of the same earlier information on Stricker, says he left Köthen in the autumn of 1717 to serve the court at Neuberg on der Donau. “It is not known whether Stricker moved with the court to the new residential seats at Heidelberg in 1718 or 1720; he probably died before 1723.” Bach first came into direct contact with Italian vocal music during his stay in Lüneburg as a choral scholar at the Michaelisschule, from April 1700 to April 1702 and probably remained in northern Germany studying organ performance and construction until December 1703, when he became a musician and “lacquey” at the Weimar Court. During his two years in Lüneburg, Bach was introduced to Italian repertory at the Hamburg opera and and the court chapel at nearby Celle, says Alberto Basso in “Opera and Dramma per Musica.4

Poets Christian Heinrich Postel (1658-1705) and Christian Friedrich Hunold (pen-name Menantes, 1681-1721), were librettists associated with the Hamburg opera. Both were fluent in Italian music and the influences of the Arcadian neo-classical pastorale style and convention in song and dance, focusing on country life, simplicity in nature and the symbol of the shepherd. In 1700 Postel, educated at Leipzig University, spent the summer in Switzerland and Italy and became acquainted with the Arcadian movement of Italian neo-classicism through scholar Ludovicio Antonio Muratori (1672-1750). Especially noticeable is the pastorale genre emphasizing rural characters and settings in simply song and dance. A learned lawyer, Postel was a prolific librettist with full characters in simple yet expressive and colorful language. His lyrics in the 13 reflective arias in Keiser’s St. John Passion of 1705 reveal these qualities. Especially noticeable is the soprano aria “Bebet, ihr Berge, zerberstet ihr Hügel” (Quake, ye mountains; splinter, ye crags), which influenced Bach’s tenor aria, “Zerschmettert mich, ihr Felsen und ihr Hügel” (Cover me, ye rocks and hills). This aria first appeared in his Weimar/Gotha oratorio Passion of 1717, BC D-1, and was repeated in the 1725 version of the St. John Passion oratorio, BWV 245. Postel was the most important librettist for the Hamburg Opera in the 1690s. His dramatic poetry is based on Italian models with complex German Baroque imagery, and with distinct character development of personalities and intense drama. His texts to oratorios, cantatas, serenatas, and other musical forms are found in his Theatralische, galante, und geistliche Gedichte (Theatrical, Galant and Sacred Poetry, 1706). BCW Postel Short Biography,

While Capellmeister at Köthen, Bach collaborated with court poet Hunold on at least five annual celebratory serenades for Prince Leopold, including Heut ist gewiß ein guter Tag (Today is indeed a good day), BWV Anh. 7 (12/10/1720), a pastoral dialogue with only the text surviving. Later, Bach used a Hunold text for his c.1728 household Cantata, BWV 204, “Ich bin in mir vergnügt” (I am content in myself) from the collection of poetry, Academische Nebenstunden allerhand neuer Gedichte (Academic leisure-hours of all kinds of new poetry; Halle and Leipzig 1713).

Between 1718 and 1721, Hunold-Menantes, who taught poetry and rhetoric at nearby Halle University, published many cantata homage texts in Auserlesene und theils noch nie gedruckte Gedichte unterschiedener Berühmten und geschickten Männer (Selected and in Some Case Not Yet Printed Poems by Distinguished Famous and Skilled Men). Six Bach Köthen works are documented with Hunold-Menantes texts to Bach Köthen Cantatas BWV 193a, BWV 66a (12/10/18) and BWV 134a (1/1/19) (called “Serenatas”), and (no music surviving) to BWV Anh. 5-7: the first a sacred work (12/10/18); the last a “Pastoral dialogue” (12/10/20), and BWV Anh. 6 (5 movements, 1/1/20).

