Cantata BWV 5Wo soll ich fliehen hin?

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Translation

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Analysis

This cantata is based on a 1630 hymn by Johann Heermann that consists of 11 verses: Bach uses the first and eleventh verses unchanged for his first and last movements; for the rest, an anonymous librettist has paraphrased the original hymn. The first two movements draw attention to the plight of the sinner -but the cantata then switches direction to show that our sins are assuaged by Christ’s blood-sacrifice and we accordingly have things to look forward to. The cantata thus starts out with us not knowing which way to turn, but ends up with us confident and assured through Christ.

The text is, of course, proper Baroque poetry, dripping blood and guts all over the place! The imagery is a bit rich for our modern tastes, I think, but the constant appeal to the Biblical concept of Christ’s blood-sacrifice making things pure and whole once more is striking. The idea of Hell’s Army being silenced merely by showing them some of Christ’s blood… well, it makes me think of Wagner (on a good day) or Lord of the Rings (on a bad one). But again… it’s rich meat for us, but the sort of thing which seems to inspire Bach to lots of rich musical imagery too.

The Bass aria is the standout here… but the Tenor gets a good run, too, and the opening Chorale is nicely done.


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