Cantata 131 is the earliest surviving of Bach's cantatas and may indeed (according to Alfred Durr) be the earliest cantata that he composed. It is certainly the earliest autograph of a complete major work by Bach to have survived until today. It was apparently written for a penitential service in Mühlhausen shortly after a major fire had destroyed a large part of the town in 1707.
Judging from the very opening of the sinfonia of Aus der Tiefe Bach had very early on mastered the use of the plaintive oboe figure! The sinfonia leads straight into the very beautiful first choral movement which itself goes straight into the bass aria in which the chorus sings a chorale backdrop. In fact, there's a very obvious structure in this cantata of three choral pillars separated by two chorale based solos. So after another choral section the excellent tenor aria has the same form as the earlier bass aria with the chorus providing accompaniment and the chorus has the final word.
Copyright © 1996 & 1998, Simon Crouch.