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Psalm 51 BWV 1083
Tilge, Höchester, meine Sünden
General Discussions – Part 2

Continue from Part 1

Discussion in the Week of June 24, 2012

Ed Myskowsli wrote (June 23, 2012):
Introduction to BWV 1083 -- Tilge, Höchester, meine Sünden

Weekly reminder:

For the coming week, we interrupt our ongoing traverse of the Trinity season cantatas to discuss one of Bachs Other Vocal Works, BWV 1083.

Details of text, recordings, and previous discussion for this week are accessible via:

Note that commentary links at that page are no longer functioning The BWV 1083 page does has convenient access to notes from the Jeffery Thomas [3], Bernard Labadie [13], and Daniel Taylor [14] CD issues, via link beneath the cover photo. Notes are also available, although not linked from BCW, with the Leusink CD set which is likely available to many BCML correspondents.

William Hoffman has been posting on a regular basis relevant to chorales and other music for the Lutheran Church Year, accessible via LCY pages. Will has also shared an unpublished academic paper re BWV 1083 with me, off list. I will forward this yo BCML as soon as I overcome a few technical limitations.

I do not always take the time to check all links before posting. Special thanks to the folks who provide timely corrections.

Charles Francis wrote (June 24, 2012):
Lovely singing by (I believe) Martin Sturm (Boy Soprano), Michael Moucka (Boy Alto) and the St. Florianer Sängerknaben, in their 1995 performance with Gunar Letzbor / Ars Antiqua Austria:

Can this apparently out of print Teldec CD still be reasonably purchased anywhere?

Douglas Cowling wrote (June 24, 2012):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< Introduction to BWV 1083 -- Tilge, Höchester, meine Sünden >
I was terribly disappointed to find that Julian doesn't have have a commentary about this fascinating work from Bach's last decade. JM, do you have any observations to make?

There really is nothing substantial in any of the online commentaries to explain this unique work. If the dating is correct, then Bach parodied Pergolesi's work from Latin to German at the same time he was parodying German works into Latin for the Mass in B Minor.

For what venue was it written? The fact that it adapted the Catholic Marian text to a psalm might indicate that it had a performance in a Lutheran church. (Bach and/or his librettist chose Psalm 51 which like "Aus de Tiefe" is one of the historic Penitential Psalms.)

And yet its form doesn't look like any cantata from any of Bach's repertoires. One commentary suggests that it was for private devotional use. It would serve well for a "concert spirituel" during Lent. Did the Collegium just stop playing during Lent or did it offer devotional music?

The close study of such a "modern" Italianate work might suggest a Dresden connection. Did Bach draw the line at setting such a fervent Marian text which was so prominent in Catholic Holy Week services, and chose the psalm which was equally promiment on the last three days of Holy Week? Was it a proto-Catholic work softened for Lutheran tastes like the "Easter Oratorio."

Was Bach still plotting a move to the Catholic court in Dresden in the last three years of his life?

Ed Myskowsli wrote (June 24, 2012):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< There really is nothing substantial in any of the online commentaries to explain this unique work. If the dating is correct, then Bach parodied Pergolesi's work from Latin to German at the same time he was parodying German works into Latin for the Mass in B Minor. >
Did you access the liner notes to the American Bach Soloists CD, by Jeffery Thomas? He addresses this very point, as well as providing some insights on the widespread popularity of the Pergolesi work.

Either Will Hoffman or I will manage to post a copy of Will’s commentary, which also addresses these points. A brief sample:

<...[Bachs] primary motive seems to have been to set a popular new-style work to traditional accompaniment. [...] As he approached the end of his life, Bach seems to have felt a special identification with Catholic musical masters and a desire to explore many facets of the old and new styles which he had mastered, along with the Psalm 51 text that represents the core of his spiritual beliefs based on a lifetime of composing, learning, and personal experiences.> (end quote)

< Was Bach still plotting a move to the Catholic court in Dresden in the last three years of his life? >
Is it not possible that Bachs outlook was more ecumenical than anyone has much considered? His own self-description for published works emphasizes both his appointment as composer to the Polish court, and his Leipzig position as Kappelmeister.

