Wer weiß, wie nahe mir mein Ende? BWV 27
Wer weiß, wie nahe mir mein Ende? (Who knows how near to me my end?), BWV 27, is a church cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach. He composed it in Leipzig for the 16th Sunday after Trinity and first performed it on 6 October 1726.
History and words
Bach composed the cantata in his fourth year in Leipzig for the sixteenth Sunday after Trinity. The prescribed readings for the day were from the Epistle to the Ephesians (Ephesians 3:13–21), and from the Gospel of Luke (Luke 7:11–17).
An unknown poet included in movement 1 the first stanza of the chorale by Ämilie Juliane von Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt and closed it with the first stanza of the hymn "Welt ade! ich bin dein müde" by Johann Georg Albinus.
The five-part (SSATB) harmonization of the concluding chorale Welt, ade! ich bin dein müde is not by Bach but by Johann Rosenmüller (published for the first time in Johann Quirsfeld's Geistliche Harffen-Klang, Leipzig, 1679).
Bach first performed the cantata in a service on 6 October 1726.
Scoring and structure
- Chorus and recitative (soprano, alto, tenor): Wer weiß, wie nahe mir mein Ende? – Das weiß der liebe Gott allein
- Recitative (tenor): Mein Leben hat kein ander Ziel
- Aria (alto): Willkommen! will ich sagen
- Recitative (soprano): Ach, wer doch schon im Himmel wär
- Aria (bass): Gute Nacht, du Weltgetümmel
- Chorale: Welt, ade! ich bin dein müde
The first movement of this cantata is "about as tragic as it gets": it is in a minor key and quickly sounds a strong dissonance between the oboe phrase and the continuo. Descending arpeggiated strings underline the "wails of the damned" represented by the oboes. After the opening ritornello, the vocal lines alternate between choir and solo presentations of the phrases of the chorale, with each voice (except the bass) having an arioso line.
A tenor recitative leads into a "shadowy" alto aria accompanied by an oboe da caccia. Chromaticism contributes to the "fleeting shadows" of the welcoming of death. The accompanying keyboard part has historically been played by either harpsichord or organ. The obbligato oboe conveys a number of different ideas: dancing, sighing, and "quasi-tragic" descent.
The soprano recitative uses word painting and sustained chordal harmonies to urge the listener into heaven. The bass aria then combines two contrasting sentiments: adieu and agitation. The repeated pairing of the "farewell theme – tumult theme" holds through both the opening ritornello and the vocal line, breaking only with the closing on the farewell theme alone.
- J.S. Bach: Kantaten 18 · 152, Jürgen Jürgens, Monteverdi-Chor, Leonhardt-Consort. Telefunken 1966.
- Bach Kantaten, Vol. 1: BWV 190a, BWV 84, BWV 89, BWV 27, Diethard Hellmann, Bachchor Mainz, Bachorchester Mainz. DdM-Records Mitterteich late 1960s?
- Bach Cantatas Vol. 4 – Sundays after Trinity I, Karl Richter, Münchener Bach-Chor, Münchener Bach-Orchester. Archiv Produktion 1977.
- Die Bach Kantate Vol. 51, Helmuth Rilling, Gächinger Kantorei, Bach-Collegium Stuttgart. Hänssler 1982.
- Bach Edition Vol. 11 – Cantatas Vol. 5, Pieter Jan Leusink, Holland Boys Choir, Netherlands Bach Collegium. Brilliant Classics 1999.
- Bach Cantatas Vol. 8: Bremen/Santiago, John Eliot Gardiner, Monteverdi Choir, English Baroque Soloists. Soli Deo Gloria 2000.
- J.S. Bach: Complete Cantatas Vol. 16, Ton Koopman, Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra & Choir. Antoine Marchand 2000.
- J.S. Bach: Christus, der ist mein Leben – Cantates BWV 27, 84, 95 & 161, Philippe Herreweghe, Collegium Vocale Gent. Harmonia Mundi France 2007.
The first source is the score.
Several databases provide additional information on each cantata:
- Cantata BWV 27 Wer weiß, wie nahe mir mein Ende? history, scoring, sources for text and music, translations to various languages, discography, discussion, Bach Cantatas Website
- BWV 27 – "Wer weiß, wie nahe mir mein Ende?" English translation, discussion, Emmanuel Music
- Wer weiß, wie nahe mir mein Ende? history, scoring, Bach website (German)
- BWV 27 Wer weiß, wie nahe mir mein Ende? English translation, University of Vermont
- BWV 27 Wer weiß, wie nahe mir mein Ende? text, scoring, University of Alberta