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Bach Cantata Listener's Guide

Wo soll ich fliehen hin? (Where shall I fly to?)

Cantata 5

  • Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity
  • Epistle: Ephesians iv. 22-28 (Put on the new man)
  • Gospel: Matthew ix 1-8 (The sick healed of the palsy)
  • Rating: 1+

Attention violists! This is one of your big moments in Bach. The tenor aria in this cantata is apparently one of only very few known instances of the viola as an obbligato instrument in any of Bach's works (for another see BWV 199). More of that in a moment. This chorale cantata opens with dark staccato minor key lines from the violins, the oboes chase each other with a short entwining phrase. There's a sense of unease, of fear. Where shall I fly to, because I am burdened, with many and great sins? Like many of the cantatas, the theme is of a journey from dark into light, from the burden of sin to redemption through the Saviour. We're still in the dark as we start the first recitative, yet since a drop of sacred blood does such wonders, the optimistic change of mood for the tenor aria does not come as a surprise. The viola gets a superb line and the tenor too, both reflecting in their joyous music the message of the words pour forth abundantly, thou divine spring. Following the next recitative, the bass gets a no-holds-barred battle-anthem (Be silent, host of Hell!) introduced by a blazing virtuoso trumpet line. Stirring stuff. A recitative and a straightforward chorale setting bring the cantata to a close.

Copyright © 1996 & 1998, Simon Crouch.