William Hoffman wrote (June 24, 2012):
Introduction to BWV 1083 -- The Dresden Connection?

Before continuing the weekly BCW Discussion 3rd Round with cantatas for the 21st Sunday after Trinity, the schedule calls for Other Vocal Works, primarily Latin Church Music: June 24, 2012; BWV 1083 Tilge, Höchester, meine Sünden (Psalm 51): BCW,

Motet, "Tilge, Höchester, meine Sünden" (Blot out, Highest, My Sins), was composed in Leipzig 1746/47.
It is a transcription of the <Stabat Mater> 1735, by Giovanni Battista Pergolesi (1710-36).

Summary Notes

Text: Psalm 51, adapter unknown: German-1 | Translations: English-1 | French-6 | Hungarian-2
Scoring SA (SA Chorus ad. lib.); 2 Violins solo, 2 Violins ripieno, Viola, Violone, Continuo [organ & harpsichord].
References: Bach Gesamt Ausgabe (no listing), Neue Bach Ausgabe I/41, Bach Compendium B 26; First Published: Stuttgart, 1963.
Commentary: BCW listings no longer available (See Recordings, Linear notes)
Discussions: October 1999 - August 2000; April 2003; Week of June 24, 2012
BCW Recordings: 15; Linear Notes: (3, 13, 14)
No. 3, American Bach Soloists, 1995:[ABS-CD].pdf;
No. 13, Violons Roy, ATMA 2004,[Atma-SACD].pdf;
No. 14, Kirkby-Taylor, BIS 2006,[BIS-SACD].pdf.

While its purpose remains uncertain, Bach's arrangement of the Giovanni Pergolesi popular <Stabat Mater>, substituting a German text paraphrase of Psalm 51, "Have Mercy on me, O God," occupies a special niche in the Leipzig cantor's well-order church music, particularly in its setting and possible application. Most notable is Bach's compositional method involving a new Italian opera style set to a traditional baroque four-part harmony and using an accessible German text similar in mood for utilization in Lutheran services. Bach' motet composition, "Tilge, Höchester, meine Sünden" (Blot out, Highest, My Sins), BWV 108/BC B-26, constitutes a substantial, manifold realization of his creative motive, method, and opportunity, summarized in his final years, about 1746-47.

Rediscovered at mid-20th century and finally securing acceptance at the beginning of the 21st century, "Tilge, Höchster" in its compositional method has the form of an extended, 14-movement duet cantata with the best elements of old and new musical styles. As a major Bach <omne tempore> work for many occasions, it is an ingenious blend of progressive appealing Pergolesi Neopolitan-opera gallant-style singing with traditional Bachian Baroque four-part string accompaniment set to a poignant but anonymous (? Picander) paraphrase of popular Psalm 51, <Miserere mei, Deus> (Have mercy on me, O God), verses 3-20,

Within the context of his life-long compositional production of a well-ordered church music, "Tilge, Höchster," is a significant summary of Bach's diverse style and practice, and his affinity for music of the past that had a profound influence on him. It serves as a unique composition that raises intriguing questions with possible answers regarding Bach motives and opportunities for creating such a singular work near the end of his life.

Pergolesi & Stabat Mater

The 13th century Roman Catholic liturgical poem used as a sequence and Vesper hymn, <Stabat Mater dolorosa> (Sorrowful Mother Stood), personalizes Mary's grief at the foot of the cross. Pergolesi's setting became an immediate success when introduced shortly before his death in 1736 at the age of 26 and was one of the most popular, widely-published 18th century compositions. Pergolesi's series of 12 soprano and alto arias and duets, primarily in the minor keys of c, g, and f, uses the original 20 three-line stanzas with succinct, melodic grace in balanced phrases of the simple, immediate pre-Classical style. It replaced a similar-scale baroque contrapuntal church-style popular setting of Domenico Scarlatti (1685-1757), with nine concise movements dating to 1713-16. The Pergolesi work has remained popular almost 300-years after later settings of the likes of Haydn, Rossini, Dvorak, Liszt, Verdi, Syzmanowski, Poulenc, and Penderecki.