Earlier, Hunold, who was educated at the University of Jena, moved to Hamburg in 1700 as a writer, poet and librettist. He produced librettos for various opera productions and also published satirical novels. While Postel wrote the first liturgical oratorio Passion text for the St. John Passion in 1705, the same year Hunold wrote the Passion oratorio text, Der blutge and sterbende Jesus (The bloody and dying Jesus) for another Kesier dramatic Passion. Both Keiser Passions probably were performed during the Lenten season when the opera house was closed. Hunold’s Passion text influnced other Hamburg Passions with graphic pietistic accounts of Christ’s death, particularly the best known setting of Barthold Heinrich Brockes (1712), Der für die Sünde der Welt gemarterte und sterbende Jesus (Jesus martyred and dying for the sins of the world), which also shows Arcadian naturalistic descriptions.

Hunold's most important work, the theoretical study Die allerneueste Art, zur reinen und galanten Poesie zu gelangen (1707), is, strictly speaking, plagiarism: he based it on the [Italian cantata text] ideas Erdmann Neumeister had developed in his lectures at the University of Leipzig. After 1708, Hunold taught at the University of Halle, and after completing his doctor’s degree in 1714, law as well. Hunold’s BCW Short Biography is found at .

The fashion for Italian music in German is described in Chapter 2, “Germany on the Brink of the Enlightenment,” in John Eliot Gardiner’s new Bach musical biography, Bach: Music in the Castle of Heaven. (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2013: 32-36). The Italian influence was most pronounced in northern Germany, especially the Venetian Catholic composers’ music “as a blood transfusion to the music of the Lutheran Church” (Ibid.: 32f). Bach’s predecessors “gave a new creative impetus to the process of grafting Italian styles of church music to the native rootstock, fusing the vigor of vernacular declamation with the colour and passion of Italian sonorities.” “In this way, three successive generations of German composers, beginning with Schütz, came to acknowledge Italy as die Mutter der edlen Musik (‘The Mother of noble music’) – both church and theatre music.” Italian concertos were the most influential music as Bach in Weimar “first reached full maturity as a composer,” says Richard Douglas (D. P.) Jones in “Part II, First Maturity (c. 1709-1717)” of The Creative Development of JSB, Volume 1 (1695-1717). 5 Central to his development as a composer was Bach’s keyboard arrangements of contemporary Italian concertos of Vivaldi, Torelli, and the Marcello brothers, Allesandro and Menedetto. Bach “wholeheartedly responded to its primary colours, its driving rhythms, its strongly characterized, triadic tutti themes, its brilliant idiomatic violin writing, its clear ritornello structure, and above all its freedom from constraint and schematicism,” Jones says (Ibid.: 136). Given the frequent interchange between German and Italian musicians since the early seventeenth century, Bach was already fully aware of Italian music traditions through the work of Italian-trained and influences Germans such as Schütz, Reincken, and Buxtehude,” says Dr. Peter Watchorn in “Nand startling effects: Bach’s Concerto Arrangements.”6 Of particular note is Bach’s copy of Frescobaldi’s 1635 Fiori musicali collection of keyboard tocattas and canzoni. “At this time Bach had also based works of his own on themes of Italian composers such as Corelli, Albinoni, and Lagrenzi,” says Watchorn (Ibid.). Many of these Italian composers, particularly Benedetto Marcello and Corelli, were members of the Arcadian Academy of neo-classical naturalists, as well as the poet and librettist Pietro Metastasio, whose lyrics are part of Bach’s Cantata 209. Dance Movements. Neither Doris Fincke-Hecklinger (Tanzcharakter in Vokalmusik JSB) nor Meredith Little and Natalie Jenne (Dance and the Music of JSB) finds any dance influences in Cantata BWV 203. However, Terejia in her Introduction [BCW Cantata 203 Discussions7] suggested that the first da capo aria is in siciliano style (the tempo is 12/8) and the second is in polonaise style (the tempo is ¾). Bach composed at least two arias in popular polonaise style in Köthen: BWV 173a/8 and BWV 184a/4. No siciliano-style surviving arias are found in Köthen, although the term was loosely associated with another dance "style," the pastorale, showing the Italian Arcadian influence particularly popular at the beginning of the 18th century.

