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Bach Cantata Listener's Guide

Schau, lieber Gott, wie meine Feind (See, dear God, the many enemies)

Cantata 153

  • Sunday after the Circumcision
  • Epistle: Titus ii. 11-14 (Salvation has appeared to all men) or
     Titus iii. 4-7 (Justified by grace, we are the heirs of eternal life)
  • Gospel: Matthew ii. 13-15 (The flight into Egypt) or
     Matthew iii. 13-17 (Jesus baptised by John)
  • Rating: 3+

Unusually, this cantata starts with a simple chorale setting rather than a more elaborate chorus and throughout its relatively short span, there are three chorale settings and three straightforward recitatives. It has been suggested that given the season, Bach's choirs would have had a lot of material to learn recently and thus he deliberately wrote a cantata like this to ease his chorister's lives.

Unfortunately, it shows. The remainder of the cantata is made up of three arias which themselves are really nothing special. The first is just plain dull and the second is energetic and frenetic but not especially inspired (and may be a parody of a lost secular cantata movement). However, the third aria (for alto) sounds like a failed attempt at writing a great tune, which at least succeeds in being rather charming.

Copyright © 1996 & 1998, Simon Crouch.