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Cantata BWV 5
Wo soll ich fliehen hin?
Discussions - Part 4

Continue from Part 3

Discussions in the Week of October 5, 2014 (4th round)

William Hoffman wrote (October 5, 2014):

Cantata BWV 5, “Wo soll ich fliehen hin” (Where should I flee), Chorale Cantata for the 19th Sunday after Trinity, was first performed on October 15, 1724 (reperformance, 1732-1735), at the Nikolaikirche before the sermon on the Gospel, Matthew 9:1-8 (Miracle: palsy healed), by Superintendent Solomon Deyling (1677-1755). Cantata 5 is based on the Johann Hermann 1630 “Repentance & Confession” hymn set to the 1627 “Cross, Persecution & Challenge” melody, “Auf meinen lieben Gott” (Of my loving God) of Jakob Regnar, originally attributed to J. H. Schein.1

Wo soll ich fliehen hin” is the designated “Hymn of the Day” for Trinity 19 in Saxony with 11 stanzas. Thus, Bach was able to add an additional movement to the usual chorale cantata-form in the palindrome symmetrical-form middle (Mvt. 4), alto recitative with chorale melody in the oboe, Mein treuer Heiland tröstet mich” (My faithful saviour comforts me), as well as two extended da-capo arias, again for the usual tenor and bass, in the 20-minute work with seven movements. The anonymous librettist(s) was able to paraphrase extensively original poetry with two additional, interspersed recitatives emphasizing the central theme of the Gospel and the chorale, “Thy sins be forgiven thee,” according to Nicholas Anderson.2

Special features include the use of a brass instrument (trumpet) again to reinforce the cantus firmus to bolster the boy-soprano line, as well as in a vigorous da-capo duet with the bass (Mvt. 5), “Verstumme, Höllenheer” (Be dumbfounded, you hosts of hell), and another tenor aria da-capo duet (Mvt. 3), A. “Ergieße dich reichlich, du göttliche, Quelle” (Pour yourself out abundantly, you divine spring) this time with a viola or violoncello piccolo instead of a flute, in pastorale-gigue style

Commentaries below include the John Eliot Gardiner notes on the Cantata 5 “correlation between the palsied man and the sin-burdened soul”; Klaus Hofmann on details of the Gospel, Chorale and arias; and special BCW contributions from Francis Browne, “Notes on the Text,” and BCW “Motets and Chorales” and Peter Smaill on the trilogy of cantatas for the 19th Sunday after Trinity, BWV 48, 5, and 56.

Trinity 19 Trilogy: Cantatas 48, 5, 56 3

<<While the appointed New Testament lessons for the final quarter of Trinity Time are increasingly grim and harsh, Bach met the challenge in his cantata musical sermons, beginning with the initial 19th Sunday after Trinity: chorus Cantata BWV 48, "Ich elender Mensch, wer wird mich erosen?" (I, wretched mortal, who shall deliver me?); chorale Cantata BWV 5, "Wo sol lich fliehen hin? (Where shall I fly to?); and bass solo Cantata BWV 56, Ich will den Kreuzstab gerne tragen" (I will the cross-staff gladly carry), BCML Discussion 4rd Round (Week of March 9, 2014), Yahoo, YahooGroops, scroll down to “Cantata 56, "Ich will den Kreuzstab gerne tragen" Intro. & Sidebar.”

Bach employs various techniques and devices to engage the listener in all three works: a general shift from the problem to the solution (negative to positive) in the text and musical setting, the use of well-known chorales with mostly selective Catechism confessional stanzas to confront the listener with the Living Word of God, graphic and descriptive poetic texts, various biblical quotations and illusions, and the use of dance style and other musical techniques. Bach also uses elements of tonal unity and allegory in all three cantatas, with flat, descending keys established in g minor in the opening dicta, moving to Bb and Eb Major in the initial recitatives and all the arias, and returning to c and g minor in the closing recitatives and chorales.

The Trinity Time Christian teachings become increasingly austere and severe, as observed by John Eliot Gardner, in his recording notes to his Bach Cantata Pilgrimage 2000.4 "Now that we are approaching the end of the Trinity season, the thematic emphasis is on the thorny and intractable issues of belief and doubt. With autumn giving way to winter the character of the appointed texts for each Sunday becomes steadily grimmer, underlining the rejection of the world by the faithful and the prospect of eventual union with God - or the horror of exclusion. From week to week this dichotomy appears to grow harsher. For the Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity the Epistle, from Ephesians, focuses on St Paul’s uncompromising juxtaposition of a clean mind and a corrupt body, while the Gospel, taken from St Matthew like so many in this late Trinity season, recounts the miracle of the man ‘sick of the palsy’ healed by Jesus for his faith. As on so many previous occasions throughout the church year, Bach both softens and humanises the severity of the words while in no way diminishing their impact: he has an unfailing knack of being able to vivify the doctrinal message and, when appropriate, of delivering it with a hard dramatic kick, yet balancing this with music of an emollient tenderness.