The <Stabat Mater> was original utilized in the late 15th century as a Mass Propers sequence for specific services during the church year. Although it was removed from the liturgy by the Counter-Reformation Council of Trent in the mid-16th century, it continued to be set to music by various composers, often for non-service church music presentations. In 1727 it was revived for use in the two so-called Marian feasts of the Seven Sorrows: during the Lenten season on the Friday one week before Good Friday and the third Sunday in September during Trinity Time. Musical settings often were commissioned by various religious orders and wealthy Italian families with powerful prelates.

About the time Pergolesi's work was composed in 1736, Bach had recently gained the title of Court Composer in Saxony at Dresden for the Catholic monarch, August III, based primarily on Bach's 1733 submission of the Kyrie-Gloria setting of the Mass, which he would expand to the complete Catholic <Mass in B Minor,> BWV 232, in the late 1740s. To complete the work, Bach intensively studied Latin church music with particular attention to the so-called <stile antico> old style of polyphony. Bach previously had tailored Latin works such as Mass movements and the Magnificat for use in the Lutheran Main and Vesper services. Bach also extensively used Latin Introit motets of various composers from the <Florilegium Portense>.

Bach's Adaptation

While working on the Credo section of his full Mass in the mid-1740s, Bach again studied all manner of Latin church music found in the Dresden archives, including the more progressive work of Caldara and Pergolesi, as well as the <stile misto> old and new "mixed style" of Zelenka's "Miserere" and Hasse's <Salve Regina>. Earlier Bach had performed Francesco Bartolomeo Conti's devotional Lenten (Holy Week) soprano solo cantata, <Languet anima mea> (My soul languishes). Its parallels with "Tilge, Höchester" are uncanny. Both address the individual's love of Christ and veneration of the crucified Savior. "But the peculiar type of Catholic mysticism that celebrated Christ and his love-death on the Cross and, by extension, the heavenly marriage of the soul and its Redeemer had a profound influence on Protestantism, too, in the 17th Century, leaving its mark on the texts of manuals of devotion, hymns, and Passion oratorios," says Dorothea Schroeder's notes to the Magdalena Kozena 2005 Archiv CD 4689 of the Conti work.

Since the <Stabat Mater> had no place in the Lutheran service, Bach sought out a German sacred text similar in content and form which he then had paraphrased in the manner of a parody or new-text underlay, here called a contrafaction from Latin to vernacular German. Bach's other major contrafaction was a reverse, setting sacred German cantata choruses to texts of the Mass Ordinary in the B Minor Mass as well as the four compositions of the initial Mass Kyrie-Gloria, BWV 233-36. The choice of Psalm 51 for "Tilge, Höchster" was most serendipitous in terms of both poetic text structure and mood as well as Bach's affinity for the biblical text, lines of which he had set to music in various church cantatas.

Psalm 51 English Text (KJV) & Bach Cantata References

Here is the Psalm 51 English text (King James Version) and references in other Bach cantatas:

1. Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy loving-kindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. ["tender mercies" or "goodness" of the Lord, Misericordias Domini (Second Sunday after Easter, Shepherd Cantatas 85, 104, 112]
2. Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.
3. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. [Cantata 97/5]
4. Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest. (Rom. 3.4) [Cantata 132/4]
5. Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.
6. Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom.
7. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. [Cantata 78/1]
8. Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice.
9. Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities.
10. Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.
11. Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy Holy Spirit from me.
12. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free Spirit. [Cantata 25/4]
13. Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee. [Cantata 194/11]
14. Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation: and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness.
15. O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall show forth thy praise. [Cantata 68/4]
16. For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering.
17. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.
18. Do good in thy good pleasure unto Zion: build thou the walls of Jerusalem. [Cantata 199/3]
19. Then shalt thou be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness with burnt offering and whole burnt offering: then shall they offer bullocks upon thine altar.

