Bach: The Cantatas

Bach Cantatas

– 3rd Sunday after Trinity – 3rd July 2022 – Bach cantata BWV 135 – ,Ach, Herr, mich armen Sünder‘ –

Jun 27, 2022

An ‘oboe-orchestra‘, -complete with continuo, 4-part choir and soloists, is joined, by a reinforcing bass line trombone and a reinforcing top line cornetto, these instruments only appearing in the first number, trombone and the last, trombone and cornetto.

‘Do not, in you anger, punish me, a poor sinner, soften your rage, or else, I will be lost. Kindly forgive my sins and show mercy, that I may live and escape, any hellish torments.’

This penitent text, is musically servile, in its desire to ‘soften’ any rages and escape any consequences. The oboes creep, in, around and about, soothing those emotions in readiness, for the chorus to do similar.

Chorus and interlude follow one another, in succession, the text, hi-lighted, at each time: -do not punish’-‘in your anger’-‘moderate’-‘otherwise’-‘I am undone’-‘forgive’-‘my sins’ -‘show mercy’-‘that I may have’-‘eternal life’-‘and escape hell torment’, and all underlined, with a trombone reinforced bass line, by the chorale melody to be heard, in the final number.


‘Heal me, physician, of souls, I am sick and weak. You can count all my bones, so badly has my adversary, my cross and my suffering, treated me. My face is swollen with tears, which, like torrents, roll down my cheeks. My soul is torn, with fear and terror. Why, my Lord, are you so long, in coming?’

The ‘physician of souls‘, here, evoked by a passionate tenor, in evangelist mode, as he bitterly and starkly, outlines his woes and frustrations.

Listen, for the tears, like torrents, 9, rolling down the cheeks, 10, the soul torn, 11 and the frustration, in waiting, for the return, 12 through 13.


‘Bring comfort, to my spirit, Jesus, otherwise, I shall sink and die. Help me, with your goodness, to comfort, my soul’s, great distress. Because, in death, all is still and silent and, there is no remembrance, of you.

This dance, a ‘comfort to the spirit’, arrives, full of goodness and is, it seems, indeed enough, to dispel any souls great distress.

The two oboes trade this goodness, between themselves, 5 through 8 and even manage to involve the continuo bass, 9.

The tenor voice already seems healed of any distress, as the upward rises, 17 through 19, based on oboe sameness, speak of the fulfilment, of the longings, of the last line. Sinking’s and dying’s, 3 times, seem a thing of the past and goodness has, well and truly, -well almost, note Eb and Bb, 32, 28 through 32, conquered, this soul’s great distress.

This strange, ‘silence in death’, prepares us, for itself, with darker moments, 39 through 42 and manifests, with actual silence, 42 and 43 and the dearth of remembrance, is, at first, longingly nostalgic, 44 through 47, but after that, almost excepting, in a shirt dismissal, 48-49.

At 62, the will, of dearest Jesus, is evoked, at first, in uncertain terms and ways, up to 68 and then on much more familiar terms, 69 to 72, before, at last, 73 right through, to 86, the countenance, reflected with some highly ecstatic singing, is filled, with joy.


‘I am weary, with this sighing, my spirit, has neither strength, nor power, because, all night long, -and often, without any inward peace, I lie, bathed, in sweat and tears. I am, almost, dying, with worry and sorry, has aged me. My fear is evident, in ways, many and varied.’

Actually a cleaver transformation and concealment, of the first line of the final chorale, -check out notes 1/4/5/6/7/10/14, this recit, opens, with the weariest,‘I am weary, with sighing’, that I know and to make aural matters worse, than they already are, it seems to modulate, towards an implied g minor, after having started, in F major.

After that, it settles itself down, into a reasonable flow, -except for the sweaty-night experience, 6/7, characterised, with the 3:4 suspension, and even the final, tortuous line, is executed, within a reasonable sound frame.


‘Begone, evildoers. My Jesus, He consoles me. After tears and weeping, He makes The Son of joy, shine again. This gloomy weather, is changing now. Suddenly, our enemies, must fall and their arrows, must rebound, back, onto them.’

This is definitely, ‘kick-aria-stuff’ and the confident kick, with its short preparation, -three quavers, bar 1 and long impact, -minim + quaver, 1, through 2, leads into an equally confident affirmation, 30, through 38, of Jesus, as comforter.

Reminiscences, on tears, weeping and suchlike, although painful, 46, seem dim and distant and ‘The Son of joy’ does indeed shine, long and lustrous, 50, through 59.

As the weather changes, so does the tonality, 64, and falling enimies ignites a sharp move, higher, towards b minor and, as those arrows back-fire, down, they all fall, in the rhythm of 2, to a minim, as opposed, to 4, to a bar.

During the return, the voice trumpets his devotion, to Jesus, in similar minimal attitude, 93, through, 98.


‘Glory-be, to the throne of heaven, with high renown and praise. To God The Father and The son, -and in the same manner, to The Holy ghost, with honour, throughout, all eternity. And may He grant, -and to all of us, everlasting salvation.’

Although this is a strong setting, it is, in many ways, uncertain, coloured by the tenor voice, eternity is certainly hi-lighted in line 6.

The music, of the last line, surely seems, to question, the very words that it must set?

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