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Bach Cantata Listener's Guide

Es ist nichts Gesundes an meinem Leibe (There is nothing healthy in my body)

Cantata 25

  • Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity
  • Epistle: Galatians v. 16-24 (Walk in the Spirit)
  • Gospel: Luke xvii. 11-19 (The healing of the lepers)
  • Rating: 1

A sombre mood is immediately established in the opening chorus with the off beat violin figure, "despairing groups of three quavers" as Robertson calls them. The orchestra keeps this up whilst the choir enters with a fugue subject and then the trombones and recorders enter together with a dirge-like rendition of Hassler's Passion chorale. This is superb movement, one which will probably set expectations high for the rest of the cantata. Perhaps we're in for something as good as Jesu, der du meine Seele (BWV 78) which is also for the fourteenth Sunday after Trinity? Alas, no. If it were not for the bass aria, which is not unpleasant but which is less than inspired, then we would have been in for such a treat. This, together with the fact that the cantata is fairly short (chorus, recitative, aria, recitative, aria, chorale), means that the second aria, which is very good indeed, isn't enough to offset the disappointment of the first. This latter has a delightful orchestral introduction and accompaniment in which three recorders play a prominent part, weaving around the soprano soloist.

As so often in the cantatas the mood, which earlier was of unremitting gloom and despondency, has improved as the soul realises its redemption is at hand. The Gospel message is reinforced in the final chorale setting. The soul is healed as were the lepers, and it will now praise the Lord in its salvation.

Copyright © 1996 & 1998, Simon Crouch.