Background Information
Performer Bios

Poet/Composer Bios

Additional Information

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

Cantata BWV 209
Non sa che sia dolore
Discussions - Part 3

Continue from Part 2

Discussion in the Week of December 29, 2013 (3rd round)

William Hoffman wrote (December 29, 2013):
Cantata 209: Intro., Collegium musicum & Italian Music

Italian-language farewell cantata, BWV 209, “Non sa che sia dolore” (He Knows Not What Is Pain), for soprano, flute, strings, and continuo, usually is dated to 1729-35 and has important elements of Bach’s musical style with various possible historical-biographical connections. The most recent of the past half-century scholarship suggests that it is an adapted work, possibly from a concerto with da-capo form movements, for a scholar’s departure. Cantata 209 also appears to have associations with Bach’s Leipzig Collegium musicum and performances of popular Italian-style music at Zimmermann’s with possible guests from the Dresden Court.

The suggested scholar departures are Thomas School rector Johann Matthias Gesner, on October 4, 1734, to his posting in Ansbach, or Bach student and music/science scholar Lorenz Christoph Mizler (1711-78), who also had Ansbach connections, moved to Wittenberg in 1735 to study law and medicine and returned to Leipzig in 1736 and established his learned society, and eventually moved to Poland.

The five movements, scorings and text titles are:

1. Sinfonia (Flauto traverso, Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo), B Minor, 2/4;
2. Recitative (Soprano; Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo), Non sa che sia dolore (He does not know what sorrow is), B Minor to A Major, 4/4;
3. Aria da-capo (Soprano; tutti instruents), Parti pur e con dolore (Depart then and with sorrow), E Minor, 4/4;
4. Recitative (Soprano, Continuo), Tuo saver al tempo e l'età contrasta (Your knowledge contrasts with the time and age), B Minor to E Minor, 4/4; and
5. Aria (Soprano; tutti instruments), Ricetti gramezza e pavento (Do away with anxiety and dread), G Major 3/8.

[Cantata 209, BCW Details, ]; Score BGA [1.98 MB] ; Score Examples, (209/1=1043/1); References, BGA XXIX (Secular Cantatas 208-210 etc., Paul Graf Waldersee, 1881), NBA-KB I/41 (Cantatas for various secular occasions, Andreas Glöckner, 2000), BC G 50, Zwang W 3.

Complete Recordings:, scroll down, those with audio-visual (YouTube) are marked with icons at the bottom of the individual listing (in process). The Cantata 209 opening sinfonia with Gustav Leonhardt (2007) is found at YouTube, and Sinfonia Collegium 1704, ; also BCW Recording Details, Recordings of Individual Movements,

The three specific Italian text sources for the composite libretto, found in the first surviving copy c.1800, are described in “Notes on the text” of Francis Browne’s 2003 BCW English translation: “The principal source of BWV 209 is a copy made by Johann Nikolaus Forkel in 1800. The authenticity of the work has been much discussed. It may have been conceived as a farewell cantata on the departure of a teacher. But the text seems rather to be addressed to a young man leaving for military service and in two separate passages makes reference to the sea. All this suggests that the cantata relates to the departure from a port (Hamburg, perhaps?) of a young marine officer. The cantata uses a composite text by an unknown author (perhaps a German); it includes passages from G. B. Guarini's 'Partita dolorosa' (madrigal no. 41 from his Rime, published in Venice in 1598) and Pietro Metastasio's opera Semiramide riconosciuta (Act 2, scene 6) and his azione teatrale Galatea, together with other verses probably freely invented. It is not known why Bach had recourse to an Italian text which is, among other things, somewhat irregular and disconnected, showing an incomplete mastery of the language.” 1

A summary description of Cantata 209 is found in Christoph Wolff’s 1996 liner notes to the Koopman-Erato recording: “The poem of an unknown, probably German writer, makes use of the work of Guarini (1538-1612) and Metastasio (1698-1782). Although the occasion of the first performance is not known, the text implies that it is a farewell cantata for a young scholar returning to his native Ansbach. Consequently the work belongs perhaps in the orbit of the Collegium musicum and Leipzig University. The work opens with an extensive sinfonia following which the main movements set the soprano against a solo transverse flute. No original sources of the composition survive but a copy from the possession of J.N. Forkel (c. 1800) with the title "Cantata a Voce sola" serves as a reference.2

An introduction to Cantata 209 is found in Julian Mincham’s commentry: <<Like its more concise sister work C 203, this cantata has generated doubts about its dating, function and authenticity; some of these issues are addressed in chapter 100. In fact, the two pieces sit well together as a part of the same concert programme and should be performed more often as such [BCW Discussion, Yahoo Groups,].

