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Bach Cantata Listener's Guide

Ach Gott, wie manches Herzeleid (Ah God, how many heart pains)

Cantata 3

  • Second Sunday after Epiphany
  • Epistle: Romans xii. 6-16 (Love and other duties are required of us)
  • Gospel: John ii. 1-11 (Christ turns water into wine)
  • Rating: 2+

The opening chorus of the chorale cantata BWV 3 starts with an orchestral ritornello of great beauty. A pair of oboes d'amore lead into one of Bach's excellent chorale fantasias in which the chorale tune is given to the basses doubled by trombones. The second movement is a recitative/chorale, where a line of chorale melody alternates with a line of recitative, a different soloist each time. It is most effective. The following simple bass aria is musically unmemorable but contains a change in mood in the text, where earthly pain is replaced by heavenly joy. Following a recitative is a duet that Whittaker considers as "perhaps the finest in the cantatas". I'm not sure that I would go that far but it is certainly very good. A joyful celebration of how Jesus carries all of our crosses. A short, simple chorale setting brings the cantata to a close. Bach later went on to set this hymn, more successfully perhaps, as BWV 58.

Copyright © 1996 & 1998, Simon Crouch.