The final quarter of the Trinity Time mini-cycles on the meaning of being a Christian emphasizes the "last things" (eschatology) couched in symbols of the annual Coming and Sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Says Paul Zeller Strodach, <The Church Year> (United Lutheran Publication House, Philadelphia PA, 1924: 239). The final cycle theme is the "Completion of the Kingdom of Righteousness" involving fulfillment and rewards. This Cycle of Last Things closes a complete year of instruction and emphasizes the promise/warnings of eternal life. >>

Gospel, Epistle Readings Trinity 19

Readings for the 19th Sunday after Trinity: Epistle, Ephesians 4:22-28; Gospel (Paul, Put on the new man), Matthew 9:1-8 (Miracle: Palsy healed); complete text, Martin Luther 1545 English translation, English translation Authorised (King James) Version [KJV] 1611,

Introit Psalm, Psalm 139, Domine, probasti (O Lord, thou hast searched me), says Martin Petzoldt, Bach Commentary, Vol. 1, Trinity Sundays.5 Petzoldt describes Psalm 139 as a “Prayer for the right death manner.” Its 24 lines originated with the Clementine Vulgate (texts, Wikipedia

The lectionary of teachings continues the paired healing miracle in the Gospel, leading to the next Sunday's teaching parable of the marriage feast, with the positive advice found in the Epistle: Ephesians 4:22-28, the Old and New Man. Here is the contrast of the old man of the flesh and the new man of righteousness.

The Gospel, Matthew 9:1-8, is the Miracle of the Palsied Man (9:2, KJV): "And, behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee."

The Epistle, Ephesians 4:22-28, stresses, "Put on the new man" (KJV): Reject the old man of corrupt deceitful lust, renew the spirit of the mind, embrace the new man, like God, "created in righteousness and true holiness." Bear no false witness (8th Commandment), "for we are members one of another. [26] Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: [27] Neither give place to the devil. [28] Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth."

Text: Cantata 5 & Chorale

The Cantata Text involves Johann Heermann’s chorale (Mvts. 1, 7; Stanzas 1, 11 unaltered) and the Anonymous librettist(s) (Mvts. 2-6, paraphrased Stanzas 2-10), with Francis Browne English translation and “Notes on the Text,” BCW

In the Chorale BWV 5, "Wo sol lich fliehen hin? (Where shall I fly to?), the Johann Heermann 1630 text (11 stanzas, 6 lines each) is set to the Jakob Regnar 1627 associated melody "Auf meinen lieben Gott" (Of my loving God, NLGB No. 299 “Persecution, Tribulation & Challenge”) current EKG No. 418. It was introduced on October 15, 1724 and used the melody in the opening fantasia chorus, the alto recitative (No. 4) and the closing chorale (No. 7), S.11, "Führ auch mein Herz und Sinn" (Lead then my heart and mind). The text also has free paraphrases of two succeeding stanzas in the three recitatives and two arias. For the cantata text with Francis Browne's English translation in interlinear format, see BCW, For the Francis Browne translation of the original 12-stanza hymn, from which Cantata BWV 5 paraphrases Stanzas 2-5 and 6-11, see BCW,

Heermann (1585-1647) BCW Short Biography is at The Chorale Melody: Wo soll ich fliehen hin / Auf meinen lieben Gott; Zahn: 2164, EKG: 289 composer Jakob Regnart (1545-1599), BCW Short Biography,; BCW details

Cantata 5 libretto is by an unknown poet, from the first group of Cantatas (78, 8, 96 previous Sunday), Harald Streck (<Die Verskunst in den poetischen Texten zu den Kantaten J.S. Bachs>, diss., University of Hamburg, 1971) dissertation), cited in Arthur Hirsch, "JSB's Cantatas in Chronological Order Texts by Bach" (BACH, July 1973: 19, 25). Chorale Cantata BWV 5 was reperformed between 1732 and the beginning of 1735, according to source-critical evidence, most likely on the 19th Sunday after Trinity, October 24, 1734, possibly as part of performance of the entire second cycle.

Cantata 5 movements, scoring, text, key, meter are:6

1. (Stanza 1 unaltered), Chorus two-part with ritornelli [S, A, T, B; Oboe I/II, Violino I/II, Viola, Tromba da tirarsi [C.f.] col Soprano, Continuo]: A. “Wo soll ich fliehen hin” (Where should I flee); B. “Mit viel und großen Sünden?” (by my many grievious sins?);g minor, 4/4.

2. (Stanzas 2-3 paraphrased) Recitative secco [Bass, Continuo]: “Der Sünden Wust hat mich nicht nur befleckt” (The mess of my sins has not only stained me); d to g minor; 4/4.

3. (Stanza 4 paraphrased) Aria da-capo [Tenor, Viola solo, Continuo]: A. “Ergieße dich reichlich, du göttliche, Quelle” (Pour yourself out abundantly, you divine spring); B. “Es fühlet mein Herze die tröstliche Stunde” (My heart feels the hour of consolation); E-flat major; ¾ pastorale-giga style.

