Bach: The Cantatas

Bach Cantatas

– Third Sunday after Easter – 8th May 2022 – J.S.Bach cantata BWV 103 – ,Ihr werdet weinen und heulen’.

May 1, 2022

This six movement cantata, is scored, for the standard combination, of strings and continuo, with chorus and two oboe d’amore. On top of this, Bach calls upon the Tromba, for the aria movement, no 5 and a flauto piccolo, or descant recorder, in movements, 1 and 3, although, there is an alternative, written-out violin part, in the complete edition. Both versions are heard to be performed, as requirements, -or circumstances, decree.


Chorus: ‘You shall weep and lament, but the world, shall rejoice.’

Bass: (arioso 101-108) ‘Now, you shall be sorrowful.’

Chorus: ‘Your sorrow, shall be turned, into joy.’

This lively, three-time, introductory ritornello, introduces, a conflict.

That is between, the joys and rejoicings, of the world and the lamentations and the weeping’s, of the saints.

Is it too much, to suggest, that this high flying and sparkling flauto part, bar 3, might be seen, as a rejoicing world, in contrast, to the lamenting and weeping chorus, 27, as it sings its doomed prophesy?

A darkish key, b minor, sets a darkish mood, in this concerto-like opener and the worldly rejoicing must wait, for at least 2 bars, -and after a long and sharp intake, of breath, before it can start its worldly rejoicing, albeit, in the shade.

These 2-bar hold ups, are a regular occurrence and after a thinning texture, the chorus, at 27, is upon us.

At 27, a stark change, from busy semiquavers, in arpeggio shape and style, to lazy quavers, in chromatic style heralds this choral entry.

The flauto, immediately drops its soloist status and gets instantly, into an imitative relationship, with the oboes.

The chorus sets off, fugal-like, with repeated notes and a scalic drop, which evolves, again, quickly, and chromatically, at bar 31.

This is reversed, 43 and semiquavers return, into the texture, signalling, again, that rejoicing world, -and the chorus, is seduced.

These two ideas combine, 59, as the bass voices, semiquaver dominated, combine with the ‘pure’, weeping-and-lamenting idea, sung in the tenor voice, -supported and reinforced, by violas.

A combination, of ideas.

The apotheosis of this, is reached, 71, where the flauto, takes up, this idea of woe and flies high, with it, over a sea troubles.

At 92, choral entries, of crochet-step-downs, in thirds, bar by bar,

‘You shall weep and lament…’ stack up, into a sizeable wall of sound, until 95,

‘…but the world shall rejoice’ where the texture busies itself, in anticipation, of a Bass entry:


This is a serious moment and Bach knows this, placing some serious false relations, -for instance, between the bass C#, 101, with the first fiddle C natural, in the same bar and a bass G natural, with the G# in the second fiddle, 107, which grind away, creating an aural sound world of sorrow, to match that of the text.

Notice the pathetic efforts of the flauto, 103 and 6, to reignite the joys of the world.

In any case, the joys of the world, do win, as the choir again returns to its opening notes, -with no leap, bar 110, and this time, with the joyful semiquaver flauto, as a sparkling accompaniment.


‘Who would not sink into lamentations, when the beloved, is snatched away, from us. Our sick souls friend and the source, of our salvation, seems to take no notice, at all, of our sorrows.’

Notice the excellent shape, the rise and fall, of the vocal line.

The chromatic bass-line, 5, paves the way for the melismatic sorrows, 6-7.


‘No healer is to be found, except for you. Though I have searched, throughout Gilead, who else will heal the wounds, of my transgressions, especially, when there is no balm, for me here? If you will hide, from me, then I will perish. Have mercy and Ah, please do, give ear! As I realise, that you do not seek my ruin, then, my heart will still trust in you.’

The flauto, threads a shapely threnody, over an evolving bass line, as the wounds of transgression cut deep.

This slow dance, in 2 very slow beats with long phrases, becomes a decorated exploration, from both flauto and voice, of those wounds, the balm for which, seems in short supply, although exploration, for it, is in earnest, bar 20.

The fear of perishing, or even dying, 38, through 41, is followed by a craving for mercy, 41 through 46 and the harbouring of hope, 49, right through, to 57, with the hoped-for flourish, 55.


‘When my fear is past, you will again, revive me. I shall make myself ready for your coming, as I have much trust in your promise, that my sadness, shall be turned, into joy.’

The coming, at 4, is followed, by the seriousness, of accepting the promise.

The audibly sad sadness, is turned, immediately into almost ecstatic joy, -complete with an energised hop-&-skip, driven, mostly, by the keen and suddenly energised continuo players.


‘Recover, troubled feelings. You are causing yourself, far too much grief. Let go, of those sorrowful beginnings, before I collapse, into tears. My Jesus, shall appear again. O joy, without compare. Such good has come upon me. Please do accept my heart, as a sacrifice.’

Enter, the trumpet.

This recovery is now, seemingly, in full -and from the beginning, as this jaunty dance, with its leading up-beat and Joy-motif, -two semiquavers + quaver rhythm, swings off, on the strong and leading, dance foot.

But is it, as Bach’s F natural, bars 2/3, is surely a reminder, of lingering doubts, that any unbelief, might fuel.

Nevertheless, the trumpet sets off, stoically, on its journey, although it too, succumbs to the F natural blues, again, bar 3, and the voice, too and this, after such a good start.

This experience creates immediately, a wobble, -those ‘…troubled feelings…’ or, a better translation, ‘…a distressed mind,’, becoming a reality, not only textually and thus, musically, bar 10, but also physically, as an instability, of faith, which will always create, an instability, of mind and body.

This is clearly heard, 11, through16, in the woozy music, jagged vocal leaping and ambiguity, of key, -and those false relations, 22, clearly, is designed, to reflect the textual confirmations, that these ‘troubled feelings’, woes and griefs, are really, self-inflicted.

The next vocal entry, 23, is an early one and as a result, it lilts, awkwardly, as if stifled, by a floundering and snivelling tearfulness, those,

‘…sorrowful beginnings…’,

which do seem, too sorrowful, to shrug off.

This is then followed by seriously wobbly emotion,

those collapsing tears, ‘…Tränen untergeh.‘

The reappearing of Jesus, 37, initiates a ‘…joy-without-compare…’ moment, 39 really through 53, where the ‘Joy-motif’, is joined by ecstatic vocal coloratura.

These vocal difficulties, -surrounded of course by trumpet and wind joy motif, do make the ‘sacrifice of the heart’, seem all the more pleading, in both nature and sentiment.


‘I have, -for a moment only, dear child, forsaken you. But, with great happiness and comfort, -and this, beyond anything, I shall honour you, by setting upon you, a crown of joy. Brief suffering, shall be turned, into the joy, of well-being.’

These words, as if spoken, by Christ, are set and harmonised, by Bach, in a way, that is really, self-explanatory.

The emotional distance, of the second line, is narrowed, by the ‘Glück‘, of the third, only to be met with, an ambiguous reception, towards an understanding, of what exactly is this comfort, ‘…beyond belief…’?

The wonderful word, ‘Freudenkron’ is well received, as it should be, but, again, some low self-esteem, prevents and hampers, a true grasp, of self worth and the ability to own this bestowed, honour.

The final line is telling, in that, we are left with this question: do we understand anything, of this joy, of eternal wellbeing?

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