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Meine Seufzer, meine Tränen, BWV 13

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Title: Meine Seufzer, meine Tränen, BWV 13  
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Subject: Church cantata (Bach), Gott soll allein mein Herze haben, BWV 169, Paul Fleming (poet), Schweigt stille, plaudert nicht, BWV 211, Tönet, ihr Pauken! Erschallet, Trompeten! BWV 214
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Meine Seufzer, meine Tränen, BWV 13

Meine Seufzer, meine Tränen
BWV 13
Church cantata by J. S. Bach
Thomaskirche, Leipzig
Occasion Second Sunday after Epiphany
Performed 20 January 1726 (1726-01-20) – Leipzig
Movements 6
Cantata text Georg Christian Lehms
Vocal SATB soloists and choir
  • 2 flauto
  • oboe da caccia
  • 2 violino
  • viola
  • continuo

Meine Seufzer, meine Tränen (My sighs, my tears),[1] BWV 13,[1] is a church cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach. He composed it in Leipzig for the second Sunday after Epiphany and first performed it on 20 January 1726.


  • History and words 1
  • Scoring and structure 2
  • Music 3
  • Selected recordings 4
  • Notes 5
  • References 6
  • Sources 7

History and words

Bach wrote the cantata in his third year in Leipzig for the chorale. Movement 3 is the second stanza of Johann Heermann's hymn "Zion klagt mit Angst und Schmerzen",[3] the closing chorale is the final stanza of Paul Fleming's "In allen meinen Taten".[4] According to Alfred Dürr, it is unlikely that they were performed before and after the service, considering the brevity of the work.[2]

Scoring and structure

The cantata in six movements is intimately scored for four soloists, soprano, alto, tenor, and bass, a four-part choir in the closing chorale, two recorders, oboe da caccia, two violins, viola, and basso continuo.[2]

  1. Aria (tenor): Meine Seufzer, meine Tränen
  2. Recitative (alto): Mein liebster Gott läßt mich annoch
  3. Chorale: Der Gott, der mir hat versprochen
  4. Recitative (soprano): Mein Kummer nimmet zu
  5. Aria (bass): Ächzen und erbärmlich Weinen
  6. Chorale: So sei nun, Seele, deine


The cantata is opened by an aria, a lamento accompanied by soft recorders and the dark sound of the oboe da caccia which leads frequently. It is a da capo form, but the middle section is again divided in two parts. In it, the voice shows the "Weg zum Tod" (road to death)[1] by several downward steps.[2] Dürr points out that this composition "illustrates how the imagination of the Baroque musician is particularly fired by texts dealing with sighing and pain".[5] The following short secco recitative ends as an arioso on the words "vergeblich flehen" (plead in vain).[1] In the chorale, the woodwinds play the cantus firmus in unison with the alto voice, while the strings play independent figuration in F major, illustrating hope, although the text says that hope is not yet in sight. John Eliot Gardiner terms it "confident diatonic harmonies" as an "optimistic, wordless answer" to the voice's "prayer for comfort".[5]

A second expressive recitative leads to a second aria, which is accompanied by violin I and the recorders, playing in unison an octave higher. The lamenting text of the beginning "Ächzen und erbärmlich Weinen" (groaning and pitiful weeping)[1] is stressed by intervals such as augmented second, diminished fifth and diminished seventh. The ritornello has two distinctly different parts, a lamenting section and a hopeful one, full of fast runs and passages. In the middle section, the text "wer gen Himmel siehet" (he who looks towards heaven)[1] is accented by an octave leap upwards in the voice and upwards runs in the instruments, contrasting the downward line in movement 1. The closing chorale is a four-part setting of the melody of "O Welt, ich muss dich lassen" by Heinrich Isaac, which is featured twice in Bach's St Matthew Passion in movements 10 (Ich bin's, ich sollte büßen) and 37 (Wer hat dich so geschlagen).[2][6]

Selected recordings


  1. ^ "BWV" is Bach-Werke-Verzeichnis, a thematic catalogue of Bach's works.


  1. ^ a b c d e
  2. ^ a b c d e
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ a b
  6. ^


  • Meine Seufzer, meine Tränen, BWV 13: Scores at the International Music Score Library Project
  • Meine Seufzer, meine Tränen BWV 13; BC A 34 / Sacred cantata Leipzig University
  • Cantata BWV 13 Meine Seufzer, meine Tränen history, scoring, sources for text and music, translations to various languages, discography, discussion, Bach Cantatas Website
  • Meine Seufzer, meine Tränen history, scoring, Bach website (German)
  • BWV 13 Meine Seufzer, meine Tränen English translation, University of Vermont
  • BWV 13 Meine Seufzer, meine Tränen text, scoring, University of Alberta
  • Chapter 12 BWV 13 Meine Seufzer, meine Tränen / My sighing and my weeping., A listener and student guide by Julian Mincham, 2010
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