4. (Stanzas 5-7 paraphrased) Recitativo seeco [Alto; Oboe I [C.F.], Continuo]: “Mein treuer Heiland tröstet mich” (My faithful saviour comforts me); Stanza 5, line 3 quoted, “Was ich gesündigt habe” (Whatever sings I have committed); d – g minor; 4/4.

5. (Stanza 8 paraphased) Aria da-capo [Bass; Tromba, Oboe I/II, Violino I all' unisono, Violino II, Viola, Continuo] A. “Verstumme, Höllenheer” (Be dumbfounded, you hosts of hell); B. “Ich darf dies Blut dir zeigen” (I have only to show this blood to you); B-flat major; 4/4.

6. (Stanzas 9-10 paraphrased) Recitative Secco [Soprano, Continuo]: A. “Ich bin ja nur das kleinste Teil der Welt” (I am indeed only the smallest part of the world); g minor, 4/4/.

7. (Stanza 11) Chorale [SATB; Violino I e Oboe I/II e Tromba da tirarsi col Soprano, Violino II coll'Alto, Viola col Tenore, Continuo]: “Führ auch mein Herz und Sinn” (Guide then my heart and mind); g minor; 4/4.

Note on the text (Francis Browne, BCW, Ibid.)

Cantata for the 19th Sunday after Trinity, BWV 5, first performed on 15 October 1724. It belongs to Bach's ambitious cycle of chorale cantatas, each based on a unifying theme, which he produced at Leipzig in 1724-5. The autograph score, once in the collection of the Austrian essayist and poet Stefan Zweig (1881-1942), is now in the British Library. In common with all the chorale-based cantatas of Bach's second Leipzig cycle, the author of the text for this piece is unidentified. It derives from a hymn (1630) by the 17th-century writer Johann Heermann and, as usual with the chorale cantatas of this period, the librettist has included strophes in their original form in the opening and concluding sections of the work. In the Dresden hymn schedules for this Sunday in Trinity, Heermann's text was listed under the heading 'Hymns Concerning Repentance and Confession' (G. Stiller: Johann Sebastian Bach and Liturgical Life in Leipzig (St Louis, Miss., 1970): 246). The five intervening sections incorporate paraphrased strophes of Heermann's hymn. The Gospel appointed for the day (Matthew 9: 1-8) recounts the story of the man healed of the palsy and from this derives the central theme of the cantata, drawn both from the Gospel and from the hymn text itself: 'Thy sins be forgiven thee'.

Cantatas 5, 48, 56 for Trinity 19

The three cantatas Bach composed for the 19th Sunday after Trinity are closely-related, fine works with different themes for this Sunday, Peter Smaill writes. 7 <<This Cantata for this Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity is in the company of the 1723 BWV 48 "Ich elender Mensch" and the 1726 BWV 56 "Ich will das kreuzstab gerne Tragen", works of high and contrasting qualities, and none of the three Cantatas using chorales associated with this Sunday

In BWV 48 IMO the image is of a funeral procession interrupted at the end by the trumpet as the rhetorical answer to the question, "Wretched man that I am , who will deliver me from the body of this death?" BWV 56 uses the mystical image of the navigatio viate to depict the journey of the sin-tormented Christian; in BWV 5 it is a wholly different mystical concept, the "Tropfen" at work, a single drop of Christ's blood as the antidote to sin. Whereas, for example, the Sixteenth Sunday in Trinity has a remarkable unity of all the related Cantatas in Bach's sublime approach to the theme of death, on this Sunday the inferences are completely different.

According to Haselböck the origin of the image of a single drop of Christ's blood assuaging the sins of the whole world , "Dass jeder Tropfen, so auch noch so klein, die ganze welt kann rein, Von Sünden machen", (BWV 5/6) is not in Lutheran piety but originates in St Thomas Aquinas. we have met it before; for the final, exquisite Chorale setting of BWV 136 is also a verse from "Wo soll ich fliehen hin", - "Dein Blut, der edle Saft, hat solche Stärk' und Kraft", which is in BWV 5/6 is paraphrased by the soprano in the "unexpectedly naïve and charming little recitative"(Robertson).

Just as the flowing image brings from Bach word painting relating to the outpouring of the divine spring (BWV 5/3), so in the Chorale of BWV 136 the violin plays a high ascending descant, a consistent musical device showing the flow in nature of the saving blood , thus relating to this mystically-charged image. Sadly in neither the Leusink or even Suzuki recordings of BWV 136 is the beautiful, limpid violin meditation wholly audible above the choir and the full meaning of Bach's special treatment is perhaps only brought out by Christoph Poppen in the related strings-only setting of "Auf meinen Lieben Gott" which prefigures the recordings by the Hilliard Ensemble of BWV 1004.