Critical Commentary Summary Translation

Thomas Braatz summary translation, BCW, Discussion, (April 12, 2005):

"The NBA KB I/41 pp. 85-110 gives many details about this 'Bearbeitung' ['reworking/transcription.' The provenance of Bach's autograph 'Particell' [not 'Partitur' (score)] has been traced along with the parts which Altnickol copied himself from another, intervening version of the 'score' as part of Altnickol's inheritance and was, after Altnickol's death passed on to CPE Bach by Altnickol's widow. Then these materials were sold at an auction of CPE's documents in 1789 in Hamburg where it was acquired by a manuscript collector, Casper Siegfried Gähler, the 1st mayor of Altona (major suburb of Hamburg) and a student of CPE Bach. The next owner was Georg Poelchau, but the date of acquisition is unknown. In 1841 both 'Particell' and parts came into the possession of tBB (Staatsbibliothek Berlin.) The title in Bach's handwriting is : [Greek letter 'psi' for Psalm] 51. Motetto a due Voci, 3 Stromenti e Cont. [Poelchau later added 'di G. B. Pergolese.' The only other words (aside from the text) are tempo designations: Largo, Larghetto, Largo, Andante, Adagio, Largo, Vivace and at the very end: 'Fine SDGL.'

"There are some corrections, additions and erasures such as the replacement in the soprano part of the original text with "Herr dein Urtheil mindern oder deinen Ausspruch hindern Herr, Herr, du bist recht, Herr, du bist recht" but then this is crossed out and the original text retained once again.

"Altnickol's parts which he copied include
1. Soprano
2. Alto
3. Violino Primo
4. Violino Primo Ripieno
5. Violino Secondo
6. Violino Secondo Ripieno
7. Viola
8. Violon.
9. Organo (transposed, figured)

"There is a later (also by Altnickol after 1750) harpsichord part 10. 'Cembalo' (transposed, figured) which did not very likely belong to the above set, but was added later.

"Parts 1-7 are in F minor; parts 3-7 have a special marking in red ink twice underlined: "Cammerthon"

"Parts 8-10 are notated in D minor. The figures in the Organo part (9.) are by Bach. Altnickol then copied these figures to the harpsichord part.

"Missing are Bach's source copy of Pergolesi's Stabat Mater and Bach's 'working score' ['Ausarbeitungspartitur'], and the source for Altnickol's copy of the Ripieno parts, 4 and 6.

"The stemma for the complications involved is given and described in detail. I am skipping this section (3 pages.)

"The librettist for the rhymed paraphrase of the 51st Psalm has not yet been determined. This librettist was faced with the task of making the structure of his verse fit the already existing music. Because of the sequence of verses in the 51st Psalm, Bach was forced to deviate from Pergolesi's original and shift Pergolesi's two duets section 11 and 12 around in sequence, thus changing their order. Also, at the end of the composition, Versus 14, the F minor fugue is repeated in its entirety while being shifted up to F major keeping almost every note as it was in the original. The last mvt. therefore, is 65 measures longer in Bach's version. This is only evident in the parts, not in Bach's score. The repetition of the 'Amen'-fugue indicates Bach's displeasure with the original manner in which the work closed.

"We have no idea for which purpose this transcription was undertaken, nor do we even know if it was intended for church. It might just as well have been for a temporal purpose. Diethard Hellmann thinks it might have been used on the 11th Sunday after Trinity based on some associations with the Gospel for that Sunday. It is possible that Bach simply wanted it to be used for many different occasions without specifying any specific one: 'in ogni temp.' It would also fit quite well as a composition to be performed during communion ['sub communione.']

"The date of origin for this transcription is 1746/47. The original parts (with the exception of 4, 6, and 10 were completed for the 1st performance during the above time span."

Bach's Motives & Opportunities

Adapting Pergolesi's <Stabat Mater>, Bach's motive and opportunity are intertwined and manifold. In the Lutheran Main Service liturgy, the Psalms follow the opening Introit. "Although the text of Psalm 51 was used during Lent, Bach's work could not have been performed at that time because only <a cappella> music was then permitted at the Thomaskirche in Leipzig. Nowadays, therefore, we can only speculate as to the occasion on which the work was heard. Bearing in mind the gospel texts, the most plausible times are the eleventh Sunday after Trinity (Luke 18, 9-14, `God be merciful to me a sinner'), the nineteenth Sunday after Trinity (Matthew 9, 1-8, `Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee') and the seventh Sunday before Easter, Quinquagesima (Luke 18, 31-43, `Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me'). It is also possible that the work was performed during Communion," says Jean-Pascal Vachon 2008, BCW Recordings No. 14 Liner Notes, Kirkby-Taylor BIS recording.

