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Altes Rathaus in Leipzig

The Altes Rathaus in Leipzig

Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis (BWV 21), a sacred cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach, was first performed three hundred years ago on 17 June 1714 in the Palace Church in Weimar. The text is based on psalms, newly-composed poetry, probably by Salomon Franck, and the seventeenth-century chorale Wer nur den lieben Gott lässt walten by Georg Neumark.

The first part of the cantata, with themes of deep suffering, pain and mourning, opens with a sinfonia featuring a solo oboe and violin. In contrast, the second part of the cantata, to be performed after the sermon, turns to expressions of gratitude.

After Bach left Weimar, subsequent performances of the cantata took place in Köthen and Leipzig. In one revision for Leipzig, the chorale is accompanied by a quartet of trombones, a continuation of that city’s centuries-long tradition of involving Stadtpfeifer during civic functions, as well as church services, when wind players would perform chorales from the tower balcony of the Altes Rathaus.

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