All of Bach: a project by the Netherlands Bach Society

Mein Herze schwimmt in Blut

Mein Herze schwimmt in Blut performed by Julia Doyle and the Netherlands Bach Society conducted by Alfredo Bernardini

"This piece is an emotional struggle: keeping completely engaged emotionally, at every moment in the text."

"What is special about this cantata is the incredible progression from an apparently hopeless and heart-rending beginning towards an ending that fills us with joy."

Italian drama

In 24 minutes, the mood changes from one of deepest misery to one of wildest joy

Although in his younger years Bach was seen mainly as an organ virtuoso, his ambitions really lay elsewhere. His goal was to set up no less than ‘eine regulirte Kirchen-Music zu Gottes Ehren’, as he wrote in 1708 in his letter of resignation to his employers in Mühlhausen. He appeared to get the chance to do so at the court of Duke Wilhelm Ernst of Weimar. But to his dissatisfaction, the emphasis lay once again on his qualities as an organist and chamber musician in his first six years there. As in Mühlhausen, he hardly got round to composing cantatas, and the words of the works he did write in this period were taken mainly from the Bible, as was customary at the time.

This changed drastically in 1714, the year in which he was at last promoted by Duke Wilhelm Ernst to Konzertmeister. Bach immediately started using a much more modern style, breaking with the tacit obligation of using only biblical texts and hymns, and with the custom of setting them to music in a fairly formal way. His innovative approach was inspired by the new collections of spiritual poems that were starting to appear here and there, such as those published by chief librarian Georg Christian Lehms from Darmstadt, in 1711. For the musical setting of his heartrending Mein Herze schwimmt in Blut, Bach chose a succession of expressive recitatives and da capo arias in Italian style. 

This cantata is about the transformation from supreme sinfulness via penance to redemption. The explicit words that describe the suffering and despair of humanity are made almost physically tangible by the music. In the first tormented recitative, followed by the heartrending da capo lament ‘Stumme Seufzer, stille Klagen’, an important role has been set aside for the mournful oboe. It is only after this that Bach allows the faithful to humbly turn to God in a short recitative and once again a da capo aria. The forgiveness bestowed by God is expressed in the hopeful chorale, in which he interweaves the chorale melody for the soprano with an unusual elevated melody for viola solo (a practically unique occurrence in Bach’s music). Only after this does the believer place his soul in the hands of the Lord, accompanied by a jubilant oboe.


BWV
199

Title
Mein Herze schwimmt in Blut

genre
cantata (solo cantata)

year
1714 or even earlier

city
Weimar

Lyricist
Georg Christian Lehms

Occasion
Eleventh Sunday after Trinity

First performance
12 August 1714

Cast & Crew

release date 31 October 2014
recording date 7 June 2014
Location Walloon Church, Amsterdam
conductor and oboe Alfredo Bernardini
Soprano Julia Doyle
Violin 1 Shunske Sato
violin 2 Cecilia Bernardini
viola Staas Swierstra
Cello Lucia Swarts
double bass Robert Franenberg
bassoon Benny Aghassi
harpsichord Siebe Henstra
church organ Leo van Doeselaar
CONCERT production Marco Meijdam, Imke Deters
Producer Zoë de Wilde, Frank van der Weij
Film director MaNOj Kamps, Onno van Ameijde, Jasper Verkaart
DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY Sal Kroonenberg
CAMERA Jorrit Garretsen, Joris Kerbosch, Sal Kroonenberg
FILM EDITORS Jasper Verkaart, MaNOj Kamps, Frank van der Weij
MUSIC RECORDING PRODUCER Leo de Klerk
GAFFER Harm Bredero, Alban Riphagen
MUSIC RECORDING ASSISTANTS Jaap Firet, Pim van der Lee, Jaap van Stenis, Bobby Verbakel
MAKE UP Marloes Bovenlander, Jamila el Bouch
CAMERA ASSISTaNT Izak de Dreu
MUSIC EDIT AND MIX Leo de Klerk, Frank van der Weij
MUSIC EDIT aNd MIX ASSSISTANT Martijn Snoeren
Colorist Marlieke Kasten
Acknowledgements Nienke Meuleman

Vocal Texts

Original

1. Rezitativ

Mein Herze schwimmt im Blut,
weil mich der Sünden Brut
in Gottes heilgen Augen
zum Ungeheuer macht.
Und mein Gewissen fühlet Pein,
weil mir die Sünden nichts
als Höllenhenker sein.
Verhasste Lasternacht!
Du, du allein
hast mich in solche Not gebracht;
und du, du böser Adamssamen,
raubst meiner Seele alle Ruh
und schliessest ihr den Himmel zu!
Ach! unerhörter Schmerz!
Mein ausgedorrtes Herz
will ferner mehr kein Trost befeuchten,
und ich muss mich vor dem verstecken,
vor dem die Engel selbst
ihr Angesicht verdecken.

