Ich elender Mensch, wer wird mich erlösen, BWV 48

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Ich elender Mensch, wer wird mich erlösen
BWV 48
Church cantata by J. S. Bach
Thomaskirche, Leipzig
Occasion 19th Sunday after Trinity
Performed 3 October 1723 (1723-10-03): Leipzig
Movements 7
Cantata text anonymous
  • trumpet
  • 2 oboes
  • 2 violins
  • viola
  • continuo

Ich elender Mensch, wer wird mich erlösen (Wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me),[1] BWV 48,[a] is a church cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach. He composed it in 1723 in Leipzig for the 19th Sunday after Trinity and first performed it on 3 October 1723.

History and words[edit]

Bach wrote the cantata in 1723 for the 19th Sunday after Trinity as part of his first annual cycle. The prescribed readings for the Sunday were from Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians, "put on the new man, which after God is created" (Ephesians 4:22–28), and from the Gospel of Matthew, Healing the paralytic at Capernaum (Matthew 9:1–8).[2] The first movement is written on words from Romans 7:24, stressing the need of the sinner for redemption. The unknown poet saw the soul more in need of rescue than the body, affirmed by a chorale as movement 3, verse 4 of the hymn "Ach Gott und Herr" (1604) by Martin Rutilius (de). After contemplating ideas based on Psalms 88:11 and 2 Corinthians 12:9, he concludes the cantata in hope, expressed in the closing chorale "Herr Jesu Christ, einiger Trost" (Lord Jesus Christ, only comfort),[1] verse 12 of "Herr Jesu Christ, ich schrei zu dir" (Freiburg 1620).[2]

Bach first performed the cantata on 3 October 1723.[2]

Scoring and structure[edit]

The cantata in seven movements is scored for alto and tenor soloists, a four-part choir, trumpet, two oboes, two violins, viola, and basso continuo.[2]

  1. Chorus: Ich elender Mensch, wer wird mich erlösen
  2. Recitative (alto): O Schmerz, o Elend, so mich trifft
  3. Chorale: Solls ja so sein
  4. Aria (alto): Ach, lege das Sodom der sündlichen Glieder
  5. Recitative (tenor): Hier aber tut des Heilands Hand
  6. Aria (tenor): Vergibt mir Jesus meine Sünden
  7. Chorale: Herr Jesu Christ, einiger Trost


An instrumental chorale melody is present in the opening chorus. It may refer to the words "Herr Jesus Christ, du höchstes Gut", but also creates a connection to the closing chorale, which was sung on the same tune, and therefore may also quote its first verse. This chorale cantus firmus is played by the trumpet in canon with the oboes.[3] The strings present themes in the instrumental introduction which are later used as a countersubject to the lamentative theme of the voices.

A recitative of the alto, accompanied by the strings, leads to a chorale, concluding the ideas of the first section in expressive harmonization.

A different mood prevails in the following aria, the voice and the oboe being equal partners in the request to spare the soul. In the last aria the tenor is accompanied by the strings with oboe, music dominated by a lilting rhythm changing between 3/4 time and 3/2 time.[2]



  1. ^ "BWV" is Bach-Werke-Verzeichnis, a thematic catalogue of Bach's works.


  1. ^ a b Dellal, Pamela. "BWV 48 – Ich will den Kreuzstab gerne tragen". Emmanuel Music. Retrieved 22 October 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Dürr, Alfred (1981). Die Kantaten von Johann Sebastian Bach (in German). 1 (4 ed.). Deutscher Taschenbuchverlag. pp. 473–474. ISBN 3-423-04080-7. 
  3. ^ Craig Smith. "Bach Cantata Notes BWV 48". Emmanuel Music. Retrieved 4 October 2010.