By contrast the lower-pitched fluid violincello piccolo/viola line of BWV 5/3 is fully audible against a solo voice -this setting perhaps a reaction by Bach to the smothering of the word-painting technique by the choir in 1723 ?- and is further evidence of Bach's particular affinity for illustrating the mystical images current in Pietism and Lutheranism in his day. (Information taken from Oxford Composer Companions, Ibid.)>>

PaMan/Sin-Burdened Soul

Cantata 5 advances the study of the Gospel in the previous Cantata 48, while emphasizing positive healing and “spiritual alchemy” says Gardiner in his liner notes to Cantata 5 (Ibid., Footnote 4). <<Now that we are approaching the end of the Trinity season, the thematic emphasis is on the thorny and intractable issues of belief and doubt. With autumn giving way to winter the character of the appointed texts for each Sunday becomes steadily grimmer, underlining the rejection of the world by the faithful and the prospect of eventual union with God – or the horror of exclusion. From week to week this dichotomy appears to grow harsher. Quite a different hymn by Johann Heerman, but also specified for this Sunday in the Dresdner Gesangbuch, provides the anchor as well as the title for Bach’s cantata for the following year, BWV 5, “Wo soll ich fliehen hin.” In its exegetical unfolding it corresponds to the pattern of ‘Ich elender Mensch’ [Cantata 48, Trinity 19 1723], establishing a correlation between the palsied man and the sin-burdened soul in its first three movements, and describing the extension of Christ’s forgiveness to believers in the last four numbers. But there the similarity ends. Heermann’s hymn and its associated melody ‘Auf meinen lieben Gott’ governs both the shape and the musical substance of the opening fantasia: even the instrumental prelude, an imitative dialogue for pairs of oboes and violins, is based on the hymn tune in diminution, as are the lower three voice lines. The individual phrases of the big-boned melody stand out from the instrumental backcloth composed of little fragmentary exchanges indicative of the timorous soul.

Where in the previous year’s cantata Bach dealt with bodily torment and the poison of sin, here he is concerned with the healing, purgative power of holy blood, one drop of which ‘performs such wonders [that it] cleanses me from all my blemishes’ (No.2). (It immediately made me think of those miraculous preparations used in biodynamic agriculture: a concentration of five grams per sixty litres of water can fertilise one hectare of field crops.) This spiritual alchemy is given vivid expression in the entrancing tenor aria with viola obbligato depicting the gushing, curative effect of the divine spring. Every one of the vocal entries takes its cue from the tumbling liquid gestures of the viola – the cleansing motions of some prototype baroque washing machine.

In the pivotal fourth movement Bach re-introduces the tune of Heermann’s hymn in counterpoint to the alto’s measured recitation. It is assigned to an oboe; but just as in the opening chorus of BWV 48, no words would have been needed to trigger the apt association in the contemporary listener’s mind so that, for example, the singer’s claim that ‘fear and torment need no longer bring danger’ could be registered against the hymn’s ‘He can at all times save me from sadness, fear and affliction.’ This assertion of liberation and triumph is the cue for one of Bach’s most robust, declamatory bass arias (No.5), with trumpet (a ferociously demanding obbligato) set against the rest of the orchestra to defy the ‘Höllenheer’, the hordes of hell. But if, as was apparently often the case, the more fashionable members of the congregation decided that this was the point to arrive in the four-hour service, just in time to hear the sermon, then the repeated injunctions ‘Verstumme! Verstumme!’ (‘Be silent!’) might have checked them momentarily in their pew-finding and social greetings. © John Eliot Gardiner 2005, From a journal written in the course of the Bach Cantata Pilgrimage

Gospel, Chorale, Arias Explained

The importance of the Gospel and the related, important Johann Heerman chorale, and details of the opening fantasia ad two arias are described in Klaus Hofman’s 2005 liner notes to the Misaaki Suzuki BIS cantata recordings.8 <<Wo soll ich fliehen hin, BWV 5 (Where shall I find refuge). The cantata for the nineteenth Sunday after Trinity was first heard at the church service on 15th October 1724. The gospel passage that is traditionally read on that day, and which the sermon would elaborate upon, Matthew 9, 1-8, tells how Jesus heals a palsied man with the words ‘Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee’. It is to this that the cantata alludes. In a way it gives voice to the believer who, oppressed by the burden of his own sins, recalls our redemption through Jesus’ death and takes comfort, strength and confidence from that. The hymn text that forms the basis of the cantata (the first and last strophes of which are – as usual – left unchanged within the framework of the cantata) was written by the Silesian poet and theologian Johann Heermann (1585-1647), the most important Evangelical hymn writer between Martin Luther and Paul Gerhardt; the melody goes back to the Flemish composer Jakob Regnart (1540-1599). Of this eleven-verse hymn, Bach’s text editor in Leipzig modified the inner strophes – sometimes with considerable freedom – to form a sequence of three recitatives and two arias. As though by stages, the cantata movements lead us from a situation of desperate helplessness, through the burgeoning of hope and the plea to be included in the forgiveness of sins, to comfort and certainty and to the strength and courage to defy the assaults of Hell. Finally comes the assurance of the believer that, purified by the blood of Christ, he can one day ‘den Himmel … ererben’ (‘inherit Heaven’) and a prayer for God’s guidance towards lasting faith

Bach’s opening chorus follows a pattern tried and tested several times in the preceding cantatas. The overall image is characterized by a concertante orchestral part in which, one at a time, the individual lines of the hymn are embedded. The hymn tune is present as a cantus firmus in long note values in the soprano, amplified and emphasized by a brass instrument – in this case a slide trumpet (‘tromba da tirarsi’). The alto, tenor and bass join in contrapuntally, mostly connected to each other by means of imitation, but on occasion also singing homophonically. A peculiarity of the movement is that the thematic material both of the lower vocal parts and of the orchestra is derived from the falling fifth in the first line of the chorale, so that the instruments also seem to be constantly asking: ‘Where shall I find refuge?’

