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Bach Cantata Listener's Guide

Warum betrubst du dich, mein Herz? (Why are you troubled, my heart?)

Cantata 138

  • Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity
  • Epistle: Galatians v 25-vi. 10 (The fruits of the spirit)
  • Gospel: Matthew vi. 23-34 (Avoid worldly cares)
  • Rating: 2+

Lovers of Wagner's Die Meistersinger will prick up their ears at the mention of Hans Sachs. Here the real life Sachs provides the words of the hymn upon which this chorale cantata is based. The first, third and seventh verses are taken directly from a hymn of his and the remaining verses appear to be based on related biblical passages. The opening chorus is a very melancholy and beautiful setting of the hymn tune in which, towards the end, there is an interpolation of soprano recitative. I'm afraid, to my ears this latter detracts from the effectiveness of the movement. Recitative is followed by another fine chorale setting with interpolated recitative (this time more natural) and a further recitative leads into the very fine bass aria Auf Gott steht meine Zuversicht. This is one of those many tremendous arias to be found in the cantatas that really should be rescued from its relative obscurity and put into the regular repertoire of the best singers. A lovely melody with show-stopping string accompaniment, it would be quite happy standing on its own. A further recitative leads into the closing chorale movement. Here the accompaniment is really quite spectacular for a chorale setting: Sweeping runs from the violins give expression to exuberant joy.

Copyright © 1996 & 1998, Simon Crouch.