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Bach Cantata Listener's Guide

Wo gehest du hin? (Whither goest Thou?)

Cantata 166

  • Fourth Sunday after Easter
  • Epistle: Jas. i. 17-21 (Every good gift is from above)
  • Gospel: John xvi. 5-15 (It is expedient that I go away)
  • Rating: 2+

The opening bass aria simply has the words Where are you going? (reflected later in the cantata in Jesus' words Man, ah Man! Where are you going"). In the Gospel it is Jesus putting words into the mouths of the disciples, Where are you going, Lord?. Here, the words are reversed to give a wistful contemplation of the fate of Man. The libretto of this cantata, by an unknown poet, is very effective. The following tenor aria may very well be familiar to you from the g-minor organ trio BWV 584 which was at one time thought to be a transcription by Bach of this piece. It is now thought that the transcription was by a later hand. In this context, there is a very attractive and effective accompaniment to the tenor voice from oboe and violin (the latter part having to be reconstructed). Between the two arias is a chorale notable for the orchestral accompaniment, it is very fine indeed. The alto aria also benefits from an excellent orchestral prelude and accompaniment and the cantata closes with a straightforward chorale setting.

Copyright © 1996 & 1998, Simon Crouch.