All of Bach: a project by the Netherlands Bach Society

Widerstehe doch der Sünde

BWV 54 performed by Maarten Engeltjes and the Netherlands Bach Society conducted by Lars Ulrik Mortensen

Conductor and harpsichordist Lars Ulrik Mortensen talks about his fascination for the young Bach.

Countertenor Maarten Engeltjes explains why this is one of the most difficult cantatas for his voice type.

Compact and illustrative

Bach probably stood an excellent chance with this cantata during his first official Sunday as concert master in Weimar.

For a long time, this cantata was thought to be incomplete. There are only three parts: two arias with a recitative in the middle. And yet it forms a beautiful whole. In 1970, it became apparent that nothing was missing at all, when a volume of libretti by Christian Lehms from 1711 came to light, containing the text used by Bach for this cantata. It also clarified the occasion of the piece. Lehms indicates that the text was intended for Oculi, the fourth Sunday before Easter, rather than the fourth Sunday after Trinity, as had been presumed up to then. Oculi occurs in Lent, a period when although no cantatas were sung in Leipzig, they were sung in Weimar. So the first performance of Widerstehe doch der Sünde probably took place as early as 4 March 1714 in Weimar. Two days before that, Bach had been officially appointed concert master, and he thus proved straight away that he was fully capable of meeting his new obligations – delivering a new piece of church music every month.

Lehms’ words – ‘Widerstehe doch der Sünde’, ‘Die Art verrüchter Sünden’ and ‘Wer Sünde tut, der ist vom Teufel’ – leave us in no doubt that this is about casting out the devil. In order to enter the next world, man must resist earthly temptations. This is not easy, as Bach shows us through many musical illustrations of the text. The driving rhythmic pattern in the first aria, combined with tense harmonies and a sustained rising melodic line, anyway points to a great deal of toil and trouble. The recitative explains what awaits us if we do not succeed: the grave, accompanied by very low droning notes, and the sharp sword, with which Bach gives us a talking to. The second aria, on the other hand, sketches a rosy picture of the future if we resist evil. The devil swiftly takes to his heels, hotly pursued by only fast notes. Bach must have stood an excellent chance with this work.


Widerstehe doch der Sünde

cantata (solo cantata)



Georg Christian Lehms

Oculi (the fourth Sunday before Easter), seventh Sunday after Trinity

First performance
4 March 1714

Special notes
Bach used the first aria in the St Mark Passion, BWV 247, as ‘Falsche Welt, dein schmeichelnd Küssen’

Cast & Crew

release date 4 July 2014
recording date 1 February 2014
location Geertekerk, Utrecht
conductor and harpsichord Lars Ulrik Mortensen
alto Maarten Engeltjes
Violin 1 Shunske Sato, Sayuri Yamagata, Anneke van Haaften
Violin 2 Pieter Affourtit, Paulien Kostense, Annelies van der Vegt
viola Staas Swierstra, Femke Huizinga
CELLO Lucia Swarts, Richte van der Meer
double bass Robert Franenberg
positive organ Siebe Henstra
CONCERT PRODUCTION Marco Meijdam, Imke Deters
Producer Frank van der Weij
Film director Lucas van Woerkum
CAMERA Sal Kroonenberg, Jorrit Garretsen, Robert Berger, Benjamin Sparschuh
film editors Lucas van Woerkum, Frank van der Weij
GAFFER Roel Ypma
Best Boy Chris Uitenwijk
production assistent Zoë de Wilde
Score reader Jan Van den Bossche
MAKE UP Marloes Bovenlander, Jamila el Bouch
TRAINEES CAMERA Izak de Dreu, Indy Hamid
MUSIC RECORDING ASSISTANTS Jaap van Stenis, Gilius Kreiken, Jaap van Firet
Data handler Joep Bannenberg
MUSIC EDIT and MIX Leo de Klerk, Frank van der Weij
Colorist Petro van Leeuwen
interviews Onno van Ameijde
Acknowledgements Rob van Stek

Vocal Texts


1. Arie

Widerstehe doch der Sünde,
sonst ergreifet dich ihr Gift.
Lass dich nicht den Satan blenden;
denn die Gottes Ehre schänden,
trifft ein Fluch, der tödlich ist.

2. Rezitativ

Die Art verruchter Sünden
ist zwar von aussen wunderschön;
allein man muss
hernach mit Kummer und Verdruss
viel Ungemach empfinden.
Von aussen ist sie Gold;
doch, will man weiter gehn,
so zeigt sich nur ein leerer Schatten
und übertünchtes Grab.
Sie ist den Sodomsäpfeln gleich,
und die sich mit derselben gatten,
gelangen nicht in Gottes Reich.
Sie ist als wie ein scharfes Schwert,
das uns durch Leib und Seele fährt.

3. Arie

Wer Sünde tut, der ist vom Teufel,
denn dieser hat sie aufgebracht.
Doch wenn man ihren schnöden Banden
mit rechter Andacht widerstanden,
hat sie sich gleich davon gemacht.


1. Aria 

Stand firm against all sinning, 
or its poison will possess you. 
Be not blinded by Satan; 
for those who violate God’s majesty 
shall be felled by a deadly curse. 


Vile sinning seems, 
in truth, outwardly wonderful; 
but one must 
thereafter, with sorrow and dismay, 
experience much misery. 
Outwardly sin is golden; 
but if one looks more closely, 
we see it is but an empty shadow, 
a whited sepulchre. 
It resembles Sodom’s apples, 
and those who wed themselves to sin 
shall never dwell in God’s realm. 
Sin is like a sharpened sword, 
that pierces us through body and soul. 

3. Aria 

Those who commit sin are of the devil, 
for he has invented sin, 
but if one resists his vile shackles 
with true devotion, 
sin will straightaway take flight.


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