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Cantata BWV 52
Falsche Welt, dir trau ich nicht!
Discussions - Part 4

Continue from Part 3

Discussions in the Week of January 12, 2014 (4th round)

William Hoffman wrote (January 13, 2014):
Cantata 52: False World, Solo Cantatas, Etc.

While Bach’s solo cantatas for soprano reveal a lesser interest in that voice than those with alto or bass, his extant output of five sacred solo soprano works (BWV 51, 52, 84, 199, and 82a) shows a great variety of music for a variety of voice-types and even more if his four secular cantatas (BWV 202, 204, 209, and 210) are included. The most popular and recorded Cantata 51, “Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen!” (Shout for joy to God in every land!), holds the distinction as the last sacred solo soprano work composed for church service (c.1730), reflecting Bach’s new interest in progressive Italian style with bravura coloratura voice and solo trumpet. On the other hand, the least recorded and popular Cantata 52, Falsche Welt, dir trau ich nicht! (False world, I do not trust you!), represents a typical musical sermon in his third annual church-year service cycle with the distinction of an opening sinfonia using (25 years) older borrowed orchestral material from his Brandenburg Concerto No. 1 that gives the work an outdoor flavor with horns and oboes.

Composed for the 23rd Sunday after Trinity and the last Sunday in Trinity Time that year, November 24, 1726, Cantata 52 is one of a series of original Bach cantatas that uses Köthen and earlier instrumental music from concertos or orchestral suites as sinfonias or arias. Meanwhile, Bach struggled to find acceptable texts for the late Trinity Time theme of eschatology (last things), after exhausting older traditional texts from Rudolstadt and Georg Christian Lehms.

The Gospel text for the Twenty-third Sunday after Trinity is from Matthew (22:15-22), in which the Pharisees question Jesus over the legitimacy of paying tribute to Caesar. The Epistle is from Paul’s letter in Philippians 3: 17-21, “Follow not carnal things, as many do.” The use of personal chorales and pietistic devotional sentiments strengthens the New Testament teachings of serving different, conflicting masters (Mat. 11:15-22) and avoiding earthly corruption in all three Bach cantatas for the 23rd Sunday after Trinity in Leipzig: BWV 163, 139 and 52. The initial common element, beginning in Weimar, was the use of the personal chorale, developed by Johann Heerman and perfected by Paul Gerhardt, whose hymns were among Bach's favorites, in addition to various thematic Jesus Hymns and texts of pietist songwriters Christian Friedrich Witt, Johann Christoph Rube, and Johann Jakob Rambach.

The texts and corresponding musical treatment of Cantatas BWV 163, 139, and 52 provide distinctive perspectives on this Sunday's biblical teachings, within a cautionary pietistic framework of the Last Times of the Christian and the Church year at hand in the last Sundays of Trinity Time. The three cantatas are:

+Solo SATB Cantata BWV 163, "Nur jedem das Seine" (Only to each his due) (Weimar, 11/24/1715; repeated in Leipzig 10/31/1723), emphasizes distinguishing between false earthly and true spiritual values.

+Chorale Cantata BWV 139, "Wohl dem der sich auf seinen Gott . . . kann verlassen" ("Well for him who himself on his God . . . can depend) repeated (Leipzig, 11/12/1724; 1732-35; and 1744-47), deals with personal trust in God.

+ Solo Soprano Cantata BWV 52, "Falsche Welt, dir trau ich nicht" (False worlds, thee trust I not) (Leipzig, 11/24/1726), focuses on the false world's deceptions. It was performed on the last Sunday after Trinity in a church year that had more Sundays after Epiphany time because Easter fell much later in 1726 than usual, as also occurs this year, 2014.

