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Cantata BWV 13
Meinen Seufzer, meine Tränen
Discussions - Part 4

Continue from Part 3

Discussions in the Week of March 15, 2015 (4th round)

Linda Gingrich wrote (March 15, 2015):
Discussion BWV 13, Meine Seufzer, meine Tränen

Once more we have a cantata of weeping for the weekly discussion, BWV 13, Meine Seufzer, meine Tränen (My sighs, my tears). And again it is a cantata of dualisms, perhaps even more so than last week’s BWV 12, Weinen, Klagen. It also is a cantata that seems to puzzle many. It was first performed in Leipzig on January 20, 1726, the second Sunday after Epiphany, as part of Bach’s third cantata cycle (see for more details), and the scriptures for the day were John 2:1-11, and Romans 12:6-16. Some see a disconnect between the Gospel passage’s description of the turning of the water into wine at the wedding in Cana—after all, weddings are joyful!—and the doleful nature of the cantata. The libretto refers to the “wine of joy” in the soprano recitative, but that’s the only direct reference to the Gospel. In fact, Julian Mincham points out in his analysis that the two major arias, tenor & bass, which are full of pain, take up more than two-thirds of the performance time! ( Most of the cantata seems sunk in almost inconsolable grief.

I became quite intrigued by this apparent disconnect, and just for the fun of it did a bit of reading in a commentary on this miracle to see if it could shed any light. I didn’t read in depth—the commentary devotes 14 pages to this one passage!—but I picked up a few things. There is general agreement among ancient and modern scholars that Jesus’ statement, “My hour is not yet come” agrees with other uses of the word “hour” in John’s gospel as references to his passion, death, resurrection and ascension. This implies a melding of pain and joy. Many also see messianic allusions in this miracle: for example, Old and New Testament images of weddings as symbols of messianic fulfillment, and the abundance of wine as an Old Testament emblem of the happiness of the final days. Perhaps suffering and joy are more apparent in the passage than is evident at first glance. I also noticed that some of the verses in the Romans passage echo these ideas: rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep, be patient in tribulation, constant in prayer. Since Bach’s library was well stocked with theological books, he may have been aware of these theological connections.

The cantata’s antitheses might play into this. For example, I was caught by the possible allegorical implications of the tenor aria’s 12/8 time signature. Triple meters can have Trinitarian implications in Bach’s works (numerous writers have discussed this). Chafe also points out that instrumentation can be allegorically significant and is sometimes associated with certain subjects: reason, the world, love; oboes of all types were especially important in connection with love (Tonal Allegory, pp 243-244, p 89n). Could Bach be sending a message that the tenor’s sighs and tears and unending misery are in reality enfolded in God’s never-ending presence and love, represented by the triple meter and the oboe da caccia?

Dürr writes that the bass aria employs contrasting affects of weeping and joy (Cantatas, p. 199). The singer certainly supplies the weeping with his intensely chromatic and jaggedly anguished lines, while the joy is provided by the skipping sixteenth and thirty-second notes of the recorder and violin ritornello. And the ascending 16th and 32nd note passages that first appear in measure five seem to reflect the admonition to look toward heaven for sure comfort. There are clearly two affects conveyed which seem to support the real message of the text: moaning and weeping do not help (the bass weeps), look to heaven for true comfort (violin and recorder dance!).

I have indulged in some speculation here, but as this list is a vehicle for discussion I hope some of you will weigh in. Any thoughts on the above, or other interesting aspects of Meine Seufzer?

Aryeh Oron wrote (March 23, 2015):
Cantata BWV 13 - Revised & updated Discography

The discography pages of Cantata BWV 13 "Meine Seufzer, meine Tränen" for the 2nd Sunday after Epiphany on the BCW have been revised and updated.
The cantata is scored for soprano,alto, tenor & bass soloists; 4-part chorus; and orchestra of 2 recorders, oboe da caccia, 2 violins, viola & continuo. See:
Complete Recordings (10):
Recordings of Individual Movements (6):
The revised discography includes many listening/watching options to recordings directly from the discography pages, just below the recording details.

I also put at the BCW Home Page:
2 audios and 1 video of the cantata. A short description below the audio/video image is linked to the full details at the discography pages.

I believe this is the most comprehensive and detailed discography of this cantata. If you are aware of a recording of BWV 13 missing from these pages, or want to correct/add details of a recording already presented on the BCW, please do not hesitate to inform me.

You can also read on the BCW last week's discussion of the cantata in the BCML (4th round):


Continue on Part 5

Cantata BWV 13: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

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