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Bach Cantata Listener's Guide

Ärgre dich, o Seele, nicht (Trouble thyself not, O Soul)

Cantata 186

  • Seventh Sunday after Trinity
  • Epistle: Romans vi. 19-23 (The wage of sin is death)
  • Gospel: Mark viii. 1-9 (Christ feeds the four thousand)
  • Rating: 2+

BWV 186 provides one of those occasion upon which I wish I had never attempted to give ratings to the cantatas. In its eleven movements there seems to me to be inspiration ranging from the routine to the sublime. In the first part, the outer movements are excellent but the inner arias are a disappointment. In the second half, the duet is a moment of sheer genius. In a little more detail, the opening movement is a fine and sombre chorus as befits the mood of the text. The first disappointment arrives after a recitative: The bass aria seems, with its spare accompaniment, to be entirely routine. Things look like they may pick up in the next aria, this time for tenor, but really the vocal line never matches the interest of the violin accompaniment. The first half is rounded off by a very upbeat extended chorale setting. The second half opens with a recitative that leads into another rather disappointing aria. Again, the accompaniment is not matched by the vocal line. All these thought are put to flight, however, with one of Bach's glorious duets (this one for soprano and alto) skipping along in 3/8 time. Do get to hear this movement, if nothing else from this work. The cantata comes to an end with another verse of the chorale with a setting similar to that which ended the first half.

Copyright © 1996 & 1998, Simon Crouch.