Cantata 52 Details are found at BCW The movements, scoring, and initial text are:

1. Sinfonia (Corno I/II, Oboe I-III, Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo);
2. Recitative (Soprano; Fagotto, Continuo): Falsche Welt, dir trau ich nicht! (False world, I do not trust you!);
3. Aria (Soprano; Violino I/II, Fagotto, Continuo): Immerhin, immerhin, Wenn ich gleich verstoßen bin! . . .
O so bleibt doch Gott mein Freund (After all, after all, / If I am at once cast out . . . O then God still remains my friend);
4. Recitative (Soprano; Fagotto, Continuo): Gott ist getreu! / Er wird, er kann mich nicht verlassen (God is faithful! He cannot, he will not abandon me);
5. Aria [Soprano; Oboe I-III, Fagotto, Continuo): Ich halt es mit dem lieben Gott (I stay on the side of my dear God); and
6. Chorale (S, A, T, B; Oboe I/II e Violino I col Soprano, Oboe III e Violino II coll'Alto, Viola col Tenore, Corno I/II, Fagotto, Continuo): In dich hab ich gehoffet, Herr (In you have I hoped, Lord)

Notes on the text:

Cantata BWV 52 written for soprano and is the last of a group of solo cantatas which began with BWV 170 on 28 July. The anonymous librettist bases his text on one aspect of the gospel for this Sunday (Matthew 22: 15-22): the hypocrisy and treachery of the Pharisees who try to trick Jesus with a question about the tribute money are identified with the “false world,” which is hostile to believers and threatens the Christian despite its appearance of friendliness.

The opening recitative (Mvt. 2) is typical of Baroque rhetoric with its opening apostrophe and concluding exclamation, conventional imagery of snakes and scorpions and use of abstractions. The reference to Abner and Joab refers to 2 Samuel 3:27 where Joab is described as drawing Abner aside as if for private conversation and then stabbing him in the belly.

(The allusion is undoubtedly obscure and should not be pressed too closely. Abner is the centre of a detailed narrative of the events after Saul’s death. The librettist has seized on one point for illustration of worldly cunning and treachery and ignored the wider context. Abner’s earlier history hardly qualifies him as ‘frommer’ and he had killed Joab’s brother.)

The following aria (Mvt. 3) opposes God’s faithfulness to the world’s hypocrisy, and the antithesis of false world /faithful God is repeated in the next recitative and aria. In the second recitative (Mvt. 4) the phrase Gott ist getreu is repeated three times and the metaphor of Schlange (snake) used for the false world is changed to Schlinge (snares) used for the entrapment of sins.

The first verse of Adam Reusner’s hymn (1533) In dich hab ich gehoffen is used for the concluding chorale (Mvt. 6). [German text and Francis Browne English translation and Notes on the text are found at BCW,]

Cantata 52: Austere Pietist Tone

Cantata BWV 52, "Falsche Welt, dir trau ich nicht," closes Trinity Time in the incomplete, homogeneously-texted third annual cantata cycle. Besides Bach's recent reuse of instrumental concerti movements in intimate settings, these late Trinity Time works emphasizing eschatology (last things) show Bach selecting and adapting particular texts of Neumeister, Rosenmuller, and Helbig. These often show pietistic influences perhaps adapted by Picander. Cantata BWV 52 shows distinct textual connections to Pietist writer Johann Jacob Rambach (1693-1735), whose works were found in Bach's library along with other pietist writers Philipp Jacob Spener, Heinrich Müller, and Johann Arndt.

The soprano solo Cantata BWV 52 closes (Movement 6) with the Stanza 1 harmonization of Adam Reusner's 1533 paraphrase of Psalm 31, "In dich hab' ich gehoffet, Herr" (In Thee have I hoped; NLGB 254 Psalm Hymn, 7 stanzas). The associated chorale melody (Zahn 2461) with the same title was composed in 1581 by Seth Calvisius (1556-1615), Bach St. Thomas predecessor. See text and Francis Browne English Translation of the chorale, BCW,

The associated chorale melody (Zahn 2461) with the same title was composed in 1581 bSeth Calvisius (1556-1615), Bach St. Thomas predecessor. See BCW Calvisius Short Biography, BCW

Bach's settings of the Calvisius melody also are found in the chorale melody in Cantata BWV 106/4 (memorial service, 1707); the contemporary Passions of Matthew (1727) and Mark (1731) in plain chorale settings, BWV 244/38=?247/5(11)[S.5]; and in the progressive 1734 Christmas Oratorio, BWV248/46, plain chorale melody set to a different text. Bach also set the melody as an organ chorale, BWV 712 (1700-1717) in the Kirnberger collection.

