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Bach Cantata Listener's Guide

Barmherziges Herze der ewigen Liebe (Merciful heart of eternal love)

Cantata 185

  • Fourth Sunday after Trinity
  • Epistle: Romans viii. 18-23 (God's children await the glory of the body's redemption)
  • Gospel: Luke vi. 36-42 (Be merciful and judge not)
  • Rating: 2+

The Cantata opens with a duet between soprano and tenor in which the chorale melody of the hymn Ich ruf zu dir by Johann agricola is played by the oboe, entering at the end of the first of the vocalists' lines. The singers continue by weaving their lines around the chorale melody. This melody returns in the final stanza of the cantata, where the first verse of Agricola's hymn is sung in full, harmonised in the usual way and accompanied by full orchestra. In the mean time, a recitative is followed by a beautifully expressive alto aria, pastoral in its feel (as befits the words that speak of scattering and reaping, though here referring to love and to the soul). One of Bach's little masterpieces! A further recitative is followed by a bass aria more athletic than attractive. The chorale ends this short cantata.

Copyright © 1996 & 1998, Simon Crouch.

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