In the two arias Bach shows that his artistry still held some surprises, even after twenty earlier chorale cantatas of this type. The virtuosic perpetuum mobile of the solo instrument in the tenor aria ‘Ergieße dich reichlich, du göttliche Quelle’ (‘Flow in abundance, o divine spring’) is evidently directly inspired by the image of gushing spring water. The solo instrument is not specifically indicated by Bach. The solo line is written in the first violin part, however, which suggests that it was to be played by the primarius of the ensemble, even though the clef indicates that it was intended for another instrument, perhaps a viola but more probably a violoncello piccolo, an instrument in the middle register with which Bach was then experimenting in various ways; by giving such an instrument this agile solo, he would have been offering his Leipzig audience something new and unexpected. The low trumpet (in B flat), which appears with an extremely virtuosic part in the aria ‘Verstumme, Höllenheer (Fall silent, ye host of hell’), was probably just as new and unexpected for the Leipzig cantata listener; here it even seems to compete with the solo bass. The tone of the aria is warlike and heroic. With the call ‘Verstumme!’ (‘Fall silent’), the ‘Höllenheer’ (‘host of hell’) is told to desist, and the alternation of piano and forte in the orchestra seems to reflect the way in which it falls silent – though, admittedly, it soon rises up again. Peace and order then return with the simple fourpart final chorale, formulated as a prayer. © Klaus Hofmann 2005.


1Cantata BCW Details & Discography,
2 Anderson, “Wo soll ich fliehen hin,” Oxford Composer Companions: JS Bach (Oxford Univ.Press, 1999: 531f).
3Source: BCW materials, Motets and Chorales for the 19th Sunday after Trinity,
Gardiner notes,[sdg110_gb].pdf; BCW Recording details,
5 Petzoldt, Martin. Bach Kommentar: Die geistlichen Kantaten des 1. Bis 27. Trinitas-Sontagges, Vol. 1; Theologisch Musikwissenschaftlicke Kommentierung der Geistlichen Vokalwerke Johann Sebastan Bachs, Internationale Bachakademie Stuttgart (Kassel: Bärenreiter, 2004: Trinity 19, 533, Cantata 5 text 541-47, commentary 546-50.
6 Scoring, Soloists: Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bass; 4-part Chorus; Orchestra: slide trumpet, 2 oboes, 2 violins, viola, continuo. Score Vocal & Piano [1.58 MB],; Score BGA [2.40 MB], References: BGA I (Church cantatas 1-10, M. Hauptmann, 1851), NBA KB I/24 (Cantatas for Trinity 19, Mathias Wendt 1991), Bach Compendium BC A 145, Zwang K 92.
7 Smaill, October 1, 2006: BCML Discussions Part 2,
8 Hofmann notes,[BIS-CD1421].pdf; BCW Recording details,

Cantata 5 - Part 2

Cantata 5, “Wo soll ich fliehen hin” (Where should I flee), is at the heart of two trilogies of Bach cantatas: the 16th to the 19th Sundays after Trinity, chorale Cantatas BWV 114, 96, and 5, where the sacrifice and healing are completed, and the three works for the 19th Sunday after Trinity, BWV 48, 5, and 56 with their integrated musical sermons. Thomas Braatz’ BCW article, “Provenance,” deals with the chorale melody, “Auf meinen lieben Gott” (Of my loving God), and the original folk text, and the Gospel text and related hymn versus,

Motets and chorales play a major role in the 19th Sunday after Trinity and Bach’s uses in Cantatas 48, 5, and 56, with their special provenances. Bach also had other opportunities for works with eclectic chorales on this Sunday, especially Paul Gerhardt’s "Warum sollt ich mich denn grämen?" (Why should I myself then grieve?).