The reference to the town of Ansbach in the second recitative gives us a clue as to the cantata's original function. The Italian violinist and composer Giuseppe Torelli [1658-1709], now largely remembered for his trumpet concerti and sinfonias, had been appointed to the court of the Margrave of Brandenburg-Ansbach in 1698 where he introduced a number of Italian works. Bach certainly knew some of his music, having transcribed a violin concerto of his at Weimer (BWV 979). Torelli established in the town a liking of Italian culture and this seems to have permeated through to the setting of C 209. Whether Bach was commissioned by someone from Ansbach, or wrote the cantata for a friend or colleague from that town cannot be established, but the Italian connection is historically substantiated. The text indicates that its function was that of a valedictory ode.

Sinfonia. The work is conceived as two paired recitatives and arias preceded by a substantial sinfonia. The use of a virtuoso flautist in three of the five movements might indicate that it was written around 1724-5 when the religious cantatas reveal the existence of such a player in Leipzig. The opening sinfonia is very likely to have been adapted or adopted from a lost concerto and its many similarities to the Orchestral Suite no 2, in the same key [B Minor], are obvious to anyone who knows both works.>> Further details of the text and music of the individual movements is found at [Suite No. 2 exists in a 1731 manuscript and both works may have been performed by the Collegium musicum on the same program with the same flutist at Zimmermann’s.]

The form and content of Cantata 209 are discussed at length in Uri Golomb’s comments, BCW Discussions, Part 2.3 “It is clearly a farewell song from a departing friend -- indeed, its program is somewhat similar to Bach's youthful Capriccio, BWV 992, written as a farewell to the composer's brother -- but it is not clear who it is, and when the event took place. (Dürr [Ibid.: 924] cites two candidates -- Johann Matthias Gesner's departure from Weimar in 1729, and Lorenz Christoph Mizler's departure from Leipzig in 1734 -- but has doubts about both).” A detailedMitzler BCW biography is found at

The music of the opening sinfonia and two da-capo arias may derive from an older source, either a pasticcio or a concerto. “Personally,” says Golomb, “I'm inclined to believe that Bach is responsible for the whole thing, except for the lyrics (how good was Bach's Italian, BTW? Is it possible that he didn't notice the infelicities in the text?). The opening Sinfonia (Mvt. 1) is probably derived from a lost concerto (not necessarily for flute, though the prospect of a complete flute concerto by Bach is certainly tantalising...). Dürr writes that it ‘shows no direct correspondence with the affect of the cantata’ -- presumably meaning that it is too cheerful. I'm not sure I agree. The movement is certainly cheerful, but it is also rather serious (especially in its chromatic moments), and its contrapuntal richness further enhances its serious demeanor. That mixture seems quite appropriate for the occasion -- assuming, that is, that the departure is a bittersweet occasion. This is in fact spelled out later: the opening recitative, and the outer sections of the first aria, mourn the dedicatee's departure, but the aria's middle section foresees a great future for him -- and the music accordingly becomes more cheerful. The final aria -- which ‘exhibits some decidedly “modern,” Italianate features’ (Dürr) focuses on the lighter side, sending the dedicatee off in high spirits. Dürr points out that doubts on the work's authenticity focus primarily on this movement; but he himself does not seem to share these doubts. He calls the work ‘a masterpiece of its kind’; and Bach was not averse to exploring the galant style on occasion.” “The work's mourning-to-hopeful-farewell trajectory is reminiscent of the Capriccio, though the latter work has a more elaborate and detailed narrative. Also, the mourning in that work is more intense (or, at least, more heart-on-sleeve) than in the cantata.”

