MUSICTEACHERS.CO.UK VOLUME 2 ISSUE 9, MARCH 2001  
Online Journal

2 – Recitativo
The harmonic scheme of this recitative is intensely chromatic. It is the tortured cry of the sufferer, his body wasted with disease, his soul poisoned by evil:

Oh pain, oh misery! which strike me, while sins’ poison rages in my breast and veins. The world becomes for me a sick and death house, the body must carry its torments up to the grave. But the soul feels the strongest poison, wherewith it is infected, therefore when the pain the body of death seizes, when to it the tribulation cup bitter tastes, so drives it from the burning sigh out.

This recitative contains many notable features:

1. The flattened ninth in bar 2 falls to the third of the next chord
2. In bar 4, the seventh at the beginning of the bar leaps prior to resolution
3. The sinister continuo drop in bar 7 tells of the sinking of the body into the grave
4. At the ends of bars 7, 12 and 13, the voice anticipates the next chord
5. The sequence from bar 7-8 is an example of a dissonant bass moving upwards to the dominant of a cadence
6. From bar 8-11 the key changes rapidly from b-flat minor to the remote key of E major
7. There are false relations in bar 8-9, 10-11 and 12-13, where the bass moves surprisingly from A-sharp to C-natural
8. The chord of bar 9 is treated enharmonically; the alto line of the latter would therefore read G-sharp – G-sharp – A-sharp – B – A-sharp
9. The 6/4/2 chord in bar 10 resolves onto the root position and an E major triad
10. The C of the penultimate chord moves up to G in order to allow the vocal D to drop to B-flat
11. The torturous solo line in 12-13 suggests the writhing of the body in acute pain.

3 – Choral
A harmonisation of the anonymous tune to stanza 4 of J. Major’s Ach Gott und Herr, wie gross und schwer, is one of Bach’s most amazing chromatic flights. Without the text, the progressions are meaningless but are justified by the hymn-verse. The opening reflects that disasters must necessarily follow sin:

Shall it yea then be / That punishment and pain / On sins must follow

The sufferer then determines to atone fully for all wrong-doing:

So continue here / And spare there / And let me here well atone

The last part of the melody, to bussen (atone), is elongated, and a sweeping bass with dissonant upper parts indicates that peace has been found, which changes the direction of the cantata. Note the boldness of the harmonies between bars 5.4 and 8.1.

The palsied man is now healed, and goes to his own house, not to his earthly abode, but to the mansions of Heaven. The Epistle is Ephesians iv/22-28, the abandoning of the old man and a putting on of the new “in righteousness and true holiness” and the latter part of the libretto is now concerned with Paul’s admonition.



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