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Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis, BWV 21


Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis, BWV 21

Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis (I had much affliction), BWV 21, is a church cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach. He probably composed it in Weimar in 1713 for the third Sunday after Trinity, but first performed it after revision on 17 June 1714. A further revision occurred in the Köthen years, specifically in 1720 (a performance is thought to have occurred by 1722); a Leipzig performance occurred on 13 June 1723, and a final revision took place in Leipzig in 1731. Bach's own catalogue of his works notes e per ogni tempo, indicating that the cantata could be suited for any occasion, as the readings and the texts are quite generic.


The prescribed readings for the Sunday were from the First Epistle of Peter, "Cast thy burden upon the Lord" (1 Peter 5:6–11), and from the Gospel of Luke, the parable of the Lost Sheep and the parable of the Lost Coin (Luke 15:1–10).

The text of the work draws on the work of several authors,[1] namely:

  • Psalm 94, verse 19 (movement 2)
  • probably Salomon Franck (movements 3-5)
  • Psalm 42, verse 5 (movement 6)
  • probably Salomon Franck (movements 7-8)
  • Psalm 116, verse 7 (movement 9)
  • probably Salomon Franck (movement 10)
  • Book of Revelation, chapter 5, verses 12-13 (movement 11)

The chorale theme Wer nur den lieben Gott läßt walten was written by Georg Neumark in his 1657 publication Fortgepflantzter Musikalisch-Poetischer Lustwald, published in Jena.

The cantata features themes of deep suffering, pain and mourning, which dominate the music in the first part of the cantata, starting with the opening sinfonia, with solo oboe and violin. A sighing motif, the picture of a storm of tears, and the flood image conjured by the upwelling music characterizes the dark and oppressive feeling. In the second part of the cantata, the mood changes: through the trust of sinners in the grace of God, the mood transforms into curls of joy, with the final movement forming a strong hymn of praise.

Scoring and structure

The cantata is scored for three vocal soloists (soprano, tenor, and bass), a four-part choir, two trumpets, timpani, four trombones, oboe, bassoon, two violins, viola, and basso continuo (fagotto and organo are explicitly indicated).

It is in eleven movements, divided in two parts (1–6 to be performed before, and 7–11 after the sermon):

  1. Sinfonia
  2. Coro: Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis in meinem Herzen
  3. Aria (soprano): Seufzer, Tränen, Kummer, Not
  4. Recitativo (tenor): Wie hast du dich, mein Gott
  5. Aria (tenor): Bäche von gesalznen Zähren
  6. Coro: Was betrübst du dich
  7. Recitativo (Dialogus soprano, bass): Ach Jesu, meine Ruh
  8. Aria (soprano, bass): Komm, mein Jesu, und erquicke/Ja, ich komme und erquicke
  9. Coro: Sei nun wieder zufrieden, meine Seele
  10. Aria (tenor): Erfreue dich, Seele, erfreue dich, Herze
  11. Coro: Das Lamm, das erwürget ist


The cantata is opened by a Sinfonia similar to the one of the cantata Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen, BWV 12, possibly the slow movement of a concerto for oboe and violin.

The music for this early cantata uses motet style in the choral movements. Biblical words are used in a prominent way. They are treated in choral movements, different from other cantatas of the Weimar period where they were typically composed as recitatives.

Similar to other cantatas of that time, ideas are expressed in dialogue: in movements 7 and 8 the soprano portrays the Seele (soul), the bass, as the vox Christi, Jesus. The style of the poetry suggests Salomon Franck as the author, as in Erschallet, ihr Lieder, erklinget, ihr Saiten! BWV 172.

Movement 9 for choir combines Biblical words from Psalm 116:7 with verses 2 and 5 of the chorale Wer nur den lieben Gott lässt walten, the only chorale of the cantata. Possibly the cantata originally ended with that movement. In a Leipzig performance Bach had four trombones double the voices in this movement only.[2]




The first source is the score.

Several databases provide additional information on each cantata:

  • Cantata BWV 21 Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis history, scoring, sources for text and music, translations to various languages, discography, discussion, bach-cantatas website
  • Emmanuel Music
  • Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis history, scoring, Bach website (German)
  • University of Vermont
  • University of Alberta
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