J.S.Bach:カンタータ BWV 21 Ich hatte viel Bekummernis

Johann Sebastian Bach composed the church cantata Ich hatte viel Bekummernis (I had much grief), BWV 21 in Weimar, possibly in 1713, partly even earlier. He used it in 1714 and later for the third Sunday after Trinity of the liturgical year. The work marks a transition between motet style on biblical and hymn text to operatic recitatives and arias on contemporary poetry. Bach catalogued the work as e per ogni tempo (and for all times), indicating that due to its general theme, the cantata is suited for any occasion.

The text is probably written by the court poet Salomon Franck, who includes four biblical quotations from three psalms and from the Book of Revelation, and juxtaposes in one movement biblical text with two stanzas from Georg Neumark's hymn "Wer nur den lieben Gott lasst walten". The cantata possibly began as a work of dialogue and four motets on biblical verses. When Bach performed the cantata again in Leipzig in 1723, it was structured in eleven movements, including an opening sinfonia and additional recitatives and arias. It is divided in two parts to be performed before and after the sermon, and scored for three vocal soloists (soprano, tenor, and bass), a four-part choir, and a Baroque instrumental ensemble of three trumpets, timpani, oboe, strings and continuo.

Bach led a performance in the court chapel of Schloss Weimar on 17 June 1714, known as the Weimar version. He revised the work for performances, possibly in Hamburg and several revivals in Leipzig, adding for the first Leipzig version four trombones playing colla parte.

History and words

For details on Bach's promotion, see Erschallet, ihr Lieder, erklinget, ihr Saiten! BWV 172 § Background.
For the series of monthly cantatas, see O heilges Geist- und Wasserbad, BWV 165 § Monthly cantatas from 1714 to 1715.
Bach composed the cantata in Weimar, but the composition history is complicated and not at all stages certain. Findings by Martin Petzoldt suggest that the cantata began with the later movements 2-6 and 9-10, most of them on biblical text, performed at a memorial service of Aemilia Maria Haress, the wife of a former prime-minister of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt, at the church St. Peter und Paul in Weimar on 8 October 1713. Bach may then have expanded it and presented it for his application in December 1713 at the Liebfrauenkirche in Halle. The performance material of this event, the only surviving source, shows on the title page the designation e per ogni tempo, indicating that the cantata with its general readings and texts is suitable for any occasion.

Bach designated the cantata to the Third Sunday after Trinity of 1714. The prescribed readings for the Sunday were from the First Epistle of Peter, "Cast thy burden upon the Lord" (1 Peter 5:6-11), and from the Gospel of Luke, the parable of the Lost Sheep and the parable of the Lost Coin (Luke 15:1-10). The librettist was probably the court poet Salomon Franck, as in most cantatas of the period, such as Erschallet, ihr Lieder, erklinget, ihr Saiten! BWV 172. The text shows little connection to the prescribed gospel, but is related to the epistle reading. The poet included biblical texts for four movements: for movement 2 Psalms 94:19, for movement 6 Psalms 42:5, translated in the King James Version (KJV) to "Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance.", for movement 9 Psalms 116:7 (KJV: "Return unto thy rest, O my soul; for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee."), and for movement 11 Revelation 5:12-13, "Worthy is the Lamb", the text also chosen to conclude Handel's Messiah. Similar to other cantatas of that time, ideas are expressed in dialogue: in movements 7 and 8 the soprano portrays the Seele (Soul), while the part of Jesus is sung by the bass as the vox Christi (voice of Christ). Only movement 9 uses text from a hymn, juxtaposing the biblical text with stanzas 2 and 5 of "Wer nur den lieben Gott lasst walten" by Georg Neumark, who published it with his own melody in Jena in 1657 in the collection Fortgepflantzter Musikalisch-Poetischer Lustwald. Possibly the first version of the cantata ended with that movement.

