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Cantata BWV 5
Wo soll ich fliehen hin?
Commentary

Thomas Braatz wrote (October 24, 2001):
BWV 5 - What to listen for:

Mvt. 1:

The cantus firmus in the soprano voice is supported by the tromba da tirarsi (slide trumpet), but you will find it very difficult to hear this instrument in most of the recordings. In a number of recordings I would almost swear that there is no trumpet-like instrument of any kind playing. While the almost non-existent trumpet is playing colla parte with the sopranos, the remaining voices are usually engaged in singing faster moving figures, either imitating the chorale melody and/or providing 'coloring' to the words being sung by the sopranos. The orchestral ensemble is divided in the usual way with 2 oboes (woodwinds) vs. the strings + bc. The main musical figures in the instrumental ritornello are derived primarily from the 1st upward-moving (on the notes of the scale) phrase ("Wo soll ich fliehen hin") and the 2nd downward-moving (again on the notes of the scale) phrase ("Weil ich beschweret bin"). By emphasizing and building upon these opposing motions (upward, downward) Bach supports and highlights the ideas contained in the motion of these musical figures as originally presented in the chorale melody: The answer to the initial question ("In which direction should I flee") is found in the upward movement that leads to Christ, whereas the 2nd line ("I am becoming more heavily burdened with sin") leads downward under the great weight of sin. But Bach, with his usual method of condensation and compression of musical ideas has both motions, upward and downward, appearing simultaneously, both in the instrumental ritornello as well as the choral sections. This is the great Kapellmeister imbuing the rules of counterpoint with theological significance, a feat that he accomplishes with such apparent ease that everything seems to fit properly as if it was always meant to be that way. Listen to Bach's treatment of "Wenn alle Welt herkäme"! Suddenly the supporting voices have fast 16th notes on "alle Welt" as if he were trying to enumerate the individuals that make up the world. This is reminiscent of this treatment of "omnes generationes' in the "Magnificat" with the fast reiteration of "omnes, omnes". Another very effective 'device' occurs in the final line: "Mein Angst sie nicht wegnähme." On the words, "Mein Angst" the choice of unusual chord together with the stopping of movement indicate an overwhelming fear that makes us completely immobile for a few moments. Besides the contrary, inverted forms that the main musical figures assume as the mvt. progresses, my attention was also drawn to a unique downward moving figure in the strings (ms. 11) and 2nd oboe (ms. 13) , one that is broken into two-note descending figures. A good place to hear this figure is in both oboes right after the line "mit viel und großen Sünden." This is also a part of Bach's vocabulary of pictorial images in musical figures that represent something, but what? This pattern also appears in Mvt. 3 in the bc (ms. 2,3 etc.) and ms. 20 of the violin solo. Also in Mvt 5. in the strings and oboes ms. 6,9,10,11,12 etc. and the bass voice ms. 20, 21, 43, 60. In the final chorale it is in the tenor (and possibly bass as well) voice ms. 7. All of these instances point to a unifying principle at work throughout the cantata. Here are some of Schweitzer's observation of this type of figure: It is often associated with 'falling asleep' or 'death' ["the instruments sink downwards in blissful lassitude."] Or, in another instance: "heavy descending semi quavers that seem to fetter the melody and draw it down into the depths." Or, in yet another instance: "a motif of noble lamentation," "noble grief," "continual sobbing and sighing." Or: "leaves falling wearily from branch after branch." Then also: "the motion of waves or of water." The latter seems to fit best the situation described in Mvt. 3, the tenor aria which describes "the streams of blood raining down upon mankind."

Mvt. 3:

Schweitzer comments: "a solo viola keeps up a delightful flowing and murmuring obbligato."
Dürr: possibly the viola could be replaced by a violoncello piccolo.

Mvt. 5:

The heavily accented rhythms are interspersed with "speaking" rests or pauses. The flowing source of Mvt. 3 is also noticeably apparent in this mvt. where the forces of hell are being quenched.

 

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

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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Last update: żAugust 22, 2012 ż10:15:56