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Ich armer Mensch, ich Sündenknecht, BWV 55

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Title: Ich armer Mensch, ich Sündenknecht, BWV 55  
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Ich armer Mensch, ich Sündenknecht, BWV 55

Ich armer Mensch, ich Sündenknecht (I, wretched man, a servant to sin), BWV 55, is a church cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach. He composed it in Leipzig for the 22nd Sunday after Trinity and first performed it on 17 November 1726.

History and words

Bach wrote the cantata, a solo cantata for a tenor, in 1726 in Leipzig for the 22nd Sunday after Trinity and performed it first on 17 November 1726. It is Bach's only extant cantata for tenor.[1]

The prescribed readings for the Sunday were from the

Scoring and structure

The cantata is scored for a tenor soloist, a four-part choir (only for the final chorale), flauto traverso, oboe d'amore, two violins, viola, and basso continuo.[2]

1. Aria: Ich armer Mensch, ich Sündenknecht (I, wretched man, a servant to sin)[3]
2. Recitativo: Ich habe wider Gott gehandelt (I have offended against God)
3. Aria: Erbarme dich! Laß die Tränen dich erweichen (Have mercy! Let my tears move Thee)
4. Recitativo: Erbarme dich! Jedoch nun tröst ich mich (Have mercy! However, I console myself)
5. Chorale: Bin ich gleich von dir gewichen, stell ich mich doch wieder ein (Though I have turned aside from Thee, Yet shall I return)


A rich polyphonic setting for flute, oboe d'amore and two violins, without viola, accompanies the opening aria. The motifs seem to illustrate the faltering steps and a despairing heart of the steward summoned before his master.[1] The second aria is as expressive, accompanied by a virtuoso flute. The first recitative is secco, but the second one accompanied by string chords.

The closing chorale is the same text and Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben, BWV 147.

Commentators have concluded from the autograph that the last three movements were originally part of an earlier untraced composition for Passiontide, possibly the lost 1717 Weimar Passion.[1][2]




The first source is the score.

Several databases provide additional information on each cantata:

  • Cantata BWV 55 Ich armer Mensch, ich Sündenknecht history, scoring, sources for text and music, translations to various languages, discography, discussion, bach-cantatas website
  • Emmanuel Music
  • Ich armer Mensch, ich Sündenknecht, BWV 55 history, scoring, Bach website (German)
  • University of Vermont
  • University of Alberta

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