2. Arie und Rezitativ

Stumme Seufzer, stille Klagen,
ihr mögt meine Schmerzen sagen,
weil der Mund geschlossen ist.
Und ihr nassen Tränenquellen
könnt ein sichres Zeugnis stellen,
wie mein sündlich Herz gebüsst.

Mein Herz ist itzt ein Tränenbrunn,
die Augen heiße Quellen.
Ach Gott! wer wird dich doch zufriedenstellen?

3. Rezitativ

Doch Gott muss mir genädig sein,
weil ich das Haupt mit Asche,
das Angesicht mit Tränen wasche,
mein Herz in Reu und Leid zerschlage
und voller Wehmut sage:
Gott sei mir Sünder gnädig!
Ach ja! sein Herze bricht,
und meine Seele spricht:

4. Arie

Tief gebückt
und voller Reue
lieg ich, liebster Gott, vor dir.
Ich bekenne meine Schuld,
aber habe doch Geduld,
habe doch Geduld mit mir!

5.Rezitativ

Auf diese Schmerzensreu
fällt mir alsdenn dies Trostwort bei:

6. Chorale

Ich, dein betrübtes Kind,
werf alle meine Sünd,
so viel ihr in mir stecken
und mich so heftig schrecken,
in deine tiefen Wunden,
da ich stets Heil gefunden.

7.Rezitativ

Ich lege mich in diese Wunden
als in den rechten Felsenstein;
die sollen meine Ruhstatt sein.
In diese will ich mich im Glauben
schwingen und drauf vergnügt
und fröhlich singen:

8. Arie

Wie freudig ist mein Herz,
da Gott versöhnet ist
und mir auf Reu und Leid
nicht mehr die Seligkeit
noch auch sein Herz verschliesst.

Translation

1. Recitative 

My heart is bathed in blood, 
for the multitude of my sins 
has made in God’s holy eyes 
a monster of me. 
And my conscience feels the pain, 
because my sins are naught 
but hell’s own hangmen. 
O hated night of sin! 
You, you alone 
have caused me such distress; 
and you, you wicked seed of Adam, 
rob my soul of all its peace 
and shut it off from heaven! 
Ah! Unheard-of anguish! 
No comfort shall henceforth 
moisten my withered heart, 
and I must hide myself before Him, 
before whom the very angels hide their faces. 

2. Aria and Recitative 

Silent sighs, quiet lamenting, 
you may speak of my agony, 
for my mouth is closed. 
And you wet flood of tears 
can provide certain witness 
of my sinful heart’s remorse 

My heart is now a well of tears, 
my eyes are boiling springs. 
Ah God! Who can ever 
content Thee? 

3. Recitative 

But God must be merciful to me, 
for I bathe my head with ashes 
and my countenance with tears; 
I beat my heart in remorse and pain, 
and full of sadness, say: 
God, have mercy on my sins! 
Ah yes! His heart shall break 
and my soul shall say: 

4. Aria 

Deeply bowed 
and filled with remorse 
I lie, dearest God, before Thee. 
I acknowledge my guilt, 
but have patience, 
have patience I beg, with me! 

5. Recitative 

After this painful remorse 
come to me these words of comfort: 

6. Chorale 

I, Thy afflicted child, 
cast all my sins, 
as many as there are in me 
and which terrify me so, 
into Thy deep wounds, 
where I have always found salvation. 

7. Recitative 

I lay myself down in these wounds, 
as though upon a very crag; 
they shall be my resting place. 
In them shall I soar in faith, 
and then, content 
and happy, sing: 

8. Aria 

How joyful is my heart, 
for God is reconciled with me, 
and for my remorse and pain 
no longer denies me His blessing 
nor indeed His heart.

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