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Cantata BWV 26
Ach wie flüchtig, ach wie nichtig
English Translation in Interlinear Format
Cantata BWV 26 - Ah how fleeting, ah how insubstantial

Event: Chorale Cantata for the 24th Sunday after Trinity
Readings: Epistle: Colossians 1: 9-14; Gospel: Matthew 9: 18-26
Text: Michael Franck (Mvts. 1, 6); Anon (Mvts. 2-5)
Chorale Text: Ach wie flüchtig, ach wie nichtig

Biblical quotations in green font, chorales in pu

1

Chorus [S, A, T, B]

Corno col Soprano, Flauto traverso, Oboe I/II, Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo

Ach wie flüchtig, ach wie nichtig
Ah how fleeting, ah how insubstantial
Ist der Menschen Leben!
is man's life!
Wie ein Nebel bald entstehet
As a mist soon arises
Und auch wieder bald vergehet,
and soon also vanishes again,
So ist unser Leben, sehet!
so is our life, see!

2

Aria [Tenor]

Flauto traverso solo, Violino solo, Continuo

So schnell ein rauschend Wasser schießt,
As swiftly as roaring water rushes by,
So eilen unser Lebenstage.
so hurry by the days of our life.
Die Zeit vergeht, die Stunden eilen,
Time passes, the hours hurry by,
Wie sich die Tropfen plötzlich teilen,
just as drops suddenly divide themselves,
Wenn alles in den Abgrund schießt.
when all rushes into the abyss.

3

Recitative [Alto]

Continuo

Die Freude wird zur Traurigkeit,
Joy turns to sorrow,
Die Schönheit fällt als eine Blume,
beauty falls like a flower,
Die größte Stärke wird geschwächt,
the greatest strength is weakened,
Es ändert sich das Glücke mit der Zeit,
good fortune changes in time,
Bald ist es aus mit Ehr und Ruhme,
soon honour and glory are over,
Die Wissenschaft und was ein Mensche dichtet,
knowledge and men's creations
Wird endlich durch das Grab vernichtet.
are in the end brought to nothing by the grave.

4

Aria [Bass]

Oboe I-III, Continuo

An irdische Schätze das Herze zu hängen,
To hang one's heart on earthly treasures
Ist eine Verführung der törichten Welt.
is a seduction of the foolish world.
Wie leichtlich entstehen verzehrende Gluten,
How easily arise devouring embers,
Wie rauschen und reißen die wallenden Fluten,
how the surging floods roar and tear away
Bis alles zerschmettert in Trümmern zerfällt.
until everything is shattered and falls apart in ruins.

5

Recitative [Soprano]

Continuo

Die höchste Herrlichkeit und Pracht
The highest majesty and splendour
Umhüllt zuletzt des Todes Nacht.
are shrouded at last by the night of death.
Wer gleichsam als ein Gott gesessen,
The person who sat [on a throne] like a god,
Entgeht dem Staub und Asche nicht,
in no way escapes the dust and ashes,
Und wenn die letzte Stunde schläget,
and when the last hour strikes,
Daß man ihn zu der Erde träget,
so that he is carried to the earth,
Und seiner Hoheit Grund zerbricht,
and the foundation of his highness is shattered,
Wird seiner ganz vergessen.
he is completely forgotten.

6

Chorale [S, A, T, B]

Corno e Flauto traverso e Oboe I/II e Violino I col Soprano, Oboe III e Violino II coll'Alto, Viola col Tenore, Continuo

Ach wie flüchtig, ach wie nichtig
Ah how fleeting, ah how insubstantial,
Sind der Menschen Sachen!
are mankind's affairs.
Alles, alles, was wir sehen,
All, all that we see
Das muß fallen und vergehen.
must fall and vanish.
Wer Gott fürcht', bleibt ewig stehen.
The person who fears God stands firm for ever.

Note on the text

BWV 26 was written for the 24th Sunday after Trinity and first performed in Leipzig on 9th November 1724. It is part of the series of chorale based cantatas that form an important part of Bach's second annual cycle at Leipzig. These cantatas have a regular pattern whereby one of the hymns assigned to the day is used as the basis of the cantata text : the first and last stanzas are used unchanged, but the intervening stanzas can be rewitten as recitatives and arias,curtailed , expanded or omitted.

BWV 26 uses a 13 strophe hymn by Michael Franck published in 1652 , four years after the end of the devastating Thirty Years War. According to Hans Joachim Schulze the contrast between the unsatisfactory nature of the transient temporal world and the eternal life promised to the Christian believer is a frequent theme in Franck's hymns. In the hymn used by Bach in each stanza the same pattern is repeated: two unrhymed lines describe some aspect of human life as being flüchtig and nichtig , then three rhymed lines comment on or illustrate this.

To facilitate understanding of how Bach's anonymous librettist has adapted the hymn the texts are printed together at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/Chorale122-Eng3.htm

As usual first and last stanzas are used unchanged. The first aria rewrites the second stanza, while the following recitative succinctly summarises the next seven stanzas. The second aria for bass adapts stanza 10. Stanzas 11 and 12 are combined in the second recitative.

The gospel reading for the Sunday is the raising of Jairus's daughter. The cantata may seem to have only a tangential connection with this story, but Günther Stiller points out that Bach followed the Leipzig and Dresden hymn schedules which directed that hymns “Concerning Death and Dying”should be used on this day and Franck's hymn answers this description perfectly . Dürr comments :In verbal content this cantata may have little in common with what a preacher of our time would have to say about the Gospel reading. Yet in its imposing display of pregnant images it creates a stirring impression, it accords well with the general themes of the close of the church year, and from a musical standpoint, above all, it is an unrivalled masterpiece.

--

This Translation in Parallel Format

English Translation by Francis Browne (October 2002; revised & notes: September 2012))
Contributed by Francis Browne (October 2002, September 2012)

Cantata BWV 26: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3
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Chorale Text:
Ach wie flüchtig, ach wie nichtig

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Last update: ıSeptember 15, 2012 ı18:54:02