There is one exception for music during Lent, at the Good Friday Vesper Service when the annual Passion music was performed, followed by a (normally) Latin motet, with possibly a Psalm or Isaiah reading before the sermon between the two parts of the Passion. It is known that Bach departed from the special Good Friday Vesper tradition established in 1721 in Leipzig with the presentation of an annual liturgical Oratorio passion. In 1734, he presented Stözel's Passion oratorio, "Ein Lämmlein geht und trät die Schuld," and in the later 1740s he presented pasticcio Passions set to the music of Handel-Keiser, and C. H. Graun, etc. It is possible that Bach may have used the Pergolesi music set to a German paraphrase of Psalm 51 as either a musical Psalm setting before the sermon or a motet after the Passion presentation at Good Friday Vespers.

Another opportunity for a performance of "Tilge, Höchster," could have come during <omne tempore> Trinity Time Sunday services when two chorale settings of Psalm 51, according to <Das Neu Leipziger Gesangbuch> (NLGB) of 1682, were authorized as Communion and Pulpit hymns. They are:

1. "Erbarm dich mein, O Herre Gott" (Be merciful to me, O Lord God), Erhart Hegenwalt 1524, 5 stanzas, melody Johann Walter Gesangbuch 1521 (NLGB No. 256 for use with the Third, 11th, 13th, 14th and 22nd Sundays after Trinity), setting of Psalm 51, Prayer for Forgiveness (penitence). Bach's uses: plain chorale in BWV 305 in E Major, and miscellaneous organ chorale prelude in F-Sharp Minor, BWV 721, a composite c.1700 by others; and it was listed in the Orgelbüchelin (Little Organ Book) chorale preludes for <omne tempore> Catechism (No. 68, Confession) but not set.

Erbarme dich mein, o Herre Gott,
Nach deiner grossn Barmherzigkeit.
Wasch ab, mach rein mein Missetat,
Ich kenn mein Sünd und ist mir leid.
Allein ich dir gesündigt hab,
Das ist wider mich stetiglich;
Das Bös vor dir niht mag bestahn,
du bleibst gerecht, ob du urteilst mich.

Have mercy, Lord, my sin forgive;
For Thy long-suffering is great!
O cleanse and make me fit to live,
My sore offence do thou abate
With shame do I my fault confess,
'Gainst Thee alone, Lord, have I sinned.
Thou art the source of righteousness,
And I the sinner just condemned.
--tr. Charles Sanford Terry

2. "O Herre Gott begnade mich" (O Lord God, pardon me), NLGB No. 257, Tr.+8, 11+, 13+, 19+, is the Bishop Coverdale setting of Psalm 51 (Prayer for Forgiveness) 5 stanzas; psalm tune, Matthias Greitter 1525 (Calvin published in 1539). No Bach use is extant. Greitter, BCW Short Biography: Greitter, cf Trinity +2, "Es wolle Gott uns gnädig sein" 1524 (Psalm 67, Martin Luther text) (NLGB No. 258). BCW, Motets & Chorales Trinity 3,