Bach's interest in the pietist hymnwriter Johann Jacob Rambach (1693-1735) was established early in his Leipzig tenure, with textual influences found in Cantatas BWV 25, and 43, and 52. Rambach as a prominent Halle University professor wrote more than 180 hymn texts particularly in his Sacred Poetry of 1720. Prior to Bach's Leipzig tenure, during his predecessor Johann Kuhnau's last days, an anonymous cantata (?Telemann TWV1:644) set to a Rambach text, "Gott fähret auf mit Jauchzen" (God ascends to rejoicing) (Psalm 47:6), was presented on Ascension Day, Thursday, May 14, 1722. Bach set the same dictum to Cantata BWV 43, with Rudolstadt/Helm influence, for Ascension Day, 1726).

Two Bach Trinity Time Cantatas BWV 25 and 52 show strong influences of RambachSacred Poetry hymns. Cantata 25, Es ist nichts Gesundes an meinem Leibe (There is nothing healthy in my body), for the 14th Sunday after Trinity 1723 was based on Rambach's "Ich seufze Jesu" (I suffer Jesus) and Cantata 52 for Trinity 23, 1726, was influenced by "Wehe mir" (Woe is me), both cantata texts as adapted possibly by Picander.1

Graphic descriptions of the music and text, as well as Bach’s possible purpose for the particular instrumental selection is found in John Eliot Gardiner’s Liner notes to his Bach 2000 Soli Deo gloria recorded pilgrimage.2

<<Its opening sinfonia comprises an early version [1713] of the first movement of Brandenburg Concerto No.1, but without the piccolo violin. One could speculate endlessly on Bach’s motive for recycling this splendid piece (was it just too good to ignore, perhaps?), even to the point of seeing in that outrageous writing for two whooping hunting horns a symbol of the ‘false world’ of the cantata’s title, where the soul must ‘dwell among scorpions and false serpents’. Clearly, whatever else is implied here, it is not conceivable that Bach is casting theological aspersions on his own (secular) music. No. At most he is seizing on the symbolic occupational functions and worldly associations of these cors de chasse as a launch pad for his solo soprano’s opening tirade. The first of her two [dal segno] arias is in D minor with a continuo of bassoon and organ over which a pair of violins play now in unison, now in thirds, designed to highlight the contrast between ‘Feind’ (foe) and ‘Freund’ (friend). The second is a genial movement scored for three oboes, a rich texture which in Bach’s hands sound like a primitive saxophone trio, smooth and euphonious in their parallel glidings and symbols of God’s companionability – ‘Gott mit mir, und ich mit Gott’ / ‘God is with me and I with God’. Bach brings antiphony between his two ‘choirs’ of strings (two violins and viola) and double-reeds (two oboes, taille and a separate bassoon part), and on extrapolating the full majesty of the French overture style, double-dotted in triple rhythm. From this a rising syncopated figure emerges, taken up later on by the altos as they lead off with their funky ‘alleluia’ figure and adopted by all the other singers. If anyone in the posh world of classical music ever doubted that JS Bach could also be considered the father of jazz, here is the proof. With its Gregorian origins, Philipp Nicolai’s popular tune and poem (1599) form the bedrock of Bach’s invention. The way that Bach hoists the whole tessitura of his forces in the second phrase is thrilling, an optimistic gesture guaranteed, you would think, to lift the faint-hearted out of their mid-winter blues. As in a number of back all the instruments of the opening sinfonia for his concluding four-voiced chorale, the first strophe of Adam Reusner’s ‘In dich hab ich gehoffet, Herr’ (1533), familiar from its inclusion in the Christmas Oratorio.>>

A perspective on the third cycle series of solo cantatas, as well as a comparison to other solo cantatas and works composed for the 23rd Sunday after Trinity their New Testament themes are provided in Julian Mincham’s 2012 Cantata 52 Commentary ( ):

<<This is the sixth solo cantata of the cycle thus far (three for alto and one each for bass and tenor) and the first for soprano. It therefore sits within a number of different contexts, the first being this group of works for one voice. Eight were written for the third cycle with a further two following, C 82 (bass, chapter 36) and C 84, again for soprano (chapter 37). (See chapter 35 for further contextual comment).

