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Bach Cantata Listener's Guide

Ach Herr, mich armen Sünder straf nicht in deinem Zorn (Ah, Lord, punish not me, poor sinner, in Thine anger)

Cantata 135

  • Third Sunday after Trinity
  • Epistle: 1 Peter v. 6-11 (Cast your cares upon God)
  • Gospel: Luke xv. 1-10 (Parable of the lost sheep)
  • Rating: 1

Bach uses Hassler's Herzlich tut mich verlangen (The Passion Chorale) several times in different harmonisations, to tremendous effect, in the St. Matthew Passion. In the opening chorus of this cantata we have a completely different and quite stunning setting, which is almost a chorale fantasia, of this hymn tune. The tune is given (in slow time) to the basses who hold the final note of each line to provide a pedal point to the parts above who weave their variations. This establishes a deeply sad and affecting atmosphere for the cantata. The pattern for the rest of this short cantata is fairly standard with recitative, aria, recitative, aria and final chorale. The first recitative has the tears running down the sinners face illustrated by demisemiquaver runs! The following tenor aria allows the oboes to chase each other up and down hill with the soloist eventually making it a threesome. The bass aria is a vigorous affair with a lovely touch at the da capo: Mein Jesus Trostet mich is set to the second line of the chorale melody. A beautiful moment. The final chorale is a much more conventional setting of the hymn tune.

Copyright © 1996 & 1998, Simon Crouch.