Thomas Braatz wrote (November 16, 2002):
BWV 26 - Provenance:
The Autograph Score:
J.S. Bach to W.F. Bach to Georg Poelchau to the BB in 1841.
Cover page added later by Poelchau with the latter’s handwriting.
The title on top of the 1st page of score is autograph and reads as follows:
J. J. Dominica 24 post Trinit. Ach wie flüchtig, ach wie flüchtig. [Bach subsequently corrected the 1st ‚flüchtig’ to ‚nichtig.’ – Was this a lapsus linguae? Was Bach thinking more about the transitory nature of life than that life on earth really did not have much to offer? See possible answer below.]
For mvt. 2 Bach originally had “Violini unis [ono]” but the parts have only Violino 1.
At the very end Bach wrote: “Fine SDG.”
The Original Set of Parts:
This set of parts was transferred, as most of sets have been, by Anna Magdalena Bach to the St. Thomas School soon after Bach’s death. Currently they are part of the Bach Archiv in Leipzig. The title on the cover is in an unknown hand.
Most of the copy work was completed by Johann Andreas Kuhnau. Anna Magdalena Bach completed the last few mvts. of the vocal parts. The copyists, Anonymous IId and IIf did some work on the bc and organo parts. Bach himself copied the Corno part, a part that was not indicated in the score. He also did the corrections and copied out a good portion of the Organo part.
The parts are as follows:
Organo [This part has the title “Ach wie nichtig” in Bach’s handwriting – evidence that this reading was perhaps not just an accidental reading of the text, but persisted in his mind even after completing the score. However, see below.]
It is very likely that the violin doublets and an untransposed continuo part are missing.
An unknown librettist used as a basis for this cantata text a chorale by Michael Franck (1652), keeping the 1st and last verses of the original chorale text as is. The other verses are paraphrased as follows:
Vs. 2 = mvt. 2 (aria)
Vs. 3-9 [from 3 line 1, 4=2, 5=3, 6=4, 7=5, 8+9=6+7) = mvt. 3 (recit)
Vs. 10=mvt. 4 (aria)
Vs. 11, 12 = mvt. 5 (recit) [hardly anything is taken from vs. 11]
Variants for the text in hymnals available to Bach are found in the St. Georg (1721) hymnal which reads: “Ach wie nichtig, ach wie flüchtig” for the opening vs. and Vopelius (1682) has for line 1 of vs. 13 (and also St. Georg (1721, 1731) “Ach wie nichtig, ach wie flüchtig.” [Here is part of the problem about the confusion between the placement of ‘flüchtig’ and ‘nichtig.’]
Date of Composition and 1st Performance:
According to Dürr the date of the 1st performance was November 19, 1724. It was an original work and not a parody based on earlier versions. This is clear from the numerous corrections that Bach made. It is very likely, although there is no clear definite proof of this, that the cantata was performed at least once more during Bach’s lifetime.