Cantata 203 provenance, according to Alberto Basso in Oxford Composer Companions: JSB (Oxford Univ. Press, 1999:12f) is as follows: “ The cantata was included in catalogues issued by the publishing firm of Breitkopf in 1764 and 1765. Compared with Bach’s other Italian cantata, Non sa che sia dolore [BWV 209], the text is linguistically more correct but defective. The work survives in three 19th-century sources of Viennese provenance which belonged to three different collectors: Franz Hauser (1794-1870), Josef Fischof (1805-57), and Aloys Fuchs (1799-1853); the first two are now in the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, the third in the Benedictine abbey at Göttweig in Lower Austria.”8


Italian music flourished with Bach in the 1730s when he conducted weekly concerts of the Leipzig Collegium musicum at Zimmermann’s Coffee House and Garden. In addition to some of his secular cantatas and instrumental music, Bach presented similar works of his colleagues with guest performers from the Dresden Court where Italian music was central. In 1734 Bach probably presented his Italian Chamber Cantata 209, Non sa che sia dolore (BCW Discussion, next week), and his assistant and successor, Carl Gotthelf Gerlach presented Italian chamber cantatas.


1 Christoph Wolff liner notes,[AM-3CD].pdf ,
Recording Details, BCW
2 Program notes in the CD recording by Magdalena Kožená and Reinhard Goebel, BCW, cited in “Bach’s Dramatic Music: Serenades, Drammi per Musica, Oratorios,” William Hoffman (August 2008), BCW Articles,
3 Besides his NBA-KB 41 study (References, Ibid.) and MGG article (Ibid.), is Andreas Glöckner’s “Das kleine italienische Dinge: Zu Übelieferung und Datierung der Kantate ‘Aire traditore,” Bach Jahrbuch 1996: 133-7.
4 From Die Welt der Bach Kantaten (The World of the Bach Cantatas), Vol. 2, Secular Cantatas, “The Composer in His World” (Stuttgart: Metzler/Bärenreiter, 1997). See Thomas Braatz BCW article summary translation,[Braatz].htm .
5 Oxford University Press, 2007, describes Bach’s creative development beginning with the “ Formative Years (c. 1695-c/1709).”
6 Liner notes, “Concerti BWV 972-987: Arrangements of Various Other Compopsers Works,” Peter Eatchhorn, keyboards, Hänssler Edition, Bachakademie, CDs, Volume 92.
7 Part 2, 2008;
8 Details of the Breitkopf listing and the Hauser and Fischof manuscript copies, as well as Bach’s authorship of Cantata 203 are found at Robert Donnington’s “Amore traditore: A Problem Cantata,” in Studies in Eighteenth Century Music. Tribute to Carl Geiringer. . . (London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1970: 160-176).

William Hoffman wrote (December 26, 2013):

Gustav Adolf Theil assembled a four-movement Picander-parodied sacred cantata using the Cantata 203 arias (Movements Nos. 1 and 3) as well as the recitative (No. 2), “Nun, falsche Welt! Nun habe ich weiter nichts mit dir zu tun” (Now, false world! / now I have nothing more to do with you) from Cantata BWV 95, Christus, der ist mein Leben (Christ is my life), for the 16th Sunday after Trinity 1723, and the closing chorale, “Jesu, der du meine Seele” (Jesus, by whom my soul), BWV 354, for a parody arrangement of the 1728 Picander Lenten cantata text, “Valet will ich dir geben” (I want to bid you farewell) in a score with forward, published by Forberg Verlag in Bonn, 1984 (Source, Schmieder BWV [203] catalog 1990: 328). Theil also uses Italian Cantata 209 as a parody for Picander's 1728 Lenten cantata text, "Böse Weltschmäh immerhin," details in next week's BCW Discussion of Cantata 209.


Cantata BWV 203: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Recordings & Discussions of Cantatas: Main Page | 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
Discussions of General Topics: Cantatas & Other Vocal Works | Performance Practice | Radio, Concerts, Festivals, Recordings


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