Schauet doch und sehet, ob irgendein Schmerz sei

BWV 046 // For the Tenth Sunday after Trinity

(Look indeed and see then if there be a grief) for alto, tenor and bass, vocal ensemble, recorder I+II, oboe da caccia I+II, slide trumpet, strings and basso continuo Scenic intervention on the cantata text: Giovanni Netzer (text), Samuel Streiff (mayor), Martin Ostermeier (prophet)

J.S. Bach-Stiftung Kantate BWV 46

Video

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Workshop
Reflective lecture

«Lutzogram» for the introductory workshop

Rudolf Lutz’s manuscript for the workshop
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Audio

The sound recording of this work is available on several streaming and download platforms.

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Performers

Soloists

Alto
Markus Forster

Tenor
Thomas Hobbs

Bass
Matthias Helm

Choir

Soprano
Lia Andres, Lena Kiepenheuer, Susanne Seitter, Julia Schiwowa, Alexa Vogel

Alto
Katharina Jud, Liliana Lafranchi, Francisca Näf, Alexandra Rawohl, Lea Scherer

Tenor
Manuel Gerber, Christian Rathgeber, Sören Richter, Nicolas Savoy

Bass
Fabrice Hayoz, Grégoire May, Daniel Pérez, Tobias Wicky, William Wood

Orchestra

Conductor
Rudolf Lutz

Violin
Plamena Nikitassova, Lenka Torgersen, Peter Barczi, Eva Borhi, Christine Baumann, Claire Foltzer

Viola
Martina Bischof, Sarah Krone

Violoncello
Maya Amrein, Bernadette Köbele

Violone
Iris Finkbeiner

Tromba, Tromba da tirarsi
Patrick Henrichs

Flauto dolce
Annina Stahlberger, Teresa Hackel

Oboe da caccia
Carin van Heerden, Anabel Röser

Bassoon
Susann Landert

Organ
Nicola Cumer

Harpsichord
Jörg Andreas Bötticher

Musical director & conductor

Rudolf Lutz

Workshop

Participants
Karl Graf, Michael Maul, Rudolf Lutz

Reflective lecture

Speaker

Giovanni Netzer (Text), Martin Ostermeier, Samuel Streiff

Recording & editing

Recording date
18.03.2016

Recording location
Trogen AR (Schweiz) // Evangelische Kirche

Sound engineer
Stefan Ritzenthaler

Director
Meinrad Keel

Production manager
Johannes Widmer

Production
GALLUS MEDIA AG, Switzerland

Producer
J.S. Bach Foundation of St. Gallen, Switzerland

About the work

Librettist

Text No. 1
Lam. 1:12

Text No. 2–5
Poet unknown

Text No. 6
Matthew Meyfart, 1633

First performance
Unknown

In-depth analysis

First performed on 1 August 1723 for the Tenth Sunday after Trinity, cantata BWV 46 is based on the gospel story in which Jesus drives the money changers out of the temple and prophesies the second destruction of Jerusalem (Luke 19:41–48). The latter creates a connection to the Book of Lamentations on the Babylonian siege in the 6th century BCE, writings that the early church had long reinterpreted in a Christian context.

The introductory chorus is thus cast in a tragic vein. Set over a sighing string accompaniment of paired slurs, the circling, alternating figures of two recorders build elegiac phrases suggestive of a musical still life, while the descending minor triad of the successive choral entries evoke an image of bowed heads and rivulets of tears that converge on the harmonically accented word “Schmerz” (grief). At the repeat of the first text phrase, a corno da tirarsi and two oboes da caccia enter to lend the setting the disturbing gravity of a bleak dawn rising over smoking ruins, which the observer is mercilessly forced to endure (“Schauet doch und sehet!” – Look indeed and see then). In this dense lamentation, the recorders permeate the music with such keen severity that listeners can hardly help longing for the end of the first section with its broad cadence and abject tone. The ensuing fugue commences attacca, working with a vividly descriptive theme of austere leaps and drawn-out sighs (“Denn der Herr hat mich voll Jammers gemacht” – For the Lord hath me with sorrow made full). Over the hounded, scampering continuo part, the choir voices build up howling chords that increase in intensity with the successive entries of the instrumentalists up until the obbligato recorders enter – a gruesome vanitas image that culminates in a brutally austere majorkey ending. The fact that Bach reused the slow first section of this movement for the “Qui tollis peccata mundi” of his Mass in B Minor (early Dresden version, 1733) is fitting on a textual level and speaks for his awareness of the setting’s quality when composing the Mass. By replacing the recorders with transverse flutes and removing the accompanying wind parts, Bach lent the music a courtly elegance and transparent sound; due to the attacca transition from the “Domine Deus”, the introductory section was not used.

The tenor recitative sustains this mood with a circulatio figure in the recorder parts that leads stoically through the shifts in key. Through the noble lament and shimmering string lines, the accompagnato setting acquires the tone of a tombeau composition. The cause for lament soon becomes clear: far worse than the city’s physical destruction is the loss of God’s favour and the blaspheming of Christ through disregarding his call for penance. Thus scorned, God cuts the staff asunder, returning at a literal level, too, to the Old Covenant.

