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Bach Cantata Listener's Guide

Siehe zu, dass deine Gottesfurcht nicht Heuchelei sei (See to it that thy God-fearing be not hypocrisy)

Cantata 179

  • Eleventh Sunday after Trinity
  • Epistle: 1 Corinthians xv. 1-10 (Of Christ's resurrection)
  • Gospel: Luke xviii. 9-14 (Parable of the Pharisee and the publican)
  • Rating: 2

A most sombre cantata. The atmosphere is established immediately in the opening movement, a strict fugal chorus led off by the basses, almost in the style of a motet. As are all Bach's fugal excursions, this is a fine piece. Suffice it to say that the opening words of the first recitative are The Christian world is in a sorry state and that the tenor aria starts with Hypocrites, who thus ignore, like the Sodomites, your duty, you are rotten to the core. What more can one say? The music of this aria is exited, agitated but (apart from the violin figure) not particularly memorable. The next recitative is followed by a more interesting aria in which the soprano's prayer is accompanied by downward drooping oboe da caccia phrases to fine effect. The cantata closes with a most effective chorale setting.

Bach went on to re-use the music of the opening chorus and the two arias in his little masses. The first movement became the Kyrie and the third the Quoniam of the mass in G, BWV 236 and the fifth movement became the Qui Tollis of the mass in A, BWV 234. I have a particular affection for these delightful pieces so it will not surprise you that I feel that the music of this cantata is better served in these later mass adaptations.

Copyright © 1996 & 1998, Simon Crouch.