Bearing in mind that there were no solo cantatas in the second cycle and few in the first, it is reasonable to suppose that the influence of opera had brought about a broadening of taste in the Lutheran congregations of the mid 1720s.

C 52 may also be compared with C 199, a cantata for soprano, which lacks a chorus or even a closing chorale. It was an arrangement of an earlier work which Bach presented as his first solo cantata at Leipzig, perhaps not entirely successfully (see vol 1, chapter 14). It is a dramatic chamber piece, bearing us along that well-furrowed pathway from sin to redemption. At Leipzig it was performed for the eleventh Sunday after Trinity.

Finally, C 52 resides as the third and last cantata written for the twenty-third Sunday after Trinity, the earlier ones being Cs 163 (again an early work revived for cycle 1, chapter 25) and 139 (cycle 2). C 163 offers ample evidence of Bach’s urge to experiment in his early years; it contains a recitative for two voices of equal importance and a splendid bass aria supported, uniquely, by two obbligato celli and continuo. The message is one of the heart, offered to God in gratitude, along with a prayer that He may help to ensure that it is true and not counterfeit.

C 139 (vol 2, chapter 24) opens with the only large choral movement of these three works, a fantasia of the type common within the second cycle. The theme is similar to that of the earlier work, dealing with the trust we must maintain in the God who will always remain our friend. Only He can guard us from our misfortunes and the enemies who, in envy and loathing, might direct us falsely. The bass aria is one of the most strikingly original in the whole canon, incorporating eleven sections, three textual themes and frequent changes of time and tempi. There can be little doubt of the influences of contemporary operatic practices here.

The textual theme of the false world pitted against the true God also pervades C 52 which, as is so commonly the case in Bach’s third or fourth cantatas written for a particular day, is the most personal of the group. Couched in first person terms throughout, it takes us on an excursion from an initial position of distrust in this dishonest world to the ultimate one of steadfastness at the hand of God.>>

The solo cantatas for the third cycle and two further solo works with Bach’s purposes for composing these works, as well as the origins and special characteristics of Cantata 52 are examined in Klaus Hoffmann’s Liner notes to the Masaaki Suzuki-BIS recording of later solo sacred cantatas, BWV 52, 55, 82, 58.3

<<The four cantatas on this recording come from Bach’s fourth year of service in Leipzig, from the period from November 1726 until February 1727. During this time Bach showed a preference for solo cantata forms, particularly for solo cantatas in the specific sense in which the entire text is entrusted to a single solo voice; only at the end is a choir used for theconcluding chorale. Three of the four cantatas here are of this type (BWV 55, 52, 82), whilst the fourth (BWV 58) confines itself to two voices. We can only speculate as to Bach’s reason for using this form of cantata: a shortage of singers in the St Thomas Choir may have been as decisive a factor as the availability of especially gifted soloists. Nor can it be ruled out that Bach may have been aiming to make the rehearsals simpler and easier, and was already making preparation time available for the St Matthew Passion, planned for 1727. Bach may also have also been intending to expand the cantata repertoire of his first Leipzig years by introducing alternative forms. This is also sup ported by the fact that he now occasionally used earlier instrumental movements in his cantatas. In particular he employed the organ as a concertante instrument, and some times composed new solo passages for it – perhaps, as is sometimes assumed, to test the soloistic mettle of his adolescent son Wilhelm Friedemann [BCML General Topic, Week of March 30, “The use of obligato organ in all the cantatas,” Douglas Cowling, discussion leader].

Falsche Welt, dir trau ich nicht, BWV 52 (False world, I do not trust you). The text of the solo cantata for soprano voice that was heard at the Leipzig church service on the twenty-third Sunday after Trinity in 1726 juxtaposes the falseness of the world with the constancy of God. The point of reference for the theme of ‘falseness’ is the Sunday gospel reading from Matthew 22, 15–22. Cunningly the Pharisees pose to Jesus the trick question: ‘Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?’ Bach opens the cantata with a concertante movement for two horns, three oboes and bassoon, strings and continuo, in which the various instrumental groups both complement and confront each other. Here Bach made use of an earlier composition, a preliminary version of the Brandenburg Concerto No. 1, which has survived as an independent work with the title ‘Sinfonia’ (BWV1046a). At the beginning of the movement and towards the end, the horns quote a signal motif, used as a princely greeting during court and hunting ceremonies. This does not, however, have an evident connection with the content of the cantata; per haps it was put there to honour a member of the nobility who was present at the church service. Or might the reference to Caesar in the gospel passage have been sufficient reason to choose this particular movement?

