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Ach Gott, wie manches Herzeleid, BWV 58

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Ach Gott, wie manches Herzeleid, BWV 58

For the cantata by the same title, see Ach Gott, wie manches Herzeleid, BWV 3.

Ach Gott, wie manches Herzeleid ("Oh God, how much heartache"), BWV 58, is a church cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach. He composed it in Leipzig for the Sunday after New Year's Day and first performed it on 5 January 1727. He performed it again on 7 January 1733.

History and text

The dialogue cantata was composed for the Feast of the Circumcision, celebrated on New Year's Day, of 1727, but the extant version is a recomposition for the Sunday after New Year's Dayfrom the early 1730s, which changed the instrumentation and created a new third movement.[1][2] The surviving continuo part of the original aria suggests a significantly different character.[2]

The prescribed readings for the day are from the First Epistle of Peter, the suffering of Christians (1 Peter 4:12–19), and from the Gospel of Matthew, the Flight into Egypt (Matthew 2:12–23).[3] The text of the cantata comprises the words of the hymn published by Martin Moller in 1587,[4] in movement 1, as well as, for the chorale, poetry published by Martin Behm in the second volume (1610) of the Centuria precationum rhythmicarum. Authorship of verses 2–4 is unknown.

The chorale theme (Zahn 533a) is the melodic line of Herr Jesu Christ, meins Lebens Licht II, which first appeared in Wolflein Lochamer's Lochamer-Liederbuch, printed in Nürnberg around 1455.

Scoring and structure

The piece is scored for two vocal soloists (soprano and bass), two oboes, taille, two violins, viola, and basso continuo.[3] There are no choral interventions.

The cantata has five movements:[5]

  1. Duetto: Ach Gott, wie manches Herzeleid
  2. Recitative (bass): Verfolgt dich gleich die arge Welt
  3. Aria (soprano): Ich bin vergnügt in meinem Leiden
  4. Recitative (soprano): Kann es die Welt nicht lassen
  5. Chorale and Aria: Ich hab für mir ein schwere Reis

Music

The structure of the piece is unusually symmetric. It opens and closes with a duet of the chorale text.[6] Harmonically, the piece begins and ends in C major, and the central movement is in D minor. The second movement modulates from A minor to F major, while the fourth movement mirrors this motion.[1]

The opening duet includes a ritornello of strings doubled by oboes, with a dotted-rhythm figure characteristic of a French overture. The taille and soprano perform the chorale melody, representing the Soul, while the bass acts as a Vox Christi, singing an arioso.[2][1] The melody is tonal but with a "very chromatic subtext".[6] The ritornello recurs midway through the movement.[2]

The secco bass recitative is chromatic and in two sections: the first describes a history of persecution with "striding angular phrases", while the second section emphasizes the presence of God using a gentler and smoother melodic line.[2][1]

The third movement is the newer soprano aria with an obbligato solo violin. The da capo movement describes the Spirit's confidence in God. The first section includes a "motto theme" transitioning into a "hectic" violin melody. The middle section is characterized by a "muscular" soprano line and "oddly bizarre" solo violin. The first section returns modified and unheralded.[2]

The soprano recitative, like the bass, begins by recounting persecution, but quickly becomes an arioso with a walking continuo.[2]

The final movement is a combined chorale and aria for all parts. The soprano reprises the opening chorale melody in duple rather than the original triple time, with a responding line in the bass voice. After two phrases, the ritornello plays alone for eight measures before both voices re-enter in counterpoint to complete the chorale.[2]

The cantata is less than 15 minutes long in total.[7]

Recordings

References

Sources

The first source is the score.

Several databases provide additional information on each cantata:

  • Ach Gott, wie manches Herzeleid: history, scoring, Bach website (German)
  • University of Vermont
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