<Miserere mei, Deus>
Have mercy upon me, O God, after thy great goodness; according to the multitude of thy mercies do away mine offences. Wash me throughly from my wickedness, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my faults, and my sin is ever before me. Against thee only have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight, that thou mightest be justified in thy saying, and clear when thou shalt judge.
Behold, I was shapen in wickedness, and in sin hath my mother conceived me. But lo, thou requirest truth in the inward parts, and shalt make me to understand wisdom secretly. Thou shalt purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; thou shalt wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Thou shalt make me hear of joy and gladness, that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice. Turn thy face from my sins, and put out all my misdeeds.
Make me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence, and take not thy holy Spirit from me. O give me the comfort of thy help again, and stablish me with thy free Spirit.
Then shall I teach thy ways unto the wicked, and sinners shall be converted unto thee. Deliver me from blood-guiltiness, O God, thou that art the God of my health; and my tongue shall sing of thy righteousness. Thou shalt open my lips, O Lord, and my mouth shall show thy praise. For thou desirest no sacrifice, else would I give it thee; but thou delightest not in burnt offerings. The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, shalt thou not despise.
O be favourable and gracious unto Sion; build thou the walls of Jerusalem. Then shalt thou be pleased with the sacrifice of righteousness, with the burnt-offerings and oblations; then shall they offer young bullocks upon thine altar. (Bishop Cloverdale Translation)

Another possible use of Bach's adaptation could have been in the Lutheran household to accompany devotional study books increasingly popular in Leipzig in Bach's later years, although not considered "church music."

Motet `Tilge, Höchster' Translation

Motet Tilge, Höchster, meine Sünden
Occasion unknown.
Picander (music from Pergolesi's Stabat Mater, 1736), based upon Ps. 51.
English translation

Versus 1
Blot out, Highest, my transgressions,
thy stern ardor let now vanish,
let me now thy care enjoy.

Versus 2
If my heart in sinful actions
and in greatest guilt hath fallen
wash it thyself, make it clean.

Versus 3
Sinful actions which oppress me
I must now myself acknowledge;
Father, I have not been just.

Versus 4
Thee offend my deeds and failings,
deeds and failings scorn thou shouldest
for my sins have made me weak.

Versus 5
Who will his own guilt deny then,
or even think it righteous?
I'm in truth to sin a thrall.

Versus 6
Who will, Lord, thy judgment weaken,
or yet thy damnation hinder?
thou art fair, thy word is fair.

Versus 7
Lo, I was in sin conceivéd,
sinful deeds I've here committed
since the day that I was born.

Versus 8
Lo, thou wouldst the truth be given,
All the hidden gifts of wisdom
thou thyself to me revealed.

Versus 9
Wash me clean of my transgressions,
that no spot more be discovered
when by hyssop I'm asperged.

Versus 10
Let me feel the joy and pleasure,
let me gladly sound the triumph,
when the cross me hard doth press.

Versus 11
Do not look upon my errors,
blot them out, let them now vanish,
Heart and soul do thou renew.

Versus 12
Thrust me not from out thy vision,
and if then my conduct merits,
O, then me thy spirit help.

Versus 13
Fill, O Highest, heart with comfort,
health restore amidst my suff'ring,
arm me with thy Spirit's strength.

Versus 14
For I would all sinners monish
that they be to thee converted
and not do what sin doth bid.

Versus 15
Let, destroyer of my error,
Ev'ry mortal crime now vanish
that my anthem, Lord, thee praise.

Versus 16
Open lips and mouth and spirit,
that I may thy fame be telling,
which alone to thee belongs.

Versus 17
For no sacrifice thou seekest,
else I'd bring to thee my off'ring;
Smoke and flame content thee not.

Versus 18
Heart and soul full fear and terror
wilt thou, Highest, not confound then,
for they cause thy heart to break.

Versus 19
Let thy Zion last and flourish,
build again the fallen towers,
and we'll sacrifice with joy.

Versus 20
And then shall thy glory echo,
and then will to thee bring pleasure
Off'rings of pure righteousness.
© Copyright Z. Philip Ambrose; BCW,

Selected Bibliography:


1. BWV 1083, First Publication 1963: Hänssler Verlag, Stuttgart Bach Editions, Cantatas No. 151; Diethard Hellmann (1928-99), editor; Forward, revision study, printed text and four facsimile reproductions.

2. BWV 1083, Neue Bach Ausgabe (NBA, New Bach Edition): 2000, BA 5096-01, Series I, 41; "Varia: Cantatas [BWV 150, 203, 209], Quodlibet [BWV 524], Single Settings [BWV 1088-127/1, Arrangements [BWV 1083, Conti <Languet anima mea>, Telemann `Der Herr ist König'"; score; Critical Commentary, 5096-41, Andreas Glöckner (Hardbound); [D. Hellmann, ed.]. Bärenreiter Verlag, edited by Johann Sebastian Bach Institute, Göttingen and Bach-Archiv Leipzig.