Of the remaining movements, the second aria deserves special attention. The unusual sound combination of three oboes and bassoon is allied to dance-like, folkloristic elements that may have been intended to serve as a ‘secular’ backdrop for the contrasting text: ‘Ich halt es mit dem lieben Gott’ (‘I remain true to the dear God’).

After the strings had been to the fore in the first aria, and the woodwind instruments in the second, the horns – the third instrumental group from the opening sinfonietta – feature prominently in the concluding chorale. The text (Adam Reusner 1533, melody: Leipzig 1573) is a prayer to be kept and preserved in the constancy of God.>>


1. Author Eric Chafe (Analyzing Bach Cantatas, Tonal Allegory in the Vocal Music of JSB), eschatology and Brandenburg connections are found in Thomas Braatz’s Cantata 52 Commentary (November 20, 2001, BCML Discussions Part 1): Just as there are so few recordings of this cantata available, so there is also a dearth of commentary, particularly among the older references that I have (Spitta, Schweitzer, Voigt, Smend). I could ask along with Aryeh: "Is this neglecting justified?" BCW:

2. Thomas Braatz’ Cantata 52 Provenence (2001) is found at BCW

3. BCML Discussions Part 2, Week of February 10, 2008, includes a dialogue from discussion leader Jean Laaninen and Julian Mincham (Commentary, Ibid.; see BCW:

4. BCML Discussions Part 3, Week of September 2, 2012, include Ed Myskowski’s Introduction, Kim Patrick Clow on the use and symbolism of the horns in the sinfonia, further commentary from Mincham found Ibid., and Charles Francis commentaries on chorale fermatas, the Matthew Passion and pedals, with responses from Douglas Cowling and Aryeh Oron [BCW,


1 Scholarly interest in Rambach began with Bach biographer Phillip Spitta and was enhanced recently with the rediscovery of service cantata libretto handbooks found in the St. Petersburg Library by Tatjana Schabalina, Bach Jahrbuch 2008 and 2009. For a Rambach biography, see
[Musical Context of Bach Cantatas, Motets & Chorales ].
2. See[sdg171_gb].pdf, with BCW Recording details, Gardiner’s new Bach musical biography, BACH: Music in the Castle of Heaven (New York: Alfred A, Knopf, 2013) does not mention Cantata 52 although the topics of eschatology, the church year, and music in the third cantata cycles are discussed in Chapters 5, “The Mechanics of Faith”; Chapter 9, “Cycles and Seasons”; and Chapter 12, “Collision and Collusion.”
3. See[BIS-SACD1631].pdf, BCW Recording details,


To Come: Recordings of Bach’s sopranos, especially Cantata 51 and 52.

Luke Dahn wrote (January 13, 2014):
[To William Hoffman] In the movement 5 aria, there are three very striking false relations (aka cross relations) in the oboe parts. I've created an image of them here:
In measure 6, Oboe 1 has an E-natural immediately followed by E-flat in Oboe 2. In measure 34, the same pattern occurs up a fifth (B-natural to B-flat). And in measure 59, a B-flat in the Oboe 3 part is immediately followed by B-natural in the Oboe 2 part. Notice the courtesy accidentals added to the second instrument in all cases.

One can find plenty of these false relations in Bach's music, but what makes the first two instances here quite odd is that the movement is from the chromatic to the diatonic, when the reverse is by far more common. (The final instance in this piece is diatonic to chromatic.) The measure 5 diatonic C minor chord becomes chromaticized in measure 6 creating a third inversion C7 chord, only to revert back to Cm7 at the moment of the false relation. The E-natural becomes a raised submediant leading to G minor (by way of a melodic F# supported by viio of G minor). So put another way, it's odd to raise the submediant only to lower it again before melodically leading up to tonic. Bach was obviously intentionally using these striking figures to paint the text. (These "madrigalisms" are reminiscent of Gesualdo.)