“Dürr sums up the work as ‘a cantata which, though perhaps not very profound, is nonetheless exceedingly charming and rich in inspiration.’ I feel there's very little to add to this; though I would actually say there is more expressive profundity here than in, say, BWV 51 (not to mention the Coffee Cantata (BWV 211) -- and BTW, I love both BWV 51 and the Coffee Cantata). This isn't, of course, the Bach of the Passions; but it's the Bach of the orchestral suites and the more cheerful concerti, and that's definitely more than enough!”

The opening sinfonia and two da-capo arias have been arranged as a “Concerto for Oboe d’amore Strings and Continuo by Andreas Tarkmann. It is recorded by Albrecht Mayer, 2009 “Voices of Bach,” English Concert, Trinity Baroque; Decca CD 478-1517; recording download: (Tracks 2-4, Buy MP3).4

Various Cantata 209 topics including the Forkel “Primary Source,” the three “Text” sources, “Questions Regarding the Cantata’s Authenticity” and the “History of its Origin, and Dating” are found in Thomas Braatz’ “Provenance” BCW 2008 article,

Leipzig Collegium musicumm, Italian Music

Bach’s activities with the Leipzig Collegium musicum in the 1730s not only involved hisdrammi per musica and other profane works but also various Italian solo cantatas by other noted composers as regular fare at Zimmermann’s Coffee House and Garden. These works are described in Andreas Glöckner’s “Neuerkenntnisse zu J.S. Bachs Aufführungskalendar.” 5 The source of the music is from the Collegium musicum library of Bach’s assistant and successor, Carl Gotthelf Gerlach (1704-1761), in his estate purchased after 1761 by Leipzig printer Breitkopf. They are the George Friderick Handel (1685-1759) cantata “Armida Abbandonata,” HWV 105, 1731; Nicola Popora (1686-1768): cantatas “Dal primo foco cui penai,” “Sopra un colle fiorito,” and “Ecco l’infausto lido,” c.1734 (copied in the hand of Gerlach Johann Ludwig Dietel, Bach student and occasional copyist) and; and Allesandro Scarlatti (1660-1725): cantata “So amor con un contento,” 1730-37.

The two Italian cantatas, both also for soprano solo, which Bach performed and are cited in Wolff (Ibid.: 355) are Handel's "Armida Abbandonata," for soprano and strings, and Francesco Bartolomeo Conti's "Languet anima mea," for soprano, 2 oboes and strings (Ibid., p.168). The Handel early Italian work (c.1707) is a mythical, Arcadian tragedie lyrique, popular with collegia musica. The copy probably dates from c.1731, in the hands of J.S. and son C.P.E. Bach. The Conti work has a different origin and purpose but similar provenance. Bach produced the score and parts, without oboes, in 1716 in Weimar, possibly from the court capelle library. He added the oboe parts and performed it in Köthen. Bach copied the work again in the summer of 1724 and it seems to have been performed more than once at Leipzig church services. This version has an organ continuo part from Bach's Leipzig copyist Christian Gottlob Meißner. It is a general liturgical motet-style work with no biblical reference (except a rousing, closing Alleluja), according to Ulrich Leisinger's notes for the recording of both works.6

So, what singers might have performed these two cantatas? Wolff infers that the Dresden diva Faustina Bordoni could have performed the Handel with the Collegium musicum at Zimmerman's in the 1730s when she and husband J.A. Hasse visited Bach often. As for the Conti, the soloist could have been Bach's wife, Anna Magdalena, in Köthen but not in a Leipzig church.

The original source of these solo Italian cantatas is probably the Dresden Court. Bach made at least four visits to Dresden from 1731 to 1741. On September 13, 1731, he probably attended the gala premiere of Hasse’s “Cleofide,” featuring his wife. The couple made several visits to Dresden during the 1730s, staying at the Bach quarters and she probably sang many of these cantatas. Bach also visited Dresden in 1736, May 1738, and November 1741, his last documented trip to the Saxon Court.

