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Bach Cantata Listener's Guide

Mein Odem ist schwach (My life's breath is failing)

Cantata 222

  • Unknown Occasion
  • Rating: 2

The cantatas BWV 217-222 are all now regarded as either being of dubious provenance or, in some cases, are definitely identified as being by composers other than J.S. Bach. However, it's worth considering them here because it is still possible that one or two of them may actually be genuine and since there is also a good quality recording available of this set (conducted by Wolfgang Helbich on CPO 999139-2), so that listeners can come to their own conclusions!

BWV 222 has been identified as being by J.E. Bach. It's interesting to note that the motet BWV Anh. III 165 is taken from movements of this work (and you can hear a recording of this motet, again by Wolfgang Helbich, on CPO 999235-2). The cantata opens with a mournful bass aria with suitably sombre accompaniment from the choir singing a chorale as a backdrop. A very long and affecting alto aria maintains the sombre mood. A choral interlude followed by a simple and beautiful chorale setting leads into another chorale setting, accompanied by the orchestra, in which the soprano soloist joins in with the choir. The choir finishes off the work with an upbeat chorus. A strong pattern, familiar from J.S. Bach's cantatas, is repeated here: Hopelessness is banished by the joyful release of death. It's difficult to see this ever seriously having been attributed to J.S. Bach!

Copyright © 1998, Simon Crouch.