All of Bach: a project by the Netherlands Bach Society

Wahrlich, wahrlich, ich sage euch

BWV 86 performed by the Netherlands Bach Society conducted by Shunske Sato
Walloon Church, Amsterdam

"I will pluck roses even if the thorns hurt me."

Dare to live!

Bach’s violin plucks roses and endures the thorns.

Bach composed the cantata Wahrlich, wahrlich, ich sage euch in 1724 for Rogation Sunday (Prayer Sunday, the fifth Sunday after Easter), which fell that year on 14 May. The gospel is John 16:23-30. In the first movement, Jesus speaks in arioso style through the voice of the solo bass, saying words from his valediction: ‘Verily, verily, I say unto you, whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you’. The vocal lines and the accompanying instrumental parts are written in polyphony as fugal voices from a motet. In this ‘consort music’, it seems that the seventeenth century has briefly returned again.

Then follows an aria for alto, solo violin and basso continuo. The violin scatters virtuoso figurations about, in such an extreme fashion that it must relate directly to the text: the plucking of roses and the pricking of the thorns. However, it is not clear exactly what Bach meant by this. ‘For me, it is more the confidence to pick roses’, says the countertenor Robin Blaze. ‘I do so in spite of the thorns. I take life as it is’. The violin figurations consist of harmonic broken chords, which Bach notated in shorthand as long notes above one another, each with its own stem. ‘You literally break them’, explains violinist and leader Shunske Sato. ‘And if you write it out, it looks really thorny’. It is thus an example of Augenmusik; music whose meaning is betrayed by its visual appearance.

In the third movement, the soprano sings a chorale strophe, while two oboes d’amore and the basso continuo appear to play a fast movement from a trio sonata. Via a short recitative, it goes to a sprightly aria for tenor in carefree celebration of faith in God. The four-part chorale reaffirms that although almighty God gives no guarantee of when, he does know what is best for us.


Wahrlich, wahrlich, ich sage euch




unknown, John 16:23, chorales by Georg Grünwald (1530) and Paul Speratus (1523)

Rogation Sunday (5th Sunday after Easter, i.e. the last before Ascension Day, also called Prayer Sunday)

First performance
14 May 1724

Cast & Crew

release date 7 September 2018
recording date 21 January 2017
LOCATION Walloon Church, Amsterdam
violin and direction Shunske Sato
soprano Marjon Strijk
Alto Robin Blaze
Tenor Daniel Johannsen
Bass Stephan MacLeod
violin 1 Sayuri Yamagata, Lidewij van der Voort
violin 2 Annelies van der Vegt, Paulien Kostense, Anneke van Haaften
viola Staas Swierstra, Jan Willem Vis
cello Lucia Swarts, Ruth Verona
double bass Robert Franenberg
oboe Martin Stadler, Peter Frankenberg
bassoon Benny Aghassi
organ Leo van Doeselaar
harpsichord Siebe Henstra
Director and editor Bas Wielenga
Music recording Guido Tichelman, Bastiaan Kuijt, Pim van der Lee
Music edit and mix Guido Tichelman
Camera Merijn Vrieling, Martin Struijf, Chris Reichgelt, Thijs Struick
Camera trainee Klazina Westra
Lights Zen Bloot
Lighting assistant Henry Rodgers, Teun Pulles
assistant director Ferenc Soetman
Video engineer Vincent Nugteren
video engineer trainee Jildert Hof
Set technique Justin Mutsaers
Data handling Jesper Blok
Projectmanager NEP Peter Ribbens
Interview Onno van Ameijde and Marloes Biermans
Producer concert Imke Deters
producer film Jessie Verbrugh

Vocal Texts


1. Arioso (Bass)

Wahrlich, wahrlich, ich sage euch,
so ihr den Vater etwas bitten werdet
in meinem Namen,
so wird er's euch geben.
Johannes 16:23

2. Arie (Alt)

Ich will doch wohl Rosen brechen,
wenn mich gleich die Dornen stechen.
Denn ich bin der Zuversicht,
dass mein Bitten und mein Flehen
Gott gewiss zu Herzen gehen,
weil es mir sein Wort verspricht.

3. Choral (Sopran)

Und was der ewig gütig Gott
in seinem Wort versprochen hat,
geschworn bei seinem Namen,
das hält und gibt er gwiss fürwahr.
Der helf uns zu der Engel Schar
durch Jesum Christum, amen!
Georg Grünwald, 1530

4. Rezitativ (Tenor)

Gott macht es nicht gleichwie die Welt,
die viel verspricht und wenig hält;
denn was er zusagt, muss geschehen,
dass man daran kann
seine Lust und Freude sehen.

5. Arie (Tenor)

Gott hilft gewiss;
wird gleich die Hülfe aufgeschoben,
wird sie doch drum nicht aufgehoben.
Denn Gottes Wort bezeiget dies:
Gott hilft gewiss!

6. Choral

Die Hoffnung wart' der rechten Zeit,
Was Gottes Wort zusaget;
wenn das geschehen soll zur Freud,
setzt Gott kein gwisse Tage.
Er weisds wohl, wenns am besten ist,
und braucht an uns kein arge List;
des solln wir ihm vertrauen.
Paul Speratus, 1524


1. Arioso

Verily, verily I say unto you,
whatsoever ye shall ask
the Father in my name,
He will give it you.

2. Aria

Yet I would gather roses,
even though the thorns prick me.
For I am confident
that my entreaty and supplication
will go straight to God’s heart,
for He has pledged His Word.

3. Chorale

And what the ever-gracious God
has promised in His Word
and sworn on His name,
He will truly keep that vow.
May He help us reach the angelic host
through Jesus Christ, Amen!

4. Recitative

God does not act as the world acts,
making many promises, keeping few;
for what He pledges must be granted,
that His joy and pleasure can be seen.

5. Aria

God’s help is sure;
though His help may be delayed,
it will not therefore be revoked.
For God’s Word makes this manifest:
God’s help is sure!

6. Chorale

Hope awaits the right time,
as God’s Word promised;
when that shall happen for our joy,
God does not set a time.
He knows well when it shall be best,
and does not treat us with cruel cunning;
in this we ought to trust Him.


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