Several of the Italian works and Cantata 203 were included in catalogues issued by the publishing firm of Breitkopf. Cantata 203 is listed in the 1764 general catalogue under “Cantaten mit einer Singstimme und dem concertirenden Clavier” (Cantatas with a voice and concerted keyboard), attributed to “Bach, J. S.” The 1765 special thematic catalogue of Italian sacred and secular music lists Cantata 203 and the Italian works under “Catalogo delle arie, duetti, madrigali a cantate, con stromenti diversi e con cembalo solo, che si trovano on manoscritto nella officina musica de Breitkopf in Lipsia.” 7

Recently, more works for soprano have been suggested, according to George B. Stauffer's "Music for `Cavaliers et Dames': Bach and the repertory of his Collegium Musicum." 8 These include three additional Porpora cantatas (“D’amor la belle pace,” “La viola che languiva,” and “Tu ten vai cosi fastoso”), copied by Gerlach alone with all six for soprano, alto, or contralto and harpsichord continuo. Gerlach sang alto and played violin and harpsichord with the group. “There is no indication of any accompanimental instrument other than the harpsichord, and thus the six cantatas can be viewed as a link with the ‘cembalization’ of the continuo seen in Bach’s chamber works calling for obbligato harpsichord without additional bass insteument, sich as the violin, flute and gamba sonatas and Cantata 203, Amore traditore,” says Stauffer (Ibid.: 144).

Stauffer adds the Gerlach-Dietel c.1735 copying of two arias from Handel's 1735 “Alcina” as well as another questionable Handel cantata, “Dica il faso, dica il veri,” and three arias (all in the Breitkopf 1768 catalog) – all for soprano, violins and continuo. All this music “underscores the strointerest in Italian-texted works and present a broader context for Bach’s two secular compositions in that style,” Cantatas 203 and 209, says Stauffer (Ibid: 153).

While Bach probably was knowledgeable about opera, particularly Hasse’s Second Neopolitan School perfecting opera seria, few of his arias in content show overtly Pietro Metastasio’s concept of the affective expression of the soul, involving arias of rage, anger, jealousy, and the Seven Deadly Sins. Bach seemed content to dwell on the pietistic elements of simple yet often graphic, direct expression, also found in the Berthold Brockes lyrical dramatic Passion arias, ariosi, and soliloquies. These involve the various phases of passion: suffering, anger, intensity, and love. [See Metastasio Wikipedia biography,]

Thomas School Rectors

As Leipzig church cantor, Bach’s immediate supervisor was the Thomas School rector. Bach served under three rectors: Johann Heinrich Ernesti (1652-1729), Johann Matthias Gesner (1691-1761), and Johann August Ernesti (1707-1781). The first Ernesti was rector when Bach came to Leipzig in 1723. Following Ernesti’s death, Bach’s friend and school reformer, Gesner, served from 1730 to 1734, and was succeeded by the second Ernesti (not related), with whom Bach had conflicts. Both Ernestis were educated at the University of Leipzig. Further information on the second Ernesti, Johann August, is found in Carol K. Baron’s lead article, “Tumultuous Philosophers, Pious Rebels, Revolutionary Teachers, Pedantic Clerics, Vengeful Bureaucrats, Threatened Tyrants, Worldly Mystics: The Religious World Bach Inherited.” 9

During the tenure of the first Ernesti, who became rector in 1684, the Thomas School declined significantly and Gesner undertook various reforms as well as a major renovation and expansion that included the Bach family residence in the school building. Bach honored Gesner, noted reformer, scholar and humanist, on October 4, 1734, possibly with two cantatas: a lost festive departure homage work, BWV Anh. 210, “Wo sind meine Wunderwerke” (Where are my works of wonder) probably in front of the Thomas School, and an intimate soprano solo Italian cantata, BWV 209, “Non sa che dolore” (He knows not what is pain), probably at Zimmermann’s Coffeehouse.10

Forkel Connection.

Johann Nikolaus Forkel, who owned the apparent first surviving copy of Cantata BWV 209, makes a specific reference under the subheading Vocal Compositions in his Bach Biography (1802), "also a few Italian [Secular] Cantatas" (New Bach Reader NBR 472). Since his basic source is C.P.E Bach's Obituary listing of Bach's unpublished works (1750/54, in NBR 304), Forkel's listing is actually a replacement for the C.P.E. entry involving "also several comic vocal pieces" (NBR 304).

