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Commentaries: Main Page | Cantatas BWV 1-50 | Cantatas BWV 51-100 | Cantatas BWV 101-150 | Cantatas BWV 151-200 | Cantatas BWV 201-224 | Other Vocal Works BWV 225-524 | Sources

Cantata BWV 113
Herr Jesu Christ, du höchstes Gut


Aryeh Oron wrote (August 17, 2002):
BWV 113 - Background

The background below is taken from the following sources:
Alec Robertson: ‘The Church Cantatas of J.S. Bach’ (1972),
W. Murray Young: ‘The Cantatas of J.S. Bach – An Analytical Guide’ (1989), and
Nicholas Anderson: Liner notes to the DVD ‘Bach Cantatas’ conducted by J.E. Gardiner (2001)’ [6];
The English translation is by Francis Browne, a member of the BCML.

Only the paragraphs related to the first three movements are quoted, because these are the movements I chose to review this time.

Mvt. 1: Chorus
Oboe d'amore I/II, Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo
Herr Jesu Christ, du höchstes Gut
(Lord Jesus Christ, you highest good)
Robertson: The chorale is sung in a simple harmonisation to a melodious accompaniment which may be intended to illustrate the reference in the second line to Christ as the well-spring of goodness, but unable to free the troubled conscience of the soul.
Young: The decorated melody of the fantasia seems to represent water welling from a spring, as the beginning lines suggest, and then to depict waves of comfort on a tortured conscience in the remainder. The chorale melody will appear entirely or partly in every number of this cantata. The choir sings in simple harmony without imitation in their parts.
Anderson: The cantata begins with a poignant B minor choral fantasia. Its four-strand vocal texture is simply harmonised within a melancholy dance framework, where each line of the hymn verse is punctuated by little instrumental ritornellos played by two oboes, strings and continuo. Busy first violins provide continuity between the vocal sections and the ritornellos, voices and instruments, joining forces for the last line of the verse.

Mvt. 2: Chorale
Violino I/II e Viola all' unisono, Continuo
Erbarm dich mein in solcher Last
(Pity me with such a burden)
Robertson: The soloist sings the melody in long notes placed in a neutral kind of setting. The soul brings to mind the atonement for sinners suffered by Jesus on the Cross, without which they would have perished eternally.
Young: This second chorale verse, a prayer for pity, is accompanied by the strings in an exceptionally beautiful setting. More than in any other movement in this cantata, Bach’s musical treatment of this verse is a pleasure to hear.
Anderson: The second verse is set as an alto solo, with unison violins and continuo providing a serious, even abstracted introduction and accompaniment.

Mvt. 3: Aria for Bass
Oboe d'amore I/II, Continuo
Fürwahr, wenn mir das kömmet ein
(Truly, when the thought comes to me)
Robertson: Self knowledge will bring ‘trembling, fear and pain’. The music, in 12/8 time, takes account of the text only in an ascending chromatic phrase sung to the ‘trembling’ and twice more at the word ‘bräche’ (break) in the line ‘I know that my heart would break / if your word did not promise me consolation’, otherwise the movement goes melodiously on its way regardless.
Young: Accompanied by the two oboes d’amore, he sings the first line of the hymn’s third stanza, which is paraphrased for the remainder. The tone of this aria is more declamatory in its self-reproach than lyrical.
Anderson: The first of the three paraphrased arias is for bass accompanied by two oboes d’amore, which introduce themselves imitatively, and continuo. The radiant key of A major, the instrumental colouring and the pastoral dance rhythm suffuse the movement with a beguiling charm, which belies the severity of the text.

Thomas Braatz wrote (August 18, 2002):
BWV 113 - Commentary:
Most of my sources had little or nothing to say about this cantata]

This chorale cantata has a connection with the Gospel for the 11th Sunday after Trinity which is taken from Luke 18:9-14, the Parable of the Pharisee and the Publican and paraphrases the words spoken by the publican, “Gott sei mir Sünder gnädig” [“God be merciful to me a sinner.”]
In verses 5 and 6 the text is treated most freely: the phrase, “wie David und Manasse” [“just as David and Manasseh”] makes a reference to 2 Samuel 12-13 and 2 Chronicles 33 vs. 12 ff. [I am simply reporting what Dürr has indicated, but do not see much of a connection here. Perhaps someone will explain this connection.]
Ringwaldt’s chorale text simply asks for forgiveness, whereas the cantata text claims this forgiveness for any penitent Christian. In doing this, the cantata text becomes more like a sermon. Not only are the “bußfertige Zöllner” [“the penitent publican”] and his statement, “Gott sei mir gnädig” [“God be merciful to me a sinner”] mentioned, but a number of Bible passages are quoted in order to prove that a sinner has a right to hope for Jesus’ mercy:

Luke 15:2
“Jesus nimmt die Sünder an” (Mvt. 5) and „Der Heiland nimmt die Sünder an“ (mvt. 6) [„Jesus/the Savior accepts the sinners“]

Matthew 9:2; Luke 7:48
„Dein Sünd ist dir vergeben“ (Mvt. 5) [„Your sins are forgiven“]


Cantata BWV 113: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

Commentaries: Main Page | Cantatas BWV 1-50 | Cantatas BWV 51-100 | Cantatas BWV 101-150 | Cantatas BWV 151-200 | Cantatas BWV 201-224 | Other Vocal Works BWV 225-524 | Sources


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