The chorale works of the second cycle for the 17th to the 19th Sundays after Trinty -- Cantata 114, “Ach, lieben Christen, seid getrost” (Ah, dear Christians, be consoled); Cantata BWV 96, “Herr Christ, der einge Gottessohn” (Lord Christ, the only son of God) and Cantata 5 -- constitute the first three works in the “Fifth Sequence” of Trinity Time Cantatas, emphasizing “alternation and unity” with “strings of cantatas chained together through allegorical tools,” says Linda Gingrich in her dissertation, The seen and the unseen: Hidden allegorical links in the Trinity season chorale cantatas of J. S. Bach.1 The “libretto makes it clear that the closed door of hell in Cantata 96 is shut and silenced by Christ’s sacrificial death. But Cantata 5 is most closely tied to Cantata 114 through a shared structure, key [g minor], metaphorical emphases and textual imagery,” where Cantata 114 “focuses on the ‘dropsy’ of sin and Christian death as the only means out of corruption into glory” and Cantata 5 provides the miracle of Jesus’ healing of the palsied man in the Gospel, Matthew 9:1-8

In Cantata 5, says Gingrich “Bach then moves back to g minor for the third portion of his narrative, BWV 5, Wo soll ich fliehen hin (Where shall I flee), composed for October 15 [1724] the nineteenth Sunday after Trinity, another penitential, symmetrical cantata that brings fruition to the themes, both visible and invisible, of the two previous works. For here the Cross of Christ, symbolized by the chiastic [cross-like] structure finally takes center stage, the wounds and blood that cleanse the soul as water cleanses the body, represent but never seen in Cantata 114, and made possible by the Incarnation described in Cantata 96. The chorale and the key of B flat play again an important role in Wo soll ich fliehen hin, as do images of water linked with Christ’s blood, balancing the water in iniquity in Cantata 114.”

Trinity 19 Cantata Structures & Chorale Choices2

<<Bach’s three musical sermons for the 19th Sunday after Trinity are the chorus Cantata BWV 48, "Ich elender Mensch, wer wird mich erosen?" (I, wretched mortal, who shall deliver me?); chorale Cantata BWV 5, "Wo sol lich fliehen hin? (Where shall I fly to?); and bass solo Cantata BWV 56, Ich will den Kreuzstab gerne tragen" (I will the cross-staff gladly carry). While the librettists for the three cantatas cannot be identified, the structures are representative of each of the respective cycles -- chorus cantata, chorale cantata, and solo cantata [previous BCW materialsFN]. A cursory glance at the quite distinctive yet varied literary styles and biblical emphases in each cantata may suggest perfunctory textual devices. In the context of Bach's time and accepted practice, however, each work has a unique character in which music and text fit seamlessly and probably were widely accepted as musical sermons. The firm hand and compelling mind of their creator achieve quite distinctive works beyond their immediate and lasting appeal. The general direction of the three cantatas, BWV 48, 5, and 56, is toward the positive, as well as within each work, from the penitence of the corrupt sinner to the solace of the seeker to the quest for new life.

In his cantatas for later Trinity Time, Bach increasingly turned to other established hymn books to find newer chorales like those of Paul Stockman "and above all also hymns materials not liturgically established," says Günther Stiller's <JSB and Liturgical Life in Leipzig> (St. Louis: Concordia 1984: 248f). Stiller suggests that Bach often must have lacked suitable stanzas for his cantatas "and therefore naturally had to be free to choose other hymns in each case and also to combine corresponding stanzas meaningfully. But also in such cases Bach strove to put the traditional hymnic materials to use as much as possible, and in this effort various collections of hymns must have inspired him to find the right stanzas." Stiller then cites the use of the Wagner hymnbook for chorales Bach used in the cantatas for the previous 18th Sunday after Trinity.

Bach was able to include these hymns in the varied and unusual text sources and references in the libretti written for him that became Cantatas BWV 48, 5, and 56 for the 19th Sunday after Trinity. Of particular note is Bach's use of the <Dresdner Gesangbuch> of 1725/36 for the Johann Heermann chorales harmonized in Cantatas 48 and 5, according to Stiller (Ibid.: 246) and conductor Gardiner (<Ibid.>). The Dresden hymnbook specified for this Sunday the congregational singing of "Hymns Concerning Repentance and Confession." Chorale Cantata BWV 5 is based on the repentance hymn "Wo soll ich fliehen hin?" with its associated melody, "Auf meinen lieben Gott.">>

Provenance, Chorale Melody, Original Folk & Gospel Text

Fascinating details of Cantata 5 topics about Provenance, the chorale melody and the original folk text, and the Gospel text and related hymn versus, is found in the “Provenance” BCW article of
Thomas Braatz.3 <<Provenance. The autograph score went to W.F. Bach at the time of the distribution of the estate. The original set of parts went to Bach's wife who gave them to the Thomaner School. The parts stayed in Leipzig and are now part of the City Archive of Leipzig. W.F. Bach sold it to an unindividual from whom the Postal Inspector Carl Philipp Heinrich Pistor (1778-1847) acquired it in 1827. It was passed on to his grandson Ernst Friedrich Karl Rudorff (1840-1916) who gave it to Joseph Joachim in 1888. It was then sold to the manuscript collector Heyer in Cologne. It was auctioned off in 1927 and purchased by Stefan Zweig. After Zweig's suicide (1942) it went to his daughter Eva D. Albermann who, in 1956, put it on continual loan in the Department of Manuscripts of the British Library, London. In 1986 it was given as an outright present to the same organization where it is located today.