Forkel's own specific knowledge of Bach's vocal works is based on two sources. One is his Biography listing of 10 categories of vocal works found in the Library of the Prussian Princess Anna Amalia (NBR 473), the last listing (10) being "a peasant cantata," BWV 212, the only mention of a profane, worldly, secular work, either a copy made by Penzel in 1754 or from the hand of C.P.E. Bach's Hamburg main copyist H. Michel. The other source involves the few Bach manuscripts Forkel possessed. In addition to copies of "Non sa che sia dolore" and Cantata 198, he also had copies of two cantatas from the chorale cycle which Friedemann allowed him to copy, for a price, in the 1770s: Cantatas BWV 9 and BWV 178 (BD III, No. 831). That Forkel in 1802 had possessed a copy of the now lost First Köthen Funeral Cantata, BC B-21 (BWV deest) is discussed at length in Smend's Bach in Köthen, Footnote 91 (ed. & rev. 1985). Also found listed in Forkel’s 1819 estate but also lost is a presumed Köthen court New Year’s Day secular cantata, “Ihr wallenden Wolken” (BC G 52, BWV1 Forward: p.X1, No. 5. Unfortunately, Forkel's primary musical interest in Bach focused on the keyboard works, which he unsuccessfully attempted to collect and publish.

So how did Forkel come to possess the copy of Cantata BWV 209? The most likely sources could be W.F. or publisher Bretikopf in Leipzig. Friedemann actually performed Secular Cantata BWV 205a, in Halle on Nov. 21, 1756, and Dec. 18, 1757, as well as the two Chorale Cantatas, BWV 9 and BWV 178, in September 1759 (Peter Wollny, Bach Studies 2; 209, 212). In addition to offering for sale copies of Friedemann’s inherited cantata manuscripts, Breitfkopf collected and advertised copies of Cantata BWV 203 as well as motets and apocryphal Bach sacred Cantatas BWV 217, BWV 218, and BWV 220.


1 Information from The Oxford Composer Companion: J. S. Bach), 1999>> (See Italian text and Browne’s English translation, BCW ).
2 Wolff Cantata 209 liner notes[AM-3CD].pdf to Koopman-Erato BCW Recording Details,
3, 2008), citing Alfred Dürr theCantatas of JSB (Oxford University Press, 2005: 922-25).
4 BCW Recording Details,, scroll down to T-2; movements and timings: 1. Allegro (6:07, Sinfonia 209/1), 2. Andante (7:33, aria 209/3), No. 3. Allegro (5:19, aria 209/5);
5 New Knowledge of J.S. Bach’s Performance Calendar, Bach Jahrbuch 1981, pp. 63-71, and Wolff’s Johann Sebastian Bach: The Learned Musician (JSB: TLM: pp. 333, 501).
6 Thomas Hengelbrock's "From the Music Library of JSB" (Hänssler CD), music found in the Breitkopf 1761 catalog.
7 Cited in 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).
8 In About Bach, Festschrift for Christoph Wolff (University of Illinois, 2008).
9 In the Leipzig study, Bach’s Changing World: Voices in the Community(University of Rochester (NY) Press, 2006).
10 Cantata 209 is the final BCML Round 3 Discussion work, on December 29, under the final Secular Cantata (Bach Compendium) category G, “Various Occasions.” See Gesner’s biography at Wikipedia,


Gustav Adolf Theil uses Italian Cantata 209 as a parody for Picander's 1728 Lenten cantata text, "Böse Welt, schmäh immerhin," in a score with forward, published by Forberg Verlag in Bonn, 1983 (Source, Schmieder BWV 209, catalog 1990: 344).

Aryeh Oron wrote (December 30, 2013):
Cantata BWV 209: Intro.- Recordings

Will Hoffman wrote:
< Complete Recordings:, scroll down, those with audio-visual (YouTube) are marked with icons at the bottom of the individual listing (in process). >
The main page of Cantata BWV 209 on the BCW has been revised and updated. That includes:
- Adding many details, cover photos, etc to existing recordings.
- 12 new recording, most of them from YouTube.
- Listening/watching option to 19 recordings (of 45 complete or near complete).

I would be happy to get your input regarding this cantata, for example:
- If you are a listener: your opinion of the relative merits of the recordings available on the page above an/or other recordings at your disposal.
- If you have performed this cantata as a singer, player or conductor: your perception from prepthe cantata for performance and performing it.

Happy New Year!


Cantata BWV 209: 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


Back to the Top

Last update: Sunday, May 28, 2017 07:30