Wer weiß, wie nahe mir mein Ende? BWV 27

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Wer weiß, wie nahe mir mein Ende? BWV 27
Church cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach
Thomaskirche, Leipzig 1885
Occasion16th Sunday after Trinity
Performed6 October 1726 (1726-10-06): Leipzig
VocalSATB choir and soloists
  • horn
  • 3 oboes
  • oboe da caccia
  • organ
  • 2 violins
  • viola
  • continuo

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[edit]

Bach composed the cantata in his fourth year in Leipzig for the 16th 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).[1]

An unknown poet included in the first movement the first stanza of the chorale "Wer weiß, wie nahe mir mein Ende" by Ämilie Juliane von Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt and closed the cantata with the first stanza of the hymn ""Welt ade! ich bin dein müde" by Johann Georg Albinus.,[2]

The chorale theme "Wer nur den lieben Gott läßt walten" (Zahn 2778) was first documented by Georg Neumark in Jena, but the melody can be likely traced back to Kiel, 1641. 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 Qvirsfeld [sv]'s Geistliche Harffen-Klang, Leipzig, 1679).[1]

Bach first performed the cantata in a service on 6 October 1726.[1]

Scoring and structure[edit]

The cantata is scored for four soloists—soprano, alto, tenor and bass—a four- or five-part choir, horn, three oboes, oboe da caccia, organ, two violins, viola, and basso continuo.[1] The duration is given as 19 minutes.[1]

  1. Chorus and recitative (soprano, alto, tenor): Wer weiß, wie nahe mir mein Ende?Das weiß der liebe Gott allein
  2. Recitative (tenor): Mein Leben hat kein ander Ziel
  3. Aria (alto): Willkommen! will ich sagen
  4. Recitative (soprano): Ach, wer doch schon im Himmel wär
  5. Aria (bass): Gute Nacht, du Weltgetümmel
  6. 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.[3]

A tenor recitative leads into a "shadowy" alto aria which echoes the first movement of Antonio Vivaldi's 'Spring' concert (published the year before, 1725), 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.[3]

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.[3]

The closing chorale includes two soprano parts and is stylistically reminiscent of an English madrigal.[3]



  1. ^ a b c d e Dürr, Alfred; Jones, Richard D. P. (2006). The Cantatas of J. S. Bach: With Their Librettos in German-English Parallel Text. Oxford University Press. pp. 553–556. ISBN 978-0-19-929776-4.
  2. ^ Sanford Terry, C.; Litti, D. (1917). "Bach's Cantata Libretti". Proceedings of the Royal Musical Association. 44 (1): 71–125. doi:10.1093/jrma/44.1.71. ISSN 0958-8442.
  3. ^ a b c d Julian Mincham