Cantata BWV 12Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen


Purchase at Amazon


German TextEnglish Text
German TextEnglish Text


I did wonder what a ‘Tränenbrot’ (bread of tears) was first time I read this, thinking it might be perhaps an 18th Century culinary delicacy from Saxony of some sort. But it turns out to be much more ordinary than that: turn to Psalm 80, verses 4 and 5:

O LORD God of hosts,
How long will You be angry with the prayer of Your people?
You have fed them with the bread of tears,
And You have made them to drink tears in large measure.

So it’s an entirely Biblical allusion -and sums up the overall mood of this piece whilst it is at it. It is impossible to feel cheerful about this work, though the final chorale and trumpet seem to work a particular piece of cheer-up magic on this listener. This is perhaps as it should be: the text is, after all, about suffering and sorrow leading somewhere better! But there’s not a lot of joy to be found in this particular piece, I feel.

The alto recitative and aria are particularly haunting, with the mournful oboe particularly prominent.

Incidentally, the music from the first Chorale was re-worked by Bach (in what is called a parody) for the Crucifixus movement of his B minor mass (BWV 232) in 1749. Compare the start of both pieces here:

This cantata (BWV 12) :

And now the Crucfixus of the B minor mass (BWV 232) :


Bach Translations and Notes are copyright © Howard Rogers 2020, All Rights Reserved