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Erforsche mich, Gott, und erfahre mein Herz, BWV 136

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Erforsche mich, Gott, und erfahre mein Herz, BWV 136

Erforsche mich, Gott, und erfahre mein Herz ("Examine me, God, and discover my heart"), BWV 136, is a church cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach. He composed it in 1723 in Leipzig for the eighth Sunday after Trinity and first performed it on 18 July 1723.[1]

History and words

Bach composed the cantata in his first year in Leipzig for the Eighth Sunday after Trinity, the eighth Sunday in his position as Thomaskantor.[2] The prescribed readings for the Sunday are from the Epistle to the Romans, "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God" (Romans 8:12–17), and from the Gospel of Matthew, the warning of false prophets from the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7:15–23). The sources show, however, that only the middle section of movement 3 and the chorale were composed then with certainty.[1] The other parts may rely on a former unknown secular or church cantata.[2] The opening chorus is based on Psalms 139:29. The poet of the recitatives and arias, which are closely connected to the Sunday's gospel, is unknown. The chorale is verse 9 of Johann Heermann's "Wo soll ich fliehen hin" (1630) on the melody of "Auf meinen lieben Gott", which Bach used again in 1724 as the base for his chorale cantata Wo soll ich fliehen hin, BWV 5.[1]

Scoring and structure

The cantata is scored for three soloists (alto, tenor and bass), a four-part choir, corno da caccia, oboe, oboe d'amore, two violins, viola and basso continuo.[1]

  1. Chor: Erforsche mich, Gott, und erfahre mein Herz
  2. Recitativo (tenor): Ach, daß der Fluch, so dort die Erde schlägt
  3. Aria (alto, oboe d'amore): Es kömmt ein Tag
  4. Recitativo (bass): Die Himmel selber sind nicht rein
  5. Aria (tenor, bass, violins): Uns treffen zwar der Sünden Flecken
  6. Choral (violin): Dein Blut, der edle Saft

Music

The opening chorus is mainly in two parts A and A', choral fugues on the same themes, both presenting the complete text. An extended instrumental ritornello, dominated by the horn, is heard before, between and after the choral sections. The first fugue is preceded by a choral "Devise" (statement). Throughout the movement the two oboes never play independently but double the violins in the ritornellos and the soprano in the vocal sections.[1] Bach used this movement later as the base for the Cum Sancto Spiritu of his Missa in A major.[2]

The two recitatives are mostly secco, only the last measures of movement 4 tend to an arioso. The aria is accompanied by the oboe d'amore, the middle section (certainly composed in 1723) is marked presto. The two violins in unison accompany the duet, while the voices sing sometimes in imitation, sometimes in homophony, in the style of duets Bach wrote in Köthen.

The chorale is expanded to five parts by an independent violin, similar to the chorale of Erschallet, ihr Lieder, erklinget, ihr Saiten! BWV 172.[1]

Recordings

References

Sources

The first source is the score.

Several databases provide additional information on each cantata:

  • Cantata BWV 136 Erforsche mich, Gott, und erfahre mein Herz history, scoring, sources for text and music, translations to various languages, discography, discussion, bach-cantatas website
  • Emmanuel Music
  • Erforsche mich, Gott, und erfahre mein Herz history, scoring, Bach website (German)
  • University of Vermont
  • University of Alberta
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