3. BWV 1083, NBA paperbound edition: Carus Varlag Stuttgart Bach Editions; 35.302/03, piano-vocal score, 44 pages, duration 44 minutes, $15.95.


<Bach Werke Verzeichnis: Kleine Ausgabe, BWV 2a> (thematic works catalog, summary edition); Wiesbaden: Breitkopf & Härtel, 1998; authors: Kirsten Beißwenger, Wolfgang Schmieder, Alfred Dürr, Yoshitake Kobayashi. Adaptation of Psalm 51:3-21. Literature: Emil Platten, "Eine Pergolesi-Bearbeitung Bachs," <Bach Jahrbuch (BJ)> 1961:35ff; Alfred Dürr, "Neues über Bachs Pergolesi-Bearbeitung, BJ 1968:89ff; Christoph Wolff, <Der `"stile antico" in der Musik JSB, B&H Wiesbaden, 1968.

Bomba, Andreas. "Bach's method of arranging and performing works of other composers," liner notes, Hänssler Edition Bachakademie, 1999, Vol. 73 (BWV 243, 1082, 246/40a, 1088, 1083).

Wikipedia: He published sheet music, including reconstructions of Bach's Ärgre dich, o Seele, nicht, BWV 186a for the Third Sunday in Advent,[Carus Verlag 311861963/99], Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied, BWV 190(a)[Breitkopf & Härtel 1972/2010] and the St Mark Passion.[Carus Verlag 2004]

Chronology: Composed in Leipzig, 1746/47, particell (short) score (SA, vn., bc), Bach handwriting, BBDS Mm 30199; parts set (10), handwriting Johann Christoph Altnikol 1720-59), BBDS Mm 17155/16.

Provenance: 1750, particell and parts to Altnikol; 1759, to C.P.E. Bach; 1789, to C.S. Gähler, Hamburg subarb Mayor; c.1825, to Georg Poelchau, 1841; to BB(DS) (Deutsche Staats) Bibliotek Berlin. See Thomas Braatz, BCW summary translation of NBA I/41KB: BWV 1083 Discussion, April 12, 2005:

Rediscovered: 1946 by Karl Straube (1873-1950, Thomas cantor 1918-39).

It took posterity almost 200 years to recognize the importance of Bach's Psalm 51 setting of Pergolesi's <Stabat Mater, due in part to the particell short-score format in Bach's hand that only showed the basic staves of the solo voice, the violin, and the basso continuo. Bach's full baroque harmonization setting of the German Psalm 51 text is found only in the complete parts set since there was no full score showing the staves for all the instruments. The set contains a full, added, independent second violin part and separate viola obbligato part, as well as extensive figured bass realization not found in Pergolesi's original setting.

Fortunately, Bach's son-in-law, Johann Christoph Altnikol had copied the parts and inhthe set as well as the original short-score in the Bach estate division of 1750. Altnikol also had worked with Bach in his final years to produce the Passion pasticcios and other sacred vocal music. Emmanuel, Bach's second-oldest son, and Altnikol in 1751 co-authored Sebastian's Obituary. It appears that Bach himself had kept the Psalm 51 setting apart from the manuscripts of his other church works, primarily the three church-year cantata cycles, the original Passion and oratorio music, and the Latin church music adaptations of the Mass and Magnificat.

While Bach may have found considerable use for his Psalm 51 setting in Lutheran services is his later years, his primary motive seem to have been to set a popular new-style work to traditional accompaniment. This arrangement is an accessible, reverse-contrafaction text from Latin to German that was not necessarily an improvement as much as a special treatment and utilization of popular music set to an important Psalm text.