Question for the German-fluent: I know that the German word most used for false relation is Querstand. But is there any direct connection at all between the English phrase "false relation" and the several instances of "falsche" in the text? Is there any other German phrase for this concept that includes the word "falsch", one that Bach would have known? (In thmovement we hear of "falsche Zungen," that is, "false tongues".) I suppose there is no direct connection, but rather an indirect connection of Bach musically painting the falseness of this fallen world.t> wrote:

Luke Dahn wrote (January 15, 2014):
Dürr, false relations and BWV52.5

Dürr has something to say about false relations in the cantatas.

In the glossary of his cantatas book, a false relation is defined thus:

“false relation (also known as ‘cross-relation’): a form of part-writing forbidden in strict counterpoint, in which a semitonal step outside the scale (e.g. c—c sharp) or a triton (e.g. f—b) is divided between two different voices (even if one of the notes is transposed to another octave), e.g. e1—c sharp1 [against] c1—a.

In setting words to music the false relation was, exceptionally, permitted in Bach’s day for interpretive purposes in certain contexts, e.g. the setting of the word ‘sin.’”

Of BWV 94, Dürr notes:

“The fourth movement, the aria ‘Betörte Welt’, with obbligato flute, displays a remarkable bitter beauty. Frequent diminished or augmented intervals and false relations characterize the ‘deceit’ and ‘false appearances’ of the world.” (p.472)

As in BWV 52.5, the word “falsch” appears in BWV 94.4 (“ist Betrug falscher Schein”, “is deception and false appearance”). Would someone who has the German text be willing to see what word Dürr uses for false relation here? Is it Querstand? Is the translated "false relation" connection with "falscher" simply coincidental here?

In BWV 52.5, the first instance of false relations in the oboes is particularly striking (m.6). The E—Eb false relation creates two separate tritones leading into m.7. The chord succession Cm7—F#dim (tritone root movement) has C—F# and Eb—A, the second of which is divided between Oboes 2 & 3, creating yet another false relation, as per Dürr’s definition. This exact passage is transposed down a fourth in mm.34-35.

What makes BWV 52.5 quite different from BWV 94.4 and 102.3 (mentioned below) is that the overall character is not one of lament. The striking false relations are perhaps meant to represent "the world [that] can do without me" with its "mockery" and "false tongues." But "God with me and I with God," the soprano sings, so these false relations do not penetrate and defile the music, so to speak.

Other references to false relations in Dürr:

Of BWV 102, Dürr notes:

“A plane secco recitative is followed by the third movement, an aria whose gestures could hardly be surpassed for compelling effect. Entering with a long-held dissonant d 2 flat, the obbligato oboe seems to call out ‘Woe!’ over the impenitent soul. The entire melodic line of the movement, with its false relations and extraordinary intervals, is a single highly graphic portrayal of the soul that ‘cuts itself off from God’s grace.’" (p.489)

Finally, of BWV 33, Dürr notes:

“[In the third movement aria,] the first violin part, with its melodic wavering up and down, its chromatic false relations, and its syncopated rhythm, unmistakably portrays the fearful wavering footsteps of the text. These features, which obtain throughout virtually the whole movement, are significantly absent in the middle section at the words ‘Yet Jesus’s Word of Comfort reassures me that He has done enough for me’.” (p.516)

William Hoffman wrote (January 13, 2014):
Cantata 52: YouTube Recordings

There are at least two accessible YouTube recordings of Cantata 52, Falsche Welt, dir trau ich nicht! (False world, I do not trust you!):

1. Leonhardt-Teldec, BCW Recording details,, with boy soprano Seppi Kronwitter (fairly competent); fortunately, in the same album, adult soprano Marianne Kweksilber sings Cantata 51.

2,. Leusink-Brilliant Classics, (cue timing bar to 50:45), BCW Recording details,, with adult soprano Ruth Holton.

Cantata BWV 52: 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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