The chorale melody upon which the cantata is based:

It seems almost obvious that Bach was primarily inspired by the upward-moving scale figure in Johann Heermann's "Wo soll ich fliehen hin" ("Where should I flee to") which already anticipates the answer, "To Christ"; and the next line/phrase "Weil ich beschweret bin" ("because I am heavily laden {with my sins]" which represents through its downward motion on the notes of the scale the weight of the sinner becoming heavier and heavier. These two musical figures are central to Bach's development of the musical pictures he wishes to present. And yet there is a surprise awaiting anyone who delves more deeply into the origin of the chorale melody. Some reference books refer to another chorale melody, "Auf meinen lieben Gott" with the melody composed by Jakob Regnart. This would simply mean that Heermann used another well-known chorale melody for his hymn text. Further research, however, uncovers the true source of this melody which has a secular origin, very similar to "Greensleeves" which is sung at Christmas as "What Child is This?" with most members of the congregation oblivious to that fact that the original melody referred to the prostitutes who followed roving bands of actors or soldiers about wherever they went. In a case such as this, the Christmas carol is a 'contrafactum' of the original secular melody. This was frequently done in Protestant Germany with popular folk songs that were widely known and sung. In this instance the contrafaction took place as follows:

Jakob Regnart (born in South Netherlands between 1540-1545, but spent most of his life as a singer, composer, kapellmeister in the royal courts in Vienna, Prague, and Innsbruck) composed wonderful sets (3-part) of Villanellas (Street Songs in the Italian style) with German texts. It is in one of these collections, "Kurtzweilige teutsche Lieder" ("Entertaining German Songs"), Nürnberg, 1574, that the original chorale melody can be found: "Venus, du und dein Kind seid alle beide blind." ("Venus, you and your child [Amor-Cupid] are both blind").

Here is the original text:

Venus, du und dein kind/seit alle beide blind/vnd pflegt euch zu verblenden/wer sich zu auch thut wenden/ wie ich wol hab erfaren/inn meinen jungen jaren.

Amor du Kindlein bloss/Wem dein vergifftes Gschoss/Das hertz ein mal berüret/Der wirdt alsbald verfüret/Wie ich wol hab erfaren/Inn meinen jungen jaren.

Für nur ein freud allein/Gibst du vil tausend pein/Für nur ein freundlichs schertzen/Gibst du vil tausend schmertzen/Wie ich wol hab erfaren/Inn meinen jungen jaren.

Drumb rath ich jedermann/Von lieb bald abzustahn/Dann nichts ist zu erjagen/In lieb dann wehe und klagen/Das hab ich als erfahren/In meinen jungen jaren.

(Venus, both you and your child are completely blind and you tend to blind those who turn to you. This I have learned while I was still young.

Cupid, you little child, it doesn't matter whose heart you touch with your poisoned arrow, that individual will succumb to temptation. This I have experienced in my young years.

In return for only this single instance of pleasure, you give many instances of suffering, for just a friendly flirt you give thousands of instances of pain, as I have personally experienced when I was still young.

For this reason I advise all people to distance themselves from love. What do you expect to gain from all this chasing about for love? Nothing but grief and sorrow. All this I learned while I was still young.)

Since there is no way to show you the melodies of both side by side, I will use letter notation where B is assumed to be Bb and E to be Eb.

JS Bach: G G A B C D/ D D C C A/A B C D D C D / D B C D D C B/
Regnart: G D D C D/ D D C B A/A B C D E C D / A B C D E C D/

JS Bach: D F D D D C C / C D C B C A G
Regnart: D F E D D C C / D D C B C A G

This song became so popular that another composer Francesco Rovigo based his "Magnificat" (1583) upon this melody. In 1603 an editor of sacred music, Bartholomäus Gesius [Frankfurt an der Oder] published his "Enchiridion" which contained a contrafactum of this melody with the incipit, "Auf meinen lieben Gott." Gesius is also responsible for publishing for the first time the texts and melodies for the following hymns that are still included in the hymnal of the German Evangelical Lutheran Church: "Freut euch, ihr lieben Christen all"; "Heut triumphieret Gottes Sohn"; "Christe, du bist der helle Tag"; "Mein Seel, o Herr, muß loben dich"; "Befiehl du deine Wege"; and "Du Friedefürst, Herr Jesu Christ

And the third contrafactum (after the "Magnificat" and Gesius' "Auf meinen lieben Gott") is Johann Heermann's "Wo soll ich fliehen hin" which he must have written with this melody very much in mind, because it fits the movement of the notes so well as if it were an original inspiration of both words and music.

The text upon which the cantata is based:

The Gospel reading for the 19th Sunday after Trinity is Matthew 9: 1-8 (NLT):
Jesus climbed into a boat and went back across the lake to his own town. Some people brought to him a paralyzed man on a mat. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, "Take heart, son! Your sins are forgiven." "Blasphemy! This man talks like he is God!" some of the teachers of religious law said among themselves. Jesus knew what they were thinking, so he asked them, "Why are you thinking such evil thoughts? Is it easier to say, 'Your sins are forgiven' or 'Get up and walk'? I will prove that I, the Son of Man, have the authority on earth to forgive sins." Then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and said, "Stand up, take your mat, and go on home, because you are healed!" And the man jumped up and went home! Fear swept through the crowd as they saw this happen right before their eyes. They praised God for sending a man with such great authority.