Bach performed the cantata in the court chapel of Schloss Weimar on 17 June 1714, as his fourth work in a series of monthly cantatas for the Weimar court which came with his promotion to Konzertmeister (concert master) in 1714. The so-called Weimar version, his first composition for an ordinary Sunday in the second half of the liturgical year, marked also a farewell to Duke Johann Ernst who began a journey then. A revision occurred during the Kothen years, specifically in 1720. A performance, documented by original parts, could have been in Hamburg to apply for the position as organist at St. Jacobi in November 1720, this time in nine movements and in D minor instead of C minor. As Thomaskantor in Leipzig, Bach performed the cantata again on his third Sunday in office on 13 June 1723, as the title page shows. For this performance, now of eleven movements beginning again in C minor, he also changed the instrumentation, adding for example four trombones to double the voices in the fifth stanza of the hymn. This version was used in several revivals during Bach's lifetime and is mostly played today.


Scoring and structure

Bach structured the cantata in eleven movements in two parts, Part I (movements 1-6) to be performed before the sermon, Part II (7-11) after the sermon. He scored it for three vocal soloists (soprano (S), tenor (T) and bass (B)), a four-part choir SATB, three trumpets (Tr) and timpani only in the final movement, four trombones (Tb) (only in Movement 9 and only in the 5th version to double voices in the fifth stanza of the chorale), oboe (Ob), two violins (Vl), viola (Va), and basso continuo (Bc), with bassoon (Fg) and organ (Org) explicitly indicated. The duration is given as 44 minutes.

In the following table of the movements, the scoring and keys are given for the version performed in Leipzig in 1723. The keys and time signatures are taken from Alfred Durr, using the symbol for common time (4/4). The instruments are shown separately for winds and strings, while the continuo, playing throughout, is not shown.

Movements of Ich hatte viel Bekummernis - Part 1
1 Sinfonia Ob 2Vl Va C minor
2 Ich hatte viel Bekummernis in meinem Herzen Psalm 94:19 Chorus SATB Ob Fg 2Vl Va C minor
3 Seufzer, Tranen, Kummer, Not Franck Aria S Ob C minor 12/8
4 Wie hast du dich, mein Gott Franck Recitative T 2Vl Va
5 Bache von gesalznen Zahren Franck Aria T Fg 2Vl Va F minor
6 Was betrubst du dich, meine Seele Psalm 42:5 Chorus SATB Ob Fg 2Vl Va F minor C minor

Movements of Ich hatte viel Bekummernis, BWV 21 - Part II
7 Ach Jesu, meine Ruh Franck Recitative Dialogus S B 2Vl Va E-flat major
8 Komm, mein Jesu, und erquicke / Ja, ich komme und erquicke Franck Aria S B E-flat major
9 Sei nun wieder zufrieden, meine Seele Psalm 116:7 Neumark Chorus and Chorale SATB Ob (stanza 2) 4Tbne (Version 5 only) 2Vl Va (stanza 2) G minor 3/4
10 Erfreue dich, Seele, erfreue dich, Herze Franck Aria T F major 3/8
11 Das Lamm, das erwurget ist Revelation 5:12-13 Chorus SATB 3Tr Ti Ob 2Vl Va C major


The music for this early cantata uses motet style in the choral movements. Biblical words are used in a prominent way. They are treated in choral movements, different from other cantatas of the Weimar period where they were typically composed as recitatives. John Eliot Gardiner, who conducted all of Bach's church cantatas in 2000 as the Bach Cantata Pilgrimage, termed the cantata "one of the most extraordinary and inspired of Bach's vocal works". He notes aspects of the music which are similar to movements in Bach's early cantatas, suggesting that they may have been composed already when Bach moved to Weimar in 1708: the psalm verses resemble movements of cantatas such as Nach dir, Herr, verlanget mich, BWV 150, and Aus der Tiefen rufe ich, Herr, zu dir, BWV 131, the dialogue of the Soul and Jesus (movement 8) is reminiscent of the Actus tragicus, and the hymn in motet style (movement 9) recalls movements 2 and 5 of the chorale cantata Christ lag in Todes Banden, BWV 4.

Part I

Themes of deep suffering, pain and mourning dominate the music in the first part of the cantata. Gardiner notes that five of the six movements are "set almost obsessively in C minor".

Part II

The second part begins in a different mood, through the trust of sinners in the grace of God. In a recitative and an aria, the Soul (soprano) and Jesus (bass as the voice of Christ) enter a dialogue, leading to a final choral movement as a strong hymn of praise.


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