Accordingly, the bass aria sketches a grim scene of judgement and retribution, and the fiendishly difficult trumpet part in this movement seems reluctant to sound beautiful; rather, through the lowered final note in the fanfare and grim coloraturas, it issues a warning of impending damnation and absolute power. The singer, with the zeal of a raging prophet, imitates the stormy mood evoked by the dotted figures and repeated notes of the orchestral parts. In Bach’s interpretation, the “überh.uften Sünden” (surfeit of transgressions) in the middle section trigger an almost physical sense of revulsion – that the new Thomascantor had recently promised not to write any operatic, affect-inducing music is barely credible in view of the musical- theological verismo of this setting.

In the following recitative, the fervent, threatening tone continues unabated despite the shift to the gentler alto register. Indeed, it is not just the biblical Jerusalem, but all unrepentant sinners with their mounting burden of sin who will suffer this terrible fate. In the alto aria, the recorders return, this time conveying a tone of child-like, naive trust, to set a scene of a brighter musical language. Because Jesus’ mercy is stronger than the power of Old Testament law, he will “auch bei der Strafe der Frommen Schild und Beistand sein” (even midst the judgment, the righteous’ shield and helper be). Here, the basso continuo remains silent while the oboes da caccia execute a high-register bassett line – a device that in the baroque system of musical rhetoric would typically signify the loss of all stability and support, but in this context conveys freedom from the burden of sin. The dry severity of the setting underscores the gravity of the situation – at issue here is not a noncommittal Sunday sermon, but a pardon at the threshold of the waiting gallows. Nonetheless, the transparent style and laconic, formulaic motifs of the setting make even this reprieve seem temporary: it is likelier that the delinquent will be set free than reformed for life.

In the closing chorale, the wan eddying figures of the recorders, set over a string accompaniment, again evoke a sense of transience. While the earthy, weighty tones of the choir express trust and confidence, the setting opens a window to the fleeting course of destiny, which seems even more haunting in the recorder’s high, wafting figures than in the trumpet’s echoing judgment.

Libretto

1. Chor

«Schauet doch und sehet, ob
irgendein Schmerz sei wie
mein Schmerz, der mich troffen hat.
Denn der Herr hat mich voll Jammers gemacht
am Tage seines grimmigen Zorns.»

2. Rezitativ (Tenor)

So klage, du zerstörte Gottesstadt,
du armer Stein- und Aschenhaufen!
Laß ganze Bäche Tränen laufen,
weil dich betroffen hat
ein unersetzlicher Verlust
der allerhöchsten Huld,
so du entbehren mußt
durch deine Schuld.
Du wurdest wie Gomorra zugerichtet,
wiewohl nicht gar vernichtet.
O besser wärest du in Grund zerstört,
als daß man Christi Feind jetzt in dir lästern hört.
Du achtest Jesu Tränen nicht,
so achte nun des Eifers Wasserwogen,
die du selbst über dich gezogen,
da Gott, nach viel Geduld,
den Stab zum Urteil bricht.

3. Arie (Bass)

Dein Wetter zog sich auf von weiten,
doch dessen Strahl bricht endlich ein
und muß dir unerträglich sein,
da überhäufte Sünden
der Rache Blitz entzünden
und dir den Untergang bereiten.
Dein Wetter zog sich auf von weiten,
doch dessen Strahl bricht endlich ein.

4. Rezitativ (Alt)

Doch bildet euch, o Sünder, ja nicht ein,
es sei Jerusalem allein
vor andern Sünden voll gewesen!
Man kann bereits von euch dies Urteil lesen:
Weil ihr euch nicht bessert
und täglich die Sünden vergrößert,
so müsset ihr alle so schrecklich umkommen.

5. Arie (Alt)

Doch Jesus will auch bei der Strafe
der Frommen Schild und Beistand sein,
er sammlet sie als seine Schafe,
als seine Küchlein liebreich ein.
Wenn Wetter der Rache die Sünder belohnen,
hilft er, daß Fromme sicher wohnen

6. Choral


O grosser Gott von Treu,
weil vor dir niemand gilt
als dein Sohn Jesus Christ,
der deinen Zorn gestillt,
so sieh doch an die Wunden sein,
sein Marter, Angst und schwere Pein;
um seinetwillen schone,
uns nicht nach Sünden lohne

Bibliographical references

All libretti sourced from Neue Bach-Ausgabe. Johann Sebastian Bach. Neue Ausgabe sämtlicher Werke, published by the Johann-Sebastian-Bach-Institut Göttingen and the Bach-Archiv Leipzig, Series I (Cantatas), vol. 1–41, Kassel and Leipzig, 1954–2000.
All in-depth analyses by Anselm Hartinger (English translations/editing by Alice Noger-Gradon/Mary Carozza) based on the following sources:  Hans-Joachim Schulze, Die Bach-Kantaten. Einführungen zu sämtlichen Kantaten Johann Sebastian Bachs, Leipzig, 2nd edition, 2007; Alfred Dürr, Johann Sebastian Bach. Die Kantaten, Kassel, 9th edition, 2009, and Martin Petzoldt, Bach-Kommentar. Die geistlichen Kantaten, Stuttgart, vol. 1, 2nd edition, 2005 and vol. 2, 1st edition, 2007.

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