As he approached the end of his life, Bach seems to have felt a special identification with Catholic Latin music and a desire to explore many facets of the old and new styles which he had mastered. Further, the Psalm 51 text represents his core spiritual beliefs based on a lifetime of composing, learning and personal experiences. While he resolutely moved to complete his last great testament, the B-Minor Mass for his earthly Catholic monarch, Bach may have relished a particular composer's holiday as he created a unique composition that summarizes his mastery of music and his resolute belief in God. Ending with his motto, "Soli Deo gloria," this music is the synthesis of a mother's personal grief with the Christian's personal appeal for mercy, filling another vital niche in Bach's calling of a "well-order church music to the glory of God."

Julian Mincham wrote (June 24, 2012):
[To Douglas Cowling] Hi Doug I had to stop somewhere with my project otherwise it would never get finished---took around 10 years as it was. So I eliminated a number of excellent works, arrangements, the motets, lesser masses etc and stuck pretty much to what people now understand as the 'cantata canon'.

I see Will's notes, comprehensive as always, seem to have covered the work pretty well

Ed Myskowsli wrote (June 24, 2012):
BWV 49, 1083 (Odds and Ends)

While enjoying my Cantate LP of BWV 49, and accessing the liner notes to American Bach Solosits BWV 1083, I was reminded of what a rich resource such notes can sometimes be. The origin of Durrs definitive Bach text is in fact the notes he wrote for the Cantate LP series, reused with minimal editing.

This link to MP3 files is also a link, perhaps stretched a bit thin in many ways, to Bachs rewriting of the workks of other composers:

<Mozart: Serenade for Thirteen Winds ("Gran Partita") KV361
arranged by C F G Schwenke for oboe, violin, viola, violoncello, and piano

Christian Friedrich Gottlieb Schwenke (1767–1822) was a pupil of his father and of Kirnberger and Marpurg in Berlin. In 1789 he succeeded C P E Bach as municipal music director and cantor in Hamburg, and worked and taught there for the rest of his life. His arrangement of Mozart's well-known "Gran Partita" was published in 1815.

These mp3 files are taken from a live recording of a performance at the Aston Magna festival, Great Barrington, Massachusetts.> (end quote)

I have not yet accessed the MP3s, but I did hear the same performance the preceding evening (Thurs, June 20) at Waltham, MA. Well worth a listen.

Douglas Cowling wrote (June 24, 2012):
William Hoffman wrote:
< As he approached the end of his life, Bach seems to have felt a special identification with Catholic Latin music and a desire to explore many facets of the old and new styles which he had mastered. >
Having sung the massive 10-voice Scarlatti "Stabat Mater" last year, I'm curious what the typical Dresden settings of the text were like at this time, and in what kinds of services they were used.

Were any of Bach's sons writing Catholic music at the same time?

Ed Myskowsli wrote (June 27, 2012):
Charles Francis wrote:
< Lovely singing by (I believe) Martin Sturm (Boy Soprano), Michael Moucka (Boy Alto) and the St. Florianer Sängerknaben, in their 1995 performance with Gunar Letzbor / Ars Antiqua Austria:
Can this apparently out of print Teldec CD still be reasonably purchased anywhere? >
For about US$17, it appears to be available new (probably print to order?) from or used (original?) from

Charles Francis wrote (June 27, 2012):
[To Ed Myskowski] Thank you. I recently tried some US sites, but unfortunately they don't ship abroad (IPR?); a used copy from a French company should arrive shortly, however: shame Teldec won't benefit - if only they kept stuff in print internationally and had had a more flexible packaging policy in the past.


Psalm 51 BWV 1083: Recordings | General Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2

Recordings & Discussions of Other Vocal Works: Main Page | Motets BWV 225-231 | Mass in B minor BWV 232 | Missae Breves & Sanctus BWV 233-242 | Magnificat BWV 243 | Matthäus-Passion BWV 244 | Johannes-Passion BWV 245 | Lukas-Passion BWV 246 | Markus-Passion BWV 247 | Weihnachts-Oratorium BWV 248 | Oster-Oratorium BWV 249 | Chorales BWV 250-438 | Geistliche Lieder BWV 439-507 | AMN BWV 508-523 | Quodlibet BWV 524 | Aria BWV 1127


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