Of the 11 verses of Johann Heermann's (1630) chorale text, the 1st and the 11th were retained unchanged. The unknown librettist gave a free, poetic treatment to the other verses as follows: 2 - 3 = Mvt. 2; 4 = Mvt. 3; 5 - 7 = Mvt. 4; 8 = Mvt. 5; 9-10 = Mvt. 6; 11 = Mvt. 7.

The Jesus' statement, "Your sins are forgiven" awakens one's own consciousness of the sin within oneself, and eventually leads to the hope that Christ Jesus, through his sacrificial death, has taken away the sin, not only of the paralyzed man, of all mankind. Mvts. 1 to 3 gradually direct the sinner's situation away from hopelessness to Jesus' sacrificial death. The actual turnaround to a more hopeful attitude comes in
Mvt. 4, so that the sinner can find the power to take a stand against Satan (Mvt. 5), and ask God that Christ's death might bring him to the salvation he has longed for. The unknown librettist seems to have put forth special effort in extracting for the middle verses of the chorale a 'strong picture' which could offer Bach what he needed for his 'inventio' and so that both arias would have sufficiently contrasting images. The librettist chose the image of blood to wash away sins, an image that is exaggerated in a typically baroque fashion. Another similar image chosen was that of the "Höllenheer" ("all the forces of hell") whose noise suddenly subsides when the Christian believer holds out the blood of Jesus. Mvt. 4 becomes the pivotal point of the entire cantata. Bach emphasizes this by having the oboe intone the chorale melody because in this mvt. the decisive change from despair to hope takes place. Around this mvt. are grouped symmetrically in sequence toward the conclusion : Aria, Recitative, C, and looking toward the beginning also Aria, Recitative, Chorale.>>

While Bach had no designated polyphonic motets for the 19th Sunday after Trinity, based on Bodenschatz’s Florilegium Portense collection, Bach’s hymnbook, Neu Leipziger Gesangbuch, as well as hymnbooks elsewhere in Saxony, especially with newer hymn writers like Paul Gerhardt, enabled Bach to fuse important chorale themes in his works (sources materials, Motets and Chorales for the 19th Sunday after Trinity, see Footnote 2).

2nd part of this message, see:
Motets & Chorales for 19th Sunday after Trinity


1 Gingrich, D.M.A., University of Washington, 2008; 3303284: 84f, 90f). (
2 Source: BCW materials, Motets and Chorales for the 19th Sunday after Trinity,
Braatz “Provenance”(October 24, 2001), BCW,
4 BACH'S MOTET COLLECTION: Otto Riemer, "Erhard Bodenschatz und sein "
Schünigen: Kaminsky,1927 ML 410 B67R4; Partial Index of Motets in Florilegium Portense with links to online scores and biographies: and; Dissertation on Bodenschatz Collection.
5 NLGB, BACH'S HYMN BOOK: Jürgen Grimm, "Das neu [?] Leipziger Gesangbuch des Gottfried Vopelius (Leipzig 1682),"Berlin: Merseburger, 1969. ML 3168 G75.

Aryeh Orn wrote (October 9, 2014):
Cantata BWV 5 - Revised & updated Discography

The discography pages of the Chorale Cantata BWV 5 “Wo soll ich fliehen hin?” for the 19th Sunday after Trinity on the BCW have been revised and updated.
The cantata is scored for soprano, alto, tenor & bass soloists; 4-part chorus; and orchestra of slide trumpet, 2 oboes, 2 violins, viola & continuo. See:
Complete Recordings (13):
Recordings of Individual Movements (9):
The revised discography includes many listening/watching options to recordings directly from the discography pages, just below the recording details.

I also put at the BCW Home Page:
four recordings of this cantata. Two are audios of the complete cantata from complete recorded cycle: Helmuth Rilling (1979) and Ton Koopman (1999). The other two are videos of the opening chorus taken from complete cycles of the cantatas Óscar Gershensohn with La Capilla Real de Madrid from Spain (2011) and Christopher Shepard with Sydneian Bach Choir & Orchestra from Australia (2013). Unfortunately, only segments from these two cycles are currently available on the web and I am not sure that they have been recorded/filmed in their completeness.

I believe this is the most comprehensive discography of this chorale cantata. If you are aware of a recording of BWV 5 missing from these pages, or want to correct/add details of a recording already presented on the BCW, please do not hesitate to inform me.

You can also read on the BCW William Hoffman's detailed introduction to the discussion of this cantata in the BCML (4th round):


Cantata BWV 5: Wo soll ich fliehen hin? for 19th Sunday after Trinity
Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements
Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

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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Last update: Wednesday, September 27, 2017 02:12